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Razer Kraken Ultimate Review: Extra scratch for extra flash
Razer Razer Kraken Ultimate
What we like
What we don't like
Long before the Razer phone was twinkle in anyone’s eye, the company was thoroughly entrenched in the gaming peripheral market. Indeed, if any brand springs to mind when you think of something like a gaming headset, it’s probably Razer. So it should come as no surprise the company’s newest headset, the Razer Kraken Ultimate, is instantly familiar. It looks like basically every Kraken headset that’s ever come out — and a lot have come out over the years — now with more colorful lights.
Does it do enough to justify the price bump?
Read the in-depth review at SoundGuys
Who is the Razer Kraken Ultimate for?
- PC Gamers who want a gaming headset they can sync up to their LED-riddled gaming setups.
- At-home workers sitting through the endless conference calls of an office that recently shifted to Zoom-based interactions.
- People who just want something lightweight and comfortable for everyday use.
What is the Razer Kraken Ultimate like?
If you’ve used a Razer Kraken before, you already know what it’s like to use the Razer Kraken Ultimate. There are a few new things here, but nothing to make the experience feel really new. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Razer Kraken Ultimate has an aluminum frame, with a foam cushion along the headband, thick ear pads, and a retractable microphone in the left earphone. Basically, it’s very comfortable. Oh, and it lights up now using Razer Chroma, which lets you synch all your different LED-riddled Razer devices with each other, as well as a host of computer components and Phillips Hue bulbs, if you’re into that.
This headset is pretty straightforward to use. The Kraken Ultimate features a mic mute button placed on the mic — just squeeze the tip — as well as a volume dial and a surround sound button on the back of the left headphone.
These headphones are good for gamers with glasses, too. Hidden eyewear channels carved in the pads decrease tension and make getting a decent seal easier.
This particular Kraken headset has pretty limited compatibility. This is a USB gaming headset, so it really only works on PC. On top of that, the headset depends on linking up to Razer’s Synapse app for its surround sound, and the button for turning it on and off won’t do anything other than light up until you turn it on in the app. Like most apps linked to gaming peripherals, Synapse is pretty clunky. Even though all I needed to do was open it once and turn on surround sound, I found it pretty frustrating to use.
Gaming with the Razer Kraken Ultimate
The big headphones are great for long gaming sessions. Despite the issues I had with Razer Synapse, I didn’t have any notable problems gaming with the Kraken Ultimate, at least after I got the surround set up. Playing games like Dauntless, Doom Eternal, and Overwatch offered no struggle for the headset. The fabric and cooling gel combination in the ear pads made wearing the headset for multi-hour gaming sessions easy for me to manage. Heavier gaming headsets can strain your neck after a while; despite its bulk, the Kraken Ultimate is actually pretty light, so I never ran into any issues. The ear pads have cooling gel in them, and paired the fabric facing the ears, temperature really wasn’t a problem.
The Razer Kraken Ultimate uses THX spatial audio for surround sound, which apparently generates a “360-degree sphere for more realistic audio depth.” It works a lot like every other surround sound standard for gaming headsets, creating more accurate soundscapes and giving you a better sense of where sounds are coming from, even if they’re behind you. However, make no mistake: surround sound won’t make you better at video games. I was just as middling an Overwatch player with it on as with it off.
How does the Razer Kraken Ultimate sound?
The slight de-emphasis across the mid and high range makes the boosted bass a little worrying. The Razer Kraken Ultimate offers pretty accurate sound for a gaming headset. It boosts bass in some areas, and consistently de-emphasizes the mids and highs ever so slightly. That sounds bad, but don’t worry. Audio like this doesn’t make things sound terribly distorted, though it creates a slight risk of auditory masking, when loud noises make it hard to hear relatively quiet ones
In music, this means EDM and other genres of music that feature big booming bass will probably sound great on the Razer Kraken Ultimate, but vocals or the sounds of some strings and cymbals might struggle to keep up. In a game, a frequency response like this means the sounds of booming explosions and gunfire will be a little louder than normal, which is fine if you’re playing solo, but it might drown voice chat a little.
The Razer Kraken Ultimate offers very good isolation for a gaming headset. There’s no noise cancelling here, so don’t expect too much, but the headset’s thick and soft ear pads meant the typical sounds you hear at home shouldn’t intrude too much. This is a PC-only headset, after all — it’s not like you’ll need to block out noisy cafes or buses while out and about.
How good is the microphone?
The Razer Kraken Ultimate has an average microphone for a gaming headset. Like most options on the market, there’s a pretty steep de-emphasis in the bass range and a slight boost in the highs. This means that people with deeper voices can sound a little like they’re coming out of a tin can, but that sibilant sounds, (S, Sh, and F sounds) will come through loud and clear, which is important for making speech sound natural. Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the Razer Kraken Ultimate?
If you’re already invested in Razer’s Chroma devices, which all have customizable colored LED lighting, sure — this is one more thing to keep coordinated.
There’s nothing wrong in particular with the $128 Razer Kraken Ultimate. It’s comfortable, lightweight, it sounds good, and at the very least the mic will get you from A to B. Synapse is clunky, but the surround sound works well. The eyewear channels and comfortable headphone pads are great for bespectacled gamers, too.
However, basically all of that is true about cheaper Kraken models. The Razer Kraken X costs $49.99 (frequently less on Amazon), and on PC the only functional difference is its alternate surround sound standard, plus it works on consoles and mobile devices with a headphone jack.
There's nothing wrong in particular with the $128 Razer Kraken Ultimate, but competing headphones are often just as good and frequently cheaper.
If you’re in the market for a PC headset, a lot of options are just as comfortable and fully featured — and frequently cheaper. The Corsair HS60 Pro Surround does everything except light up for $70. The Logitech G Pro X offers all the same audio features of the Kraken Ultimate for the same price. Moreover, the G Pro X offers actually useful software with its BlueVo!ce mic features.
The flashing LEDs aren’t aggressive here, so they’re by no means a turnoff. However, if you’re not interested in that, there’s almost nothing to justify the Kraken Ultimate’s $50 mark-up over the regular Razer Kraken X.