ButtKicker Gamer PLUS | Long Term Review
I answer sim racing questions every single day. People ask me for upgrade advice all the time and my advice rarely changes. 1. Get decent brakes. 2. get a solid seating position or rig. and 3. invest in Haptic Feedback. And when it comes to the latter, few brands are as synonymous with an entire category of sim racing equipment as Buttkicker. The difference they make to your sim racing is even bigger than upgrading your wheelbase. This is going to be a good one. Let’s GO!
Product links (affiliate)
3-way power plug: https://amzn.to/3sPZ8VX
Sound card: https://amzn.to/3PxwTDd
Buttkicker setup in simhub: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gu17JtYK9o
List of international resellers: https://thebuttkicker.com/pages/international-retailers-distributors?aff=113
On the left you’ll see all the sections in this video. I’ve put timestamped links to each section in the description below. While you’re down there please hit the thumbs up button to help YouTube to suggest this video to others like you. 70% of the people who watch my videos are not subscribed. Please consider subscribing and hit the notification bell if you want to be notified about upcoming Reviews.
Let me kick this off by giving you a brief explanation of what Haptic Feedback is; It’s basically a rumble motor which is connected to your game. When you shift gears, you feel a clunk through your rig. When your engine revs, you feel it in the seat of your pants. When you kick it up a notch, you can tune it to tell you when you’re losing front or rear grip and you can even buy multiples for an absolutely incredible experience to identify which corner of the car the feedback is coming from. Even though Buttkickers use audio signals to cause the vibrations and shakes, the signals are specialised signals which have nothing to do with the game audio that you hear through your headphones or speakers. I’ll cover that in more detail later.
Buttkicker made its mark on sim racing with the ButtkickerGamer 2 which I reviewed a few years back. We even gave one away to a lucky subscriber. While I will be giving you all the positives and negatives I’ve experienced with this product, it must be said that I am already a HUGE fan of this type of device, and if you can afford to buy one, you should. Or you should at least get something similar. I’ll explain alternatives in a dedicated section. In short, these devices work with amplifiers, a little like a bass speaker would. They’re even usually attached using audio cables via a sound card on your PC. Except they’re not attached to a cone or speaker so they don’t make as much noise as a speaker. But do bear in mind that these things can make noise. I’ll cover that in a later section too.
To make this review special, Buttkicker were keen to get me to try their new proprietary software as well as experiencing not one but TWO of their new Buttkicker Gamer Plus devices. One for the front of the rig and one for the rear. Please pay a lot of attention to the following disclaimer. While I go into a lot of detail in this review to inform consumers about the complexities and technicalities you might face with this product, it is worth noting at all times that this type of product is one of the most rewarding and satisfying upgrades you can make to any sim rig. I absolutely love this product and recommend it highly. I just want you to know exactly what it’s like to own a product like this.
All of the products in this review were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review and nobody other than me has had any say in the content of this video. The links to this product and its competitors in the description are affiliate links and if used will earn this channel some money at no extra cost to you.
- First Impressions
My first impressions of this product were filled with expectation. Having owned a Buttkicker Gamer 2 for the past 3 years, I needed to find out everything I could about this new iteration of the product. Visually, there’s less colour on show. But the visuals don’t really matter here. The mount is shorter and you also get some bolt holes which are nicely space so you can fit this to pretty much any rig. It would be really nice if the clamp or mounting holes were removeable as they can make installation awkward and they never need to both be used at the same time.
The thing that struck me the most is that they now have USB-C connectivity. As explained in the introduction, usually you need to use a dedicated sound card and audio cables for this type of device. Guitammer, the company who makes the Buttkicker devices is trying to innovate to make the process as simple as possible. Less cables, and they sell this kit complete so you don’t need to mix and match to build a DIY solution. Now with their own software, you don’t even need to set much up. They’ve definitely made this to appeal to people who want to spend more time driving and less time tinkering.
This isn’t a cheap accessory unfortunately. It requires an amp, loads of long cables and of course the ButtKicker itself. I’ve included a link in the description (https://thebuttkicker.com?aff=113) as it does seem that buying direct is the best option at $279 USD. It also seems that that website is heavily aimed at the USA. I have included a list of resellers around the world. Please comment with your experience and recommended resellers in the comments, but please be aware that if you want the hapticonnect software, you get it for free when buying direct. It doesn’t seem to be included via most resellers, and reseller prices seem a lot higher. Some websites quote pricing including taxes, others exclude it. With the older ButtKicker product I remember that the 230volt version of the hardware was up to 30% MORE expensive than the American 110V version. That seems to still be the case. Do shop around, but we very aware that you’re buying the right voltage version for your country.
- Installation – Hardware
There are quite a few parts in this kit, and I had two of them. Firstly you need space for an amp. Each amp needs a power cable. Each amp also needs a USB c port OR an audio in cable attached. And of course lastly, you need to hook up the Buttkickers themselves. So do prepare yourself for quite a few cables. As some people are likely to have multiple devices, I’d love to see some way to daisy chain them so that you require less cables. If you were to buy 4 of these, you need 4 power cables, 4 audio sources or USB ports and of course, 4 cables going to your Buttkickers themselves. I did try to minimise the power cabes with one of these split kettle leads. I’ll include a link for that product on amazon in the description below.
