When we got wind that Razer was developing another headset that vibrates, we were skeptical, and that’s putting it lightly. Mostly due to their previous iteration of a haptic headset, the Nari, being prohibitively heavy. Razer has been known for pushing the boundaries of PC gaming peripherals with varying levels of success.
With the upcoming haptic gaming chair, it seems they are committing themselves to the integration of physical feedback in PC gaming. Many around the office were worried that a vibrating headset would be annoying. Will the Kraken V3 Pro Hypersense be a champion of innovation or irritation? Let’s get hands-on.
Razer Kraken V Pro Wireless haptic gaming headset
20 Hz – 20 kHz
Up to 44 hours (haptics and lighting off), Up to 11 hours (haptics and lighting on)
What’s in the box and setup
- Razer Kraken V3 Pro
- Wireless USB dongle
- USB Type-C to Type-A charging cable
- Detachable mic
- 3.5mm audio cable
- Product manual
- Letter from the CEO
Razer tends to scale its packaging in line with the price of the product in question, and the Kraken V3 Hypersense is no exception. The $200 price point positions this as one of Razer’s more expensive peripherals and the packaging reflects this. The headset comes ensconced in dense form-fitting foam and will dutifully protect the headset during transit.
The exterior of the box deviates very little from what we’ve seen from Razer in the past. It exhibits the trademark black and green color scheme and is covered in the customary logos and product imagery, with a list of features on the back, and the boring legal stuff on the bottom.
Setup is accomplished by plugging the 2.4GHz Dongle into a vacant USB port on your device and holding the power button on the left-hand side of the headset for a few seconds and the Kraken V3 Pro will be recognized by your PC.
Razer’s Synapse 3 software isn’t strictly speaking needed, but given the feature set of this headset, we strongly recommend it. We feel compelled to note that we experienced some bugs with the Chroma RGB sync and a couple of times Synapse 3 completely locked up, this is very fixable in software so Razer will eventually patch it, but it still put a slight damper on the setup process.
Visually speaking, the headset is practically indistinguishable from past iterations of the Kraken lineup. A mixture of matte black aluminum and plastic forms the industrial yet uninspired design. RGB is of course present here, with the trademark triple snake logo and a surrounding circle, both illuminated with 16.8m vibrant colors courtesy of Razer Chroma.
Surrounding the RGB is a pleasingly symmetrical pattern of small holes to allow air in and out, while these aren’t really open-back headphones, the increased airflow helps keep the bass powerful and the soundstage reasonably open, the sound stage is how ‘wide’ or ‘3D’ the audio feels.
There is still a little too much branding than we’d like, the aforementioned triple snake logo stays entirely visible even when the lighting is turned off, which can be a dealbreaker for those of you who like the stealthy brand-neutral look. The headband is less-egregious with a minimal and barely noticeable ‘RAZER’ brand name embossed into the faux leather. Additionally, there is a ‘HYPERSENSE’ logo pressed into the plastic housing above each earcup. However, given that it took us two days to actually notice this, it probably won’t be a make-or-break design choice for most people.
The mic is unfortunately utilitarian in design, nothing bad about it, but nothing particularly striking in design either. It does use a standard 3.5mm connection, but the port is inset into an unusually shaped hole, so replaceability might become an issue down the line when the mic eventually kicks the dust.
Impressive, but there are a few bits that could be better given the sky-high $200 price point. The cool to the touch ‘steel reinforced’ adjustment mechanism is a stand-out here as it clicks definitively between 5mm (0.19 inch) increments. Razer has deftly utilized a mixture of plastic and metal here to reach a comfortable weight of 372g (0.82lbs) while retaining a solid construction that inspires confidence in the longevity of the headset.
The included 3.5mm and USB Type-A to type-C cables are also pleasingly braided and feel robust to the touch. The charging cable would benefit from more flexibility so as to increase comfort when using the headset. The dongle is less impressive as the plastic housing feels brittle. Additionally, it extends out of the USB port to a length of 37mm (1.45 inches) so we strongly recommend using a USB port that is not outward facing to reduce the possibility of it getting knocked by an errant chair spin or drunken roommate.
The headband was essentially impervious to warping, even when we yanked and stretched it far past any reasonable extent it would be expected to endure during normal use. The mic is impressively adjustable and holds its position impressively sturdily. To conclude, the build quality is good, but not $200-good.
