Hammerhead Pro earbuds
Music, podcasts and games sound great; noise-isolating design blocks out the world
Expensive; no in-line volume controls
Shipping in August, Razer’s new Hammerhead Pro gaming earbuds are made with machined aluminium, bright green rubber and the presumption that people who play games on mobile devices need a pair of dedicated gaming headphones.To address that need, Razer built 9mm drivers and a few bass-enhancing tweaks into a pair of matte black earbuds roughly as long as your thumbnail. The munitions-grade design is eye-catching and practical – the bullet-shaped earbuds can be comfortably wedged deep into your ears, ensuring your music will drown out the dull roar of daily life. The Hammerhead Pros we reviewed cost US$70 and come with three sets of swappable silicone ear gels in different sizes, as well as a carrying case and a splitter cable.
The splitter doesn’t help you share your music with a friend, however – instead, it’s an adapter that splits the cable into an audio output and mic input so you can hook the Hammerhead Pro up to your PC and use it as a gaming headset. Razer designed these premium earbuds for people who take playing games seriously, which may explain why it failed to include basic features – like in-line volume controls or flat, tangle-resistant cables – that weaken performance in day-to-day activities.
Sound quality worth pumping up
Talking frankly about sound quality or comfort while reviewing in-ear headphones is tricky, because these products are designed to be wedged deep into your ear canal for hours at a time – and no two pairs of ears are alike. That said, the Hammerhead Pro earbuds sound great in my plebeian ears, and wearing the earbuds for hours at a time felt perfectly comfortable. The bass amplification is noticeable but minor enough to deliver a pale shadow of a good bass line’s bone-rattling impact without mucking up the upper and midrange frequencies – it gives the bottom end of Demiurge’s Shoot Many Robots some kick without blotting out the high notes, for example. The Hammerhead Pro earbuds can’t replace a great pair of over-the-ear stereo cans, but they are good enough that I felt a little nauseated when the beating-heart bass line that opens Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon started playing during my morning commute. I’ve listened to that album countless times while wearing cheaper earbuds from Apple and Panasonic, and I’ve never felt the bass as strongly as I did while wearing the Hammerhead Pro.
Sturdy but shortsighted design
Razer’s new earbuds feel good in your ears and sturdy in your hands. The aluminum casing did not dent or bend beneath my rigorous wear tests, and I was surprised to find that accidentally stepping on them in the locker room did nothing more than scuff the matte black aluminium.
In contrast, the bright green rubber casing feels like the cheap rubber used in Apple earbud cables, and the connection between cable and headphone jack feels flimsy enough that I worry it could fray and cause audio problems after a few months of heavy use.
The absence of volume buttons on the in-line controller is inexcusable. The Hammerhead Pro earbuds are designed for use with mobile devices, and they should make it easy for you to quickly adjust volume levels without fumbling around in your pockets. The omnidirectional microphone and single button built into the in-line controller work well, but they just aren’t enough to justify the extra US$20 premium you pay for the Hammerhead Pro model over the basic Razer Hammerhead earbuds, which don’t include the in-line controller.
If Razer expects you to shell out seventy bucks for a decent pair of earbuds, it ought to at least include the same basic features found in significantly cheaper products. The Hammerhead Pro earbuds offer respectable sound quality and a distinctive design that really shines when you’re playing games on a laptop while voice-chatting with your teammates – but that’s a rare occurrence for most people. Wearing your earbuds to listen to music at the gym or on the train to work is far more common, and in these scenarios the Hammerhead Pro fails to match the performance or features of cheaper competing hardware.
by Alex Wawro, TechHive