Razer’s $99 BlackShark V2 wired gaming headset features THX spatial audio

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Razer is launching two models of the BlackShark V2 wired gaming headset today, following up on the original model that was released all the way back in 2012. Of these two models, the $99.99 BlackShark V2 (pictured above) has more features, while the $59.99 BlackShark V2 X is a little stripped down by comparison. Importantly, both feature an excellent tactile knob for adjusting the volume on the left ear cup, cross-compatibility with PC and consoles via their 3.5mm cable, as well as generous sizing options (in case you have a larger-than-usual head). They also both have a mute button to make it easy to cut off comms with your team.

What drives up the cost in the more expensive version mostly comes down to the included USB sound card that snaps onto the end of the headset’s 3.5mm cable. Once attached, the sound card provides some extra smarts for the headset, letting you adjust the microphone’s equalizer to tune your voice to how you want it. It also lets you adjust the EQ settings in Razer’s Synapse 3 software and makes THX’s spatial audio integration possible, broadening Razer’s lineup of headsets that support the feature. Razer told me that the sound card won’t be available for purchase separately at launch.

Razer claims that the BlackShark V2 goes “beyond 7.1” in terms of delivering an all-encompassing sound. I wouldn’t go that far, but I noticed after testing it in a few games that it definitely adds depth to the sound and makes pinpointing an enemy much easier.

Making their debut in time for the premium headset’s launch are THX game-specific profiles that, developed in partnership with developers and enabled by the USB sound card, use spatial audio in a unique way that’s fitting to the game. For example, in Apex Legends, you can use THX spatial audio to deliver a more lifelike experience that draws out every detail, or you can flip into a competitive mode that Razer says affords you the “unfair advantage” of having a headset that can filter out sounds that aren’t essential to competitive play.

More than a dozen games will be supported by this feature at launch on August 6th, including Destiny 2, Valorant, Doom Eternal, Call of Duty: Warzone, Half-Life: Alyx, Metro Exodus, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more. Razer says it will add spatial audio profiles for popular games moving forward.

Razer USB sound card

Razer’s USB sound card isn’t anything special, but it’s the piece of the equation that enables some extra features. It’s only available packaged in the $99.99 BlackShark V2.

There are a few other differences between the two headsets, aside from the THX-enabled features detailed above. The more expensive version features soft, breathable ear pads that do a good job of isolating the sound, while the entry-level model has leather-like ear cups. I haven’t tested those, but it’s possible they might get a little toasty during the summer months.

Razer BlackShark V2 X

The more budget-friendly $59.99 BlackShark V2 X doesn’t include the sound card. Its leather-like material on the ear pads doesn’t seem as comfortable for extended use, and its microphone isn’t removable.

The adjustable, noise-canceling cardioid microphone is the same across both models, though it’s only removable on the $99.99 headset. Razer uses its new “TriForce” 50mm drivers in both, with a patented design that delegates low-, medium-, and high-frequency sound to its own section of the driver — the idea being that this will prevent any part of the soundscape from being muddled. Sound performance should be similar, though Razer says the high-end option has titanium-coated drivers to deliver more clarity and less distortion.

I haven’t tested the cheaper V2 X, so I can’t offer a fair comparison, but the main V2 headset delivers a crisp sound that’s enjoyable for music and games alike. Adding to that, in the games that I tested using the spatial audio, like No Man’s Sky and Red Dead Redemption 2, it definitely makes a difference versus listening with the standard audio profile. The quality of the spatial audio and audio performance in general isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it’s certainly nice to have in a $99.99 package.

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