Razer Opus Wireless ANC Headphones Review
These THX-certified reference quality headphones challenge Bose and Sony at a much lower price.
NOTE: Razer graciously sent me a retail unit of these headphones to review at my discretion alongside marketing assets and technical information. I don’t receive a kickback if you decide to buy one, and none of the links in this article are affiliate links. I wasn’t sponsored to write this, and I had full editorial control over this article.
UPDATE 9/23/23: Crushingly, Razer essentially killed this headphone off about a year and a half after it came out. They released a new model with an “updated” worse tuning — and lately they’ve kind of slowly forgotten their Opus brand in an apparent quest to irritate me personally.
If you want a similar level of audio performance from a current Razer product, I’d recommend looking at the Barracuda Pro — though that headset comes with its own frustrations too.
Original article now continues.
The wireless noise-cancelling headphone market is crowded with different options, and they mostly fall into two price tiers. On the one hand are premium choices like the Bose QC 35, NC 700, and Sony MDR1000X series. These models, and a handful of others, sell for prices between $300 and $400 and contain all the modern bells and whistles a mainstream audio consumer could ask for.
A lot of folks don’t want to spend more than $300 on headphones, so on the other side of the fence is the exploding budget wireless ANC market. These models usually sell for $80-$200, and try to cram in the same type of performance while making sacrifices to audio quality, features, and build in a carefully managed balancing act.
The designers at Razer looked at this burgeoning mess and saw an opportunity. Could they leverage their massive production pipeline, their years of industrial design experience, and the brilliant audio minds at THX to create a headphone with premium performance at a more consumer-friendly price?
Turns out the answer is an emphatic yes. The Razer Opus is a brilliant combination of high-end audio performance with only a handful of small, clever sacrifices. It’s one of the best-sounding audio products I’ve ever listened to, and if this represents the path forward for Razer’s audio division, every other company needs to step up their game.
The Razer Opus sells for $199.99 (official site here), and it’s available in Midnight Blue or Black. It’s a closed-back Bluetooth 4.2 headphone with active noise-cancelling, an ambient environment awareness mode, AptX and AAC support, a 25-hour battery life with ANC turned on, and an optional 3.5mm wired connection. It comes with a hard-shell case, a USB- C charge cable with a port adapter for older computers, and a 1.3m 3.5mm audio cable.
It’s also THX certified, which means that THX’s audio engineers were involved in every step of designing and testing the headset to make sure it hit their internal performance metrics and sound signature. You can learn more about that process here. While Razer does own THX, I’ve been assured that they aren’t given any preferential treatment in the current version of this certification process, that both operate as independent companies, and that “development required many component switch-outs in order to meet THX specifications and pass their multitude of tests.”
THX is quite popular in audiophile and head-fi circles right now for creating the highly lauded THX AAA 789 headphone amplifier. While this Razer set doesn’t feature that specific amp technology, their expertise and modernized headphone testing equipment still made a big impact here.
I’ve tested a number of wireless ANC headphones over the years, and this one easily has my favorite sound quality of the bunch. In fact, it’s one of the best-sounding headphones you can buy right now, wired or wireless.
To their credit, Razer has slowly marched away from the admittedly fun but profoundly bass-heavy signature that dominated their gaming headsets a half-decade ago. But the Opus sits on a whole other level of audio balance and quality.
In fact, I’d put the Opus’s sound signature on essentially the same level of neutrality and exceptional reference-level sound performance as the recent AKG K371. That’s right, I just went there. The Razer Opus offers a pristine, accurate, remarkable sound, with no obvious flaws to point out.
Like many ANC headphones, they sound their best with the power turned on and the noise-cancelling activated. THX performed the certification tests in this mode. You’ll particularly notice the change in performance in the bass region, where they gain a little more accuracy and oomph when ANC is switched on. But they also still sound okay used passively on the cable with the power turned off. All of my sound impressions are with the ANC turned on.
Bass is natural, accurate, and extends all the way down to 20hz. It’s not as thumpy as many other wireless headphones, but instead has a refined quality that’s pleasantly neutral and accurate to the source. There’s zero bloat or excess thump in the upper bass, giving the exceptional mid-range room to breathe. The mids have a natural and realistic quality that’s perfectly suited to acoustic instruments and female vocals. The treble is free of any sibilant sharpness or harsh peaks while still bringing out plenty of detail. It completely lacks the slight “crinkle” that brings the Bose QC35’s audio down a peg.
