Razer Barracuda X Wireless Gaming Headset Review

Fresh from the Razer parts bin and the minds at…SteelSeries?

Photo taken by the author.

he new Barracuda X wireless gaming headset from Razer is a weird thing. The box touts “4-in-1” connectivity, but it connects to the exact same range of devices as most other USB headsets and only supports connecting to one thing at a time. The Barracuda branding comes from a decade-old lineup of headsets and sound cards, and this new model shares nothing in common with them. Razer uses an “X” in their naming scheme to indicate the budget version of a headset, but right now there isn’t a more-expensive Barracuda product on the market.

Oh and here’s the big one: the features, USB-C dongle, price point, and overall concept are a suspicious and obvious one-to-one match for the popular SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless I reviewed a year and a half ago.

It’s not unusual for headset companies to take inspiration from each other. It’s not even odd for them to use the same OEM chip providers for things like wireless dongles and internals. Skyworks/Avnera , one of the largest providers of such equipment, has an office right up the road from where I’m writing this article.

Photo taken by the author.

While Razer did use some of their trademark parts and industrial design concepts in this headset, they also seem to have bought the same third party wireless system and dongle that SteelSeries used two years ago, and then just stamped their own logo on it. Either that, or they’ve shamelessly copied an in-house SteelSeries design. That’s weird for an established brand like Razer to do, especially when they already make their own “HyperSpeed” dongles for other wireless gear.

None of the marketing for this headset mentions Razer’s excellent in-house wireless protocol, and the only mention of HyperSpeed in the headset’s official materials comes from a small Q and A box at the very bottom of the web site. That’s what has me leaning towards thinking there’s actually some third-party tech inside this dongle, because if it were Razer’s own speedy system, wouldn’t they constantly mention it everywhere?

The possible OEM re-badge nature of this headset becomes more apparent when you discover that it has no software integration with Razer Synapse whatsoever. That’s great for a quick setup, but bad for those deeply entrenched in the Razer ecosystem like I am.

Note: I bought this headset with my own money from Best Buy. I don’t get a kickback if you buy one, and none of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you’d like to read my full reviews policy, please click here.

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OVERVIEW

The Razer Barracuda X sells for $99 (official site here) and comes in a basic matte black finish. It’s a closed-back wireless headset with a USB-C dongle, and an optional backup 3.5mm wired connection. In the box you also get a detachable microphone, a USB-C charging cable, a USB-A to USB-C extension adapter, and some Razer stickers and documentation.

As this is touted as a mobile headset, I would have loved to see it include the basic carrying bag from the Blackshark series, but it doesn’t.

The headset weighs only 250g, which is impressive, and has a battery life that you can stretch to 20 hours if you don’t blast the volume. The lack of software integration means there’s no real way to know how much battery you have left until it nears death and the power light changes.

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SOUND QUALITY

Razer put their proprietary 40mm Triforce speaker drivers inside the Barracuda X. They have an excellent, powerful, reasonably accurate tuning. Although these same speakers were used in the atrocious Razer Kraken V3 X, this new headset thankfully sounds nothing like that one.

Bass is only a little more thumpy and punchy than it would be on “flat” studio headphones, but that extra warmth is perfect for the rumble of game mixes. The midrange is balanced and natural, with a sumptuous and inviting sound that’s great for all types of listening. The treble is free of harshness or edgy sibilance, but detailed enough to bring out footstep and positional noises in games.

These have a wonderful sound that’s right in line with what I’ve come to expect from most other Triforce-containing Razer headsets, and is truly excellent for this price point. I was worried that the 40mm Triforce driver model might be flawed after how bad they sounded in the Kraken V3 X headset from earlier this year, but they’ve been completely redeemed in the Barracuda X.

I think these sound better than the Arctis 1 they’re so obviously inspired by. The Barracuda X has a more powerful, impactful sound, without the bright airy edge that a lot of SteelSeries headsets favor. The Barracuda X also sounds identical whether used in wireless or wired mode.

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COMFORT

Thanks to a combination of a ridiculously light weight and soft ear pads, the Barracuda X is a gentle all-day-capable headset. It clamps tight enough to stay in place but doesn’t cause any hotspots or discomfort, and I have a couple extra clicks of adjustment room on my large head.

The cups have plenty of swivel to get a good seal, and although they don’t isolate quite as well as the Blackshark series, they still do a decent job of blocking out background distractions.

