Earlier this year, Razer, a brand synonymous with gaming accessories, proved its hardware isn’t just for gamers when it introduced its Opus wireless headphones that offered a Sony-like experience for just $330. As a follow-up, the company is updating its Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds with a new Pro version that introduces noise cancelling for $US200 ($269), making them slightly cheaper than Apple’s AirPods Pro.
Most of Razer’s gamer-focused hardware has a design that’s very specific to the company; it’s easy to spot when someone’s using a Razer mouse or wearing a pair of Razer’s esports headphones. For its products targeted at a wider consumer base, specifically headphones, the company instead appears to draw design inspiration from its competition — which isn’t a bad thing. Its Opus wireless headphones look like a long lost twin of Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones, and its original Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds feature the extended stem design first introduced on the original Apple AirPods.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Australian pricing and availability.
Razer’s new Hammerhead True Wireless Pro earbuds will undoubtedly be compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro, but the design is less curvy than Apple’s earbuds and quite a bit larger. As a result, the Hammerhead True Wireless Pros don’t quite tuck away and disappear into your ears like the AirPods Pro do, but their larger size facilitates one key advantage: larger drivers.
The original Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds featured 13-millimetre drivers (the moving part of the tiny speaker inside headphones that pushes the air and actually generates sound waves) that were absolutely huge by earbud standards — even larger than the 12-millimetre drivers Sony included in its WF-XB700 wireless earbuds. For its new Hammerhead True Wireless Pro Razer has reduced the size of the drivers to 10-millimetres (presumably to accommodate the extra tech and battery drain of active noise cancelling) but that’s still considerably larger than the drivers Apple uses in the AirPods Pro, and the difference in sound quality is dramatic.
Everything I listened to through the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pros had more thump and presence than wireless earbuds from Jabra, Klipsch, and even Sony were able to deliver (although the WF-XB700 still provide the most thump for your buck) and when switching back and forth between these and the AirPods Pro, the vastly improved bass performance was the thing that stuck out the most. The Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pros were also louder than most of the wireless earbuds I’ve tested, thanks to those larger drivers, which will help prevent the world around you from drowning out your music or podcast.
That’s also why Razer has introduced active noise cancelling on the Hammerhead True Wireless Pros using both an internal and external mic on each bud to pick up sounds from the surrounding environment and unwanted sounds that happen to make it into the wearer’s ear canal. It’s quite good, as far as active noise cancelling performance on earbuds goes, but I’d have to say that the ANC in Apple’s AirPods Pro is just a little bit better. But unless you spend most of your days on a plane, I don’t think the difference in performance is enough to justify the extra $US50 ($67) for the AirPods Pro.
Razer also deserves bonus points for the assortment of earbud tips it includes with the Hammerhead True Wireless Pros. They offer better sound isolation (and passive noise blocking) than the previous version by the nature of their in-ear design, and to ensure the optimal fit, Razer offers three different ear tip options. Small, medium, and large versions of both its SmoothComfort silicone tips (which are smoother supposedly making them more comfortable to wear for longer durations) and its SecureSeal silicone tips (which are more textured and tacky to improve grip and help keep the earbuds in your ears when you’re active). Razer also includes a medium-sized pair of Comply’s memory foam tips that expand when inserted into the ear for the best possible fit. It’s nice to see a company including foam tips with its earbuds and making consumers aware of the alternatives to silicone tips which are often uncomfortable, even if Comply’s tips do need to be replaced every few months.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski / Gizmodo, In-House Art
The Hammerhead True Wireless Pro’s charging case is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s pocketable, uses magnets to keep everything closed and held in place, and offers four additional charges.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski / Gizmodo, In-House Art
The charging case doesn’t have wireless charging, however, just a single USB-C port for power.
Razer isn’t going to win any innovation awards for the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro’s vertical-loading charging case that expands the earbuds’ battery life from four hours to 20 hours with four full additional charges. It’s a little larger and thicker than the AirPods Pro charging case without the convenience of wireless charging — just a USB-C port to plug into. But it’s very pocketable, keeps everything in place and closed with magnets, and does basically what it’s supposed to do with minimal branding aside from “RAZER” etched onto the lid.
Where Razer’s Hammerhead True Wireless Pro earbuds get especially appealing as an alternative to the competition is on the software side. One of my biggest complaints with the Razer Opus headphones has been resolved with Razer’s new wireless earbuds. In addition to five equaliser presets to choose from in the accompanying iOS/Android mobile app (including a preset tuned by THX that sounds fantastic) users can create their own custom EQ preset which can be beneficial for those dealing with hearing loss who prefer to boost certain frequency ranges.
The robust app includes other customizability features too, like the ability to remap what shortcuts are activated when tapping or long-pressing on the earbuds themselves. I often find myself accidentally pausing my music when simply trying to adjust an earbud in my ear, so being able to deactivate the single-tap shortcut completely is a welcome feature. As accompanying apps go, there’s not much else I’d actually ask for here.
Given Razer’s pedigree is gaming, its new Hammerhead True Wireless Pro earbuds have one other interesting feature: a ‘Gaming Mode’ which promises to reduce latency between what’s happening on-screen and the accompanying wirelessly broadcasted audio to just 60-milliseconds. According to a Razer spokesperson, instead of reducing the bandwidth and quality of audio being transmitted to achieve this, the ‘Gaming Mode’ instead “…prioritises the power to the Bluetooth chip, much like overclocking a CPU, in a manner of speaking. That said, there is a slight increase in battery consumption in this mode, so for maximum battery life we give the user the option of turning it off.”
The performance and price point of Razer’s Opus headphones genuinely surprised me, and I’m equally impressed by the company’s new Hammerhead True Wireless Pro earbuds. Lots of companies are jumping into the wireless earbud market with products that are only really differentiated by the corporate logo on the buds. But Razer has clearly done a lot to differentiate its new Hammerhead True Wireless Pros and to make them a compelling alternative to the more popular solutions already out there. If you’re hell bent on buying wireless earbuds with ANC, these would be $US200 ($269) very well spent.