A Quality Voice Communication Experience: Axon

Update Axon has been dead for some time now but I recommend Discord if you’re looking for a voice chat solution!

“Gaming is so much about communicating and the social aspect of sharing experiences with your friends so voice communication is paramount. I’ve been playing games for years now and have been through a multitude of different voice communication services. My first experience was with Ventrilo (still a popular option), then Teamspeak and Mumble, Skype for a very long time (for chatting with my friends while playing with them on a regular basis) but now, after so many years, I’ve settled on Axon. I wanted to write a short post about using Axon because I feel that it is far superior to the other other alternatives that are available and it’s still relatively unknown despite how well-made and maintained it is.

Advantages of Axon

  • 100% Free

There are no paid features in Axon. Everything you would want to use is there available for the taking. Because of this, there is no gating of features or gradual degradation of core services to encourage transition to premium services (I’m looking at you Skype!).

  • Simplicity

As you can see by the interface above. It’s quite simple. You make an account sign in and go to the users menu to add people to your friend’s list. Once you’ve done that you can invite them to one on one chats or create a permanent chat and invite them to that instead. There are no ports to copy in or passwords to remember/change. You can also set it to auto login/start up automatically when your computer starts up.

  • Permanent Rooms

What I consider to be one of the best features of Axon (in combination with the grid system and directional sound). Permanent rooms are amazing. Gone are the days of having to forge a chat together every time you want to play with your friends and are coordinating over Skype. Permanent chats remember where you were positioned in them last, can support an ungodly amount of people, have a running text chat that is held on server and allow you to promote other people so that they can add people to the chat as well.

  • Grids

The grid system used in the permanent chat (as seen above) allows you to seamlessly hold up to 4 different conversations in the same permanent chat without having to create another room. These grids are quite useful when you’re holding a scrim and are sharing the same room or someone is going to be AFK for a while (so they drop into another section) or if your friends happen to be multiple different games but still want to be able to keep in touch with each other easily (by dropping by in the other section and saying a quick hello!).

  • Directional Audio

Another incredible feature included in Axon, and perhaps it’s strongest point of differentiation. Because of the programming behind Axon it uses surround sound (hence the connection to Dolby) when you and your friends are speaking. This means that a chat room is more like a room where you and your friends are sitting all throughout the room. It means that more than one person can be speaking at once and it is actually possible to differentiate voices beyond simple volume levels. You can also choose to orient yourself towards whoever you are anticipating you will be communicating with more often to help further augment your ability to communicate.

  • Ability to Nudge

If you’re in a chat and you want the attention of your friend you can nudge them (as shown below) and a notification will pop up in the top right corner of their screen letting them know that their attention has been requested in whichever chat you nudged them from. This is an easy way to get someone to come join you in a chat channel and is the equivalent of poking someone on the shoulder to get their attention.

  • Selective Muting

If you happen to have friends with awful mics, who can be incredibly annoying at times then, or are playing in the same room as someone else but on voice chat with others then you will surely take joy in being able to use this feature. As you can see below, you can right click the users in the chat and selectively mute a person. This allows you to control your audio input without having to ask someone to shut up or figure out some sort of elaborate arrangement with the person who is playing next to you so that you don’t have to hear them twice.

  • No hosting/Lower upload speed usage

Because all communications are hosted by the Axon servers you don’t have to worry about additional upload requirements that can be taxing for those of us with pathetic upload speeds. There are few things more tragic than having to choose between voice chat with your friends are constantly lagging in game. No more negotiations and maneuvering as to who will be hosting the Skype call (and bearing the additional upload burden)!

  • Excellent voice activation (no need for push to talk)

Again, a feature that I am incredibly grateful for. As someone who hates to use push to talk, Axon’s excellent voice detection has served as a dependable alternative to push to talk without any of the complaints about mic spam that usually come with using anything other than push to talk. Yes! You can even breathe while you use voice activation. Funny the thought that it only picks up significant sounds and actual speech. The people at Axon figured something out that seems to be too difficult for others to sort out as well. I am aware that you can adjust sensitivity and the like in other programs to find your sweet spot but I’m just grateful for the ease of use that Axon offers. No tinkering required.

Disadvantages of Axon

  • Creating an account and getting your friends to use it

Yes, this is the biggest roadblock to being a happy user of Axon and that is making an account and then convincing your friends to give it a go and let go of the other programs that they are so familiar with. Perhaps this article can help you in persuading them to change their mind!

  • Weak individual text chat

If you aren’t holding a chat in a permanent chat and have invited a single person to a personal text chat then you will end up losing your chat history from before when you’ve closed that window. This makes it a sad replacement in that regard for something like Skype (though I suppose you could create permanent chats on an individual level). However, the top voted post on the feedback forums for Axon is in regards to changing the way that works and making the feature more useful. That’s another thing, they actively solicit feedback and respond to posts in the forums. It’s nice to see a team that genuinely wants to hear from its users and seek to improve the service.

I know for sure that Axon has made a huge difference for me because when my team was playing at GottaCon for the DotA 2 tournament we ended up installing Axon on the computers there because Teamspeak just wouldn’t cut it. Even with the added latency of having to use a service that wasn’t running on the LAN there it was still much preferable with having to deal with the lack of directional audio, crappy voice activation and no option to selectively mute members (one of our teammates was particularly close to a speaker and had a sensitive mic).

Hopefully this post convinces you to try Axon. You and your friends will certainly benefit from adopting it as your voice communication service of choice. Let me know if you happen to know of an option that is even better!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

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