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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Evaluation of the ButtKicker LFE Kit by Rob Parkhurst

Reading blogs on the internet one evening, while half watching TV, I came across some comments about tactile transducers and how effective they were at immersing one into a movie. Well, that is how I felt about the addition of my subwoofer to my audio system years ago. I read a few more blogs on these tactile transducers and found many positive comments.

At first I thought they were for those that didn’t have a good subwoofer to handle the LFE of a movie. But several commented that they had a big subwoofer and that these tactile transducers really augment what the subwoofer does but in a way they can’t. This had me intrigued. I had to learn more.

I had seen tactile transducers before and really just past them by as something that might be a good add for a simulator, but for a sound system? Na. I never really thought much about them for anything else.
That is until I read so many comments from users that wouldn’t live without them now that they have them.

I started reading everything I could on these transducers. Found several manufactures and many reviews. Some confusion, but for the most part, agreement that they are very much worth adding to any good Home Theater System. They complete the job that the subwoofer started for the LFE.

The majority of the reviews pointed to the ButtKicker LFE Kit as the best way to go. Having zero experience with these tactile transducers, I will take the advice of those that provided their experience.

Looking at prices and what you get, it was easy to agree with the majority. I found that the ButtKicker LFE kit contained not only the tactile transducer, but a power amp with 1000 watts to power it, plus all the mounting hardware for less than other manufactures charge for just the transducer. A lot less! And the ButtKicker had the best transducer for LFE. Others seem to be for higher frequencies, for other than Home Theater use.

I found the best price I could for the ButtKicker LFE Kit and purchased it online the same night. I continued reading about mounting the transducers different ways and different results obtained. It seems that the mounting kit provided works fine and is very simple and quick to use. However, superior results are obtained by mounting the transducer directly to your couch. This is what I plan to do.
One of the blogs had a comment by an employee of the company that manufactures the ButtKicker products. He included his email address and invited question about the product. I asked him questions about mounting and he replied with answers and suggested that I document my mounting with pictures and experience. That is what this write-up is.

When the ButtKicker LFE kit arrives, I plan to test it using the mounting kit included. Then mount the transducer directly to the couch as explained in the blogs. Here are my findings:

My couch has its foundation on a rectangular shape angle iron frame with 8 hard rubber feet. This foundation is about 8 inches inside the parameter of the couch making it so you cannot use the mounting kit with the transducer outside the parameter of the couch. The couch has recliners on each end of the couch and a middle seat that does not recline. This middle seat has plenty of room under it to have the Buttkicker transducer fit there. So I put the mounting kit with transducer mounted toward the center of the couch in the middle seat area with the angle iron frame resting on the mounting kit on the round rubber mat provided.

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First try, I set the low cut off to off and the high cut off to the on position and set it at 50 Hz. The volume I set to about 10 O’clock position and first played a CD of songs I complied that have very low frequencies on them. I first noticed that my subwoofer didn’t seem as obvious as without the Buttkicker, yet didn’t notice anything from the transducer yet. I increased the volume to 12 O’clock position. Now I could feel that something was rattling the couch. Not sure I like this with music. I need to put a movie in with plenty of LFE.

U-571 chapter 15. Now we’re talking. I wanted more so dialed up the volume to about the 2 O’clock position. This seemed close to the right volume. War Of The Worlds has TONS of LFE, especially when the machines come up from underground. This really shook the couch. This is a sensation that is different than just a subwoofer rattling the walls and furniture. It provides more directional information, but I am not sure how. Star Wars The Phantom Menace at the pod races had the effects of side to side shake as the racing pods went from side to side of the screen. Very cool effect that I didn’t have with just the subwoofer. How does it do that with just one transducer? I guess it is the way the surround speakers combine to provide the directional input and the transducer adds the tactile sensation.

Black Hawk Down it felt as if I could feel the downwash of the chopper blades as they passed over head. It was a very real and being there sensation. I am not clear how it does this but it is impressive and involving. Once you get the settings to match up with your surround speakers, it is just amazing how much this adds to the overall experience.

I have now mounted the transducer directly to the couch by first mounting it onto a 2”X6” pressure treated pine board. I used ¼” X2 1/2” bolts with washers and ¼” nuts. I drilled four holes into the angle iron couch foundation and used ¼” X 2” bolts with lock washer/washer and ¼” nuts. This seemed very solid and should transfer the vibrations more consistently throughout the couch.

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
The first test is again with music. A very different experience this time. The vibrations from the transducer are much more controlled and seem more accurate. I am really liking this as it adds warmth to the music that it didn’t have before. Keep in mind that my subwoofer can rattle my whole two-story house, but this at moderate listening levels is providing a gut level warmth that just my sub did not.

