What, you thought we were done with the Star Wars products? Last week we took a look at the Razer Naga-based gaming mouse
, which scored a 'Recommended Product' rating for its overall package and performance. To complete the set, today we take a look at the Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Headset (that's its official name) to see if Razer's boisterous claim of 7.1 Dolby surround sound for inter-galactic space exploration is met, or not.
Like the mouse, the SWTOR headset too features a gold, black and silver finish, only that its exterior is largely smooth without the edgy droid-lines etched all over the surface. I believe this makes the headset rather plain looking, despite the twin, glowy, replaceable emblem that screams your allegiance to the world.
That's not to say the headset looks bad. Razer has ensured immediate distraction by slapping an array of LEDs all over the device; them bright enough to light up a small room at full brightness. Along with the two emblems, there are two short tubes, one on the left and right ear cup each, that uses Razer's fancy spectrum light software to display all sorts of colors. There is no purpose to the lights, only except to make you look less dorky by hypnotizing naysayers with a full-fledged rainbow display. It works.
Razer does well to keep it simple, though. There are not a gazillion buttons on the headset to remember, just the volume rockers and a mute button for volume and mic, the latter on the right ear cup, and the former on the left. They are easy to reach out for and are identified without much difficulty.
Of course, to dish out all those colors and other fancy stuff, the headset is USB-only, meaning that it cannot be plugged into any other device except a PC, not even to your sound processor or your TV, since they require drivers and Razer's Synapse software to make the most out of it.
The headset is extremely rigid, killing hopes of being comfortable in the long run. However, a little height adjustment here and there, and the headset fits snugly in; and though it drills into your cheek bone due to its enormous 50MM driver size, it is comfortable for hours thanks to the thick velvet cushions. It doesn't sport any noise-cancellation features but does well to destroy any inbound sound like a good Destroyer ship should.
The headset uses Razer's new Synapse-based software as well, and is nicely integrated into a single software if you have the gaming mouse, too. The software is entirely essential for getting the best out of the headset, which is cumbersome because it would require you to install Synapse on every machine you would want to use the headset with.
The software presents you with three tabs full of customization possibilities. The first is 'Volume' which, indeed, allows you to adjust the volume. It also has a few options such as Automatic Gain Control (AGC), Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), and Mic boost to choose from. I would recommend turning AEC off - it reduces the overall volume for some apparent reason while doing absolutely nothing to the sound quality.
There is also the Dolby Pro Logic IIx/ Dolby Headphone option to tick. This will be described in the next section, but it is recommended to uncheck it to make the correct
use of the headset.
The second tab is 'Equalizer', which allows you to choose from a range of presets (rock, country, blue, classic, etc - wait, no "living room" or "noisy environment"? Damnit.) Of course, you can manually tune it as well. The third and the final tab is 'Lighting' which presents brightness settings for all the LEDs. The setting don't seem to always work, though. If I chose 'Dim', it would revert to 'Bright' on the next restart. 'Off' seems to do the trick, though. So be it.
Ideally, the geek partition of our mind would want the 'Dolby Pro Logic IIx/ Dolby Headphone' option to be turned on, because, after all, it has cool words like 'Dolby' and 'Pro Logic' in it. However, the sound quality with the option enabled is absolutely rubbish. Everything sounded far distanced, mainly from the top of my head, with no bass or clarity to it.
Tick it off, we recommend. And that's when the headset comes to life. And boy does it impress.
The very first exercise I chose to put the headset through is the famous virtual barber shop audio file. Those who don't know what this is should immediately Google and download it. It's an audio file that re-creates the experience of going to a barber shop with directional ques and funny Italian accent (?). The Star Wars headset performed impeccably. It always makes me smile when at the very beginning the barber puts a plastic sheet around your head because other cool barbers do it as well. A good headset will actually make you feel that you have that sheet of plastic around you, and this headset does so remarkably well.
Needless to say, directional sound positioning is one off its strengths. A session of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 solidified the opinion as I was plunged into a mess of explosions, gun fire, and crumbling walls as it magnificently placed itself around me. I also tried a hand at Skyrim...okay, fine - multiple, long, stretched, trials (because one doesn't simply 'try' Skyrim), and was absorbed into the world of Dragon shouts and soldiers with knee problems. Ambiance was what I was looking for, and it was brought to life with incisive precision.
Generally, headsets that are so fantastic with gaming aren't usually that great with music but these ones are. I threw a slew of Hindi songs at it, and it rendered every piece of note with passion. Be it the energetic guitar of 'Sada Haq', or the pop-tastic tune of 'Chaiyya Chaiyya', or the soulful sufi of 'Khawaja mere khawaja', the Star Wars headset transformed as and when required.
I hate to say this, but the Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Headset is damn near perfect. The array of energy-consuming LEDs is stupid, and the need for Synapse is indeed restrictive, but past that, the headset is a wonderful piece of equipment. This is the
best sound quality I have experienced from a gaming headset ever. There are no real faults. It has become our new standard to match. If you can look past the few niggles, these Star Wars headset are a must buy - even if you are not a Star Wars fan.