The cable which goes into the transducers is not detachable on the transducer side, so be careful when installing. I pulled this one slightly and it looks kind of broken, but still works fine. It’s hard to get it to sit back into its original position. The amps themselves are a step up from the Buttkicker gamer 2’s amps. They have plenty of power for my needs and also seem a lot more intelligent when hooked up in USB mode. I’ll cover the different connection types in the next sections.
With the old model, you got a wired inline remote which was clunky, but it did mean that your amps didn’t need to be within line of sight in order to adjust a setting. I have my amps hidden on a PC shelf behind my rig so the wireless infra red remote is a little useless to me. Even if the amps were within line of sight, I still don’t really tend to use them because each amp responds to each remote. This is just something to consider. However it’s definitely worth pointing out that once I found the settings that worked for me, I only ever needed to worry about the amps being switched on and not needed the remotes for anything else. Usually they would automatically turn on with my PC but sometimes I would find that I’d start racing and they hadn’t turned on yet. That was a bit frustrating. The amps do turn off when idle, which is also great. However, when they’re powered off, they emit a high pitched whine which I never noticed from the old model. It’s not a huge issue but if you have sensitive ears, it can be distracting.
Mounting is pretty simple. There’s a versatile clamp mount which easily clamps to round bars or narrow aluminium profile tightly. You can also use the 3 bolt holes to mount directly to most rigs. Mounting these devices is easy, although you really need to mount them as close to your body as possible to get the most out of them. Again I’ll cover that in more detail later in the review.
- Installation via sound card
As said, this device uses audio signals and an amp to transmit tactile feedback. These audio signals are not the same as what you hear in your headphones or speakers. They are dedicated sound output from your SimHub, iRacing or other software.
If you want to use SimHub or iRacing or other software which powers tactile transducers via sound cards, this section is for you. If you want the simpler USB-C installation info, just skip to the next section.
Many people instantly think that they need to invest in an extra sound card to feed a Buttkicker device. What they don’t consider is that your PC usually comes with at least two sound cards pre-installed. One on your motherboard and another on your ‘Front’ audio port. If you do find yourself needing more audio ports, even a simple cheap sound card will do the trick. The audio signal for your Buttkicker does not need to be too precise, so don’t buy and expensive sound card.
Using SimHub, you can enable the audio devices which you have connected your Buttkicker amps to. I did a video on this before which I have linked in the description so I will not be going into more detail on that in this review. Please note that SimHub, although free, may not be the ideal solution for someone who for example uses iRacing exclusively. If you mainly race iRacing and don’t want to have yet another app open on your PC, I highly recommend using iRacings own haptic configurations in game. They work really well and are more intuitive to set up than those in SimHub.
- Installation via USB-C
Installation via USB-C eliminates the need for sound cards. Again, I’d love if you could daisy-chain them as I have now lost 2 invaluable USB ports on my PC even though they both serve almost the exact same purpose. If using USB-C, you are limited to which software you can use unfortunately. The hapticonnect software is pretty decent though. Make sure that the correct software bundle is included with your hardware, otherwise you’re going to have to fork out extra money just to get USB-C to work.
Using the USB-C connection feels a little more polished than installation via audio. Part of the reason this review took so long is because I wanted to spend a long time with both configurations. All the sims that I use were supported which is great. The app automatically knows which one of them is running and it was largely a seamless experience other than what I mentioned about sometimes needing to manually switch on the amps.
However, I’m going to switch back to using Simhub for one major reason. Right now it is impossible to differentiate between front and rear or left and right in Hapticonnect. That really counteracts the very thing that makes this device so potent. So if you want to feel your front wheels locking up via your front Buttkicker and not the rear one, you currently can’t set that up using Hapticonnect. Please Buttkicker, we need this functionality.
- How it feels
Haptic Feedback is IMMENSE. Controversially in my previous Buttkicker Gamer 2 review, I said that it was a better investment than motion. Even though my channel was very small at the time, I got quite some backlash from companies who make motion systems and people who own motion systems who told me that my words were ill informed and harmful. Here we are 3 years later and I am re-iterating the same point. Yes, Buttkickers are expensive. But they’re so much better an investment than a motion system and they give you some of the feelings of motion. I know that sounds odd, but hear me out. When you feel the revs of the engine and the change of the gear shift, the indication of the sensation of understeer or oversteer, it’s just a lovely lovely feeling. We simulate racing to trick our brains into thinking even just for a second that what we are experiencing is really happening. This product does that so so well. I cannot stress how highly I recommend this product.
