It’s recently come to my attention that the headphone industry has progressed to the point where you won’t be called crazy when you have US$1000 headsets. The demand for high-quality headset has soared from the days of the old Sony Walkman and when brands started differentiating themselves by stylizing these cans, it just went on from there. Step forward to modern times and we have celebrity headsets and of course our own turf; gaming headsets.
Gamers today demand quality and performance beyond that of stock headphones. Such is the reason why some companies have dedicated their entire being into providing gaming solutions from keyboards to headsets. Today we’re back again with another product from Razer with their Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Headset. Will this headset deliver solid performing audio experience? Hit the jump for the review, let’s make this showy!
Razer’s audio offerings have been received with mixed reactions from the gaming community. Self-proclaimed audiophiles scorn their audio offerings citing sub-par performance (
but apparently we’re not since we’re just dudes) whilst some cite the price to be too much. Others praise Razer’s aggressive styling and quality product. Whatever your stand is, one thing is for sure though is that they make audio products and we’re here to see if they’re as good as Razer puts them. Today we have another part of the Star Wars: The Old Republic line of gaming products designed by Razer for the game its named after. Anyways let’s get this review going and here’s the specs on these Jedi cans:
- DolbyÂ® 7.1 surround sound – virtual surround product. READ FIRST BEFORE YOU COMMENT, WE ALREADY KNOW THIS ISN’T TRUE SURROUND. THAT’S WHY WE’RE STILL WAITING FOR THE TIAMAT MR. I PREFER BEATS BY DERP
- Circumaural headset design with 50mm speaker units – standard Razer choice of drivers. so far they’re pretty reliable and not too weak, my nearly 1-year old overused Banshee still pumps sound pretty nicely
- Multi-color lighting – this is something we rarely see with Razer’s cans
- Boom microphone with adjustable tension – Pretty typical stuffÂ
- Interchangeable faction emblems – Sith or Republic dude
- Volume & mic control buttons on the headset – on-cup controls similar to that of the Banshee
- Adjustable headband structure for optimal comfort – please don’t be itchy
- Approximate Size: 195 mm / 7.7â€ (Width) x 180 mm / 7.1â€ (Height) x 100 mm / 3.9â€ (Depth)
- Approximate Weight: 318 g / 0.70 lbs
- Drivers: 50 mm neodymium magnets – like I said, standard Razer choice of drivers
- Frequency Response: 20 â€“ 20,000 Hz
- Impedance: 32 O
- Cable length: 7ft braided cable
- Connector: USB
- Frequency response: 50 â€“ 16,000 Hz
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 50dB
- Sensitivity (@1kHz): -37 dB +/-4 dB
- Pick Up pattern: Uni-Directional – that’s single directional for you regular guys
|Similar to the SWTOR Gaming Mouse, this headset is packaged in a semi-large box featuring the game boxart with a clear side window to let you ogle at what’s inside.||The back of the box features numerous highlights and marketing bullets. We can see below the large Dolby Pro Logic which means this thing is virtual surround|
|This side of the box again points out the Dolby Surround feature as well as a couple more highlights||Some feature icons adorn the clear side of the box/|
|Here’s another view of the packaging.||The bottom of the box indicates the specs as well as the package contents.|
|Opening up the top flap we are presented with the internal packaging.||Inside the packaging we have the Razer Paper stash, some sticker sheets, the headset itself and replacement faction logos for the earcups. Clever packaging we got here.|
|So we get down on the headset itself. (Trophy not included) The headset features a greyish-white color scheme with a soft curve on the bands with a subtle bevel on the band.||The earcups are mainly hexagonal and are suspended on the band ends for a slight swivel.|
|We have 1.5 meter cables hooking us up to our system. For most, this length is adequate but for some who prefer good cable management and have long desks, I think its better if this went in the front USB ports. The cable is braided for added durability.||As expected from a top product from Razer, the USB plug is gold plated for bling and better signal.|
|The mic boom doesn’t feature full swivel and only goes down up to a certain angle. The mic boom’s shaft is flexible for user preference.||Here’s a shot of the boom flexed inwards for closer action with the user’s mouth. And to catch more spit in the process.|
|Mic boom up.||Mic boom down. And that’s how far it’ll go.|
|The headband cushion lines the inner part of the headband and ends at the extension joints. The foam used feels different from the previous products. More on that later.||The earcups are not large compared to the other Razer headsets (Orca, Carcharias, Megalodon) but are adequate enough to enclose the ear. The interior pads also have some nice detailing going on with the main shape heavily inspired by the TIE Fighter design.|
|The left earcup is where the cable originates and from this angle we can see the lighting.||The cups have a slight tilt to them to adjust accordingly to head shape. Its not much but at least they’re not static and fixed. The controls are behind each earcup too.|
|Here we have the right earcup with the faction logo replacement. The right earcup has volume control and mute buttons.||Here’s the lighting mechanism inside the earcup with the faction logo removed. I’d also like to mention that this headset does not feature the pearlescent finish that the mouse has.|
|The band can extend a total of 12 sizes which gives the headset ample room for people with different head sizes. Razer’s choice of metal headbands is highly appreciated.|
One particular point of interest in this product is its inclusion of Razer’s new cloud-service: Synapse2.0. Razer describes this technology as follows:
The new Razer Synapse 2.0 software revolutionises this concept by harnessing next-gen, cloud-based technology to ensure that you have full access to all of your peripheral hardware settings, anytime, anywhere at tournaments, LAN centres, at home and at the office. With the advent of Synapse 2.0, onboard memory for devices is now obsolete.
Basically this technology does away with the onboard memory chip that stores profiles internally on the device. We currently have yet to open-up any of the new devices that support Synapse2.0 to verify if Razer has removed onboard memory entirely in their PCB design.
Synapse2.0 works as a client-server setup with the Synapse2.0 client installed on the end-users’ setup. This software requests information specific to an account (logged-in) and downloads that to the client. That means anywhere a person goes, as long as an Internet connection is present, they can use their configuration anywhere irregardless of device (as long as the same model, doesn’t matter if its a redesign like the regular Naga or Molten.) Synapse2.0 also downloads drivers once a new device (if supported) is connected. Razer plans on doing away with their old device-specific driver model and are aiming at unified system centered around the Synapse2.0 model. Right now the following products are Synapse2.0-capable: Razer Blade (the world’s first true gaming laptop), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) gaming line, the Naga (Molten) and NagaHEX.
This replaces the older model wherein you can carry your Razer mouse around and as long as the driver is installed on the used PC, the profile saved on the mouse will work. This works best for people who tend to be very possessive of their Razer gear. Many other company follow that classic onboard setup since a small 32kb chip is quite cheaper than setting up a large server farm to host a cloud-service. Seems like Razer has enough though to make it happen. Getting back to our review subject, here are a couple of shots of its Synapse2.0 configuration screen:
|The Volume tab features control sliders for volume, LR balance, and microphone controls.||The equalizer page allows the user to tweak the audio via 10 band graphic equalizer. There are also presets for specific genres.|
|Lighting page presents us controls for the lighting feature. Color selection and cycling are present. As well as intensity controls.|
PERFORMANCE, COMFORT, FUNCTIONALITY
Back again with a USB headset which means this one has an integrated audio device so we won’t be able to use the Lexicon. Moving on, we start off with performance but first let me just state again that we try our best to be as fair as possible to describe our listening experience and relate it to the readers.
We test out the SWTOR Gaming Headset on a couple of tracks of varying file types and quality to see how it handles music and general audio. Dolby surround was disabled for this test.
SNSD – The Boys Album (FLAC 1099kbps 44khz)
Not really a big fan of this album but still a very good listening experience. Generally comprised of pop tracks with some ballads thrown in, this 40-minute album isn’t really what this grown man/SNSD fan was expecting for a US debut precursor. Anywhichways, sampling the album with the SWTOR headset was a very pleasant listening experience. Straight out of the box, the SWTOR headset has a very flat audio profile. To get a feel of the songs, we played around with the equalizer to increase the bass and vocals. Though not noticeable out-of-box, the bass response on the SWTOR headset is pretty decent. It may not be chest-compressing or gut-busting, but its pretty decent. Also worth mentioning is the great sound isolation this thing has.
Ailee – Heaven (Single) [MP3 CBR 320kbps 44khz)
Nothing really fancy here except the supreme vocal performance of Ailee. I just popped in this track to see if the SWTOR can render it much better than the Sennheiser PC360 on the Lexicon. Still sticking to our custom EQ setting, I really gotta question the recording of this track of why they doused her voice so much. Pretty good vocal performance and the SWTOR headset rendered it well. Some might prefer to leave the EQ on default for these kinds of music or tune it themselves.
