Razer surround feels like a driver you can buy. We’ve always been wary of such things, like NVidia’s software to enable 3D displays on their cards, it feels like something you should be getting free if you’ve splashed out on the hardware. Razer’s Surround is something different though. You don’t even need Razer headphones to use it, but for £11.99 their software will make your stereo headphones (even cheap ones) sound like 7.1 surround sound headphones.
The way it works is a piece of intermediary software between the source (a game) and your headphones runs everything through some kind of algorithm that tricks your brain into thinking the sound is coming from a direction it isn’t. Nothing is changing with your speakers, instead it’s altering the volume and pitch of the sound in tiny increments and it’s surprisingly effective.
The set-up system is as easy as anything Razer does currently. It integrates into synapse 2.0 which you’ll probably already have if you have a Razer peripheral and from there you just press calibrate to set it all up. If you’re using Razer headphones you simply select them from a drop down list and it does run you through the manual bit but in our experience it just worked fine. If you have other brand headphones you just need to run a little sequence of tests where you hear a sound then click to adjust where it’s coming from until it lines up with the image on screen. It’s not an exact science but it is really easy to play with if it ever feels wrong.
Once that is done, you simply use your headphones as usual and games will suddenly be in surround sound (assuming they support surround sound outputs, which most do). With both the Razer Kraken headphones and our own the effect worked well. We ran through a few games of Arma 3 and it was easy to tell where shots and even footsteps were coming from, an important factor in immersion and even gameplay. The surround sweet comes with a few other features like a bass boost but as ever this tends to diminish the quality of the sound a little bit (although it does produce an impressive effect if you’re not expecting it).
The problem with virtual surround sound is that it is all a trick. We tried this up against our Roccat headset that has separate speakers in each earpiece to produce true surround sound and the difference is plain. Then again you’re going to spending a lot more money on ‘true’ surround sound, and if you’re not an audiophile then you’re not going to feel too hard done by.
Surround sound does provide a significant advantage in many games and helps with immersion in nearly all, but whether or not this software is worth it is going to depend on a few factors. If you are in the market for new headphones and surround is important to you, we’d say go buy a real surround sound set and maybe spend a little extra. Sound and comfort are so important you really don’t want to compromise on something you’ll use so much. However if you’ve already got some stereo headphones you love and you don’t want to buy an extra pair, this is a really good value product that will increase the enjoyment you get from your own set. It’s simple, it’s fairly cheap and it does exactly what it says.