Razer has outfitted the Kraken V3 Pro with a plethora of squishy memory foam and soft-to-the-touch faux leather. This has resulted in a very comfortable user experience, interestingly, the contact surface of the earcups is actually fabric, while the rest remains faux leather. The back of the box claim that this is ‘for all-day comfort optimized for haptics’. The integration of fabric certainly helps the headset breathe a little easier, but we can’t imagine that it actually impacts the haptics.
With that soapbox moment over, let’s keep going. The weight of 372g (0.82lbs) is a marginal increase over the old school Kraken but we found it to be an entirely agreeable weight. When paraded around the office for people to try, none found the weight to be an issue. The clamping force is also fairly average, it neither gives you the feeling of having your head in a vice, but there is the potential for the headset to fly free at a rapid turn of the head.
Clamping force is a very subjective aspect of headset design and a tricky line to walk, so your mileage may vary. The padding on the headband is sufficient but given that the vast majority of the weight is in the earcups some extra padding to help mitigate the imbalance wouldn’t have gone amiss.
As per usual with gaming headsets, the soundscape is ok. Audiophiles will be left wanting more from the top end, and the mids are bang on average. The bass is pretty good, but without the haptic enabled, it can fall a bit flat. The haptics give a fairly realistic impression of the sensation of standing just a little too close to the subwoofer at a concert. Which is impressive and really can help immersion.
The high end is always an area in which gaming headsets struggle and it’s the most disappointing aspect of the sound profile of the Kraken V3 Pros. There’s little definition to be found here and what is there feels under-powered, verging on tinny.
If you’re an audiophile, you already know to avoid gaming headsets in favor of a decent set of headphones. The average gamer will find the audio sufficient enough, but keep a pair of actual headphones handy for sessions listening to music.
OK, we’ve reached the unique selling point of the Kraken V3 Pro, the haptic feedback. Razer has teamed up with the veteran mobile haptic feedback experts over at Lofelt to bring this concept to life. You may be familiar with the traditional vibration feedback found on controllers for decades now. It works by simply spinning an unbalanced weight to shake the housing. This is functional but lacks fidelity, so it’s nice to see it superseded in favor of a more immersive solution here. So, how do they work? It’s a very creative solution that manages to circumvent the primary issue that tends to plague haptics.
Historically, games had to be developed specifically to take advantage of the haptic technology in question. This was problematic as the technology first had to be developed, then popularized to the point that developers would be willing to spend the extra time making their games use it.
So, Razer’s solution to this limitation was to make the Kraken V3 Pro natively compatible, meaning that it needs no additional effort on the part of game developers to function. In short, Razer detects the sub-bass of any incoming audio, and depending on the specific frequency and volume, converts it to vibration in real-time.
Sub-bass is the name generally given to frequencies between 20-200Hz. This is so low that not everyone can hear it auditorially, meaning that the vibration doesn’t take the place of the sound, but adds a tactile level to a usually inaudible experience. There are a few caveats to this explanation, especially if you get into the nitty-gritty of audio science, but this is the core concept and baseline of knowledge needed to understand Razer’s Hypersense technology.
Surprising quite literally everyone in the office, it’s awesome. Low thuds and deep, booming explosions are enhanced by the physical feedback, especially if paired with a force-feedback controller as it creates a level of immersion we didn’t realize we were missing until now. Those of you who classify yourselves as bassline junkies will find the vibration invaluable, everyone else will probably find it neither hear nor there for general music listening.
PC gaming experience
A few hours of Rising Storm 2 and Apex Legends resulted in some interesting findings. The audio experience was fantastic, a particular standout was a moment in RS2 when a barrage of napalm rained down across the battlefield ahead of our position. The deep rumble of the explosion rolled from right to left and the haptic feedback mirrored this. Never have we experienced such immersion from a gaming headset.
Similarly, the echo of an RPG explosion in the distance growled as it rolled back towards the squad, with the haptics increasing in intensity as the sound found it’s way back to our position. The heightened sensation of bass reminded us strongly of the Nommo Pro speakers, albeit at a more affordable price point.
The audio and haptics combination for PC gaming is fantastic. We suspected that the lack of feedback from a mouse and keyboard might leave the experience feeling insular and one-dimensional. We were very happy to be proven wrong, as the lack of feedback from the controls didn’t affect the immersion whatsoever. For a single-player PC gaming audio upgrade, we can fully recommend the Kraken V3 Pro.
You might have noticed that we’re avoiding the subject of the mic, that’s because it was woefully disappointing. We mentioned the glitchy software experience earlier and turns out that was only the beginning. