Razer ManO’War 7.1 Surround Sound Headset Review
When talking headphones, Razer are probably most well known for their ‘Kraken’ line. While that line has recently received an update with the Kraken V2 line, Razer have just introduced a new product that sits above the Kraken, and somewhat alongside the top-of-the-line Tiamat.
The ManO’War comes in a couple of variations – most notably with a wireless version that sits at AU $329.95, and features 7.1 Surround Sound. The wired version, which is the unit I reviewed, is a little more affordable, at AU $204.95, although do you miss out on the cool Chroma lighting the wireless version shows off. Then again, you’ve got it strapped to your head, so you aren’t going to be seeing the lighting effects anyway.
The unit itself is very comfortable, and very flexible. The frame appears to be all plastic, with padding along the top, which stretches very easily to fit snugly around your dome. The material is strong, but it does tend to rattle a bit when holding the ManO’War freely – as the cups and frame move a little settle. However, it’s very steady when it’s actually on your head (if squeaky when you adjust yourself, as air escapes), and the closed ear cups themselves are very comfy too, with a generous amount of padding that blocks out most outside noise too.
The ManO’War ends with a 3.5mm audio jack, but also comes with a small USB dongle that can connect it to PC and Mac for 7.1 surround sound gaming. Out of the box, on PC the headset’s audio is impressive, if a little flat. While sound is crisp and clear, there isn’t a lot of punch to effects like gunfire or explosions when playing a game like Call of Duty. However, this all changes with a little tweaking in the excellent included Razer Synapse software.
Synapse is a calibration and EQ tool that runs as a background process on your computer, and it has a range of tools including a simple bass boost and sound normalizer. Simply turning on the bass booster provides a noticeable bump to gaming effects, but where you’ll really want to play around is in the EQ, which has separate sliders for each frequency block, ranging from 125Hz to 16kHz. Spending a little bit of time here separating out the channels provides immense benefits, and transforms the audio entirely, making it more dynamic. Properly equalized, the ManO’War certainly provides excellent audio on PC, whether for music, gaming or video.
I do have to say, however, as good as Synapse is, don’t feel compelled to redeem the free ‘Surround Pro’ software that Synapse prompts you to download. It’s a tool meant to create virtual surround sound for ordinary speakers or headphones – however, it became something of a gremlin on my system, constantly wanting to switch to its own driver, rather than my speaker output or my headphones. Given that the ManO’War has its own 7.1 surround built in, it’s incompatible with the software anyway, so save yourself the headache and stick with Synapse.
Speaking of, the 7.1 surround advertised works reasonably well, about as well as any other surround sound headset I’ve tried. In my opinion the technology isn’t going to be able to match a true surround sound speaker system in a proper home theatre, but the ManO’War does try its best to create a good sense of position. A calibration tool in Synapse lets you fine tune where each direction of sound comes from, although some directions still seem to blend together a little bit. Still, forgetting how many directions you’re meant to be hearing sound from, it’s more than enough to tell where an enemy is shooting you from in an action game, or where a voice is located in a room.
The headset comes with a discrete microphone that pulls out of your left ear cup like a little worm in the poking its head out in the early morning. It’s also bendable, and is surprisingly high quality, given its small size, impressive in voice chat and even just general voice recording as well. Synapse includes some settings to reduce ambient noise, but it’s hardly ever needed.
Compared to its wireless counterpart, the standard wired Razer ManO’War 7.1 seems like a great deal. While you lose out on LED lighting and wireless connectivity, the headset becomes extremely versatile, providing great results whether you’re on PC, console, mobile or even doing basic audio monitoring. Properly equalized on PC with Synapse, you can get some really impressive results from this headset, but even without that it’s still a great option for consoles with something like the PlayStation VR. If you’re after something a little meatier than the Razer Kraken, and don’t have an extra $100 burning a hole in your pocket, the wired Razer ManO’War 7.1 headset is certainly an attractive option.