Xbox One owners have long had two basic options for voice chat: headsets or the Kinect microphone. Now Nyko has thrown a third option into the fray with the release of the SpeakerCom, an accessory that allows players to listen and talk through a controller attachment. But can it compare to real headsets?
Snapping on the SpeakerCom
Ever since the days of the original Xbox, Nyko has been making SpeakerCom accessories for Xbox consoles. The concept is simple: to allow voice communication without requiring the player to wear a cumbersome headset.
The Xbox One version of the SpeakerCom attaches to the bottom of first-party controllers, much like the Chatpad. It connects to the controller via 3.5mm jack, so you can't use it with controllers that don't have a 3.5mm jack. Jack-less controllers have been out of production since June 2015, so hopefully everybody has one by now. (Third-party controllers won't work either, due to their different form factors.)
The front of the SpeakerCom features a single large speaker through which voice chat (and optionally, game sounds) play. Just above the speaker sit a Nyko logo and a pinhole-sized microphone. On the bottom of the unit is a volume knob adjusts the speaker's volume and a micro-USB port allows for charging.
A speakerphone for your controller
The unit's speaker automatically plays all headset audio, combining both stereo channels. Nyko recommends that you access the Xbox One's Settings menu (double-tap the Home/Guide button) and set the Headset chat mixer setting all the way to Voice. This makes the SpeakerCom output only voice chat rather than game audio.
Game audio actually sounds fine while broadcast through the SpeakerCom, similar to the controller audio of certain PlayStation 4 games. Most people will prefer hearing their game sounds exclusively from the TV or surround sound though, only using the SpeakerCom for voice communication.
The SpeakerCom's speaker performs admirably when used for voice chat. The audio was a little quiet initially, but I just needed to turn up the Headset volume in the console settings. With that properly adjusted, you'll be able to hear everything your party or teammates say – as will anyone in the same room as you.
That's one of the advantages of this peripheral – multiple people can listen to voice chat from a single source. And as with a speakerphone, your online friends will be able to hear other people in the SpeakerCom's vicinity talking as well. For people who game with family members around, this product is far less isolating than traditional headsets.
What if you don't want the people you're chatting with to hear something, though? The inability to quickly mute is a major failing of the Kinect as a voice chat device. Luckily, the SpeakerCom is a push-to-talk device. People can only hear you when either of the green paddles on the rear of the unit is pressed.
The SpeakerCom's push-to-talk paddles work the same way as the paddles on an Elite controller, only you hit them with your pinky finger. The Nyko logo light turns green while a paddle is held. I tested the SpeakerCom both one-on-one and in a large Party Chat setting. In both cases, everyone reported that I sounded very clear. Sound quality won't be a problem with this accessory.
One slight issue with the SpeakerCom is that the speaker and microphone don't operate simultaneously. While holding a push-to-talk paddle, the speaker cuts out. This makes sense in a way, as humans can't easily talk and listen at the same time. Still, it prevents you from being able to tell when someone else is speaking while you talk.
More significantly, the SpeakerCom runs on its own internal battery, not the controller's. That keeps it from running your controller's battery down, which is good. But the SpeakerCom must be charged via micro-USB cable (it comes with one), which means another cord to deal with. It has no battery indicator either, so you can't tell when it's running low. But I used mine for several hours on a single charge, so it shouldn't die if you remember to charge it now and then. It can also be used while charging.
One of a kind
The SpeakerCom is a unique accessory. Sure, it does the same basic thing as a headset. But it's cheaper than most headsets and doesn't rely on a potentially breakable cable to connect to your controller. You won't have to wear a bulky headset or be tethered to anything while using it.
Assuming you don't use a Chatpad, you can just leave the SpeakerCom connected all the time, even when you're playing single-player stuff. Just switch it on when someone messages you or joins your game – far more convenient than reaching for a headset. I love the convenience and portability.
A speakerphone-style attachment for voice chat won't appeal to everybody. But if the SpeakerCom's unique benefits sound good to you, don't hesitate to pick one up. You won't be disappointed.
SpeakerCom for Xbox One provided for review by Nyko.
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