Razer Barracuda HP-1 Gaming Headphones
Author: Frank Stroupe
Editor: Frank Stroupe
Date: 08-23-2006
Provided by: Razer
Pages:
Conclusion



This photo has no real significance... I just thought it was cool.

Test Rig:

AMD Athlon 64 3200 @ 2.5gHz
Abit KN8 Ultra motherboard (with onboard sound card)
XFX 6800 EXtreme 256 video card
4 x 512 Corsair XMS PC-3200 2-3-3-6
Sunbeamtech Nuuo 550 power supply



Connection of the HP-1 is pretty straightforward when using the adapter, consult the included Quickstart Guide for the color of each 5.1 connector. You also may want to consult your mobo or sound card manual. If your sound card only has stereo, the light green connector is the only one you'll use, along with the USB connector.



Next, go to the Windows control panel to change your speaker configuration, if you aren't already using 5.1 speakers. My soundcard has its own manager panel. If your's doesn't, use the Windows "Sounds and Audio Devices". Actually, I changed both, just in case.

I had an extra step, instead of the fairly crappy onboard sound, I use an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Recording Sound Card. It makes an excellent listening card, but uses RCA connectors. I had to disable it and enable the onboard sound.

Be sure to lower the volume on the headset before putting them on. I was only able to turn the volume up to 3/4 of the way. My hearing has been damaged enough, and I don't want to damage it any more than necessary.

First, I listened to some music. The first I listened to were a few songs that I had "mastered". I had used T-Racks Mastering Software to add some equalization and compression to some songs. It really didn't sound very good, and I was afraid that the HP-1 might not be a very good listening headset. But, I next listened to some MP3s that were converted straight from .WAV files, at bitrates from 128 to 360. I was floored at the clarity of the sound, especially considering the quality of the onboard sound. Even the 128 bit songs sounded great. I listened to some .wav files, and they were awesome.

But, something wasn't right. The various volume adjustments didn't work, only the "front". After a lot of frustration, reinstalling drivers, and rebooting, I realized that the 7.1 on my motherboard didn't work properly. No problem though, I go to my other rig, which is pretty much the same as the above rig, with an Abit AN8-V mobo.

Now, you're talking. The headphones already sounded great in mere stereo. The addition of real surround sound made an incredible difference. I listen to various styles of music, classic rock, jazz, classical, and blues, and the sound quality was easily comparable to studio headphones priced around the same the HP-1.

Now, personally, I don't really care for sub woofers, nor do I care for rap/hip hop. But, for you, I put them to the real test, and listened to various hip hop speaker shakers. Yes, the subs work. On some songs, they shook my rear molars. On others, they weren't terribly uncomfortable. I really didn't feel that the subs were enough to damage my hearing very much, so keep that in mind if you are looking for headphone subs to compare with a competition auto sound system. That isn't the purpose of the HP-1s as they are primarily for gaming. So, let's do some.



I first played some Battlefield 2, a modern combat FPS. There is action usually happening all around you, and the HP-1 gives full coverage and clarity around the entire 360 degrees. Explosions sound like explosions. Gunfire doesn't really sound that realistic, but that is the game, not the headphones. I used the mic both with the in-game VOIP, and with X-Fire, and it worked very well, though I did have to turn down the sensitivity quite a bit. The mic is much more sensitive than the cheap gaming headset I have been using.



Next, I played America's Army, a Counter Strike-type FPS sponsored by the US Army. It is a pretty good game, especially considering it is totally free. The programmers of this game purposely made gunfire sound very realistic, and sounds a little too realistic over the HP-1. I went to the M-16 qualification range, and the gunfire sounded so realistic I swear I could smell the gunpowder, flashbacks from my own United States Army experience in an earlier life.

At another training session, I turned my back to the instructor while he was speaking. Wow, he was really talking to my back.

Gameplay is usually fast and furious, and you can easily get whacked by someone creeping up behind you. I felt like the HP-1 definitely gave me an edge. I could tell exactly where footsteps were coming from, and the clarity picked up lower level sounds that I might not have heard over speakers or lower quality headphones. I still got killed, but at least I knew it was coming.

The sound quality of the HP-1 was so impressive, I really saw no need to continue with other games.

Conclusions:


The Razer Barracuda HP-1 is an impressive set of headphones, with sound quality rivaling higher quality studio headphones. With the sound I got from my AC'97 onboard, I can only imagine the sound quality when coupled with the Barracuda AC-1 sound card, or other high quality gaming card. Hopefully, Razer will allow me to bring you a report of the full Barracuda system soon.

The build quality of the HP-1 is not touched by any gaming headphones that I have personally seen. They are very sturdy, using high impact plastic and aluminum. The earpieces are so comfortable, you nearly forget you have them on. The head pad is probably more comfortable than any high quality studio headset I have worn.

The only suggestion I could possibly think of for the HP-1 is Razer offering replacement earpads and microphones, and maybe include some kind of carrying bag or case.

Though, you do pay for this quality. Not yet available from online retailers, Razer offers the HP-1 on their site for $129.99. If your $25 Logitech headset suits you well, then maybe you aren't ready for something like the HP-1. But, if you take gaming seriously, maybe it's time for you to step up to the Barracuda.



Razer's HP-1 earns the OCIA.net seal of approval.

Thanks to Razer for providing this review item.


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