Razer Black Shark Review by Eugene Neubronner
This review is unabashedly late. Some might complain it’s very late. To you, I apologize. I’ve just been too busy using it while flying in my AH-6J Little Bird shredding tiny little infantrymen to pieces for the past month.
The Razer Blackshark is a collaboration with EA for Battlefield 3. It’s a limited edition model meant to coincide with Battlefield 3’s Premium content. It’s also an entirely new headset, but still features some of the best of Razer’s patented technology to wrap everything up nicely.
The collab means this doesn’t sport the usual Razer sleek, svelte and lick-me-I’m-sexy lines of, say, the Tiamat or other familiar Razer headphones. Instead, it’s meant to mimic the same headphones helicopter pilots use in combat. That Blacksharks are actual choppers (See here: is a bit of an “Ah-ha” moment.
Aren’t I smart?
But is it still sexy?
The Blackshark features “exposed” orange wiring everywhere, and the microphone is attached via a boom fix that’s semi-adjustable. The wiring extends over the top of the headphones and along the microphone boom, and looks easy to tangle up. Fortunately, this was never the case in our review.
The headset fits snugly and comfortably on the head, with its two leatherette ear cushions doing a stupidly good job of cancelling out noise. Outside my house they’re currently constructing a home for the aged, with piling works, buzzsaws, the whole shebang going on. Slap the Blackshark on, however, and I heard almost none of it. Crank up the volume just a little, and all I could hear were the screams of the dying. If that ain’t noise cancelling, I’m not sure I understand what the word means anymore.
We tested the game on, what else, Battlefield 3. In our tests, we tried it on Rush and Conquest – two game modes where hearing where the enemies are coming in from are of paramount importance. Despite only being 2.0 speakers the Blackshark delivered high-fidelity sound that clued us in perfectly to incoming attackers and gunfire. Explosions (And there are a lot of explosions in Battlefield 3) rocked the in-built bass and gave convincing sounds.
The microphone uses a novel new design structure. It plugs into a jack on the side of the Blackshark and then attaches itself magnetically. The length is semi-adjustable, but those who prefer flexi-adjustable mics may find it hard to get just the right angle they prefer.
Still, the mic picked up voices perfectly well. It also does a good job of noise cancelling. I tested this with a Skype call where my fan blew straight at the mic while I talked. My partner reported minimal extraneous sound pickup and my voice remained clear throughout. Impressive. Further, the Blackshark lets you swap out the microphone for a clip-on button that seals the jack and lets you use the Blackshark as a basic set of very cool looking headphones.
Finally, the Blackshark uses only one 3.5mm input jack for both its microphone and headphones. There’s no fuss, no muss and its plug-and-play compatibility makes it easy to install and play.
Unfortunately, the Blackshark has some serious issues which we had to consider. Many of them are a mix of pro and con, which made it tough for us to consider whether we should put the point here or in the positives. Ultimately, we decided to put it down here to give our readers a fairer shake.
For starters, the boom mic’s connector is a circle jack plug attached magnetically. This looks and feels cool in theory, but turned out to be very easy to dislodge. More than once I’d scratch an itch on my face, only for the mic to be nudged just a bit too much and go flying. We’re worried about the long-term usage of such a microphone attachment; sure, you won’t exactly be walking around dangerously de-magnetizing x-ray scanners and the like but eventually it’s going to naturally wear off. Duct-taping stuff in the army is one thing. It’s another to duct-tape a US$129 headset.
This flimsy construction feel also carries over to the headphone speakers themselves. While the top handle – emblazoned with the Battlefield 3 logo – is firm and solid, the cans themselves rest on a single swiveling screw each. This makes adjusting the phones to fit your head type easy and comfortable, a great plus. But they also make taking off your headphones an oft-scary experience. The minute the Blackshark leaves contact with your head, the cans swing freely. Long-term swiveling like this is likely to break connectors or worse, the screws themselves. We found that the safest way to remove the headphones was by simply pulling it by its top handle or making sure you have a firm grip of the side metal connectors.
Finally, the leatherette paddings. These memory-foam pads are, as we mentioned earlier, pretty amazing. They’re comfortable and do a great job of cancelling out noise. Unfortunately, they do such a good job about sealing your ears in that heat buildup becomes a problem. While there are two heat slits on the top of the pads to let hot air escape, there aren’t similar ones underneath (or if there are, they’re better hidden) to let cool air in.
After about an hour or so of gameplay, especially with high-octane titles, the air in the earpads gets unbearably hot. I could literally feel my ears giving me sighs of cool relief the moment I slipped the Blackshark off. You’ll want to make sure you regularly clean the leatherette pads to prevent sweat from sinking in.
So what now? It’s undeniable that the Blackshark is a solid headphone set. It picked up voices cleanly, is comfortable to wear, and can even become an on-the-go set of regular cans when needed. The problem arises when we looked at the mixed issues surrounding it, and we argued long and hard about whether such issues were really more pro or con.
In the end, this is still a limited edition, unique headset that’s different from everyone else’s. If you want to stand out from the crowd and still have a gaming grade headphone though, the Blackshark does its job and does it well.
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