I'll be up front and honest by admitting that I've never preferred using a full headset. For most of my adult life, I've stuck with ear buds that you jab right into your ear. I like to get up close and personal with my audio, and I've found ear buds, the right pair that is, sound better than your typical set of earphones. That's now changed.
Recently Razer sent along its awesome Tiamat 2.2 headset. This isn't a your typical set of headphones you'd use when listening to an iPod while jogging, or walking along a busy street, tuning out the world and its annoying noises. This is a full, engulf-your-ears clamp-on-your-head set similar to what's used by recording artists and music enthusiasts (or Twist from The Fresh Beat Band). Instead of injecting sound directly into your ears, it closes out the world and surrounds your ears with rich, wonderful sound.
On a PC gaming front, this is important. Unlike the older days when sound was merely a component, it's now immersive, spatial, taking advantage of digital positional audio. Get an awesome stereo system, hook up the PC, and you can seemingly hear someone creep up behind you. A good chunk of that can be lost when using a standard set of earphones or earbuds, and that's where the Tiamat 2.2 comes in.
According to Razer, the audio drivers in the Tiamat 2.2 have been designed to simulate a three-dimensional audio effect. I first noticed this effect when I (for some reason) decided to plug the headphones into my Xperia Play smartphone. Thanks to Android 2.3.4, the phone makes an audible "click" after I've entered the lock screen's code. Instantly I heard not the typical flat audio file, but a click that seemed deeper than before, as if I were standing in an empty ballroom. The sound bounced off virtual walls ever so slightly without sounding like an actual echo. Thus, there's some reverb and delay going on to create a deep, engulfing experience for even the slightest of sounds.
That said, Razer says that users will get a sense of position and depth in their virtual surroundings, that they can hear how far and where exactly an opponent is by their gunfire or footsteps. Unfortunately, I didn't really get that when playing Crysis 3, Guild Wars 2, Diablo 3 or Rage. I paid special attention to the shooters since they seemingly require positional audio, but I didn't sense anything out of the ordinary either in regards to where opponents are and whatnot – the headphones really didn't offer any kind of tactical advantage.
BUT... the Razer Tiamat 2.2 makes things a lot more explosive, a lot richer to the ears. You can thank the Tiamat 2.2's two sub-woofer drivers for that which offers stronger bass support and overall audio performance. The tech specs read that it actually features four 40-mm Neodymium Magnets with a Titanium Coated Diaphragm. It also has a frequency response of 20 – 20,000 Hz, an impedance of 32Ω, and a sensitivity at 1kHz of 109 ± 3dB.
Getting back to the bass, I'm definitely all about cranking it up in everything, whether it's an awesome groove in a dance tune or an action-packed movie on Netflix. Bass makes the experience – without it, sounds are just flat, mechanical, sterile and sharp to the ears. Bass will rock the house, rattle the window frames, maybe even your teeth with a thunderous effect. Not to worry: there' no teeth rattling going on with the Razer Tiamat 2.2., but you do feel drawn into any movie, game or tune on the audio front.
What helps in bringing the audio experience to life is in the Tiamat 2.2's overall design. The padded leatherette ear cups fit just right around your eras, drowning out a good chunk of your everyday sounds like keyboard tapping, annoying chatter and kids fighting over trivial junk just outside your home office door. I can't say they block everything out, but it helps draw your attention to the game or movie at hand. If anything, the biggest external influence you'll hear is from the headset itself, or rather, it's extremely long braided fiber cord.
After pulling out the measuring tape and starting from the 3.5-mm audio and microphone jacks, I discovered that this cord is over ten feet long. Now don't get me wrong: I'm a firm believer of giving users enough room to move around without feeling leashed by the audio device, but over ten feet is a little crazy, especially if I'm sitting at the desk playing a PC game. I found myself running over the cord with my chair, and I almost always heard the cord knocking against the headset itself.
So why do we need this much cord? I can see a scenario where the PC is across the room, parked next to the living room HDTV. It's late at night and you want to wander around Skyrim (yes, I tested that too) without having to turn the volume down to a whisper because everyone else is asleep. This way, you can sit back on the couch and fend off those pesky wolves with your earphones and a wireless/Bluetooth set of peripherals without bothering anyone.
Somewhere along this lengthy cord is a simple controller for adjusting the volume (on top of your device's volume control), and turning the microphone on and off. The two jacks at the end are color-coded (green for audio, red for microphone), but the colors are merely thin opaque strips and really hard to see, especially in low-light situations. This is by far my biggest beef with this headset, as Razer could have found a better way to prevent users from guessing which jack is which without straining their eyes. Instead of using black rubber, Razer should have used actual red and green colors for quick, easy recognition.
As for the microphone itself, it doesn't stick out like your standard headset when not in use. Instead, it's retractable and stored in the headphone's left earpiece. It's rather comical actually: once pulled out, it resembles the egg-planting appendage of a facehugger from the Alien movies. It eerily stretches towards your face around four inches, and is adjustable up to two positions. Don't want to use it? Merely push it back in – you really can't tell it's there once back in the earpiece.
On that note, there should have been an option to do something similar with the cord. The two earpads are connected by a sturdy, plastic frame that fits comfortably over your head, padded by a strip of six little cushions. I guess having the cord, which also extends from the left side, retract up into this area really wouldn't have been possible unless the cord's wiring originated from the right side instead. It's a trivial complaint I know, but you could seemingly jump rope with this cord – it may be an issue for people who trip over their own feet.
While it may seem that I'm somewhat negative with this peripheral, I'm really not. There are two aspects I would have loved to have seen different, but overall you have a top-notch product. It doesn't offer me any advantages in playing shooters like Crysis 3 or Rage, but it does enhance the audio to the point where I'm even more immersed in the environment than ever before. Listening to music on my iPod or Xperia Play is even enhanced to the point where I want to use these headphones all the time, but in some situations, that's just not practical – I can definitely see myself losing a few teeth because I was jogging with these on my head and I tripped over the cord.
On a final note, you don't need to install additional drivers to use this heavy-duty headset – everything it needs is already packed in the hardware. However keep in mind that the Tiamat 2.2 enhances your current hardware – meaning don't expect true 3D surround sound from your smartphone or generic sound card. If you have something like Beats Audio already installed to enhance your sound, then adjustments in the mixer will be required so that you're not hearing all bass, or not enough bass and too much treble, and so on. You get my drift, right?
Razer promises epic sound and epic bass with the Tiamat 2.2, and that's what you get for $99.99 USD. This set is extremely comfortable, and does a great job filtering out external noise thanks to its "snug-fit" padded leatherette ear cups. It's also a wired headset, so you'll have to deal with over 10 feet of braided cord that's likely provided for gaming sessions from the couch. The headset could have also used a better way to label the audio and microphone jacks for easier management.
Still, these are minute complaints compared to the headphone's glorious, immersive output. Explosions are more explosive, deeper than what's provided by your standard headset, and that makes a difference when watching movies or playing games. Epic sound? Epic bass? You got it, plus some depending on your hardware, and you don't even have to install a thing.