It’s one of those constant battles that never seems to come to an end.
“Moooommmmm! I can’t hear my Xbox with the washer and dryer running!!” is often the first volley, but it’s also common for a preemptive “Can you turn that racket DOWN!” cruise missile to encroach the borders of the teenaged-daughter’s fiefdom. In either case a noisy battle erupts and poor old Dad is stuck in No Man’s Land, wishing that they’d BOTH shut up.
As is often the case, war breeds novel technological solutions that can give one side a compelling enough advantage to end the conflict. As is less often the case, the technological solution also benefits everyone else, including the poor non-combatants that are paying a high price as collateral damage. In the case of the Xbox 360, relief to this beleaguered parent came in the form of the Chimaera wireless gaming headset from Razer.
The Chimaera provides up to 12 hours of blissful peace and quiet (sort of) between charges while the Xbox player is ensconced in well-padded, circumaural (full-size, covering the entire ear) headsets that go to great measures in blocking out the irritating sounds of parents laboring to provide a healthy and comfortable residence for their non-revenue producing and unflinchingly ungrateful offspring. The 50mm Neodymium rare-earth magnets provide more than enough eardrum shattering force to ensure that the “resident” can plausibly pretend to not have heard parental directives such as “be home by midnight” and “don’t forget to make your bed.” Oddly enough, neither the padded headset nor the powerful Neodymium rare-earth magnets are efficacious enough to hide the sound of popcorn popping in the ‘wave; you’ll still have to pay your tithe to their never sated appetites.
Yes, I said “sort of” when I mentioned the hours of peace and quiet you will enjoy once you have the little leech’s head is stuffed into a pair of big, fat headsets. The problem is, of course, that the Chimaera headset also has a nifty little boom microphone through which your little Patton can shout commands to his or her online troops. Ahhh, I’m sure some day I will look back nostalgically at those relaxing nights curled up in an armchair reading “Infanticide for Dummies” as the sounds of “GO GET THE GAS CAN, YOU IDIOT!” washed over me in a soothing caress. It’s funny, in a way; she still believes that the Left 4 Dead 2 disk was accidentally damaged in a console fall-over incident that I managed to get blamed on the dog. In any event, there’s still a lot of shouting going on, but it’s better than before when all of the game sounds were amplified well beyond the saturation level of the TV speakers and I had to endure the cacophony of both zombies screaming and noises from the game itself..
So, at this point we’ve determined that a gaming headset is a great thing to have, but have we also determined that the Razer Chimaera is a great gaming headset? Well, no. At a list price of almost $130, the Chimeara finds itself trying to find a niche in a very crowded market. There are a lot of options out there for that price (or a lot less) that offer roughly the same capabilities. Without an extensive side-by-side comparison, though, it is impossible to provide any meaningful comparison between them. Instead, I will discuss a few subjective observations arising from a few hours of using the Chimeara headset and watching it being used by a teenaged gamer.
First, the wireless is nice, but it’s not completely wireless. You still have to use a cable to connect the microphone to the Xbox controller. While this wasn’t as limiting as a cable running all the way to the console, it was still mildly inconvenient to deal with. I also had a little trouble with the initial synchronization with the console, but that was mostly due to the cartoon-ish directions provided. Use your words, people! That what we have ‘em for. The sound quality was very good, but the teenager complained that having the game sounds mixed in with the chat from her co-players made it hard to hear both. I figure that’s just the nature of the circumaural beast; if you want a one ear headset, get one of those instead.
Another complaint that we both had was that the headset seemed to squeeze harder above our ears and not much at all below. It didn’t take long for them to become uncomfortable. After a series of adjustments, it was possible to spread the side-of-head pressure around a little better, but that resulted in a large top-of-head-to-headset gap that allowed the headsets to slip down. It’s certainly possible that we are a family with some rare form of genetic head-shape disorder, but it would be a good idea to try a pair of these on before buying them, if at all possible.
The overall feel of the headsets is very plasticy; they really don’t exude an aura of high quality when being handled. The control buttons feel mushy and don’t offer a nice tactile feel when pressed. On the plus side, the microphone swivels nicely up into a recessed storage area molded into the left headset cup when not in use.
Recharging the headset is accomplished by resting it atop the included charging stand. This is a quick and easy way to ensure that the headset is routinely being charged when not in use. The stand is attractive, but requires a good deal of space on a horizontal surface.
At the end of the day, a decision as to which headset is right for you is as subjective as whether or not you consider any given brand of pizza to be good. Too much depends on personal taste when it comes to fit, sound quality, and cost. To be sure, it is highly recommended that you sample as many different models as possible. The Razer Chimaera certainly does everything that Razer says it will, but it probably isn’t for everybody. I would have preferred something lighter and with a more comfortable fit, but the sound quality was more than adequate.