reviews\ Jun 26, 2002 at 8:00 pm

The Battlechair - PC - Review

The Battlechair Delivers a Jaw-Dropping Audio Experience

The box on the porch stood only 2 feet in height and girth by three-feet deep. An easy knee-bend, lift and it was in the house. No need to look at the manifest, this was an easy job. Sure the box was a little beat up in transport, but not a problem.

The knees bent, then the back bent as muscles contested the lift. Yikes! Lightweight is not a word, and there are many words to follow, to be thrown about lightly when talking about the Battlechair. Seventy pounds, when expecting 30, is a contested weight. And the Battlechair only begins to scratch the surface of its weight.

When it comes to enhancing the sound quality of your computer system, this chair excels. Why? Because it hooks into your sound card and, if you have the right audio card, surrounds players with rich, full-bodied sound. There is even the bonus of an eight-inch sub-woofer in the lower back portion of the chair to provide a pleasant thump when music, a DVD or a game warrants it.

To help conduct the review of this peripheral device, Mike Studor (a television engineer) and Denise King (a graphic artist) helped take the chair for a spin. The system used to test out the chair was running an Aureal SuperQuad sound card.


There is nothing overly complicated about setting up the chair. It comes with the solid, molded back, which contains the speaker system, a stem for the chair to sit on, the pedestal which features five wheels, arms, the appropriate cables and a Digital Signal Processor, which provides the link between the chair and the sound card. Snap, screw, bolt and the body of the chair is set up. It is incredibly simple to do. Even hooking the chair up to the sound card is simple. The main cable, which hooks under the body of the chair, has eight leads, all color-coded, which lock into the appropriate slots on the back of the DSP (or Eastern). Then a cable runs out of the body of the Eastern and into your sound card. If you have connections for front and rear speakers, you will enjoy surround sound with a quadraphonic flair.

Total time from beginning to sound is perhaps 15 minutes, if you are taking your time. There is no software to install.

When finally completed, the Battlechair looks like it just came off the set of the original Star Trek series. Ok, Sulu, take us out.

The Battlechair’s Eastern has a power button, overall volume as well as rear volume, bass and treble controls. It also has four preset, all buttons. They are for game play, concert sound, DVD, and an off button for the presets.


Using MP3s downloaded from the Internet was a hit-and-miss proposition. If the MP3 came from a digital source, the sound was incredible. The bass drum and bass guitar (on rock songs) thumped through the body of the chair, while the speakers in the headrest delivered crystal clear sound.

Imagine, though, the disappointment of playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and expecting cannons sound to pulse through the body, only to hear a distant roar. Not the chair’s fault, that problem was in the recording. However, on a digitally mastered tune – whether rock, country, folk, or world (put Celtic and other music indigenous to various parts of the world in this category) the chair – in conjunction with speakers placed near the computer monitor – provided a tornado of sound. It was crisp, and full-bodied. And though the sound begs to be turned up, it is not overwhelming. The ‘tornado’ aspect of the chair puts the listener in the eye of the audio storm. Some tunes were so clear and ‘live’ sounding that if the eyes were closed, you could imagine the band playing in front of you.

This definitely rivaled a concert atmosphere, with the exception that the sound was not being swallowed by the vastness of the venue. It was directed, and amazing.

King was awestruck by the quality of the sound. “It rocks,” was her first response. Once the wide-eyed stunned look and jaw dropping subsided, she expounded on her feelings.

“It’s as close to being inside the music as you can get, and I really like that,” she stated. “I don’t think I want to listen to music anywhere else (than in the chair).”

Studor admits that when listening to music he prefers to lay back and put his feet up – and the Battlechair is more representative of an office chair than a Barco lounger.

“It’s OK to listen to music, but it’s not really something that’s comfortable to listen to music in,” he said. “If I could lay back and put my feet up, that would be good.”

King disagreed, stating, “I like the chair, it’s comfortable.”

Initially I would have agreed with Studor, but after spending a lot of time in the chair, I found that it provided great back support, and the stiffness in the body of the chair is necessary to keep the individual using it in contact with the lower speaker. The thumping of the sub-woofer was not bone jarring, but rather provided an almost massage feeling. A couple of nights, unable to sleep, I sat and listened to some music, and the combined effect of the sound and the sub-woofer make relaxation and sleep possible. This is not to say it is the answer for insomniacs, but if you put a stool in front of you, in order to raise the legs, and just lean back into the chair, you may fall asleep.

Game playing

The incredible thing about the Battlechair when it comes to game playing is the way it reveals the nuances of the game’s sound. In Diablo II, when it is raining, you will hear the rain falling all around you. If someone walks behind your character, you will swear you can hear the footfalls behind your head, almost as though you were in the game.

This chair really separates the games with awesome sound from those with only average sound. Sierra’s Throne of Darkness has a wonderfully rounded sound, while Sierra’s NASCAR Racing 4 was disappointing. I expected to feel the crunch of car against wall and didn’t. However, when cars were approaching from behind to pass, it seemed as though the sound moved from behind the head to the monitor speakers.

Studor tested both the Diablo II and NASCAR programs in the chair. “Feeling the strikes, feeling it fun through your back is kind of neat. I think it does enhance the game. The sound is really good.”

(Oh, and after sitting in the chair for more than an hour, Studor reversed his earlier opinion about the Battlechair. “It is actually a pretty comfortable chair,” he said.)

King tested Throne of Darkness and American McGee’s Alice (EA Games) in the Battlechair and said that “it allows you to hear the stuff you normally wouldn’t. It makes creepy games even creepier.”

The key, of course, to really experiencing the fullness of a game’s audio files is to have a game that has great audio. One program, GT Interactive’s The Wheel of Time, begins at night during a storm with distant flashes of lightning, and the sound of thunder. A sudden blast of thunder, close to your character, rips through the speakers and not only will elevate you several inches from the seat of the chair, but have your heart racing. That is when interactive gaming really does what it is supposed to do.

The arms of the chair have a dual purpose – one directed at the gaming community. You can purchase extenders for the arms that will allow players to put a joystick on one arm, and thrusters on the other for flight sim games. Lean back in the chair, with the controls at your fingertips to experience a cockpit-like atmosphere.

Other uses and final thoughts

As mentioned, the Battlechair also has a pre-selection for DVD. Digitally mastered sound is where this chair really shines. Plop in Mel Gibson’s The Patriot or Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan to experience the movie in ways that you won’t in a movie theatre. The sound is spectacular.

If there is a drawback to the Battlechair it would be the cable that runs from the bottom of the chair to the Eastern. It has a tendency to get in the way. Trying to lay it under anything, to keep from tripping up in it, only impedes the chair’s mobility. However, watching your feet and keeping the cable free is a small price to pay for the sound this chair delivers.

Even placing speakers in front and behind you won’t provide the sound that the Battlechair delivers. That sub-woofer may not seem like a really big deal to some, but feeling the pulse of music rippling into your back muscles is nothing short of breathtaking. The headrest speakers don’t blare, and the control settings on the Eastern allow people to set the sound precisely the way they like it.

A really good office chair is going to cost money, and at $229, the Battlechair isn’t inexpensive. But if you are a devotee of music, a certified audiophile with a computer, or just appreciate a great audio experience, this chair will deliver the kind of sound you want and deserve. It is, in a word, stunning.

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