Sometimes simplicity works. Gaming headsets with bells and whistles like surround sound, USB audio processors, and wireless functionality are great, but when you get down to it, the most important thing is to be able to plug in a headset and be able to hear and be heard. The Razer Kraken Pro ($79.99 direct) is the embodiment of simplicity, while still offering great sound quality and a comfortable design. It’s a nice alternative if you don’t want to pay more than twice as much for, say, our Editors’ Choice Razer Tiamat 7.1, which offers features galore including surround sound with a USB audio processor.
The Kraken is available in black or eye-burning neon green versions, the latter of which will certainly get the attention of anyone in the room. Both have black memory foam earcups and black rings on the outside of the cups, and opposite color (black for the green model, green for the black version) memory foam padding on the underside of the headband, along with a bendable arm on the boom mic.
Razer calls the Kraken Pro the most comfortable gaming headset ever, and it’s certainly up there. Its large, over-the-ear cups and memory foam padding let the headset sit securely on my head without pinching, and it’s light enough to not weigh down my head. It rivals the Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 5, and that’s one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve tested. It isn’t perfect, though. The boom mic fits in the left earcup on a bendable arm that pulls out of the cup, and when the mic is completely retracted it’s awkward to get a good grip on it to pull it out if you have large fingers. Besides that, though, it’s a very pleasant headset to wear for long gaming sessions. The ear cups fold inward to make it easier to carry, and I had no problem sticking it in my bag to take to the PAX East conference for on-the-go gaming.
This is a completely analog, direct headset, which makes setup a breeze. The 4.3-foot cable ends in a 3.5mm audio connector that lets the headset work with your smartphone or tablet, and a 6.6-foot PC adapter extends the cable to 10 feet and terminates in two 3.5mm connectors for the headphone and microphone ports on any computer. It doesn’t support surround sound and it doesn’t need a USB port to set up. Just plug it in and you’re good to go. The headset doesn’t have any volume controls, any adjustments to the headphones or microphone have to be made through the connected device. This is a slightly less convenient setup than more advanced, USB-powered headsets like the Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 5 or the Razer Tiamat 7.1, which have controls for adjusting volume and equalization either on the earcups or on an in-line remote that sits on your desk.
Like any good gaming headset, the Kraken Pro handles bass very well. In my tests, not only did its 40mm stereo drivers provide a satisfying blast of rockets and mini-gun fire in Team Fortress 2, but it handled the thumping bass notes in The Knife’s “Silent Shout” without distortion. I cranked up the volume until it was, well, painful and I didn’t hear any crackle or warping.
The boom microphone works very well and, despite being initially hard to pull out of the earcup, the bending arm lets you adjust its position easily. My voice sounded clear and crisp, though it picked up a little too much outside noise to be useful for podcasts or recording.
Besides bass, music and dialog sound good on the Kraken Pro, despite a few predictable flaws. I listened to Franz Ferdinand’s “You Could Have It So Much Better,” and the vocals, guitar riffs, and snares all came through clearly. However, the high end sounded slightly muted compared with the low end, and the drum beat and bass line were a bit more distinct than the lead guitar. This isn’t the best headset for music, but it’s primarily intended for gaming and voice chat in gaming, and at that, it works very well. You can’t reasonably expect a flat or accurate response from a midrange gaming headset, because it has different audio priorities.
The Razer Kraken Pro isn’t fancy and it doesn’t have any special features like wireless capability or surround sound, but it’s comfortable, powerful, and clear, which are the most important aspects of a gaming headset. Its analog design make it easy to set up with your computer or mobile device without installing anything, even if it doesn’t offer any inline or on-headset controls. Its $80 price tag is a little high given its simplicity, but its build and audio quality justify the cost. If you’re looking for a basic, powerful headset under $100, the Kraken Pro should be at the top of your list.
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