The last time I had a Razer headset on my kop was back when they were a bit too small, sat directly on your ears, and were extremely heavy on the ol’ bass. They were nevertheless extremely popular headsets – a testament to the power of marketing. As I got older, and went on my own audio journey of sorts, I discovered much better headsets, both for gaming and media. Returning to Razer’s headsets with their Kraken Ultimate has been… a lot less painful than I remember, but just as anticlimactic.
The Razer Kraken Ultimate is an absolute unit of a gaming headset that looks a lot heavier than it actually is, thanks to that aluminium frame. The awkward circular cups are back, though gratefully they cover my entire ear this time. Razer also finally figured out how to get Chroma RGB directly on the cans, so even the 50mm Neodymium drivers on your ears can puke rainbows. In all, it’s an indisputably sexy headset that feels comfortable enough in short bursts. Anything longer than a few hours, and it starts to make its presence felt, especially around the top band.
As alluded to earlier, Krakens were previously disappointing efforts in terms of sound quality, with way too much bass and horrendous imaging. I’m glad to say the Kraken Ultimate fares a lot better, now featuring – for the first time in Razer history – actual mids and highs in the sound imaging. This is definitely passable, and it’s clear Razer put some effort into getting the tuning right. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it performs admirably for a closed back headset… at least, in stereo mode.
The same unfortunately cannot be said for the heavily marketed THX Spatial Audio featured on this headset. THX may be a respectable badge to wear, but many headsets attempt virtual 7.1 surround emulation and perform poorly, and the Kraken Ultimate is no exception. It’s horrendous, to the point that I struggled to place even the most obvious of footsteps in gaming sessions, ruining the sound imaging entirely. Rather stick to stereo mode.
As if realising this fact, Razer offers the ability to toggle THX Spatial Audio directly via the headset using on-ear controls. The headset also has on-ear volume control, which is quite neato, and a completely retractable microphone that can be muted by, ahem, squeezing the tip. There is further customisation available including full EQ settings via Razer’s Synapse app, but that will require installing Synapse, so… less neato.
The microphone itself is another big marketing point, touting active noise-cancelling – presumably for people who use in-game voice chat at nightclubs? This works decently enough in practice, providing adequate voice isolation, but results in a very nasal-sounding, bass-less voice. So, a standard gaming microphone. The disappointment only grows when you realise the headset has no chat mix features, meaning you cannot easily separate voice chat from in-game audio with separate channels.
A further point of frustration is the Kraken Ultimate’s braided USB cable. The USB part is fair enough! The cable itself is non-detachable, and slightly too short to be practical. This meant I had to resort to plugging the headset into my PC’s front port because the rear ports were too far away, and I couldn’t swap in a longer cable. This was further compounded by the friction caused by the cable rubbing against my t-shirt actually carrying through to the cups, making any slight movement I made literally audible when using the headset.
At this price point these design oversights are unforgiveable, and you can forget about console gaming, unless your PS4 sits next to you while you play. When you consider that the Kraken Ultimate will be directly competing with better gaming headsets in terms of sound quality, comfort, and features, the question then becomes – who is this for? Razer fans? Fair enough. But for my money, and at this price point, I just don’t see a good reason to call this the “ultimate” (I’m available on weekends) headset for gaming. There is much, much better out there.
The Razer Kraken Ultimate sits firmly in the gaming headset sub-genre for peripherals, with RGB-forward design aesthetics and questionable sound quality to match. While definitely an improvement on previous iterations of the Kraken, there still isn’t enough here to truly make it the ultimate standout. Especially at that price.
Retractable mic to hide it away when not in use
Aluminium frame keeps things light
Finally, a Razer headset that isn’t all bass and no treble
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