Move over Teamspeak. Move over Ventrilo. A new, better way to communicate with your friends mid-game is here with the Dolby Axon software.

I can't even begin to tell you how often I've been raring to play some "Team Fortress 2" or "Counter-Strike," get a bunch of friends together and be held up by someone having a microphone issue. Lagging sound, echoing, volumes being wildly disproportionate; I've dealt with every kind of issue imaginable and I'm certain you have, too, if you have ever played a PC game with a friend.

Dolby's Axon software, however, is a breath of fresh air. Setup was easy; no wizards or complicated configurations. I simply signed up, downloaded the program, plugged in a microphone and I was ready to go. I set up a chat room with my friends -- which, by the way, only took about two seconds to do -- and then, bam, I was ready to play. Testing out this new software, I expected to have to tweak some settings and get familiar with the software. However, Dolby's Axon system is so intuitive that I immediately felt as though I had been using the program for years.

The first thing I noticed when my friend said "hello" via Axon was that the sound quality was crystal. I was not aware that better sound quality was an option when using USB headsets but upon hearing the quality of the sound from this system it is impossible for me to switch back to Teamspeak. It was as though my buddy was standing right next to me in the room.

The other aspect I noticed was how sleek the interface is and how quickly the program loaded despite having a litany of features. Dolby must have been highly efficient with their code as the program never lagged, froze or had trouble loading. This is highly important as many computer games put a strain on your computer's CPU; Axon hardly uses any memory.

That was only my first five minutes of exposure to the software. Upon playing around with the tools available to me I was pleased to find that Dolby took such care in creating useful subfeatures that should be included in all communication programs. One of the small little bits I loved was that Axon can immediately mute your microphone if you are using other programs. This small element allows me not to be a distraction to my friends if I need to do something else on my computer.

Another small feature was the ability to use separate push-to-talk key configurations for different chat windows. Most programs allow you to set one push-to-talk button that automatically activates your microphone when pressed. Axon, however, allows me to set multiple key bindings so that I could use one key to talk to my friends in game and another to talk with another set of friends, or even my girlfriend. Again, these may be small things, but having a program that simply works is important when you're already worried about having to make headshots.

The basic Axon program is free, but the Surround Pass gives you a ton more features for only $20 a year. If you're not willing to spend that money up front, Dolby also has a 30-day free trial for the Surround Pass. The coolest feature of the Surround Pass gives you the ability to have surround sound on your headphones and that if the game you are playing supports it, your friends' voices will come through on your headphones based on where they are positioned in game.

However, even if the game you are playing doesn't support this feature, Dolby has a visual interface that you could use to position your friends and then you'll get the surround sound effect using their interface. You can even choose which friends you may want to include or exclude out of certain conversation using this interface which is really helpful if your friends are on separate teams and you don't want them to hear your strategy. Honestly though, there are a multitude of other features with the Surround Pass but there is simply too much to list here.

The other nice thing about the Surround Pass is that if at least one person has the Surround Pass, the rest of the chat room will be able to share the benefits of it. So if there are a bunch of friends you constantly play games with, splitting the cost of one or two passes may be a viable option, making you pay even less than $20 a year, which is already pretty low. Seriously, that's less than most used games at GameStop.

If you use a communication program for PC games stop using that program and try out the Dolby Axon software. You'll be glad you did.

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The Saboteur

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Video Games: Dolby's Axon Software

Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services