Hardware Review: These cans are a literal game-changer – and almost worth taking with you on the road!
When I pick up a set of headphones ,I don’t tend to worry about the speeds and feeds so much. Me, I want performance; namely, I want good sound, good special awareness, comfort, and, if possible, to feel like my choice of cans is actually giving me a bit of advantage. If I can take those same headphones with me on the road, for iPod listening, even better.
Well, Razer’s pretty much blown me away on nearly all fronts, and nailing what is very nearly the perfect set of shooter headphones.
Game-related headphones can often be a little hit-and-miss. Sure, Turtle Beach does a great line in Call of Duty ‘phones that really do boost what that game can offer, but CoD’s not exactly Atomic’s cup of tea. And while the BlackShark doesn’t bring BF3-optimised sound to your virtual gaming table, it does bring a unique, military-inspired design that doesn’t look crap. As you can see, there’s lots of exposed cabling, and a heavy-duty brushed-metal aesthetic going on; it won’t work for some, but this pilot-style rig works for us; the only thing that really lets it down is the large BF3 logo across the top head-band. This is fine the privacy of your own home, but not quite so cool when your walking down to the street or listening to tracks on the train to work.
It’s a shame, too, because the design’s also extremely comfortable. Based on real pilot headsets, its unsurprising, perhaps, but it really is possible to lose track of how long you’ve been playing in the BlackSharks. With a lot of other gaming headsets packing in multiple drivers for surround sound, or extra wiring for superfluous LEDs, they can become quite a burden; the pared back design on Razer’s effort, and the well-padded headband, lead to excellent gaming comfort in even the longest gaming sessions. They don’t run too hot, either. The screws on the headband are functional, too, allowing you to clamp the adjustable band firmly into place.
The final outstanding design touch is the boom mike, which is a hinged set-up, once again inspired by real pilots’ headsets. It works wonderfully, and can be easily positioned for optimal pickup. It can also be removed if you want to just use the headphones; Razer’s also included a small metal plug to pop into the ‘phone jack, too, which is a nice touch that’ll stop random junk fouling the microphone jack if you store the headset in bag.
The ear pieces enclose the ear entirely, and do an outstanding job of not only blocking out other sounds (without being actively sound-cancelling), but also of keeping all the action private. Even someone sitting next to you won’t hear a single explosion, or the crack of a high-powered rifle.
Of course, sound is the real proof of the pudding, and the BlackShark’s deliver bass-heavy gaming sound that really does boost your game. Despite being ‘merely’ stereo, sound is crisp and clear across all kinds of effects, and there is just so much more to pull out of game audio with these headphones. In fact, without the cans struggling to virtualise the surround experience, I found the positional space around me far clearer; there’s a wonderful sense of sound and echo. Impressively, this definitely leads into improved gaming performance. I’m not a bad hand at shooters, but testing these in BF3 yielded immediate results compared to both desktop speakers and other headsets that I’ve used recently. Top scores, excellent K/D ratio, and good sound?
Man, sign me up – the Black Sharks are definitely worth looking at, assuming you can get past the BF3 branding.