Mako

Review

posted 4/10/2008 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
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Setup
When I started connecting everything to subwoofer of the Razer Mako, something really grabbed my attention. In all my past reviews of audio products for gaming and Home Theater, I have never seen any speakers connected via Cat-5 (generally used for computer networking) wiring as the Razer Mako utilizes. As we found out in our interview with Dr. Mark Tuffy, the Cat-5 wire was used to create a simple connection for the bi- amplified satellite speakers.

The rest of the connections were very straightforward, as the audio connections are either analog RCA cables or a 3.5mm mini-jack on the back of the sub or on the Control Pod. Maybe it is due to size and cost constraints, but the Razer Mako does not include a digital audio connection for external devices such as cable/satellite receiver, Gaming console or an MP3 player. You have to use the analog audio inputs, and let it handle the sound accordingly. However, the great thing about the connections it uses are that you can hook up anything that has not only RCA out, but a 3.5mm headphone jack. This includes iPods, Laptops, Handhelds (PSP and DS) and more. There are plenty of accessories available that connect via 3.5mm jacks, RCA or 3.5mm to RCA.

The placement of the satellite speakers is extremely important due to the THX Ground Plane and Slot Speaker technology. In order to create the omindirectional soundfield the design allows for, the satellites need to be properly placed to allow the technology to function. The suggested location for placement is on a desk surface with at least 6” of open space all around them. However, it is always best to experiment with the placement using some sort of audio playback that you are already familiar with. This really helps with fine-tuning placement and maximizing the audio experience.

I tested the Razer Mako with a variety of devices, with each configuration using a unique setup. For gaming on the Vista Desktop PC, I found the best placement for the satellites was located on the desk flanking the monitor, which placed them at ear level. For the Laptop, again a placement of flanking the laptop, about six inches behind and outside the front edge which put them at chest level. When hooking them up in the test lab to the Xbox 360, they were placed on flat surfaces at knee level about seven feet in front of the main seating area. In all cases, the subwoofer placement was right at the feet of the primary seat, but it can go anywhere within its cable length.

During setup, there were a couple other random things I noted. The Cat-5 wiring and the control pod wiring are definitely long enough for any desktop set-up, but may come up short if used it in any larger home theater configuration. In addition, while hooking the Razer Mako up was not terribly complicated, the instruction manual and Introduction Booklet were easy to understand and contained extremely helpful illustrations. Something that isn’t always included in today’s electronics.

Mako

Audio testing
In order to test non-gaming audio capabilities, I decided to focus on music and video playback. For music, I used both CD and MP3 playback through Windows Media Center on the Xbox 360 and direct playback from a laptop. For video, I used a satellite feed, off-air antenna, HD-DVD and HD downloadable content from Xbox Live Video Marketplace.

One of my standard benchmark tests is Queensrÿche’s “Real World”. This song touches almost all aspects of the music spectrum, including Orchestra, thundering drums, Hard Rock and more. The Mako had absolutely no difficulty reproducing what I expected to hear throughout the different phases of the song. It was especially impressive during the thundering drums and bass that slowly lead back into the orchestra near the end. This part has tripped up many speakers and headphones I have tested over the years, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Razer Mako delivered the rapid-fire low notes.

Another song I like to use for testing is the opening sequence to Korn’s ‘Got the Life’. This portion of the song really puts the pressure on audio systems to handle rapid fire bass, guitar and vocals at the same time. Not to mention the hard-hitting bass sequence that is scattered throughout it. I have come to find that the ability to accurately hit the deep-bass notes during this song tends to separate the better quality systems from the pretenders. Once again, the Razer Mako’s subwoofer delivered a flawless rendition, delivering a deep, concise bass hit when called upon.

After hitting my usual benchmark songs, I hooked the Razer Mako up to my laptop to play through a slew of MP3 songs to test its general playback functionality. There are simply too many test songs that I used, but I can say they covered the complete music genre including (but not limited to) Folk Rock, Hard Rock, Country, Classical, Kids and even some Gangsta Rap. Never once did the Mako fail to meet my expectations.

I did want to touch on songs that use more vocals than music, as I have always had a special place in my music tastes for groups that harmonize. So I really wanted to see how this system, with all its advanced technology, would handle some of the classics of yesteryear. After listening to several songs from groups such as The Who, the Eagles and Crosby, Still and Nash, I was even more impressed. Many of these songs such as ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Desperado’ and ‘Southern Cross’ have unique underlying instruments or backing vocals that normally get lost in the mud. However, with the Razer Mako these underlying layers of the audio track were brought to life and made the songs sound as they were intended.

In order to test the audio playback for video, I watched a variety of movie trailers, TV shows and HD-DVD movies using the Razer Mako as the audio setup. Basic audio from off-air antenna and DirecTV sounded as expected. The one exception being NASCAR races on Fox HD. The Mako created a very impressive audio experience to accompany the 92” projected image of race cars screaming around the track. Fox has a “Crank it Up” segment a couple of times each race that has no commentary, just raw audio from the cameras. The Razer Mako really helped foster an illusion of sitting in the stands watching the race while delivering its omindirectional soundfield.

Overall, non-gaming audio on the Razer Mako was superb, regardless of the source or whether it was a song or audio from a video feed. The key is that never once did the sub falterer and fail to delivering clear, concise bass, something that doesn’t happen very often with 2.1 systems. I was also surprised at how well the sound filled the different rooms where testing took place. While it will never deliver ear-drum rupturing loudness, it easily generated a top-notch soundfield that hinted at a full 5.1 digital surround system. About the only true negative I could find with the audio playback was a small “dead spot” in the back of the satellite speakers where the cables connect. Basically, if you walk behind the speakers (probably a rare occurrence) there is about a four-foot window (depending on placement) where the highs do not sound a bright as when you are directly facing the fronts of the satellites. This is not a major issue, and the speakers still sounded great, but it something I could audibly detect with my ears.
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