This same CD with the standard mounting kit gave a less controlled vibration. It didn’t translate into the warmth that I am experiencing with the direct mounting. This is a major improvement! As I stated above, with just the standard mounting kit I did not like it with music. Direct mounting the transducer to the couch changes that totally. This is as much of an improvement as adding my subwoofer to my audio system. That said, this is NOT a replacement for a subwoofer, but it really adds to a system that has a subwoofer.

This test CD has tones that start at 10Hz. Using the mounting kit, I didn’t notice anything until 20Hz and it really gave a rattle/uncontrolled vibration at 25Hz. Direct mounting gave a much more controlled vibration starting at the 10Hz and continued on up. The rattle/uncontrolled vibration is gone.

The Sheffield Lab Drum & Track Disc revealed great tactile feel for the drums just not experienced before. Not just the bass drum, but the snare drums too. The delicate tactile feel is just great. This is a wow experience! It is making the hairs on my arms stand-up and take notice.

Classical music is great with this direct mounting. The 1812 Overture with real canon fire was very uncontrolled with the standard mounting. With the direct mounting it is controlled and adds impact at lower volumes. Without the ButtKicker, I would turn up the volume to get the subwoofer to rattle the house when the canon fire hit. I can get realism of the canon fire at much lower volumes with the ButtKicker. The same with pipe organ music. Bach’s Toccata in D minor, Holst’s March First Suite in E-flat major, Verdi Requiem Dies Irae, and Beethoven’s Fur Elise are all enhanced with this direct mounting set up.

Time to go to the movies with the direct mounting set up. U-571 chapter 15 rendered more controlled explosive charges. It was more subtle and realistic compared to the rattling it did with standard mounting. On War Of The Worlds I had to turn the volume down as it was bottoming out. It bottomed out before with the standard mounting but it is more noticeable now. This is not desirable. Bottoming out is a major distraction making you very aware of the transducer under you. It is far better to not know there is anything under you and think all the tactile sensation is coming from the subwoofer. It is all that much more engaging and realistic.

Gyro Drums on Animusic 2 was noticeably warmer with more tactile feel resulting in a more engaging experience. Heavy Light also from Animusic 2 gained warmth and smoothness with this direct mounting.

In my humble opinion, the difference in results, comparing the ButtKicker LFE using the provided standard mounting to direct mounting to the couch is like comparing a cheap $200.00 subwoofer to a well designed $1,200.00 subwoofer that is well matched to your audio system. The difference is that great, at least in my experience.

Would a home theater be improved with a cheap subwoofer if it didn’t have one before? Yes, but how much more so with a really nice subwoofer that provides accurate low frequencies you can feel and blends well with your main and surround speakers.

Reading on blogs how some will only use their subwoofer for movies and not for music tells me that they don’t have a subwoofer that blends well with their other speakers. It will add to the LFE in movies that the other speakers will not, but fails at adding lower frequencies found in music that blends well with the main speakers. Without direct mounting, that is how I feel about the tactile transducers.

The inherent problem here is that those that would like to try a tactile transducer to see if it would benefit their audio system is most likely going to only try the standard mounting. The big plus the standard mounting has is that it only sits under one leg of the couch. Very easy and simple to place and remove for a quick test of the tactile transducer. And if that is the only way I would have tested it, I would not want it for music at all but would have found it worthwhile for augmenting the Home Theater for those movies with lots of LFE.



The direct mounting makes a huge difference in the results. It is well worth the added trouble to direct mount the Buttkicker LFE to your couch. If you have the room under your couch to direct mount it, do it.

I had to get larger isolators for the feet of the couch. The ones that came with the kit were too soft and just squished under the weight of the couch and people sitting on it. With the larger and firmer isolators in place I had to turn down the gain as it was as if the amp had 4 X the power. It made a ton of difference getting the larger and firmer isolators on the couch feet. The larger isolators didn't sink into the carpeting as much and kept the frame off the carpeting so the vibrations from the transducer were not lost to the carpet. It all went to a more engaging experience for those setting on the couch.

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I have 2 Buttkicker LFEs wired in parallel powered by a BKA-1000-4 mounted to the center floor joists of my 13.5' x 17.25' media room and the entire room moves. I can't imagine what it would be like to even have 1 LFE mounted directly to a couch like that :eek:. I've got friends with ridiculous subwoofer setups that are still in awe of my Buttkickers and how deep they go.

The Buttkickers are one of the top 2 investments I've made to my media room, the 2nd being my Popcorn Hour C-200 Networked Media Tank.
 

