The breadth of performance specs on the Razer Tiamat 7.1 would make some high claims indeed. The headset is positioned by the manufacturer as the first true 7.1 surround sound headset. The circumaural Razer Tiamat 7.1 deploys ten individual drivers in its headphone unit that are configured to create what is meant to be a multi-positional sound experience. There are two sub-woofer drivers, two front drivers, two center drivers, two side surround and two back surround drivers. The outer cover of the ear cups is see-through so you can peer at the drivers in plain view. There are removable ear cup covers that clip on with magnetic connectors, restoring the coolness factor for those who don’t want their drivers hanging out for all to see. Accommodating the extra drivers pushes the size of the headphones’ housing to largish proportions — something that makes me look like a silhouette of Princess Leia. But the Razer Tiamat 7.1 carries this ear-side bulkiness with a touch of panache.
There is a fully retractable microphone that pops out with ease from the left ear cup. It also has a flexible tip to position the mic more strategically during game-play so you can gauge the ideal distance for your input (screaming, yelling, imprecations, cursing) during intense bouts of game-play in the darkness of the man-cave.
The Tiamat has a leatherette padded band anchored in each end of the structural headband which cradles your head and holds the ear cups in place. I certainly appreciate this feature, as I have a largish head that remains the challenge of gaming headsets everywhere. The padded anchoring strap holds the unit firmly on my head without pinching or squeezing, and allows a measure of breathable comfort during long gaming sessions. The ear-pads have substantial padding that manages to surround your ears without the claustrophobic hugging that is the bane of gamers everywhere when ear-pads stick to your ears during moments of intense gaming bliss. The ear-pads have the roominess of other high-end headphones.
One innovation of the Razer line of headphones is the use of braided cable. It’s strong and durable, and affords less tangling than its cheaper plastic counterparts. Frankly, I think it’s the greatest addition to headsets since the breakaway cable on wired controllers. We all know the pain of untangling Escher-like clumps of plastic wires before we sit down at the console or PC.
As far as the installation of the unit, it does make it easiest for the user to have a computer that has been purchased within the last three to five years and, realistically, a PC that has installed a powerful enough sound card. Razer offers a list on their website of some popular 7.1 surround sound cards available on the market. When plugging in the audio jacks, you have to connect the five 3.5mm jacks, each of which corresponds to its respective driver. There are five 3.5mm jacks that correspond to these channels: front (green), center and sub-woofer (orange), side surround (gray), rear surround (black), and the microphone (pink). There is also a USB connector that powers the volume control panel. One cool factor is that the tri-serpent Razer logo on the lower center of the housing lights up when the power is on. Yes, they are snakes, not squid.
There are only a few PC games that support full 7.1 sound at present. My PC game of choice for testing the unit was Eve Online. Once plugged in, the snake logos light up on the ear-cups and you are now cool enough to mod your sound.
The volume control unit is sturdily made and appropriately weighted for use. Its size fits comfortably in your hand. There is a volume knob, a volume toggle switch, and three buttons: one for muting the microphone, a second for toggling between speakers and the headset, and one for switching between 7.1 and 2.0 output modes. The volume knob is a solid stainless steel knob, which you can also press to mute any audio coming through. The toggle switch is another useful, innovative feature I like. You can use it to quickly switch between the headset’s individual speakers (front, center, side, sub, rear), plus manipulate the main volume and the mic volume, adjusting each of these volume levels independently. There is an illuminated gauge around the volume knob with green tickers that light up per level, indicating each level’s particular volume setting. The speaker and headset toggle switch is an excellent addition. There’s a micro-USB port on the back of the box where you can plug in the speaker input dongle (included with the headphones). Once you plug your speakers in, you can automatically swap between headsets and speakers with the click of a button. This adds the svelte convenience of switching to speaker input to broadcast the volume through the speakers for the benefit of someone standing nearby.
The Razer Tiamat 7.1 were clearly designed as high-end PC headphones. However, to test out a compatibility theory, I did manage to hook them up to my XBOX and even a Chromebook. The sound quality was obviously of lower quality, but still surprisingly good, via connecting only the green audio jack and the USB connector.
So the question on everyone’s mind now is “how the heck do they sound?” My excursions through the dystopic expanse of Eve Online never sounded so good. The two low frequency drivers boomed the explosions of my enemies’ ships. The various sound frequencies of space stations, ship modules, rocket fire, increased thruster propulsion, not to mention the voices in my corp channel were crisp and rich in tone. The extra drivers clearly allowed each low, mid and high frequency sound to output with greater resonance.
Check out the recommended 7.1 surround sound cards you will need if you feel like taking full advantage of the Razer Tiamat‘s obviously audio rich feature set. The decision to buy a sound card is yours to make, but sooner or later, technological obsolescence will kick you that way anyway, and you’ll be forced to upgrade sooner or later. The equivalent decision would be upgrading a GPU to playing a new MMO. Most of the latest MMOs require higher-end GPUs, as the older GPUs no longer hold graphical muster when it comes to these newest games. Would it be worth it to you to buy a higher-end GPU to play your favorite game with high quality graphics (or at least, to make your favorite game’s graphics look better)?
What I will unequivocally say is that for those of you with sound cards that do currently support the 7.1 audio standard, this is a gaming headset that I would recommend. The Razer Tiamat 7.1 outputs clear, pristine audio, and wields several options for multiple-feature volume control, external speaker connectivity and a useful mute function. Most importantly for gaming, it affords the gamer a measure of ear comfort that is perhaps the biggest concern when faced with the boss battle, the raging PVP battle of the evening or just putting the finishing touches on a Minecraft dream house. We want features that augment the elements of what makes gaming such a great experience, and sound is one of them.
At $179.00, I can’t say that the Razer Tiamat 7.1 gaming headset is cheap. But its feature set and performance isn’t paltry either. They are currently out of stock, but check out their site for updates on availability. I think it will be worth the wait.
A review unit was provided to GeekDad for evaluation and testing.