I usually expect surprise audio peripheral launches from Steelseries, but recently Razer stole this move and pushed out a brand new headset.
Preceded by a teaser video of a feather, the Razer Kraken X is a brand-new from-the-ground-up-design budget gaming headset. They took the route of the Corsair HS50, rather than the Arctis 1 or the Electra V2. It’s not a cheaper rebuild of an existing headset but instead a whole new product.
This decision paid off handsomely.
Selling for $49 US, the Razer Kraken X is a closed-back, wired gaming headset. It comes in an all-black version and a version with blue accents called the “console edition,” but they’re functionally identical aside from the colors.
Razer includes an extension/splitter cable for users who want to connect them to a PC with dedicated mic and headphone jacks. Also in the box is a download code for Razer’s new Windows 10–exclusive Razer 7.1 Surround software. This is a more basic package than the old Razer Surround, with most of the older software’s premium features locked away behind the THX Spatial Audio package you now get with Razer’s more expensive headsets.
Still, the inclusion of this new surround software is a point in favor of Razer…and the rest of the headset is smartly designed also. As long as you don’t mind the permanently-attached cable and microphone, this is an excellent package.
I liked the sound of the original Kraken years ago, but it was a big dumb bass monster. It hit you in the head with bass and kind of ignored everything else. Its massive popularity simultaneously associated muddy bass with gaming headsets and drove audiophiles to hate the entire market segment.
Starting with the Razer Kraken Pro V2 a couple of years ago, the bass-heavy thump of days past was cast aside. The V2 retained a gently elevated bass that’s perhaps still a bit too muddy for the hardcore audio listener, but was a night-and-day difference in terms of overall quality.
The Kraken X carries on this new “better sound quality” tradition, and delivers audio just as stellar and detailed as any of the heavy-hitters in this price range, and even competes well with $99 models.
In short, it has a gently v-shaped signature that’s probably more detailed than you expect it to be. I personally rather enjoy a gentle v-shape, particularly in a “fun” product, so this is right in line with my personal audio tastes.
Not totally content to shake off the fun rumbles of the past, there’s a little bit of extra thickness and warmth in the bass, but it’s controlled well enough that it’s never too muddy or muffled, and is especially fun in the sorts of action games that you might choose to play with a Razer headset.
The midrange is nice and balanced and pleasant, with the right amount of presence and clarity for female vocals and a tone that’s accurate without the sucked-out “cupped hands” experience that some cheaper headsets suffer from.
The treble has a little bit of extra presence and bite that might be off-putting to some, but it’s perfect for the sort of pinpoint directional details that players expect from gaming products, and gives music a nice bit of air and sparkle with only a hint of artificial grain.
Razer Surround 2019
Razer is gradually phasing out the old Razer Surround, which had a free and a pro version. Now they offer Razer 7.1 Surround, which is included with this model and the new baseline Kraken ($79), and THX Spatial Audio, included with the Kraken Tournament Edition ($99), and the Razer Nari lineup ($99–$199).
If you want to use the new Razer Surround, you’ll need Windows 10, as it’s a Windows 10 Store App.
The THX Spatial Audio software inherited all of the customization options from the old surround software, and Razer 7.1 Surround has…no options at all. You can select what output device you’d like to use, and you can toggle the effect on or off. And that’s it. No EQ, no customization of channel locations, nothing.
The image above is everything you get.
On the plus side, it still performs very well. It shows up as a dedicated 7.1 device in Windows, so even older games (and Bethesda games) that have trouble pushing their surround mixes out to the Windows Sonic/Dolby Atmos platform will have no issues with Razer’s new software.
On the minus side, the software applies some EQ that not all users will like. Notably, the bass gets a bit of a boost. I understand that they’re trying to simulate the impact of having a subwoofer in the room, but I quite like the way the bass is tuned by default and wish that I could lower it a bit with the surround still turned on.
Outside of its total lack of adjustable options, it’s still nice to get free surround software in the box with a $50 headset. That puts Razer ahead of much of the pack in terms of raw features, even if this new software isn’t quite as robust as the old option.
All the way yes.
The Kraken X is an exceptionally comfy headset with a wide range of size adjustment.
It has nine positions you can click the ear cups into, and it fits on my big head extended to click four. So it should work for almost any head size. The headband is decently padded with a long leatherette strip. When you first touch this, it feels like it might not have enough padding, but the light weight of the headset means it doesn’t really need much.
