When I think of the name Tiamat, I think of the dragon from the Dungeons and Dragons TV show. The beastly and deadly dragon was a sight to behold and was awe inspiring when I was a child. While I don’t think Razer thought of the character when naming their latest headset, the Tiamat 7.1 is a sight to behold and something to listen to being the first true 7.1 surround sound headset.
The Tiamat 7.1 is an over the head headset with many great features. For starters, it has a self adjusting strap that will fit a wide variety of head sizes. While most headsets make you manually adjust each arm, you just pull apart the headset, slide it down on your head, and you’re good to go. Each side of the strap has a retractable band that helps hold the headset in place.
Each ear cup features a generous amount of padding so you can wear them for a long time and not be bothered. I used them for a full work day and was able to get through the long period without any discomfort. With playing games, I had a very easy time wearing them and not feeling like I had some oversized headset on me. I’m not one for large ear cups, but I found the Tiamat 7.1 to be really easy on the ears.
Now, the big selling point of the Tiamat 7.1 is the surround sound and that’s accomplished by 5 individual drivers in each ear piece. One driver is for the center. Another is for the sub. You’ll have one more for the side, surround, and rear surround. Most surround sound headsets utilized a virtualized surround sound system with the help of software. Razer opted to go with physical speakers to produce surround sound just like theater setups, but in a small package. The setup should produce a more distinct surround sound, which I hope is true since i haven’t had much luck in virtual surround sound sets offering up a satisfactory experience when not in stereo mode.
The clear plastic on the outside will let you view each driver that’s in the housing or you can slap on some covers that are held on by magnets. The problem with the covers though are they don’t seem to stay on well. The magnets seem rather weak and I found myself missing a shield or two numerous times. In the end, I decided to forgo covering the clear window and went with the setup as is.
One on of the ear cups there houses a retractable mic. When not in use, it’s hidden all the way in the ear cup. Just pull it down and the mic extends into two sections. The first half is a rigid arm that offers stability to the mic. The second half features a bendable area that will let you adjust the position of the mic to be more of your liking. Let me say that I love, love, love retractable mics and Razer’s done a solid job here in this department.
The braided cable from the headset leads to a nice control unit. It’s a pretty simple unit consisting of one giant volume knob, a smaller selector knob, and three buttons. One button silences the mic, another switches it from 7.1 to stereo sound, and the final one changes the output to either the headset or external speakers.
On the control knob, you can adjust the main volume or if you are in 7.1, the various directional speaker or subwoofer. It lights up so you can easily see what level each part is. The buttons are responsive and the dial feels really solid. It’s also here where Razer has included an additional connector port so that you can use the included cable to plug in a set of external speakers. This way you can have both the headset and external speakers be plugged in and switch between the two with a simple push of a button.
Connection to your computer consists of five ⅛” plugs. Each plug has a color ring that you match up to the sound card on the back of your computer. If you just want to use it for a stereo source, just plug in the green one and you’re good to go. There is a USB plug, but that’s just to supply power to the control unit. Unfortunately, it won’t route all the sound through the USB to the Tiamat 7.1, which is a little bit of a disappointment. I would’ve loved to just plug in one cable and be done with it as well as have it be compatible with laptops as they tend not to have 5 ports for audio.
So for testing, I started out with simple music from my collection of 196k MP3s. I kept the Tiamat 7.1 in stereo mode and decided to listen have them on for the majority of my 8 hour work day to see how comfortable they would be. I’m happy to say the large, generously padded cups kept external sounds out pretty well and allowed me to keep the headphones on for the majority of the day. Sometimes with large cups, my ears would get hot or just feel uncomfortable. With the Tiamat 7.1 on, I was able to get through the day without any issues.
Let’s get to what this headset is aimed to excel at; surround sound. To make sure my computer was correctly outputting surround sound, I ran a test application that sounded off each directional speaker. The front left, right, center, and subwoofer produced great results in that I was clearly able to hear which direction they were coming from. It was only when I got to the rears that I couldn’t tell as much. Mind you, they did sound a lot better than the virtual surround sound headsets I have laying around though. The 10 separate drivers really did deliver better locational sound, but I’m still not sold on the rear surround sound.being as distinct as a speaker setup.
Sound wise, the Tiamat 7.1 did a great job in producing clear sounds in a wide range. The highs, mids, and lows sounded really well with the highs being a little quieter than I would've liked. For music listening, the Tiamat 7.1 offered great sound quality while helping drown out the rest of the world around me.
Movies also benefited from the separate drivers offering up some good spatial sound in the setup. If you have a few Blu-Rays on hand, you'll get to hear a little bit better surround sound than the virtualized headsets out there. But, don't expect it to come close to a real speaker surround setup. The rears, while audible, didn't exhibit quite the location effect that a speaker setup would, but I did feel it was better than the other surround sound headsets I did have that relied on software to mimic surround sound. Going through my various movie library from Iron Man to Captain America to the Watchmen, I thought the Tiamat 7.1 was a solid performer in all the items I viewed.
Now for games, I tried a few but I'll talk about two of my favorites: Left 4 Dead 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. All of the games I tried to see if the surround sound would be noticeable. Left 4 Dead 2 did an admirable job and even in some of the more hectic situations, I was able to hear where the zombies were coming from. In one situation, I had a Hunter growling in a room. I spun around where I was trying to see if I can get the growl to come from various directions. The front and sides worked pretty well and I was able to really tell which direction he was hiding. When I turned my back towards the Hunter, it was a little but tougher, but I knew he was behind me somewhere.
With Skyrim, the combination of music, dialogue, and game sounds really excelled with the Tiamat 7.1. Conversing with various NPCs, I rotated around and was really happy with the results of how the voices came at me. I spent some time walking around a few waterfalls just to hear the water splash based on how I was facing it. Again, when the waterfall was behind me, it was a little harder to tell. Skyrim sort of has that cinematic feel to it already, and the Tiamat 7.1 helps further enhance the game by producing really good surround sound.
Even though I had good sound experience in movies, music, and games, the fact that they had to cram so many drivers in a small amount of space reduces the overall amount of sound the headset can produce. You won't get overwhelming highs and they can sometime sound a little bit flat. But, Razer came in wanting to make a true 7.1 headset without relying on virtualization and they did just that.
The Razer Tiamat 7.1 headset is pretty expensive though, coming in at $179.99. When you factor in that it has 10 separate drivers, a retractable mic, power control unit, comfortable ear cups, and a solid build, the price seems a little more reasonable. For gamers who want surround sound in a compact package that won’t bother others around you, these are the ones that have worked the best for me so far. Razer has a solid product in the Tiamat 7.1 and if you can afford it, they are a really good performing headset to own in both stereo and surround sound.
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