Bringing pro competition closer to home.
Razer has recently started venturing into the competitive Xbox 360 peripherals business, having already established a large foothold in the PC accessories business. With the launch of the Onza controller I reviewed recently, Razer has added another key product for professional gamers: the Chimaera 5.1 wireless headset.
First of all, I should mention that Razer ships the Chimaera in two SKUs, the 5.1 version that runs on 5.8GHz wireless band, and the Stereo version that runs on the standard 2.4GHz band. The idea behind the higher bandwidth for the 5.1 version is to have as little interference as possible, thus giving a competitive edge to players.
I’ll get back to the tech later on, first let’s have a look at the headset itself. The Chimaera is a circumaural headset, which means that it’s large enough to fit over your ears; good news for people who wear glasses like me. The other good thing is that because they are over the ear, the padded cushion helps isolate most of the sound outside the headset, leaving you in peaceful 5.1 surround sound to hear an enemy sneaking up on you.
The uni-directional mic can be flexed at your desired angle, and can simply be pushed back near to the ear cup to mute it. Alternatively there’s a mute button for the mic on the left ear cup you can use as well. The sad part here is that while the Chimaera 5.1 are wireless headphones, to use the mic you’ll have to use a 2.5mm cable running from the headphones to your X360 controller. Before you blame Razer for such “unintuitive” design, know that Microsoft actually requires a proprietary RF communications system for the mic, for which the cable is required.
The 5.1 surround sound in the Chimaera actually comes from the Dolby technology that simulates 5.1 sound to create Dolby Digital, Pro Logic II and Dolby Headphones. Not using multiple speakers to create 5.1 sound means that the Chimaera 5.1 are just as light as the Stereo version since both headsets use two 50mm neodymium drivers. That said, the battery life of the 5.1 version is rated at 8 hours, compared to the 12 hours on the stereo version. The base station of the Chimaera 5.1 also has Optical In and Out ports for a true 5.1 sound source. Keep in mind that a lot of the magic comes from the Chimaera 5.1’s base station where the actual signal processing happens, so you can’t mix and match the 5.1 headset with the stereo base station and vice versa.
When the base station is turned on, there a nice green glow coming from the bottom of it, meanwhile there are no lights on the headset; understandable, since battery conservation is high priority. The base station is the place that charges the two rechargeable AAA batteries on the Chimaera 5.1 headset. This is also the place where you’ll be syncing the headset, turning the Dolby Headphone mode on & off, and also where you can select the EQ (normal, bass & treble). The base station is necessary if you want to establish a Dedicated Local Voice Channel. Think of it like a Party in Xbox Live, but instead of using the bandwidth on your Xbox 360’s connection, you’re actually creating a local wireless channel using two (and up to four) base stations of Chimaera headsets for a completely private and lag-free chat session.