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Thanks for the detailed review, flashjet. I have to say I agree with you on the direct mounting. I have tried my Buttkicker LFEs on 2 different types of couch. The first is very similar (almost identical actually) to the one you have shown. I chose to bolt 2 of the mounts of the LFE directly to the frame, and use 2 of the provided rubber feet under the other 2 mounts. This worked really well, and gave a tight, controlled effect to all seating positions (I had one LFE unit under a 3-seat couch, and one unit under a loveseat). The current couches that we have are built with a wood frame, but I didn't want to lose that feeling of integration that direct mounting gave.

In this case, I built a "cradle" for each LFE out of 3/4" plywood. It was essentially a box with just the bottom and 2 sides forming a corner. With this layout, I was able to remove the fabric under the couch, and screw the cradles directly to the central frame in 2 places. If anything it might have strengthened the frame, and now the LFE units are centrally mounted directly to the whole couch. I don't know why I didn't take pictures of this process, I must have been too excited to get them installed, but it worked great.

As I mentioned in another thread recently, it took a little bit of tweaking to get the right crossover and volume settings, but once I got it to a place I was happy with, they really blended in well.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Owen,
I agree that there is some trial and error with the Buttkicker system to get the right blend with your audio system. Once you get it dialed in, it makes such a difference. I do find that with music, I dial it down a bit and with movies it just gets you so engaged.

I think I get how you built the cradle for the transducer, but photos would have be a major plus.

Thanks for your input.

Flashjet
 

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Great review of your set-up!

I'm an owner of Aura Bass Shaker Pros... I have 6 wired in three series mounted under three chairs. They have been a ton of fun to use. Based on my experience, I would LOVE to try out buttkickers since they appear to be much more powerful - that being said the auras I own/use add a ton to the movie experience and I can't help but wonder if anything more powerful would be distracting or add too much!! I'd hazard to guess that they are worth the coin...

Congrats on the addition to your set-up! ;-)

Very cool stuff.

To others: if you are considering tactile transducers... Even slightly... Give them a try. They are wicked cool!
 

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27dnast,

It is not all about power. While the buttkickers are much more powerful, they are also much faster and more accurate.
 

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You would split the sub out using YRC splitter. These are supplied with the buttkicker amplifiers, or you can buy one for a few bucks...
 

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I mean that the buttkickers have faster response due to their design. That allows for no delay between the LFE signal that you can hear from your SUB and feel from the BK.
 

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Cool. I'd definitely be open to experiencing that! I don't think I've noticed any kind of delay with the aura pro's I installed... But perhaps I'd notice a difference if I compared the two.
 

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Would you recommend buttkickers for an apartment dweller? On the one hand, it's not producing sound waves so maybe it'd be better. Or, since it's shaking the floor maybe it'd transmit those vibrations?
 

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One of the advantages of having the buttkickers is the fact that you can reduce your subwoofer output, and compensate that with the buttkicker effect. Usually when we pre-install the buttkickers we also replace all the plastic feet under the chairs with kinetic rubber isolators to damp all the vibrations that come from the buttkickers...
 

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I have 2 Buttkicker LFEs wired in parallel powered by a BKA-1000-4 mounted to the center floor joists of my 13.5' x 17.25' media room and the entire room moves. I can't imagine what it would be like to even have 1 LFE mounted directly to a couch like that :eek:. I've got friends with ridiculous subwoofer setups that are still in awe of my Buttkickers and how deep they go.

The Buttkickers are one of the top 2 investments I've made to my media room, the 2nd being my Popcorn Hour C-200 Networked Media Tank.
Does it make stuff in the rook rattle. My seats are very close to wall and run parallel to joists (so that's one good thing). Got BKA-1000-4 and two LFE's coming. Have recliner and sofa and trying to decide how to mount

thanks

mark
 

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anyone know a good way to selectively switch on/off individual transducers and control levels individually. Ideally with remote.

I just bought the LFE bundle and extra LFE transducer. One will be installed in my chair and one in the sofa. I want to find a way to selectively turn each one on/off and adjust individual intensity. Ideally, I would like this to be done by IR/RS232/IP control, as all my gear is in the basement

Buttkicker does have a switch, but it still requires the amp to be turned off prior to changing the load and has no intensity control. Moreover, you then have to adjust the levels every time you change the number of transducers. Really lame for $150.

So how can I take a speaker lever input and split it between 2 transducers and adjust the level of each. I'd like something that does not require the amp to be turned off first (accident waiting to happen), so I guess I need something that takes a speaker input signal, presents a constant load to the amp and allows me to enable/disable each output and ideally adjust the level.

Any thoughts?

Regards

Mark
 
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