Category Archives: Sound

Razer Surround Review (PC)

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.

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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).

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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.

 

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Razer Kraken 7.1 Headphones Review

Headphones are an unusual piece of kit as despite mostly looking the same they serve very different purposes. An audiophile could pick up the Krakens and think it was a waste of money. It’s £89.99 for a big pair of headphones that don’t sound particularly clear or crisp. A gamer on the other hand is likely to be blown away by them, because they have nearly everything a gamer could want.

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The Krakens are not truly surround sound headphones. Rather than having separate drivers in each ear they use a virtual surround sound system to emulate the same effect. This has the bonus of making the headphones much cheaper than true surround sound set ups and also much lighter, and therefore more comfortable. The way the surround sound system work with just two speakers is basically just magic as far as we can tell, the science behind it is incredibly complicated but the point is that it works. During the set up with Synapse (Razer’s driver suite) you get to test each direction and modify it if necessary (although it was perfect for us) and it really shows off how well it can trick your brain into imagining directional sound.

The actual speakers lack clarity but in a way that’d only really be an issue if you were listening to music. Gunfire and engine noise come across fine, even at very high volumes, and the bass is astounding due to the large drivers. While playing Battlefield 4 with them we were amazed at how immersive it was with the sound turned up high and being able to tell where every vehicle was and the direction of much of the shooting. Surround sound is a huge advantage in games where situational awareness is king and the Krakens do a brilliant job of relaying that information to you.

Another cool feature is the microphone which is on a flexible boom that extends out of the headset or can be pushed back in when you’re not using it. The quality from the mic is perfectly clear and there’s a tiny button on the mic itself that allows you to mute it. The Kraken works very well as a headset for gaming and although the sound quality might not be the best, the surround sound, solid mic and impressive volume work together to make it a very satisfying package.

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The earcups themselves are also incredibly comfortable and anyone who has used Razer headsets before will understand. There’s a lot of cushioning over each ear and it properly envelops you, doing a good job of blocking everything else out. The headset is also light enough to wear for extended gaming sessions without any discomfort.

The one big downside to the Kraken is the lack of any controls. There’s no volume control at all so you have to do everything on your system which is always a pain if you’re in a game. The edition of a simple inline volume wheel or couple of buttons would make a world of difference but sadly any such feature is completely absent. After being used to the excellent controls provided with Roccat headsets it is a big letdown and enough that we’re not going to be picking up a pair of these ourselves. As soon as the problem is fixed in a future edition we’ll pick them up day one.

If you want a headset exclusively for gaming on PC, the KRaken is a solid pair of headphones that will serve you very well despite the couple of small annoyances. If you want something to listen to music or you’re some kind of audiophile, unfortunately you’re going to have to be paying a little more to get what you want. At this price point the Kraken is a slightly luxury headset for many, but it easily justifies its value with excellent surround sound emulation and an incredibly comfortable shell.

Verdict 8

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Razer Kraken Headphones Review

Summon the Kraken

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When you first put on the Kraken Headphones and start something up, say for instance Battlefield 4, you’ll be floored. Perhaps literally in BF4 as the bass in these Kraken headphones is nothing short of stunning. After being used to some fairly sub-par headphones with mics attached for gaming and a pair of hideously expensive Turtle Beach wireless headphones for the Xbox 360 the Krakens come as somewhat of a revelation.

Razer provided us with a neon green pair that matches the colouring of the Black Widow and Naga we’ve recently reviewed. They’re certainly an attractive pair of headphones, with a plastic frame surrounded by rubber on top and nylon underneath. Every part of the set seems completely solid, but lightweight enough that you don’t really notice the weight while you’re wearing them. The cups go completely over your ears and are effective at blocking out any other distractions while you’re playing. Plugging into your device with a standard 3.5mm jack they can be used with everything from PCs to mobile phones and even the Playstation 4. This isn’t a headset though, there’s no microphone on the Kraken, you need the Kraken Pro for that, but as a pair of headphones they’re very versatile. They even fold up inside themselves to make them a bit easier to carry around, with sturdy hinges that don’t seem like they’re going to give way anytime soon.

Sound is crisps throughout the full range with the aforementioned bass giving you a proper kick in the head at a high enough volume but the highs come through crystal clear. For such a reasonably priced set (around £50 currently) they blow away competitors within the same range. Even putting them through their paces with a range of music just gives them a chance to show off with powerful yet refined sound no matter what we were listening to. Saying that, they are definitely designed for gamers and I’m sure audiophiles would find some issues with them, but then audiophiles will be spending much more than £50 on some headphones.

Games of the current and next-generation are paying lots of attention to soundscape, even on the indie scene, so if you’re playing the music and sound through horrible TV speakers or, even worse, laptop speakers, these will be a huge upgrade. It’s a shame they don’t work with the Xbox One, but then currently nothing does thanks to their new proprietary port on the controllers.

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The only issues we have with these headphones are features that are simply missing, but available on the higher-priced models. There’s no microphone, so these won’t be a replacement for anyone who’s doing a lot of multiplayer gaming (unless you have a separate microphone which is definitely an option if you play games at a desk, but sadly we don’t).  There’s also no surround sound, this is strictly stereo and while it’s very good at what it does, in gaming surround sound is incredibly important for things like first person shooters where situational awareness is key. The Kraken 7.1 edition is around £30-40 more expensive, but if you can afford it it might be worth saving up to get the full experience out of your games.

As it stands, these are extremely capable stereo headphones, but that’s all they are, if you’re serious about gaming you might want to be looking higher up the range but if you’re just after something you can carry about easily, use in a variety of devices and want something that looks the part, for £50 you can’t go wrong with the Razer Kraken.

Verdict 8

 

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