gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Razer Kraken Pro V2

The chunky Kraken Pro V2 aren’t the sort of headphones I’d normally consider, but in all-black the subtle branding, solid construction and surprisingly comfortable fit have won me over.

I haven’t tried a set of Razer headphones since the Barracuda HP-1 back in 2007- a sturdy and complicated set of 5.1 surround headphones that were a product of a different time. A time 10 years ago in fact. Wow.

Damn it my laces are the wrong shade of green! Also, thank you @Razer @RazerSupport

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) January 18, 2017

So how far have Razer come in 10 years? I was originally quite dismissive of their branding and marketing, favouring instead the plain and simple Sennheiser alternatives, but as I’m now typing this review on a Razer Blade laptop it’s clear they’ve changed, and I’ve changed.

Razer’s branding is immaculate. The Kraken ship in their signature black and green packaging which, upon opening, yields a half truthful and perhaps half nose-thumbing jab at Apple’s cult-following:

Welcome To The Cult Of Razer

Oh god, I've joined a cult!!? Goddamn click-wrap license agreements. *sigh* okay I'll renounce my earthly goods and move to the ranch.

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) January 18, 2017

The presentation is great, and it’s not the first box I’ve seen which has opened up to showcase the product within.

Upon opening my initial impressions were: “good grief, they’re huge” and “oh dear, an analog volume control.”

My first concern has largely dissolved. Despite being almost comically sized, the Kraken Pro V2 are incredibly comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions. Believe me, I tested this by playing NS2 for far, far too many hours in a single sitting and my ears were the only thing that didn’t hurt.

The second, the inline volume control, remains to be seen. While people often have trouble with these wheels catching on clothing and being accidentally adjusted, I haven’t had that happen to me yet. My main concern is that over time I’ve had really good headphones ruined by the volume wheels becoming scratchy and degrading the audio. The other problem with this inline control is that it feels cheap- it lets down the otherwise top-notch build quality of headphones with something that just doesn’t feel quite as solid. I realise I may be splitting hairs a little here, but my preference is to include the volume controls in the headphones themselves.

Update: not 6 months later, the volume control on my Razer Kraken Pro v2 is failing, exactly as I predicted. This is a huge shame,
because the headphones are otherwise fantastic, are still absolutely pristine, and have proven comfortable for long train journeys. The volume-wheel-catching-on-clothes problem has also presented itself many, many times. I should have gone with my instinct and sealed the whole volume control unit in Sugru the moment I got it. I’ve raised my concerns to Razer and really hope to see a Pro v3 with a revised/removed inline volume control.

Moving away from the quibbles. What really makes me love these headphones is the surprisingly subtle branding. The black Kraken Pro V2 are just that; black. From head-band, to ear-pads to the plastic and metal construction; everything is colour-keyed to a level of perfection that just makes the mind boggle. One thing’s for sure; Razer are artisans at making things black, even across a range of materials, textures and finishes. While the word “RAZER” is embossed quite clearly into the top of the headband, you have to tilt the cups into the light to see the very, very subtle intertwining snake logo on the sides.

The cups themselves are fashioned from plastic with metal grills- these open-back grills allow at least some air to circulate in and out of the cups behind the speaker diagram. This makes the headphones able to hit punchier bass that you can actually feel. Open-back is pretty much an essential choice for gaming at home where noise leakage isn’t such a great concern, but immersion is. I did find that this made them feel a little too bassy in music, though, but that’s a mix of personal preference, and years of listening to dead flat studio monitor headphones.

Attaching the cups to the headband sturdy arms which I can only conclude are fashioned from aluminium. At first glance they looked like plastic, but after making several alarmingly determined efforts to bend, twist or break them I was reassured that they were built, like the proverbial brick outhouse, from sturdier stuff. I’ve had plastic headphones break more than once, and metal ones last for 7-8 years before everything else fell apart around the metal, so I know which I’d choose.

The headband itself is trimmed with brushed metal, but is clearly braced with a softer material inside to provide the flex needed to fit over your head. The cushioning is ample enough, but you can feel the wiring through it with a firm press.

The corded cables are a nice touch. I love the flex and feel of corded cables, but notice they can be a pain for picking up dirt and grime. Still, I’d rather have corded than not. Where they really shine is the points at which the wiring from the left cup travels up, through the headband and down into the right cup; these short runs of cable are also corded.

I imagine @Razer whispering in the ear of @SteelSeries … "can I be big spoon tonight?"

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) January 18, 2017

Despite looking giant they don’t feel overly heavy on the head, and got me through a good few hours of gaming without me even really noticing them. When properly adjusted the reasoning behind the giant cups become clear, at no point was my ear pressed against a cushion. Contrast this to my current daily-carry SteelSeries phones, which I use for listening on the go, that me serious headphone fatigue after about an hour.

Finally the microphone. I don’t know how good it is because I haven’t tested it yet, but I know voice communication is essential for teamwork in Natural Selection 2 and I’ve been able to communicate with team-mates with no problems so far. The flexible microphone boom is a great idea, but can often be tricky to get in just the right position, requiring adjustment every time it’s re-deployed. That does mean you can tuck it away if you just want to listen to music without looking like you’re running a call centre.

Speaking of calls, I was able to use these with my iPhone and place voice calls on the go, but they are just too bulky to be used outdoors as a general carry. They just don’t fit under my hood; it’s cold up north, and I have to keep it up most of the time. This is a shame, because they’re so comfortable.

They also have a right-angle TRRS jack which just plugs right into my Razer Blade and is much easier to use with phones without damaging the cable, and come supplied with an extension cable with separate TRS 3.5mm microphone and audio connectors for plugging into the back of a more conventional gaming rig.

Overall, colour me impressed. Until my quest for a laptop brought Razer back to my attention I’d largely ignored them and used SteelSeries products for the past 10 years. I have to say that the ruthless attention to detail and solid construction of the Kraken Pro V2 has convinced me that they’re not just a pretty face. Head on over to Razer’s glossy brochure page to learn more.

In the interest of full-disclosure these were not provided to me in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. I actually received them as an apology for some poor, conflicting and confusing communication during my Razer Blade RMA saga which, to be fair, they turned around pretty well. I figured I’d review them anyway both because I want to, and as a token of my gratitude. Also, my replacement Blade is running beautifully.

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017, Computer Gaming, Personal Audio, Personal Computing.