“Razer Kraken USB” Headset [Tech Review!]
My “Razer Kraken” headset was purchased with my own money and therefore this review in no way officially endorses Razer or its products. The headset can be purchased from Best Buy for $53.99 or from Amazon for $51.94.
When my Logitech G930 headset started having trouble a while back, I started doing research on some good headsets to replace it with. The G930 is a very solid headphone and mic combo, offering wireless comfort with Dolby 7.1 surround sound, which is pretty awesome given its $90 asking price (when I got it, it was closer to $150). However, wireless designs, while certainly convenient (no more tripping over wires or yanking them out of the system by mistake!), sometimes have issues with signals dropping due to how the signal has to be processed and broadcast from the USB dongle to your headpiece. My G930 lasted for around 3 years (technically it still works), but towards the end of that period it started experiencing far more signal drops and a decrease in overall quality from time to time. I was very sad about it, but then I happened on a whim across a Razer Kraken headset while shopping in a Target store.
When picking up a new headset, I had the following basic requirements I wanted met:
- USB audio rather than 3.5mm (more convenient and less audio feedback)
- Wireless or short-wired design
- Nice quality mic
- 7.1 Surround Sound
Finding something that would meet all those requirements of course takes time, but when I stumbled upon the Kraken I was very pleasantly surprised. After getting tired of messing with the G930, I picked up a new Kraken and gave it a shot. So, how does it stack up?
First thing’s first: the sound quality even with two-channel stereo (not having installed the Synapse software) is really, really good. I found that the volume could quickly blow you out of the room if you didn’t drop it way down, which is usually a good sign. The mic is crystal clear and sounds fantastic, and the headphones have a nice, soft, and comfortable feel to them. But, once you install the Razer Synapse 2.0 software, things really kick up a few notches. In order to take advantage of the headset’s 7.1 surround features, you need Synapse, so keep this in mind if you pick up a pair of these. Anyway, once Synapse is installed and you reboot your system, the first time you open the program it will ask you to sit through a quick calibration of your surround sound environment. Basically, it’s a quick test where you listen to what sounds like a helicopter’s propeller coming at you from different angles and verify with the software the direction they are coming from. Out of the box, I found that my Kraken was configured perfectly and didn’t need any further adjustment from the software, and once I finished the calibration I could clearly hear in the test audio a helicopter circling around me, which was awesome.
From there, it was a matter of tweaking the volume, the mic sensitivity, and messing around with a couple other settings, but overall the process went very quickly and didn’t reach any snags. Music with the 7.1 playback sounds really great, but it’s with movies and video games that the feature really shines. With it, I was able to hear the exact location of enemy footsteps, could hear the rain in games sound like it was all around me, and in the case of The Solus Project, it really helped me in the deep cave systems to locate vital sources of drinking water. It’s definitely a big improvement over stereo sound (believe me, I tested the Kraken in both stereo and surround modes and hands-down can testify that the surround was vastly superior).
The one small issue I had wasn’t with the headset itself, but with the Synapse software. For some reason, with Synapse installed, my Google Chrome volume (noticeable mainly in YouTube video playback) was REALLY low. After messing with a bunch of things, I discovered it was due to a process called “Razer USB APO Helper,” which I think allows some automatic volume-equalizing to happen in the background. Disabling this process solved the low volume issue and it has never returned.
So, overall, I think the Razer Kraken USB headset is a winner in terms of sound quality and value. For just north of $50 USD you’ll get a very high quality USB headphone and mic combo with 7.1 playback, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a fantastic deal!
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