Razer Kraken Ultimate review - key specs
Compatibility: PC (devices with USB connector)
Drivers: 50 mm
Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
Cable length: 6.56 ft / 2.0 m
Mic: Retractable Unidirectional with Active Noise Cancelling
Weight: 0.86 lbs / 390 g
Connectivity: USB Type-C
Price: $129 (£129)
The Razer Kraken Ultimate should be, as the name suggests, the ultimate gaming headset. It follows through on most of the important aspects of one. It’s a well-made, very comfortable headset loaded with a ton of gaming-related features, including fantastic use of THX Spatial Audio for an immersive gaming experience. Razer also improves upon the mic and mic features from other Kraken entries, as well as adds RGB to the mix for a top-of-the-line Kraken offering.
Unfortunately, like the other Razer Kraken headsets we’ve tested, the sound quality just isn’t as impressive as it could be. Though it’s better than the Kraken Tournament Edition, this is not one you’ll want to grab when you just want to lean back and listen to some music.
However, it does have its place in the gaming world since it does everything else well. If you’re looking for a comfortable headset with clear communication and loud volume from the right direction, then this might just be the gaming headset for you.
While the Kraken Ultimate retails at around $130/£130/AU$259, you can currently pick up a pair for just $99/£99/AU$192. It’s a great deal and certainly justifies the extra spend over cheaper Kraken offerings. It’s a little bit better in every regard, other than maybe platform compatibility – and comes with RGB lighting.
Razer Kraken Ultimate review: Design and features
The Razer Kraken Ultimate follows a similar design as many of the other Kraken headsets, and only comes in black – there’s no green or bright pink options here. It has an aluminum and steel construction for its frame while its outer ear cups are covered in a mesh grill surrounding the Razer logo that makes up its RGB lighting.
The earcups don’t swivel or tilt much, but the headband is bendable enough to easily adjust to users’ heads. Like most headsets, this can be extended on either side. There’s almost no clamping force to speak of, which is fine by me since headsets with some clamping force can put unnecessary pressure on your head in the middle of long gaming sessions.
What makes the Kraken Ultimate an especially comfortable headset has to do with the padding. The padding on the headband itself is somewhat minimal, but the Ultimate is light enough that you’ll barely feel it. The earpads, however, have more than their fair share. The padding on these is very soft to touch, with cooling gel inside to keep your ears from overheating and a plush breathable pleather wrapping.
Unlike the Kraken Tournament Edition, the Razer Kraken Ultimate is meant specifically for PC. As such, its connectivity is limited to just USB. Luckily, that limitation is offset by the fact that you’re getting a digital signal with that USB connection, which means uncompressed audio.
The Kraken Ultimate is minimal when it comes to external controls. The volume wheel and button to toggle the THX Spatial Audio are located on the left earcup behind the cable. The retractable mic also sits on the same earcup, just in front of that cable.
If you’re wondering where the mic mute button is, you’ll find it on the mic itself, which is frankly a smart design decision as it makes it a whole lot easier to mute mid-game. When pressed, a ring around the tip also lights up to helpfully remind you that your teammates can’t hear your angry outbursts or private conversation with a housemate.
Not only is the mic retractable, but it’s also very malleable so you can move it wherever you want. You’ll want to make sure it’s pointed directly at your mouth when using it, however, particularly if you need to use its active noise cancellation or ANC feature.
Probably the most noticeable difference between the Ultimate and most other Kraken headsets is the inclusion of RGB lighting. It’s not reactive streaming, which is only available in the more expensive Kraken Kitty Edition headset, and it only has one RGB region, which means that both earcups will only follow one setting at a time. However, it looks good when it lights up – not to mention it's easy to adjust in the software and a welcome addition to the already feature-heavy Kraken lineup.
Razer Kraken Ultimate review: Performance and software
As feature-rich as the Razer Kraken Ultimate is, the sound is a little disappointing. There’s plenty of volume on tap, the high end is present, if not incredibly detailed, and the bass is even more pronounced than other Kraken headsets we’ve tried (and can thankfully be EQ’ed down in the software). The mids, however, are muddy and hollow at the same time, which becomes even more pronounced when the virtual surround sound is enabled.