Razer’s marketing for this headphone boasts about its high-fidelity sound…and that’s actually true. I threw all of my favorite test tracks at it and had nothing to complain about. The Opus has a luxurious and awesome sound signature that’s like a more- refined version of the original MDR1000X I loved so much before they all started to crack, and before Sony caved and went in a more “consumer-friendly” bass-focused direction with their follow-up models.
If you’re used to other popular wireless headphones, you might think these are bass-light on first listen, but I promise that the Opus renders music very accurately to its original recording. The free Opus mobile app offers a few other EQ modes designed by THX if you’d like to experiment, but I found the default profile to be my favorite without question.
Since this is a Razer product, I also played a bunch of games with it on PC and all three consoles. The detailed sound signature is perfect for gaming soundtracks. The Bluetooth performance is fast enough that I didn’t notice significant lag using them with my PC, and the soundstage is wide enough that I had a great time. It’s not as expansive as some open headphones, but much wider than certain oft-recommended studio headphones like the M50X. Wired gaming was also fine with the included 1.3m cable…though like many other headphones I found it barely gets loud enough out of the PS4 controller. I had no volume issues on the Xbox or on the Switch. If you want to use these as a wired gaming headset with chat, be warned that in wired mode the built-in mic is a little lacking in sensitivity so you may have to boost up the volume.
The Opus represents a dramatic step up in sound quality for Razer, and crushes most of the products in this market category. I’m going to have to edit my current personal reference list after I finish this review to include it as my favorite example of how good an ANC headphone can sound.
Like the sound signature, the noise-cancelling on the Opus is also shockingly good…as long as you don’t mind some gentle white noise.
ANC systems work by using microphones to listen to the environment outside your headphones. They record this sound, then quickly produce an inverted waveform of “anti-noise” that they can pump into the speakers to drown out the unwanted environment sounds. Playing that anti-noise leads to one of two artifacts when heard by your ears: physical pressure on your ear drum, or a whooshing white noise that sounds a bit like the inside of a seashell.
All ANC headphone designers have to balance these two artifacts, and Razer decided to lean in the white noise direction. So, if you turn on the Opus and don’t have any music playing, you’ll hear a gentle whooshing noise like you’ve got a small fan on at the other side of the room. While that might bother some folks, on the plus side, you won’t feel any physical discomfort or pressure on your ear drums.
Also, Razer employed a full “Hybrid” ANC system here, meaning they have microphones listening on both the outside and the inside of the cups for improved cancellation accuracy. Once you start some music, the accuracy of the anti-noise can be enhanced with the additional data collected by the internal microphones, and the white noise artifact fades away into the background almost completely…along with all of the external environment sound.
Thanks to a combination of the excellent passive seal of the ear pads and the four- microphone ANC solution, these block out a ton of background noise. They perform just as well as the big players in this space. While I can’t do my normal loud coffee shop tests thanks to the coronavirus, I did test these against my QC 35 underneath my loud bathroom fan, in front of my air conditioner, and against a “virtual plane flight.” The Razer model performed beyond my expectations.
These have ANC that’s just as good as the $350-$400 models, as long as you don’t mind the gentle hiss when no music is playing.
The wins just keep on coming. The Razer Opus is an exceptionally comfortable headphone. The design of the ear pads mimics Sony’s 1000X series, with a slightly smaller-than-average opening that’s surrounded by a soft, slow-rebound memory foam.
Although the pads hug my head and my ears to the point where I notice them on my head, I can happily wear these for an entire day without a single bit of pain or discomfort. The clamping force is a little stronger than average, but the soft foam of the ear pads helps balance it out. I’d rather that clamp be a little tight on wireless models too, so that they don’t fall off during use. The headband pad is thick and plush, and puts no painful pressure on my head nor does it cause any hotspots.
I can wear the headphones comfortably extended to four of their nine clicks of adjustment on my large head, so they should have plenty of adjustment room for everyone. The soft pads instantly seal around my thin-rimmed glasses and wearing my glasses doesn’t have a huge impact on the sound quality or ANC level. Excellent!
You’d be forgiven for glancing at these and thinking they were built by Sony. They have a strong visual resemblance to the 1000X series, and to the old MDR100 “h.ear On” model.
I think Razer added just enough of their own little tweaks to make this look like their own product, but it’s hard to ignore whose designs they were inspired by.
The headphones are mostly built from plastic, with a strip of metal reinforcement running through the headband and along the adjustment sliders. They feel reasonably sturdy in spite of their trim mass of about 265g. My only real complaint with the build is that I’ve heard some minor plastic chatter/creaking along the left and right arms near the folding joints when putting the headphones on and adjusting them.
