Razer BlackShark ReviewManufacturer: Razer
UK Price (as reviewed): £89.72
US Price (as reviewed): $129.99
Peripherals specialist Razer is well known amongst gamers, but it's been a good while since we last saw one of its products, the BlackWidow Ultimate
, which we sadly found to be somewhat overpriced. Today we have with us the BlackShark headset, which at £90 also carries a fairly hefty price tag, and is £20 more than our current favourite headset, the Asus Vulcan
The green and black colour scheme is likely to be divisive, but we can't deny that the headset stands out from the crowd – whether this is in a good or a bad way will be up to you. Razer claims that the BlackShark is based on the design of military helicopter headsets, and a quick Google image search confirms the similarities.
The metal chassis and the stitching on the headband's leather make the BlackShark feel very sturdy and durable. The plastic ear cups also feel well built and solid, but the glossy black finish means they're quick to pick up marks and fingerprints. Some people might question the use of exposed cabling, but it's unlikely to get damaged thanks to its rubber sheathing and the fact that it's well routed.
Click to enlarge
In terms of comfort, the padding on the ear cups and headband is some of the softest we've come across, and helps to significantly reduce the weight of the metal frame on your skull. That said, the weight of the steel bodied microphone when it's attached is enough to create a subtle but noticeable drag on the left side.
The circumaural ear cups provide a nice level of noise cancellation, but we've seen better elsewhere. We also found them to be on the small side, and had to shuffle them around a bit to get even our small ears fully into them. Once there though, the fit is comfortable and the headset exerts a nicely balanced level of pressure. However, the small space your ears have leaves them with little air and our ears did heat up in longer sessions.
The adjustment system of the BlackShark is interesting in how secure it is. You adjust the ear cup height by loosening the thumb caps and tightening them when you have the correct placement for an unmovable end result. The ear cups can also swivel left and right as well as tilt up and down to guarantee maximum cranial compatibility. The boom mic is also detachable, and plugs in to the left ear cup (a cap is provided for when it's not in use). When you're using it, you can move it up and down but also adjust its position via two side-to-side pivot points that are stiff enough to not move without manual intervention.
Click to enlarge - The BlackShark features numerous adjustments that are very secure
The 1.3m rubber sheathed cable leads to a single 3.5mm jack for devices like smartphones and certain ultrabooks that carry audio input and output over one connection, and a splitter is provided for devices that don't. The lack of a USB interface at this price range might put some off, but the lack of even a basic in-line controller is the real nuisance, as it removes the ability to quickly alter your volume or mute your microphone.
The quality of the stereo sound from the pair of 40mm drivers is good, although not excellent, and we're pleased to report that distortion at high volumes is essentially absent. Like many a gaming headset, the acoustic profile sees the bass outweighing the rest of the range. The quality and power of the bass is quite impressive, and makes the BlackShark well suited to action games and movies, but its dominance is less favourable in music as it tends to impede on the mid-range, particularly in more distorted and heavy songs. The microphone also performs adequately, picking up our voices with good clarity and cutting out background sounds and breathing well enough too.
As with many products, the main problem with the BlackShark is its pricing rather than its quality. As it stands, it's a well built and decent sounding headset, and it's also pretty comfortable (for those with smaller ears). At £90 though, it doesn't feel worth it. For £20 less, you can net yourself the better sounding Vulcan, and a little bit more cash will let you buy something like the excellent (and wireless) Corsair Vengeance 2000
. The lack of an in-line controller is particularly irritating, so unless you're mad about the design we'd say there are better options.