Tight-fitting headset covers all-around needs for gaming, everyday listening (July 20th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Razer
- Gaming sound characteristics
- Noise isolation
- Muted highs in music
- Tight fit
Gaming headphones are a challenge to get right, for a long list of reasons that are unique to the consumer buying them. Some shoppers want a universal set of headphones, some weigh the difference in the configuration, while others just want something with a good built-in microphone for voice chat. What about gamers looking for their next set of headphones for longer gaming sessions? Razer, a brand many gamers are familiar with, may have a solution with the Kraken Pro headset. But is it good enough solution for gaming and everyday needs?
The Kraken Pro headset features plastic construction like many gaming-focused headsets, which makes the unit lightweight and drives down the cost. The entire headset only weighs 0.65 pounds, allowing users to keep the headset on for longer periods without feeling it there. The headband and ear cushions are covered in a leatherette that's soft to the touch. On the side of the headband that makes contact with the head, a jersey-like material is used. With its adjustable headband, the Kraken Pro can hit a range of 17 to 21 inches in length, measured from the center of each ear cup.
Even though the Kraken Pro headset doesn't weigh much, that doesn't mean that it's completely free from comfort issues. The foam, while comfortable, doesn't have as much give as some higher-end headphones like the V-Moda M-100s. Since there a drastic gap in price, $80 versus $310, the lower-quality material in the Kraken expected to a degree.
It does, however, cause the headphones to feel tight on the head. After wearing the Kraken Pro headset frequently across three days, we found that the unit was finally "broken in" enough to allow extended use. Maximum wearing time was two hours before a break was required during this period. Unfortunately, the cups aren't free to pivot, since they are housed in a plastic frame with a stop built in. The headset can, however, fold into a compact item for storage with two hinges about the ear cups.
The circular ear cups of the Kraken Pro are large, offering a fit for a large number of users with its 3.33-inch outer and two-inch inner diameters. Inside the cups, there's about 0.75 inches of room, before compression, to work with before ears make contact with the plastic speaker housing. While some people may not run into problems, those with big ears could run into discomfort issues from the plastic rubbing on the antitragus (the small tubercle on the visible part of the ear). There is a thin mesh on the side, but it doesn't offer much protection.
Consumers looking for a USB headset will need to look elsewhere, as the Kraken Pro is an analog solution. Razer does have a USB version of the Kraken headset, but it doesn't have some of the Kraken Pro features such as the retractable microphone. It also lacks the color choices Razer introduced with the white and neon options. Be warned that consumers looking for in-line controls won't be satisfied by the Kraken Pro, as it doesn't have any built-in control system.
Connections are made with a 3.5mm jack for smartphones or a cable extension that splits channels between input and output. The cable attached to the headset is only 4.2 feet long, making use of a 6.6-foot extension cord necessary in most situations.
Sound for the Kraken Pro is really where the headset shines. It's heavier on the bass, but for a gaming-focused headset that's a key feature to have when it comes to sound awareness for the player. The thud of a cannon firing or the heavy footsteps of a soldier coming up behind a player is easily picked out of the sounds of an active game. For those that play shooters like Red Orchestra 2, the headset helps a great deal for situational awareness when compared to headphones that are focused on music.
On the topic of music, the balance of the headset isn't bad. However, with so much of the focus weighted towards bass, the high end of the Kraken Pro feels weak. High notes feel like they're brought down by the stronger the bass component of a song. It's not so much that they're completely overridden, but enough to be made aware of if one expects rock style vocals to stand out. At 100 percent volume on a MacBook Pro, the bass heavy "Hunter" hit a peak of 110.9 dB, while the dynamic "Notorious" topped out at 101.5 dB. There is also a difference of 28 percent from the top to the bottom of the tested volume levels.
At first, it didn't appear that the Kraken Pro headset had much in the way of noise isolation. The headset doesn't make use of fancy microphones, or appear to have a wealth of padding to keep sound out. Once a user starts talking into the microphone or singing along with songs, then the isolation stands out. A person wearing the headset can hear their voice clearly over everything else because so much outside noise is kept out.
Mileage will vary depend on the hearing sensitivity of the user, but while listening to music at 50 percent volume on a MacBook Pro, an outside party had to yell for their voice to register to the person wearing the Kraken Pro. This can be attributed in part to the seal the pads make against the head.
While the microphone is necessary for modern gaming headsets, it's a low point for the Razer headset. The microphone picks up a lot of background noise when in use, making it better suited for press-to-talk gaming situations or other non-professional areas. Using the microphone for a podcast requires more filtering out than a desktop cardioid solution.
Razer's Kraken Pro is a good value for any gamer looking for a new headset. While the performance suits the needs for consumers looking for headphones for all occasions, the bass becomes the only point of contention in sound quality. Comfort can be a slight issue depending on the head size of the person buying it, but the light weight keeps the top of the head from feeling any discomfort during longer sessions. For the price of $65 on Amazon, gamers will be hard pressed to find another headset in the same price range that performs as well as the Kraken Pro.