This sort of thing is pretty common, and I’ve seen it in other models. I don’t think it’s a sign that these will have cracking issues like the original 1000X, but if anything changes I’ll write an update. I’ve used these heavily over the last week and the chatter hasn’t changed at all, and I think these are a reasonably durable pair of headphones for the price.
Branding is kept to a relative minimum for a Razer product, with a simple logo on each arm and a small THX emblem on each cup. They’re sleek and svelte and don’t stick out too far from the head while worn.
Like the $300+ models the Opus aims to destroy, this pair of headphones is packed with features. Unfortunately, it won’t pair to multiple devices at once like Bose’s models, but that’s the only real negative I can mention in this category.
All of the Opus’s features are controlled with easy-to-find, large, and responsive physical control buttons. This is honestly a huge relief in a world of touch-panel-covered models that are sometimes imprecise and infamously affected by the weather. The buttons work well and feel robust enough to hold up to thousands of presses, and they’re easy to find while you’re wearing the headphones. They stand out from each other thanks to different heights and contours. You’ll never have to fumble for the controls.
The ANC button on the left ear cup toggles noise-cancelling on or off. Holding it down pauses your music and turns on Ambient Awareness mode, using the outer microphones to amplify the environment around you in case you need to hear something or have a conversation. Below that is the small power and pairing button. Rather than use voice prompts to tell you when the headset is turned on, turned off, or in pairing mode, Razer uses different sound effects. This seemed silly to me at first, but it’s kind of fun and also region-agnostic.
On the right ear cup, you’ll find volume and playback buttons. The play/pause button does triple duty for answering calls and skipping tracks. If you take the headphones off while music is playing, your song will pause, and putting them back on resumes playback. This worked great for me across my iPhone, Mac, and PC, listening primarily through Spotify.
The microphone is adequate for phone calls, and folks had no trouble hearing me talk in Bluetooth mode. Like other Bluetooth pairs, I wouldn’t recommend using this for voice work. If you need a Bluetooth headphone with a focus on voice call performance, the Bose NC700 is still your best option…though it goes for double the price of this model.
Razer’s battery life claim of 25 hours with ANC on is accurate, and maybe even a little conservative in my week of testing. The headphones won’t tell you the current battery life outside of a warning beep and light when the power is low. If you want a more accurate display, you’ll have to download the Opus app, or use the battery meter built into your phone if you have one.
The app is basic but functional. It allows you to pick from different pre-set EQ options, and to adjust the auto-shutoff timer of the headphones. You can also update the firmware. Downloading the firmware was a little bit slow, but updating once I had the file was quick and painless. The M50XBT could learn from this, with its 30–40-minute update procedure. Using the app does not require a Razer log in.
This doesn’t have the auto frequency/ANC adjustment of the high-end Sony models, nor does it have multiple strengths of ANC like Bose’s new pairs. But this is otherwise essentially a feature match for those much more expensive headphones. Its use of Bluetooth 4.2 means it doesn’t quite hit the playback range of other pairs, but I still managed to get about 35 feet away with multiple walls between myself and my computer before I started having some connection issues. How often do you really need to stand more than 35 feet away from your playback device?
The final extra here is a nice hard carrying case with a leatherette strap attached. The case has a prominent cutout for the headphones inside, ensuring that you store them correctly. The divider in the middle of the case has little pockets where you can store the airline adapter and USB port converter for the charge cable.
Both the charge cable and audio cable came inside a hilarious tiny cloth pouch tucked into the case. The 30cm charge cable is too short for my tastes, and obviously designed to plug into a laptop. But the 1.3m 3.5mm audio cable is a good length and of decent quality.
I love everything about these headphones. They combine reference-level sound with excellent ANC at a reasonably affordable price. The minor plastic chatter I experienced in the frame and the lack of multiple device connections could be improved in a future model, but these are both nitpicks.
The Opus is Razer’s best-sounding headphone. It also sounds better than most other headphones and better than most other gaming headsets. It’s a best-in-class audio product that’s priced to crush the competition.
I can heartily recommend this for anyone who wants an ANC headphone that’s comfy over long sessions, has remarkable audio, and offers dramatically better value compared to the higher-priced options on the market. Sure, you can get cheaper ANC pairs, some of which I even love…but they don’t sound this good. And sure, you can also pay more money to get a worse-sounding headphone from a different company…but I’m not sure why you’d do that.
This is a true game-changer. It’s a shot across the bow of other tech companies. If this is the sort of audio we can continue to expect from Razer’s partnership with THX, and if this is also a hint at the path forward for Razer’s lower-cost gaming products…everyone had better watch out. Razer just shot to the very top tier of consumer audio performance, and I’m super excited to see what they do next.