- Things to consider
While this product oozes benefits and realism, it does have some shortcomings. Firstly, and probably most importantly, these things can get noisy. To be specific, they can cause the things around them to become noise with vibrations and reverberation. If installed correctly, they don’t actually need to be run on high settings to start getting benefit from them, but, if you want that real simulation experience, you’ve got some new variables to contend with. Namely, vibrations in other parts of your rig. Like that t-slot nut you were too lazy to remove. That might start rattling every time you go over 7,000 rpm all of a sudden. That’s not your main worry though. If you live in an apartment or share a house with people, this product probably isn’t for you. Those vibrations travel far. There are ways to isolate the vibrations with rubber but none of those isolation solutions are provided natively with this product.
I do have some advice for mounting though. Firstly, if you have one of these, mount it as close to your seat as possible. I recommend mounting to a seat rail or even drilling into the seat itself if possible. That’s how you get the most bang for your buck. That’s not really an option for most, and I didn’t do it either this time. If you mount directly to your aluminium profile, you’re going to greatly reduce the ability to feel the outputs and subtleties from these devices. Your rig is built to be as rigid as possible, which means that the whole thing turns into a conductor of the vibrations. If you have your rig in an isolated area where noises and vibrations are not an issue, then noise isn’t a concern for you. But most of us have other people living in our house who may not be as passionate about our immersion as we are.
It’s worth noting, as you’re likely to see it in the comments, that some people have had issues with failing amplifiers with the Buttkicker gamer 2. That’s a different product though as far as I’m concerned. This is a vastly different amp as far as I can see. I can only review the product in front of me and another reason for this review taking quite some time is that I tried my best to break this amp. I’d rather be safe than sorry. I know my opinion matters to you all, so I didn’t want this to be a half baked attempt at a review.
There are some alternatives to this product, but I’m a simple creature who loves a relatively plug and play solution. There are companies who to Haptic Feedback devices which attach directly to your pedals. I would recommend those above a Buttkicker for your pedals as they are almost touching your feet. If you want to play with custom amps and ‘pucks’ as they call them, there are also loads of options and as this is all sound based and quite easy to interface via the likes of SimHub, it’s not a complex DIY project to do and is considerably cheaper. Although the products in this review were sent to me for free, it is worth noting that I bought my first Buttkicker before I started my channel and have since rejected more DIY style setup review from similar companies as they simply have too many cables, more awkward amps and a less polished solution than this Buttkicker. There will be people in the comments who are welcome to give their DIY setup recommendations and many of them will prefer their solution to this one. My job here is to educate you about these products, but my personal decision was simple. I just bought a single Buttkicker a few years ago and it was life changing. That’s no exaggeration. We were driving the junior Ginettas in a community league race at the time and my Logitech G27 simply couldn’t tell me when the rear was breaking loose. My Buttkicker kept me informed as the rear was threatening to come loose and it was an absolute revelation. I went from a mid pack driver to a podium challenger overnight. It was one of the reasons I got in to reviewing hardware.
- Final Thought
That’s a LOT of detail about such a visually stationary product. There’s a lot to digest. It’s rare that I review a sim racing product where the aesthetics don’t really matter that much. While mounting and noise are still the biggest challenges you’re likely to face with this product, the rewards are worth the effort. This product’s ability to trick you into thinking that you’re really in a race car is up there with the best high end sim racing hardware.
While at first I was reluctant to try the Hapticonnect software, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the massive benefits that it had. It was simple to set up and using USB cables instead of audio cables is far tidier. Unfortunately, it does mean that I need to run an extra piece of software when I’m racing. Their Hapticonnect software also cannot target a specific Buttkicker. So all Buttkickers react to the same thing. So you don’t know if the feedback is coming from the front or the rear or left or right and for some, that’s a deal breaker. Luckily though as mentioned, SimHub’s amazing capabilities and iRacing’s great native solution for Haptic Feedback do offer those features and make this product very suitable to everyone who is in the market. I will stress that it’s worth taking the play with the settings of this device. There are some effects that you may not need at all. in fact, if you try to send too much info to the Buttkicker devices you will end up clipping which is the point at which any additional information or nuances in the Haptic Feedback get lost because there’s too much going on. In my view, this product is worth it for the gear shift feedback alone. It can make the most basic of shifters feel like a beast.
As I mentioned, mount this device as close to your body as possible. That means close to or attached to your seat, seat rail or seat mount and as close to your pedals or pedal tray as possible. As with any devices that provide physical feedback, the more you try to get out of the Buttkicker Gamer Plus, the more noise and vibration your setup will create.
We have several brands here in Ireland which are synonymous with their function. For example, most people call 4x4s a Jeep, even though Jeeps are one of the least common cars on the road. Vacuum cleaners are Hoovers, countertop grills are called George Foremans and in sim racing, haptic transducer like this are often all called Buttkickers as it’s an easy term to describe what they do. Trust me when I say that you will love this product. There are cheaper ways to achieve similar end results, for sure. But Buttkicker is just making it easier and easier to enjoy this type of product.
Should you decide to buy this product, I have included links in the description which when used earn some money for this channel. There’s no obligation to do so but your support is appreciated immensely. Details about other companies with similar benefits are also listed. I’m Laurence, I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm UK/Irish time. Thanks again to Buttkicker for making this review possible and to you for taking the time to watch, hit the thumbs up or comment with your experiences or opinions. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later