PC gamers looking to light up their ears as well as their audio experience should look no further than Razer's new Kraken 7.1 Surround Sound USB-based headset. The new Kraken is based on the previous analog-based Razer Kraken Pro, but throws in customizable 7.1 virtual surround sound backed by an advanced engine, and an enhanced digital omnidirectional microphone.
Razer said during GamesCom on Wednesday that the new headset's engine is capable of ultra-low latency audio processing that simulates a 360-degree surround sound experience that's typically achieved using more than one positional speaker driver in each ear cup. However there is only one 40 mm Neodymium magnet driver per cup, thus the emulated surround sound is achieved through the company's Synapse 2.0 unified configuration software.
We've actually been down this road before with Razer Surround. Users basically adjust the software settings until the simulated helicopter sounds like it's flying around the user's head. With generic in-ear headphones, the simulation was hard to track once the virtual helicopter flew towards the back – Razer said many people have difficulty figuring out if a sound is coming from in front or behind. Yet with the new Kraken 7.1, the surround experience is more defined and easy to track, thus providing a more immersive experience.
The one drawback to the new headphones is that it's solely based on USB out of the box – there are no included audio and microphone jacks. For many customers that's not a problem; those USB challenged, especially fans who load up on Razer gear, may need an additional USB hub. Regardless, once the headset is plugged in, the Synapse 2.0 software identifies the device and loads the required drivers. Yes, a reboot is required.
Once the system has returned to Windows, users can calibrate the headset using the helicopter test originally appearing in Razer Surround. This allows users to manually adjust the front-right, extreme right, rear-right, rear-left, extreme left, front-left and full front. After that, additional settings can be made including adjustments to the bass boost, voice clarity, microphone sensitivity, ambient noise reduction, and the device lighting (which is either on or off). Users can also adjust the equalizer manually or use presets like Blues, Jazz or Techno.
"As we continue to develop and build on our software front, we’re able to add more and more capabilities to our products. What we put into the Razer Kraken 7.1 is a great example of just that, from the customizable, personalized surround sound engine, to the optimized digital microphone algorithms that gives this headset its incredible performance," said Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder, CEO and creative director. "With its superior software capabilities, unrivaled sound quality and comfort, the Razer Kraken 7.1 is the definitive USB surround sound headset for PC gaming."
Unlike the two recent headsets Mad Catz released for PC gamers that had a removable microphone, the Kraken 7.1 has a built-in omnidirectional digital version equipped with an optimized algorithm, promising a better frequency response, sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio. The mic resides within the headset when not in use, and provides both a mic mute button and a green LED indicator on the tip to visually show that it's currently active.
For a full list of specs, the new headset has a frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hz, an impedance of 32 Ω at 1 kHz, an input power of 50 mW, and a braided cable length of 4.27 feet – an optional splitter adapter supposedly extends the cable to 6.6 feet. The inner ear cups have a diameter of 50 mm, and the headset's overall weight is around 0.65 pounds. The microphone has a frequency response of 100 to 20,000 Hz, a signal-to-noise ratio of 65 dB, and a sensitivity of -38 ± 3dB (@1 kHz, 1 V/Pa).
Razer fans should enjoy having the Kraken 7.1 sitting on their desktop sporting the popular green logos on each side. The new Kraken is surprisingly light, and the earcups do a decent job blocking out all the external noises. The extractable microphone conveniently bends so that even when in use, the device doesn't become a permanent fixture in front of the user's face (or breaks when they fall asleep in front of the monitor). The fact that the mic has an LED indicator just adds to the headset's overall coolness.
The new Razer Kraken 7.1 is available now for $99.99 USD here in the States and €99.99 in Europe. For more information about the new 7.1 surround sound headset, head here.