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Razer's Leviathan Sound Bar And Subwoofer, Hands On (UPDATED)

Sound bars provide high-quality surround sound without the need for additional speakers. Some sound bars even include a subwoofer for those who want a little more from their sound system, especially when it comes to big explosions in movies or watching sports. In October, Razer joined the scene with the Leviathan. This is Razer's second attempt at speakers, the first being the Ferox, which came out in 2011. Compared to the Ferox, the Leviathan is a huge upgrade both in design and audio quality.

The Leviathan sound bar weighs 4.4 pounds and features two 2.5-inch drivers, along with two 0.74-inch tweeters. The subwoofer weighs 5.1 pounds and has a 5.25-inch driver, and it includes a wire that connects to the rear of the sound bar for the added bass.

Additional inputs include an optical cable, a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable, and a power adapter, all of which connect to the rear of the sound bar. The Leviathan can also connect wirelessly through Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC, and it "remembers" up to four devices. It also comes with two pairs of detachable feet, which helps set up the correct angle of the sound bar, wherever you put it. (Razer recommends a 15-degree angle for general use, zero degrees when using it to watch TV or playing console games, and 18 degrees for use on a desktop PC.) The back of the sound bar also includes two mounting slots so you can hang it on the wall if you prefer that to placing it on a desk or table.

The control panel is located at the top of the sound bar and features seven buttons. The first button on the left changes the input (auxiliary, optical, and Bluetooth), while the next button enables Bluetooth paring for new devices. The third button toggles the Dolby surround sound feature.

Pressing the middle button mutes or unmutes the entire sound bar. The fourth button alternates between three equalizer presets: game, music and movie. The final two buttons are used to increase or decrease volume. To control the amount of bass from the subwoofer, the user must press the Dolby button in combination with the volume controls on the sound bar.

Below the controls are two small displays that show which input and audio presets are activated. Both the displays and controls are lit by green LED lights, which can be turned off by pressing the Dolby button and the preset buttons.

In terms of performance, the Leviathan delivers on every level. Although you can't turn off the presets, each one provides superb audio quality, whether you're watching sports, listening to your favorite song, or slaying enemies in a video game.

The system loses the bass as the volume goes lower, but the rest of the audio still comes in clearly. Conversely, the bass can be powerful at high volume levels, but adjusting the subwoofer controls can easily make it bearable when it's loud. Additionally, there was no distortion at higher volumes.

For music, I tested Daft Punk's "Giorgio By Moroder." The treble was very clear in that I could easily hear the different synthesizers while the subwoofer provided the right amount of bass without overpowering the main beat. Both parts combine to create a balanced midrange so you can clearly hear each musical layer.

While "Giorgio By Moroder" features a heavy bass and synthesizers, I also tried out the Leviathan on Two Door Cinema Club's "Something Good Can Work," a song focused on vocals and guitars. Once again the bass was able to deliver on the background drums, but it didn't overpower the vocals and guitars. The treble brought out the vocals while still leaving the guitars a little more prominent throughout the song. The result is three great layers on the midrange that blend well and don't fight over each other for audio supremacy.

Both tests were done through the Leviathan's Bluetooth connection, but the audio quality was just was as good as when I connected it to the sound bar via the 3.5 mm cable.

For games, I used the Leviathan's optical cable, and the Dolby 5.1 surround sound made games more immersive. I spent a few days playing Forza Horizon 2 with the Leviathan. With surround sound off, the roar of the engines and the in-game soundtrack blended, giving a strange mix because I would only hear bits and pieces of a song while the car switched gears. Crashes didn't feel intense because it lacked the bass.

With surround sound on, it's a whole different story. The increasing revs of the Ferrari LaFerrari engine as I went faster and faster felt real. Further, each lyric and note came in clearly, even over the loud engine.

Each crash into a tree, light pole or car was heartbreaking as I could hear the boom of the initial hit and then the metal folding in on the chassis. When I drove off-road, the subwoofer provided the right amount of bass to simulate the sound of the suspension and tires going through each rock and crack, and the sound bar gave out a little trickling noise as I drove over the small rocks.

Finally, I also put the Leviathan through its paces on a television setting, which was also connected via the optical cable. Its biggest test was during the Super Bowl with the surround sound feature turned on. The commentators came in clearly, and the sound of the crowd was as deafening as if I actually bought tickets to the game. It was also very easy to hear both quarterbacks starting the play, as well as both offensive and defensive lines clashing with their pads and helmets.

A rather large omission from the entire setup, however, is a remote control. When I connected my phone via Bluetooth, I was able to control the volume using my phone, but on any of the wired connections, you have to manually press the buttons on the sound bar.

It would also be nice to have some sort of digital display or audio notification if you have reached the minimum or maximum volumes, and the same can be said for the subwoofer levels, as I had some difficulty figuring out the entire range of volume and bass output.

If the Leviathan is perched on your desktop and connected to your PC, the lack of a remote isn't a problem because the sound bar is close enough that you can easily reach the controls. However, in living room setups, you might have to get up from the couch to make any changes. It wouldn't be too difficult to add a remote or maybe even an app for a smartphone to remotely change any settings on the sound bar.

At $199.99, the Leviathan has enough features and performance to justify the price tag. Its many connections make it a versatile sound bar for any occasion, and the subwoofer provides enough bass without overpowering the treble. With the exception of the logo on both the sound bar and subwoofer, the black exterior and tiny LED lights give it a low-profile look, allowing it to blend into an entertainment system setup.

Razer may be known for its gaming peripherals and systems, but the Leviathan is a first step in capturing a whole new audience while still catering to gaming enthusiasts.

UPDATE (2/10, 7:30 PT): The Leviathan is actually Razer's third speaker system. Its other predecessor besides the Ferox is the Mako, which was discontinued.

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