Â Gackt – The Seventh Night ~Unplugged~ (MP3 CBR 192kbps 44khz)
Something that I really wanted to test out ever since I started reviewing headsets just couldn’t find the CD and now I have it. This album features top songs from the artist Gackt as he performs acoustic renditions of such in what can only be described as perfect ear candy to any fan. The SWTOR headset gave a spatial and broad feel to the listening experience and the raw instrumentals had that live feel to them. The headset doesn’t color the music much instead downplays the strength of some parts but playing around with the gain, one can really appreciate some wide range of instruments with this headset.
Testing out the headset on SWTOR itself. First order of business: stay stiff like a lamp post and appreciate the ambiance. Now SWTOR isn’t really that revolutionary in terms of audio, it does have some nice in-game BGM. To be quite honest, I think this headset is a bit overkill for SWTOR since directional and positional rendering seems not that deep on SWTOR game itself. Nevertheless, we gave it a try and the performance was up to expectation and that is great deep audio. The Dolby surround option heightens up the experience but picky audiophiles will probably be too discerning to accept the surround experience. Surround was above average at best and seeing as this is more of a software solution, its pretty impressive overall.
We move over to some Starcraft II (128 sample option) and COD:MW3 for some diversity in audio and the SWTOR headset gave performance to the respects as the Banshee and Megalodon. One thing I tend to notice about the overall sound experience though is that far-away feeling the cups give. Its not really an audio quirk but more of a matter of perception as distance is kinda hard to judge using this headset. Also to enjoy the loud booms of in-game explosions, one has to set the EQ and play around until they reach a desirable level to enhance the experience.
Mic performance is pretty much ok. Nothing spectacular. The boom flexes around and I personally do like the limited rotation of the mic on the cup but some might have issues with these choice of design. One such concern is accidental over-exertion of force on the which might snap it loose. Mic sensitivity is a good but the level needs some playing around with so the quality doesn’t get to dirty.
Allow me a moment of enthusiasm as I have waited for this moment to say that these headset is comfortable as comfortable gets. The snug fitting earcups surround the ear and does not put pressure on the upper earlobe. The cushion also do a great job on noise cancelling although sound still tend to leak from the pads but not so much like the Megaladon and its derivatives which have mesh on the rear of their cups. Since this headset features internal audio, concerns of heating during extensive use was present. Although the cups do heat up a bit, its relegated to the part near the bands and not the cups themselves which is pretty cool (no pun intended.) Also worth noting is the pads and cushion used by Razer which have a slightly smoother feel to them than that of their other audio products. I’ve complained about how the old pads tend to itch when they start to heat up on the skin, well on the SWTOR Headset it was pretty much a joy to wear. They still rub and heat up but they don’t have that itchy feel that occurs after. Weight issues would vary from person to person but this reviewer did feel neck discomfort after 10 hours of using the headset straight. I was listening to the same song over and over again, believe me.
We gotta give props to Razer for sticking with the on-earcup buttons and keeping them discrete. This feature keeps the wire clean without a dongle or inline controller unit having to be close to us during a gaming session. This makes it easier to mute and control the volume as needed. The tilting earcups are also a good idea as they add some more comfort points as well as freedom of movement to the wearer.
We feel like any themed product is aimed at a certain crowd. For the SWTOR line, its those that play the game they’re appealing to and then Star Wars fans in general next with some exceptions that might like the style. That said, the SWTOR Gaming Headset by Razer is a very solid product that is pure quality that can be felt once worn. The level of comfort this pair of cans give is practically as rewarding as its audio delivery. We do feel the headset has a bit of spatial feel to it that I am personally not a fan of but seeing as SWTOR generally plays out in open areas, its appropriate.
Although nothing revolutionary for Razer in terms of performance, we will give this product some points for its nice fit. We’d really like to mention anything we think needs improving on the SWTOR headset but to be quite honest we can’t think of any. If its purely going to be used for SWTOR then its getting high points from us with only the lack of power on the bass and not so impressive performance out of the box. Anything else beyond that is up to the user to appreciate by tweaking the EQ.
Right now Razer lists the SWTOR Gaming Headset for US$130. Many can argue that they can get better gaming headsets for lower prices but those cans aren’t really SWTOR themed are they now? Irregardless of styling, I personally believe that the comfort level of this headset is well within the likes of the PC360 from Sennheiser which costs almost double the SWTOR one yet gives nearly the same quality audio minus the need to buy a decent dedicated soundcard.
In closing, the SWTOR Gaming Headset might be aimed at SWTOR fans but its more than decent performance coupled with good comfort urges us to recommend the headset for anyone who wants a solid performing headset for long gaming sessions and dont want to pay the premium for a dedicated soundcard and studio class headphones. The force is strong with this one, you just need to play around with the equalizer.