To the headset’s credit, it does get a little better after it’s broken in. While we’ve tried other Kraken headsets that have had similar sound issues, we’ve also tested the Razer Opus and the Razer Blackshark V2, both of which didn’t have issues with their frequency response. So, we know Razer could have improved on that sound quality.
The sound quality is somewhat redeemed by its soundstage. It’s a good, wide soundstage that feels accurate when running around games like Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Plus, the sound imaging feels precise, with no issues locating enemies or game elements around us.
Engaging the THX Spatial Audio will immediately put the soundstage on overdrive. While this feature does a good approximation of surround sound on other Kraken headsets we’ve tried, its implementation on the Kraken Ultimate is top-notch. It feels like a full 360-degree soundstage, a level of immersion almost makes up for its sound quality issues.
Sadly, the THX Spatial Audio doesn’t always work. During our testing, we’ve had to restart the Razer Synapse App often, as the Spatial Audio option wouldn’t engage when toggled on. This might prove to be a major inconvenience for anyone trying to use it in the middle of an online multiplayer game.
The mic is another reason to consider the Kraken Ultimate. It sounds detailed and clear, with just a tiny bit of sizzle on the high end. What makes it special, however, is its feature set, all of which is adjustable through the Razer Synapse app. You can customize the mic volume, sensitivity and sidetone volume, as well as turn the sidetone on or off. Better yet, you can also engage three mic enhancements: Active Noise Cancellation, Volume Normalization and Vocal Clarity.
Active Noise Cancellation is probably the most useful as it does a really good job of rejecting unwanted background noise. The user’s voice will sound somewhat muffled like it’s coming through a telephone, but background noise is greatly reduced. Volume normalization limits how loud you get so if you scream after a kill shot, you won’t blow out your friends’ eardrums. And, Vocal Clarity is a mid-high boost that will make your voice pop a little bit, useful if you have a low voice that gets lost when other people are talking.
The Razer Synapse, where you would adjust all these mic settings, allows a lot of finetuning. You can adjust the EQ through a 10-band EQ, as well as pick and adjust presets for games, movies, and music. You can turn on and customize three audio enhancements as well – bass boost, sound normalization to limit the dynamic range), and voice clarity to boost the mid-high frequencies to make it easier to hear the dialogue in games and movies.
In the app, you can play around with the THX Spatial Audio as well. THX Spatial Audio can be set per application to work in Stereo, Surround Sound, and, in some cases, game modes that are essentially more finely tuned surround sound modes. You are, for example, able to use “environmental game mode” when playing Red Dead Redemption 2.
Finally, you can download and launch Razer Chroma through the Razer Synapse app to customize the RGB lighting. The Kraken Ultimate has nine different effects to choose from, each with its own settings like color and speed that can be adjusted. Again, there’s only one RGB zone so whatever effect you choose will be applied to the whole headset.
Razer Kraken Ultimate review: Price and verdict
The Razer Kraken Ultimate is great on almost all fronts. It’s among the most comfortable headsets we’ve worn and among the most immersive thanks to Razer’s THX Surround Sound implementation. More to the point, it’s feature-rich and comes with a mic that’s not only great-sounding but also customizable.
While the Razer Kraken Ultimate is among the more expensive Kraken offerings, it’s a relatively affordable headset at $99/£99/AU$192, and at that price, you can almost forgive it for not being perfect in sound quality. Together, its combination of comfort, quality mic, excellent virtual surround sound and large feature set can be good enough for competitive gamers or gamers wanting to spend long hours immersed in their games without any discomfort. Depending on your priorities as a gamer, it might be the ideal headset.
Razer Kraken Ultimate review: Also consider
In the sub-$100 category, there will always be some sacrifices. However, for the more attuned ear, the Razer Blackshark V2, at $99.99, might be the better option. It has a comfortable lightweight design and works across all manner of consoles even if you do miss out on the RGB lighting and ANC mic.
If you’re willing to spend a little more ($150/£160), the SteelSeries Arctis 7P Wireless headset brings you wireless connectivity and they sound great too. While this model is designed specifically for PlayStation use, the SteelSeries Arctis 7X Wireless has Xbox and PC gamers covered too.
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