If you like to wear your headset around your neck and take a break, be advised that while these have lateral rotation, the ear cups can only go flat in an upward position which makes them point towards the ceiling while on your neck. I think this is so you can lay them flat on a desk or in a bag, but they’re not the most “neckable” headset in the world as a result of this curious rotation limit.

The ear pads and headband pad both use a soft memory foam, but it’s not as dense or squishy as on some other products, or as on Razer’s own Blackshark models. Still, it does its job just fine. The drivers are angled inside the cups and there’s plenty of room so my ears don’t touch anything.

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BUILD/DESIGN

The Barracuda X uses the same design language as Razer’s recent Opus and Kaira Pro, with a classic consumer headphone look that’s stylish and subtle. They don’t stick out far from the head, and look more like regular headphones than most gaming products.

Unfortunately, the build and materials don’t quite live up to the sleek design. The light weight is very impressive and helps with the comfort, but the matte plastic finish feels dull and a little bit cheap. The edges are sharp and simple, and the cups feel more hollow than dense. Again, this was probably all done for weight reduction, but it’s more functional than impressive. I’ll update this section in the future if I have any issues with creaking, squeaking, or cracking, as sometimes those issues show up outside a review period.

UPDATE 9/4/2021: I’ve had some minor issues with the glue that holds the headband padding in place. Every week or so a couple of spots will start to peel and I have to press them back in. It’s not quite a deal-breaker, but yet another example of the lacking build of this headset.

On the plus side, the adjustment sliders are metal-reinforced and they have a really strong click. The rotation hinges also feel good, and they have plenty of clearance above the pads, avoiding the scraping issue I loathed on the Arctis 1.

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FEATURES/MICROPHONE

On the back of the left ear cup you’ll find a mic mute button, volume wheel, and power button. The volume wheel works in both wired and wireless modes, and it has a clean rotation and is free of channel imbalance issues. The charging port is USB-C, but it doesn’t support any kind of quick charge function, meaning that it takes about 3 hours to fully charge a depleted battery.

If you’ve hooked the dongle up to a supported device, you can use the power button to pause your music or skip tracks, which is a nice touch.

The microphone is detachable, and has a keyed-in pattern so it can only insert one way. It’s using the same great “HyperClear” mic capsule that a lot of other current Razer headsets use, and it sounds nice when used wirelessly, with only a hint of thinness and digital compression present.

It sounds clearer when used in wired mode, but also suffers from the same internal crosstalk issue that plagues a lot of wired headsets featuring detachable mics, where your playback audio will leak a tiny bit into the recording channel. The wireless mode doesn’t have this issue.

Here’s some short tests of the mic I recorded.

If you register your headset online, Razer will send you a free activation code for their surround sound software. The headset is also compatible with Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos.

Photo taken by the author.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The 20 hour battery life, slow charging speed, backup wired connection, volume wheel that works in both modes, and detachable mic are all essentially identical features to those on the Arctis 1 Wireless. I prefer the sound of the Razer Barracuda X’s speakers and mic, but if you already own that older SteelSeries pair, there’s no reason to buy this.

Also, SteelSeries offers an Xbox version of the Arctis 1 Wireless that has all of these functions and adds Xbox support to the dongle, thanks to a little toggle switch. While Razer was copying their features, it would have been nice if they’d copied that too.

This is the only Razer headset where the branding almost feels like an afterthought. Photo taken by the author.

The Barracuda X does have a better sound signature and industrial design than its obvious inspiration. But I wish Razer had gone further and made this concept more their own, without just slapping on marketing that it has “4-in-1” support. Maybe if they’d used their own HyperSpeed dongle, or better memory foam in the ear pads, or offered some Synapse integration, or a free upgrade to THX spatial audio, then this wouldn’t feel like such a weird rip-off.

Razer is no stranger to borrowing from their competitors. I’m working on reviews of two of their mice right now (the Orochi V2 and Basilisk Ultimate) that both clearly took inspiration from Logitech. But those mice also both offer noticeable design improvements over the competition, and build on Razer’s long legacy of in-house concepts.

Aside from the Triforce speakers, Opus-esque ear cup shape, and “HyperClear” mic capsule, the Barracuda X feels as much like a generic off-the-shelf USB wireless headset as it does a true Razer product. I’m mystified that it doesn’t at least tie into synapse, or come in some different colors like the Opus X.

Even with all that said, it’s still an awesome headset in a vacuum. It has a lot of functions and I love the way it sounds, and I’ll probably keep using it a bunch in my personal gaming time. I like it more than the Arctis 1 Wireless, but only by the tiniest hair, and it’s sad that it doesn’t offer much innovation over that old model.

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