We tested Razer’s Carcharias gaming headset immediately after we finished our review of Logitech’s G35 headset, which is also largely targeted at gamers. As we unpacked the former, two things surprised us: Its light weight and the fact that it relies on analog connections to your PC’s line-out and mic-in jacks. The Carcharias is definitely old-school. There’s no surround sound, no programmable buttons, and no glowing LEDs. But there is an upside to the unit’s simplicity, especially if you have a high-end and you don’t want to give it up.
Carrying audio over USB eliminates problems with noise pollution, but a well-designed sound card can do that, too – and the sound card might be capable of some other things that a motherboard-based audio system is not. Consider, for example, the EAX and OpenAL positional audio algorithms found in many Creative Labs sound cards, and the extremely high signal-to-noise ratio that Asus’ Xonar Essence STX card delivers.
The Carcharias (it’s pronounced kar-KAR-ee-uhs, by the way, and it’s the name of a genus of sand shark) has round, circumaural earmuffs that wrap around your outer ear. The velour-covered muffs slide smoothly up and down rigid wire guides, but since they don’t have any detents to keep them in position when you take them off, you’ll find yourself spending a few moments getting them into just the right position when you put them back on. The headband padding is covered with another breathable fabric: Lycra.
Although the Carcharias is light, it doesn’t feel fragile; we got the sense that it will flex a long way before it breaks. The boom mic swivels up and down and will bend—when a fair amount of pressure is applied, mind you—but it’s mechanically and acoustically inferior to the mic on Logitech’s G35 headset (more on this later). But the extensive use of lightweight materials—and the absence of a lot of extra electronics—rendered the Carcharias very comfortable to wear during extended gaming sessions.
There’s an in-line volume control and a mic on/off button on a plastic puck about of the third of the way down the 10-foot cable. You can clip the puck to your clothing to keep it within easy reach. Although there’s no mute button for the headphone drivers, it takes only two strokes of your finger to bring the volume from full tilt to silence.
Sound Quality and Conclusion
We measured the quality of the Carcharias’ boom mic by recording ourselves speaking using the open-source audio-editing program Audacity. We detected a very slight echo in our recordings, as we did with Logitech’s G35 headset. Both mics delivered about the same quality of recording in a quiet room, but the Razer product wasn’t nearly as adept at filtering out background noise. The mic’s flexible stalk was also more difficult to manipulate into an optimal position.
The headset’s 40mm drivers definitely favor bass response, which would be fine if the bass wasn’t so flabby. Boosted bass is fine for emphasizing many of the sound effects in games—we played several levels of Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, and Left 4 Dead—but you’ll want something better when you’re ready to relax and enjoy your favorite music. We used several albums ripped from CD and encoded in FLAC, including the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand and Neil Young’s live 1968 recording, Sugar Mountain.
The $80 Carcharias sounds a little better than the $129 Logitech G35, but it’s not nearly as good as the $90 Sennheiser HD-555 stereo headphones we used for the sake of comparison. If you don’t need all the high-tech features that Logitech’s product has on tap though, the Carcharias is a better value.
- Good-quality sound
- Lightweight, yet rugged construction
- Very comfortable
- In-line mic switch and volume control
- Doesn’t offer great-quality sound
- Flabby bass response
- Mic doesn’t perform well in noisy environments