Razer Hammerhead BT Headset Review #amwriting

I can’t imagine trying to get heavy writing done without a headset of some kind. I use headsets as distraction filters, hearing protectors, telephone speaking/listening devices, and occasional dictation devices. Sometimes I even use them to listen to music. I’ve reported before on how well gaming equipment suits my writing needs (The Gaming—Writing—Dictation Connection, Long, Cool Monitor). This little lurid-green-and-black beauty is my latest acquisition:

The Razer Hammerhead BT Headset

Razer Hammerhead BT Headset, $99.00 MSRP

My Summary:

Overall *****
Noise Isolation ****
Sound *****
Microphone ***
Setup ****
Comfort *****
Ease of Use ****
The (Really) Good:
  • The Razer Hammerhead BT has great sound by my standards.
    • I often attend live classical music concerts, so while I don’t insist on audiophile quality sound, I don’t care for artificially inflated bass either. This headset inflates the bass, but not enough to annoy; it only slightly inflates bass past compensating for the usual feeble bass of in-ear headsets. Otherwise, frequency response sounds pretty darn flat, which suits.
    • It sounds as good as my wired Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33iS headset with my iOS devices. The problems reported with BT headsets (lag, poor sound quality compared to wired) are not present.
    • It produces the best darn sound I’ve ever gotten out of my Mac. I’ve made the aptX codec active (see this article by John H. Darko for how) and the sparkling highs rival those of my old component stereo system. But even before I activated aptX it did as well as my A-T.
  • It does a similar job of noise isolation compared to my Audio-Technica headset. The Razer eliminates more high-pitched noise; the A-T is better on the droning low-pitched stuff (due to active noise cancellation.) (N.B. All comparisons of noise isolation were done with Comply foam eartips on each headset.)
  • The inline control unit contains the microphone, as customary. The unit is larger than usual, and easy to use. The microphone hangs naturally pointed at the user’s face. The controls works well with iOS and with MacOS.
  • It exceeds its advertised battery life of eight hours.
  • The Razer has a two year warranty! Even if there are durability issues I should be covered.
  • The flat ribbon wired connections among the components should be sturdier than the round wired connectors of my A-T.
  • Again, the machined aluminium earbud bodies should be sturdier than those made of plastic.
The Indifferent:
  • The Razer microphone. It performs well enough, but it’s neither particularly well suited nor poorly suited to dictation in noisy environments. It does OK for dictation in quiet environments. People I’ve been on voice calls with report decent call quality. I need not grab it and hold it in front of my mouth in order to be understood, as I did the A-T microphone. In short, it works well but not outstandingly so.
  • The magnetic shirt clip works well for thin fabric, but its grip is problematic on anything thicker than a t-shirt.
  • The silicone eartips are decent quality. Note that the double-flange eartips are only provided in size medium. If you have large or small ear canals, you won’t get the extra noise isolation of double-flanges with the provided eartips. (This doesn’t bother me as I replace manufacturer’s eartips with Comply foam eartips anyway.)
The Quirky:
  • Not only does the Hammerhead BT have two-tone green and black cables but also the earbuds’ logos slowly pulse with lurid green light (“breathing”) while in use. This, ah, feature can’t be turned off directly, from iOS, or from Mac. It might be controllable from Android or Windows—I have no way to check.
  • The knurled grips on the earbuds irritate some users’ ears, but I haven’t noticed any problem.
  • The provided carry case is huge for the size of the headset. Yes, it has a nice custom-moulded interior; nonetheless it’s more than twice the volume of the little case I used for my A-T headset.
  • The charging port is in the inline control rather than the transceiver/battery compartment. Strange.
Conclusions:

The Hammerhead BT delivers on low lag, noise isolation, and good sound. It should work well for mobile gaming, and it certainly serves my humble writing purposes. At $99 USD (MSRP), it’s comparable in price to the wired Audio-Technica noise-cancelling in-ear headset, and 30% less expensive than A-T’s in-ear Bluetooth model. It’s a third of the price of Bose noise-cancelling in-ear sets. With its two-year warranty, it’s a solid bargain.

A Warning About Counterfeits:

Several reviewers on Amazon report receiving counterfeit Razer headsets. The counterfeit headsets are flimsy and perform poorly. Needless to say, Razer won’t support them, and they can’t be registered for warranty. My suggestions:

  • Buy from Amazon directly—be sure that the product page says “Sold by and shipped from Amazon.com” when you buy. Avoid third-party sellers.
  • OR—Buy from Best Buy or other major brick-and-mortar retailer.
  • OR—Buy from the https://RAZER.com website.

And finally, register your warranty at http://razerzone.com/registration as soon as you receive your headset! The information you need is all on the outside of the box; you needn’t break the shrink wrap. If you can’t register it, then it’s likely counterfeit and you should return it for a refund ASAP (if you can).

ADHD, the Silver Dragon Theory of Headset Ratings, and Comply Ear Tips #amwriting

As an ADHD writer, I consider a decent level of noise isolation (or noise cancellation) plus a source of instrumental music or soothing noise (AKA “distraction filter”) essential to being able to get any writing done. I had been using my HyperX Cloud II gaming headset for this purpose. But… I lost it.

This is a mild disaster.

Don’t ask me how I lost it. The thing was huge. You’d think that I would be able to keep track of it much more easily than a pair of earbuds. But there it was—or rather, there it wasn’t. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had it out of my backpack and no one turned it in as lost-and-found in any of my usual haunts.

My old reliable Audio-Technica noise-cancelling headset (https://www.audio-technica.com)

So I’ve reverted to my old standby, the Audio-Technica QuietPoint in-ear headset (ATH-ANC33iS.) While it doesn’t have as good a mic as the HyperX, I’ve given up on dictation, anyway. Its ratings on Amazon are mediocre, but this is true for in-ear headsets in general, and I have my theory as to why.
Comply ear tips rescue almost any in-ear headset. https://www.complyfoam.com

The Silver Dragon Theory of Headset Reviews:

Almost all ear tips (the parts that actually go inside your ear) suck.

Maybe not the ones from Bose. Those appear to get almost universal praise in Amazon reviews. But all the other manufacturers (including Apple) have reviews that hinge heavily on whether the ear tips provided actually happen to fit the reviewer’s ears. If the fit is poor or the tip doesn’t seal with the ear canal, there may be tinny sound, discomfort, poor noise isolation, and the earpiece may just fall out. Thus, since on-ear or over-ear headsets have fewer fit problems, in-ear headsets have consistently poorer reviews than the same manufacturer’s outside-ear models.

For years now, I’ve just thrown away those silicone ear tips that come with most in-ear headsets, and replaced them with Comply Ear Tips. First, because they’re made from memory foam, I can get a good fit (you compress them before inserting, like foam earplugs.) Second, they do a decent job of noise isolation. Not as good as my HyperX Cloud did, but much better than those little silicone earbud donuts. Finally, I can replace them when they wear out. Even the cheapest gas station ear buds will work OK to filter distractions if I have a pair of Complies on me that will fit the buds.

That said, the old Audio-Technica headset has seen better days. The belt clip on its control and battery box has broken, and fewer devices come with wired headset connectors. So I’m thinking about its possible replacement with a noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset.

Hmm… I should find out whether anyone makes in-ear Bluetooth gaming headsets…

UPDATE: I just added the Razer Hammerhead BT to my Christmas list. Stay tuned…