Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Even if you aren’t a pro gamer, every player has the urge not only to win, but to get the upper hand. I always do, so I always stay on the lookout for things that can boost my performance in-game without cheating. MadCatz’ Throat Communicator may seem like an odd choice, but for anyone who has sat at their Xbox for over an hour, the idea of a more comfortable way to talk with friends and teammates online worth looking into.

In this case, only if you normally play games while eating baby seals while wearing a dog collar.

The MadCatz Throat Communicator, a Gears of War 3 accessory built specifically to ease the burden of wearing a wired or wireless microphone directly on the ear, is a concept I stand behind. I use Microsoft’s wireless headset, and though it works well, after an hour my gets sore. The same applies for most headsets, wired or wireless, unless they’re all-encompassing and act as speakers as well (see our review of the MadCatz 7.1 Surround Headset for more). So a headset that doesn’t rest on that floppy cartilage on the side of our heads intrigues me from the start.

The design is simple, though flawed: the neck-brace is worn one-way, with wires on the right, and a microphone is built into the right side to more accurately catch sound from your throat. That means if you like wearing your headset on the left, sucks to be you (myself included). If you do, all other players will hear are guttural tones and sometimes even a pulse. Worn on the right, one cable connects to the Xbox controller while the other is an in-ear speaker, which is comfortable and easy to use. It also comes with three cushion sizes so anyone over the age of 13 (or kids with bobble-size heads) can wear it.

In fact, based solely on the design and in use, there’s nothing wrong with the Throat Communicator. The neck brace is comfortable to wear (though there are four sharp corners, which I filed down to a less heinous level of ow), the speaker is light and tiny and volume controls are easy to adjust. I played several online matches with the Throat Communicator and was happy as could be. That is, until I opened my mouth.

Once you do that, dear friends, all bets are off. The first group of randoms demanded I take the microphone out of my mouth. The next (I assume) muted me because of the sound I made. It wasn’t until several friends of mine appeared online who told me that yes, a mix of walrus and crocodile was talking to them in illegible noises. So I recorded myself, using the simple message-sending application through Xbox Live, along with my smartphone recording from my speakers, so you can hear what I sounded like. You can see that below.

MadCatz Throat Communicator Sample Audio by jamezrp

Think about how you’d feel hearing that in an in-game lobby. Or mid-game. Or when you bark about that asshole teammate who just shot you in the back, and hearing only the mumbled stomach-pangs retort of an agitated narwal. Not pleasant. After attempting to rearrange the microphone, to better place it so I could be clearly understood, I’ve found no easy way to accomplish this, should any exist. The best sounding I’ve been was when I held the microphone away from my throat, to which I sound normal.

The sad truth is that no matter how much more comfortable or convenient something may be, if it doesn’t work, it’s useless. The Throat Communicator is a smart idea, but the tech just isn’t there. I’d have gladly paid more than the current $30 for not just a military-based design, but a military-grade set. However, I intend to open it up and attempt to extend the microphone to mouth-level, thereby solving my own ear-weight problem. If you don’t do something of the sort, stick with your current method of communication. That is, unless you just want to troll Xbox Live users. There’s way to many of them out there to not make up its own market.

The MadCatz Throat Communicator is available for purchase from Amazon for about $28.

Pros:

  • Comfortable for long periods of time
  • Lightweight, easy to store

Cons:

  • People on the other side can’t understand a word you say
  • Jagged edges are harsh on skin and need to be filed down
  • Only “works” on one side




James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.