Razer Kraken Gaming Headset Review: Reimagining a Gaming Great

Update: Razer's just launched another batch of color refreshed products, including this model of its Kraken gaming headset in a pristine white variant instead. The Mercury lineup, as Razer is calling it, is a clean looking arsenal of products featuring the Huntsman optical keyboard, the Basilisk mouse, the Seiren X the Blackwidow and even one of Razer's latest Blade gaming laptops too. 

The Razer Kraken is the updated and enhanced version of the best-selling Razer Kraken Pro V2, which is one of the company’s most popular gaming headsets. Aside from a shorter name, the new Kraken features more padding around the headband, an improved mic, and cooling gel in the ear cushions to keep the heat out on those sweltering summer nights.

It’s a world of small improvements and minor tweaks, especially after the company released the eSports focused version of the Kraken - the Tournament Edition last year. While some hardcore PC gamers like to dismiss Razer products, there’s no denying that the Kraken Pro V2 has become an iconic figure in the gaming headset world. So how does the sleek younger model hold up to its aged, and refined cousins?

Regardless of your views on Razer products and their often RGB-heavy design, there’s no denying that the Kraken is surprisingly understated. It’s a simple design, featuring a plastic headband that attaches to two oval earcups, which are also made of a painted plastic. The lack of metal and real leather in the design means that the headset is super light, (just over 320g), but this also gives it a less sturdy feel than other models we’ve tested. Sure, it’s flexible, and can withstand a fair amount of torsion in either direction, but you wouldn’t want to drop the Kraken on a hardwood floor too often, nor would you pull it apart too wide when removing it from your head.

There’s a metal frame around each earcup, which is connected to the innards of the headband. It does add sturdiness, and all the fixings around each part feels well attached and firm. The 3.5mm jack cord, which is attached to the left earcup, is nicely nestled into the unit, and the retractable mic fits snugly into the same half of the headset. While it does feature in-line controls, they’re very simple, and you get far more with the similarly-priced Tournament Edition, which has bass controls (crucially), game/chat balance, and the ability to switch its THX Spatial audio off, for non-gaming use. The Kraken has none of this, sadly.

Elsewhere on the unit, the foam padding around the ears is nice and supple, and the addition of extra padding on the headband is a welcome addition. In fact, it’s so well padded, that some with smaller heads may worry it doesn’t fit as tightly on the head as they might like, but that’s all down to personal preference. For us, it fits neatly, and is easily adjusted via the numbered notches on the edge of the headband. The look is completed by a mostly open-back design on the earcups themselves, with a pleasant black wire mesh finishing the look.

How do you feel about color? Because the green version of the Kraken is quite the visual statement, and makes the headset feel a little cheaper than the build suggests. Meanwhile, the black version is more understated, if a little dull. And the Quartz pink Kraken? Perfection. Seriously, it’s available in all these flavors, and unless you’re super into pink, none feel particularly stylish.

Specifications

Driver Type50mm Neodymium Dynamic
Impedance32 Ohms
Frequency Response12 Hz - 28 kHz
Design StyleOpen Back
Microphone TypeRetractable Cardioid
Connectivity3.5mm
Weight0.71 lbs / 322g
Cord Length1.3m / 4 ft 3”
Battery LifeWired
Lighting and SoftwareNone

Audio Performance

When put to work, the Kraken performs well for gaming, and that’s where we tested. It’s the Tournament Edition that is more geared towards PC, but we put this one through its paces on all current gaming formats. Starting with our current favorite testing game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the Kraken performed well with all bassy elements of Ubisoft’s AAA gaming flagship. When waves crash against the side of the Adestria, this headset (rather fittingly, considering the name) delivers well. And, during combat sequences, that emphasis on bass manages to make each thud and collision sound meaty and whole. Where the Kraken falls down a little is in the treble and upper ranges, which are not as rich sounding. When you’re stood listening to the ambient world, too, there’s a lack of detail that other, more premium headsets, manage to pick up on.

It’s a little unfair to compare the Kraken to headsets that cost double the price, and the overall sound range here is excellent for the money. However, what we did notice is that it missed several bits of audio that our testing TV (in this case a Samsung Q9FN) picked up instead, like the subtle crackling of fire in some scenes, which was a crying shame.

