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Other than wireless headsets, we haven't seen much in the way of innovative accessories for use with chatting in online games. With the enormous popularity of titles such as Modern Warfare 2--where voice chat is an integral part of the online experience--it's fair to assume we'd see some improvements on the current system.
One of the most-sought-after requests in online game chat is the ability for more than one player to take part in the conversation using the same console. The way things are currently set up on services like Xbox Live only allow one person to chat at a time. In an effort to satisfy multiple online gamers in the same room, Nyko released the SpeakerCom 360, a device that turns voice chat into a speakerphone-style experience.
Though it sounds great on paper, the SpeakerCom 360 just doesn't perform as well as we would have wanted. It does a few things right and there are some impressive ideas here, but unfortunately the device is inherently flawed in a number of ways.
The SpeakerCom 360 boasts two modes of voice chat: speakerphone-style and in-ear, which uses two standard earbuds. The overall design of the headset is quite clever. It can be worn two ways: around the neck (using the magnetic earbuds as a necklace) so that the speaker box rests on your chest, or conventionally with a bud in each ear.
We really appreciated the flat-wire design used, which makes the cables almost impossible to tangle. This is a major step up from the standard Xbox 360 headset, which has a tendency to tie up easily. The end of the wire connects directly into an Xbox 360 controller; once you've done that, your setup is complete.
To switch between headphone mode and speaker mode, you'll need to flip a switch on the speaker box. Here you'll also find a volume dial that controls levels during either chatting mode. Where the cable plugs into your controller you'll find the mic active and mute control, which actually gave us a real headache when used. The plastic sliding piece that controls all three mic modes is very flimsy. It must be pulled out to allow for voice chat and can be pushed in to mute. When pulled out, you also have the option of pressing down on the springy button, which gives you a temporary mute.
Though it's certainly a smart concept, when used it just doesn't feel right. The shakiness of the build quality isn't solid enough to know whether you've muted yourself so you're better off switching mute on altogether, just to be safe. Also, since it's so close to the terminating end of the wire, we found it takes two hands to securely slide it in place to ensure you don't accidentally disconnect the headset.
In speaker mode, we were impressed with how well the speaker box performed. Everyone in our Modern Warfare 2 online party could be heard easily through the tiny speaker. Unfortunately, we found often than not that the audio from the speaker would go right back through our local microphone, which, in turn, created a frustrating echo for our teammates. While muting our microphone fixed this, it also left us incapable of chatting ourselves. We had some success by lowering the volume of the speaker, but never really found a consistent balance that provided an echo-free experience. Wearing the headset as a necklace was surprisingly comfortable and we felt no weight from the box hanging from our neck.
Things got a little better in headphone mode, but we quickly became frustrated with struggling to hear the actual game audio with buds jammed into both of our ears. Also, the microphone itself may be a bit too sensitive. Because it rests inline, it had a tendency to rub against clothing, which led more unnecessary static. Overall, we were happier with the SpeakerCom's performance in headphone mode, but we were unable to achieve an optimal voice-chatting experience in either mode.
The allure of speakerphone-style chat intrigued us, but we were disappointed with the end results. Unfortunately, there seems to be way too many variables that need to be addressed with the way the SpeakerCom 360 is currently set up. It won't break the bank priced at $20, but it certainly is a letdown.