Niiiiice. That's what you'd expect to say trying out a premium set of audiophile-quality headphones, especially when they're priced at $299.00. Razer's Kraken Forged Edition music and gaming headphones are certainly nice in both form and function.
But are they $299 nice? Do they have a look and sound so good that you'd be okay eating ramen for the next month?
Razer says that the Kraken Forged are hand-assembled, made out of matte-finished aircraft-grade aluminum. I believe them. The finish on these babies? Incredible. Damn, these are great-looking headphones.
The headband is soft and flexible, contrasting with back of the the ear cups, which are cool to the touch with their all-metal build. They're almost all matte aluminum, save for black grills and a bit of chrome trim. Even the extension band that comes out when sizing them looks nice.
The cups fold inward, making the Kraken Forged pretty portable. The padded semi-hard case holds the headphones nicely, though its design adds quite a bit of bulk. I'd carry them in a soft bag instead.
A port on the bottom of the left cup lets you change out cables, picking from the included audio-only and audio/in-line mic cable sets. As cables wear over time, having the ability to eventually replace them is always nice. The in-line mic worked nicely for a test phone call over the holidays, and it plugs in and works perfectly through the PS4 controller's mic/headphone jack. It's too bad they passed on including a splitter cable for other gaming uses, but these are inexpensive and can be purchased easily.
The Kraken Forged are pretty comfortable. I was a bit worried that their metal build would have them being too weighty in use, but I used them for hours on end during my Gran Turismo 6 review session this week, never feeling like I needed to give my head or ears a rest. You do feel that there's a fair bit of weight on your head, but between the headband and the soft, deep earcups, it's fine. Weak-necked gamers should test out a pair first, though.
The Kraken Forged Edition headphones are purely analog, which will be music to the ears of any audiophile. Their tuned 40mm neodymium drivers are putting out pure, high-quality audio, with none of the digital blues to bring them down.
I like the sound they offer up, but there's a definite emphasis on the lower frequency range. Razer says that the drivers are custom tuned, and I expect that they're geared to meet the needs of both gamers and music lovers, so a big low end makes sense. Explosions boom and ring out, and kick drums resound cleanly in the ear.
The 250-300Hz range -- where everything from bass guitars to car motor sounds resides -- is a bit thick for my tastes, though. While this tuning is perfect for cinematic action, situations where both music and sound effects overlap might have this range sounding a bit muddy.
The very high end of the frequency range (these are rated 20 – 20,000 Hz) is clean, which is nice to hear as a lot of gaming headsets can be fatiguing in this range. I suspect that some of the mid-highs are scooped out a bit, which is why some voices and dialogue sat back in the mix a bit.
I personally prefer a flatter response for my headphones, but I think most gamers will dig how explosive the sound can be with this set's pronounced low end. Know that the low end is clean and impressive, thanks to the quality drivers Razer uses.
So, are the Kraken Forged Edition headphones worth $299? They could be for the right person. I thought they sounded great with drum-heavy music, and they impressed when the big explosions and car crashes hit in games. But if Razer was aiming at the audiophile audience, its over-emphasis on the low end and its scooping out of the high-mids seems like an odd move. Music that uses the full frequency spectrum, like orchestral music, sounded a bit less impressive to my ears.
I think they're a better fit for the gamer that wants a really, really nice, well-made set of headphones. But, even then there's only so far you'll get with the audio and in-line mic cabling. If you're okay with that, the Kraken Forged are beautifully made, and their sound is full and immersive. If you play a lot of action or shooter games, and listen to a lot of hip hop or rap, you might really dig these.
reviewed by Dale North