Barracuda HP-1

Review

posted 10/27/2006 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
Platforms: PC

As a reviewer, I get to see and try a lot more products than I ever would have prior to joining Gaming Nexus. There are a lot of good products out on the market, and even more that are not so good. That’s why when something truly great comes out; it’s exciting to be able to let other gamers know about it.  I guess where I’m heading with this is that the Razer Barracuda HP-1 Gaming Headphones are something great.

Let me start with the basics. The Barracuda is not small. The unit is roughly 10 inches tall from the bottom of the earphones to the top of the connecting support wires. Each earphone is comprised of a circular unit holding 4 sonic drivers; front, rear, center, and sub-woofer. Each driver has its own amplifier. The earphones are connected via two semi-flexible wires that are long enough and offer enough give for the tallest and widest heads. The speaker portion of each earphone is circled with a large cushion 3 ½ inches in diameter to keep the speakers from pressing up against the ears. The cushion is roughly ¾ of an inch thick, and very soft.  A self adjusting strap is connected to the top of both cones spreading the weight of the unit allowing the earphones to rest fully against the head without causing too much pressure, as some units are apt to do. Putting the unit on you really notice the comfort provided by the padded earphones and the weight distribution strap. 

When it comes to appearance, the Barracuda doesn’t really look too dissimilar from most studio headphones. The unit itself is all black, and aside from the blue LED lit Razer logos on the outside of each headphone, the only noticeable differences are the detachable stick microphone attached to the base of the left earphone, and the control unit that sits not quite 24 inches down the cable from the unit.

The control unit is an interesting part of the unit. It offers volume control for the unit, as well as individual dials for the four pairs of sonic drivers, giving the user dynamic control over the audio mix without having to interrupt play to change game play audio settings. There’s also a power switch on the unit, which like the overall volume knob is strangely unmarked.

The Barracuda Headphones are designed specifically to work with the new Barracuda AC-1 Audio Card. This is highly evident when looking at the proprietary connection at the end of the nearly 7 foot long headphone cord. It’s somewhat reminiscent of an HD monitor connection. It is an HD-DAI plug, designed to work exclusively with Razers’ upcoming card, which was not yet available at the time of this review. For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to try the headphones with the intended audio card, an adapter is included in the box with the unit. The adapter plugs into the 4 standard audio mini-plug ports, and a USB port (for power). ;

Now that you know what the unit looks like, let’s talk about what it sounds like. I played a variety of games wearing the headphones but the best overall experience when playing Battlefield 2. This is exactly the type of game that the Barracuda was designed for. The high quality audio in the game sounded amazing through the headphones drivers, and the positional audio of the surround sound really made me feel like the action I was hearing was coming from around me. In one instance in particular, I was able to pick up on the location of an enemy sniper based on the sound of the bullets in the headphones. The sounds of the various weapons, vehicles, and movements were distinct and crisp and the audio range was impeccable. From the low grumble of a tank motor, to the high pitched whine BF2 emits when you’re temporarily deafened by being too close to an explosion, there wasn’t a sound the game put out that didn’t come through crystal clear.

While the Barracuda is designed for gaming, it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to standard audio, either. I put the headphones on while writing this review, and cranked up my iTunes. My current playlist has everything from Ben Folds Five to 50 Cent, and I wanted to see how the headphones would stand up to the various musical styles. When listening to Missing Link from the Judgment Night soundtrack, there’s no such thing as too much bass. So after maxing out the bass in the software, I did the same thing on the headphones control unit. I was amazed that there was no noticeable distortion as this song almost always outdoes the subwoofers on my other audio systems. Next I went to I Can Hear Music by The Beach Boys, and boy could I (hear music that is). The vocal harmonies and the high falsetto are not lost on the Barracuda, and the sound is extremely clear, with no fuzz at all behind the music, which sometimes occurs in music originally mixed in mono.

Let me not forget to mention the microphone. It works well, and the design is unobtrusive, so you’re not forced to move it out of the way to take a drink of whatever is keeping you up at 3 AM on a work night, and yet still picks up pretty much only the users voice. Measuring just 3 inches in length, I never feel the need to detach it, as I rarely even notice it’s there.

Even with all of the great things above, no product is perfect. While there are faults to the unit, they are small. To begin with, the control unit feels like it’s upside down. What can only be a belt clip on the back of the control pod opens up when wearing the headphones and feels like it should open down. This orientation means the volume knob is at the bottom of the unit which could make for some fumbling when looking to reduce the volume during play. Secondly, the sensitivity that is at the heart of the Barracudas strength can also be the cause of interference from time to time. My audio card is not very far from my wireless internet card, and the RF signal of the wireless card is can be picked up as a sometimes disturbing buzz on the headphones. This is mostly due to the lack of shielding on my audio card, and likely why the forthcoming audio card from Razer has heavier shielding than the Death Star.

In conclusion, it’s really easy to recommend a product like the Barracuda because it does what the package says it will; it provides an outstanding gaming surround environment.




A
BASF used to run commercials that said “We don’t make a lot of the products you use; we make a lot of the products you use better.” I think that statement describes perfectly what the Barracuda provides to gaming and music audio on the PC.



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