In terms of dialogue, the Kraken performs pretty well, as its slightly flatter range of sound means there are less issues with the mix of dialogue and incidental audio in games like Assassin’s Creed. The in-game music is presented pretty well too, although there’s a lack of clarity in some of the higher-pitched guitar numbers once again on the Odyssey soundtrack. So, as a single player headset, it’s fine - but perhaps no better than the speakers on a high-end TV.

Turning to multiplayer, we tested it out with Apex Legends, and it’s here that the Kraken impresses. The bassy tuning is perfect for hearing those big explosions, both near and far away, and because these pair of cans are fine-tuned for gaming, there’s a decent sense of imaging here too. The pings of on-screen instructions mixed nicely with the constant thunder of weapon fire, and the stereo sound -- while not as complex a surround audio system as you'll find on Pro-grade gaming headsets -- provides a decent sense of your place in the environment. You hear the footsteps sneaking up on you, you hear the distant gun-fire, and you know roughly where all your teammates are. Not excellent, but very solid functionality here, which is important - but herein lies a problem for the Kraken. Its slightly older brother, the Tournament has THX Spatial audio, which does a better job of imaging in multiplayer games, and it costs pretty much the same (it depends which unit has the bigger price cut in the online sales they both frequent). What’s more, the TE also has the option to toggle THX on or off, making it more versatile for when you switch between on and offline games. And that bassy audio that the vanilla Kraken favors? Yeah, you can tweak that on the Tournament Edition to make it less (or more, you animal) bassy.

Turning to something a little different, we tried the headset with music puzzle game GNOG, to test its in-game audio capabilities. The 50mm drivers do an excellent job of bringing the game’s audio to life, and while there’s a lack of subtlety to the music sections (again, the headset continues to favor bass) and a slightly indistinct feel to the audio feedback when you actually click on things, we’d say the audio here is above average for a lower/mid-range gaming headset. The Kraken’s biggest asset, its simplicity, is also its curse. With no ability to adjust sound settings, the audio it delivers has to do a hell of a lot of work in a variety of scenarios.

In terms of other media, the Kraken performs well, although nowhere near more specialized headphones. It delights in action movies, like Avengers and Black Panther, but struggles with more subtle dramas and talk-heavy TV shows, because it can’t quite deliver the range of audio to bring the dialogue and incidental noises to life. As far as music goes, again, anything with a decent bassline is fine (excellent for metal), but the headset is middling with treble and more subtle guitar based tracks. Given the tuning and design of the Kraken, we know its primary use is gaming, and we definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a headset purely for movies, music, and TV.

Features and Software

The Kraken is a barebones gaming headset. The retractable mic and in-line volume control are the only frills. Let’s start with the mic. It’s retractable and very sturdy, so it is simple to slide away when you’re not using it. Audio through it is clear, once you’ve got it lined up properly, and there’s a noticeable improvement here over the mic in the older Kraken Pro V2. There’s a reasonable amount of noise exclusion from the sides and rear of the mic, although it can’t block out all background sounds.

The in-line control is… well, an in-line control. The volume wheel pokes out of both sides of its housing, which is a neat ease-of-use feature, and there’s a mic mute button too. It sits a good length from the earcup, so you’re not poking yourself in the face when attempting to each it, and it feels well attached to the nylon cord that the 3.5mm jack dangles from.

Bottom Line

The new and improved Kraken is a decent gaming headset, and will serve you extremely well for action games, shooters, and anything with a lot of noise and bluster. It’s great at bass, but less so across the whole range of audio, but does punch above its weight considering the price tag and simplicity of the build.

The Kraken is simply designed, and is quite elegant in places, but the color-scheme is polarizing, and some of the materials feel a little cheap. It’s clear why the Pro V2 became such a big name in gaming headsets, and this is technically a better model, but the world expects more features and slightly superior audio in 2019, so if you’re planning to invest in a Razer headset and can spend a few dollars more, the Tournament Edition might be a better choice, because of its enhanced audio and better volume control features.

Image Credits: Razer

MORE: Best Gaming Headsets

MORE: All Gaming Headset Content