The ear cups are large, oval, and filled with memory foam. Razer only recently decided to switch to oval cups as a default across the Kraken range, and it’s nice to see them carry that through here. While you don’t get the cooling gel and fabric surface featured on the more-expensive headsets, the leatherette here is still really nice.
The drivers are angled inside the cups and my ears don’t run into anything while they’re on.
In spite of losing the cooling gel, the pads retain the hidden indented channels for glasses, meaning these seal immediately and comfortably around my frames.
There’s only one small potential comfort foible here. The ear cups don’t rotate laterally at all on their support forks, just like some other Razer headset designs. But it isn’t a problem for me personally, thanks to the thick pads and the light, otherwise-ergonomic fit. This might be a problem on certain individual heads, however, and it also means you can’t rotate these flat to put them on your neck or on a desk.
Still, I can wear these happy for hours and they’re comfy from the first second. The cups warm up a little bit, but so does every closed-back headset. The clamping force and weight are perfectly balanced, making these one of the comfiest gaming headsets currently on the market.
In the past, when designing lower-end headsets, Razer has taken one of their expensive models and chipped away materials and features until it hit the right price point.
Here, you’re getting a bespoke design made just for this headset, which retains the overall design language of the Kraken series and the improved cardioid microphone from the refresh the rest of the lineup just received.
The shape of the headset is smoother, thinner, and tighter to the head than any other Kraken, meaning that the Kraken X doesn’t stick out a ton when you wear it. The ear cups are slightly oblong instead of perfectly round, which fits well with the oval pads. The wire connecting the two cups together is hidden inside the headband, without the exposed wire that so many other headsets in the sub $99 range, and even Razer’s more expensive designs, use.
Branding is more subtle than on any other Razer product, with a gloss black logo on each cup and gloss black embossed Razer lettering across the top of the headband.
The build quality is pretty good. Not quite Sennheiser Materials Lab(tm) good, but closer than I’d expect from a $50 mass market product.
My only complaints are minor. A couple of tiny creaking sounds have emitted from each side near the headband adjustment mechanism over the last week. But that’s not surprising for an all-plastic build. Also, the tension of the rotation point between the cup and the fork on my right ear cup is looser than the one on my left cup. That’s not super uncommon, and indeed I’ve seen other units from this model where the opposite is true, so I’m not sure if it’s a design or a quality control issue. It’s not “broken,” just a problem for people like me who notice inconsistencies. Also, the rubberized cable has a tendency to kink more than I’d like.
Aside from those tiny issues, the build here is otherwise very impressive. The headband is one seamless piece across the top, without the visible join points of the Arctis series. The adjustment clicks are very strong and sturdy, and in fact the most solid-feeling and satisfying of any headset I’ve ever used, let alone one built from plastic. I was immediately impressed at how good the adjustments felt.
The headset is light without feeling cheap, which is a tough balance to get just right. If Razer ever released a more expensive variant of this design with their cooling gel ear cups and a removable microphone and cable, and perhaps Chroma lighting, I’d buy it at whatever price it cost. It’s a good enough product design that it deserves some iteration in the future.
The volume wheel and the mic mute switch are easy to access and both function how you’d expect. And in spite of being permanently attached, the microphone is really adjustable, so you can bend it up out of the way when you’re not using it.
This is a top tier microphone for the price. Its cardioid pickup pattern blocks out background noises well, and its voice performance is among the best in this price range. It holds its own against the Arctis and the RIG series microphones, as well as the exceptional-sounding Astro A10. If you don’t position it just so, it’ll pop a little from your breath since it doesn’t include a pop filter, but it’s loud and sensitive and I’d happily use it for any audio task.
Here’s a short test I recorded, with some pops included as well as simulated background audio.
Razer really nailed this one. Yes, it’s a little bit creaky due to the plastic, and yes, the cable and the microphone are permanently attached. But this is a good-sounding, comfortable, fully featured package in a new fresh design that retails for $50.
It doesn’t have the metal headband construction and time-tested drivers and microphone of the Arctis 1, but it does have Razer 7.1 Surround and additional isolation thanks to its thick leatherette ear pads.
The Kraken X is more personally exciting to me than the Arctis 1 as far as “New $50 headsets” go. The Arctis successfully streamlined that lineup into the cheapest possible price, while providing similar performance, whereas the Kraken X gets the many benefits of being a wholly original design.
Whether you’re looking for your first Razer audio product or just want a backup pair you can haul around on the go without dismantling your main setup, the Kraken X is a wonderful entry into their ecosystem, and the best budget gaming headset Razer has ever made.
They should promptly kill off the Electra.