Playing games over the internet like Counterstrike or Team Fortress 2 without a headset is really frustrating. It’s faster to issue commands and ask for help by speaking into a microphone than by typing on the keyboard – which usually will get you killed (virtually, we mean). That’s why the serious gamer always confides in a good headset while playing. Razer, a company known for their gaming mice, is releasing a headset pompously dubbed as a “gaming communicator,” the Piranha. It’s an entry-level model when compared to the Barracuda headset, which has a bigger size and more sound features. Let’s proceed to our field test of the Piranha.
Figure 1: The Piranha headset.
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The box caught our eyes once it arrived. It was nothing like a common headset crammed into a cardboard blister package. The Piranha rested in a suede-covered box with special slots for the audio and USB connectors. Nice touch. The only gripe we had concerned the many holes the 9’10" (3 m) long cable passed through – it was a nightmare to let it loose. After a time that seemed like forever, we finally pried loose the headset. The box is really amazing besides that.
The thick plastic headband is adjustable for various head sizes. Once you adjust according to your preference, the Piranha stays that away, not needing further adjustments. You can always go back to the default size, however. The padded headband has a hole in the middle to reduce weight and keep your head cool. The ear cups are midsized, unlike the ones from the Barracuda model that cover the entire ears. They are mounted on an articulated joint which allows a firm and customized fit without straining the ears themselves. The cloth-over-foam covered cups have a good breathability. The microphone is deployed on a bendable rubber swing bar outside the left ear cup. Being very sensitive, the mike can be placed outside your field of view without interfering with the gameplay while still picking up your voice. We didn’t bend the microphone towards our mouth while testing the Piranha and still got heard by fellow players.
Figure 3: Earcup and microphone details.
The cable is another matter entirely. It’s cloth wrapped from the headset itself to the volume control and then it’s just a regular cable until it reaches the audio and USB connectors. The USB plug is only there to light the blue LEDs behind the Razer three-headed snake logo on the volume control and on each side of the headset. The long cable could be a great asset for some users or a burden for others. In our test we just threw it behind our LCD monitor. The 3 meters long cable just coiled over there like a big snake… it’s more Anaconda than Piranha, if you ask us…
The volume control is a very bad feature. Its flimsy controls kept changing the volume level – or even muting the whole headset – while clipped on our shirt. It happened a few times over playing Team Fortress 2 and chatting with friends on Skype. We just let the control rest carefully on the table to avoid things like that from ever happening again. If the control had a more precise mute on/off switch and a tighter volume slider it would be a useful feature, but as it stands, it’s more of a hindrance than a good thing.
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Putting aside our gripes with the cable length and the annoying volume control, the Piranha performed remarkably during several hours of continuous Team Fortress 2 play. No sweating or sore ears after a long time playing. We heard (and were heard by) with clarity our fellow online players. Game music and sound effects were also clearly reproduced. The foam padding of the earcups canceled noise room very well, providing a much more immersive gaming experience.
As a gaming headset, the Piranha ground to dust the generic and cheap counterpart we’ve being using to this day (much to our shame as hardcore gamers). We also tested the Piranha as a music listening headphone and the result was pretty satisfactory, although, of course, its performance is way off a professional music headphone. The Piranha doesn’t have a bass booster or a spatial sound feature – but then again, music isn’t its focus. It’s, after all, a “gaming communicator” as the gimmicky tagline says. Our shame for using a lesser device is finally over.
Razer Piranha headset main specifications are:
- Padded earcups
- Two 3,5 mm jacks plus a USB connector (for blue LEDs)
- Adjustable padded headband
- Clip-on volume and mute control
- Headphone frequency response: 18 – 22,000 Hz
- Headphone Impedance: 32 Ohms
- SPL (@ 1 kHz, 1 Vrms): 114 dB
- Cable: 9’10" (3 m)
- Weight: 8 oz (227 g)
- Microphone frequency response: 80 – 15,000 Hz
- Microphone sensitivity (@ 1 kHz, 1V/Pa): -38 dB
- Microphone impedance: ~2 kOhms
- More information: https://www.razerzone.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 59.00
* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review
- Clear and quality sound
- No sweaty or sore ears after hours of playing
- Padded headband
- Bendable and retractable microphone doesn’t cloud field of view
- Nice packaging
- Neon-aficionados will enjoy the blue LEDs (although you have to have a spare USB port for it)
- Good for gaming and using communications software like Skype or MSN
- Very long cable can be a problem for some users
- Flimsy clip-on volume control
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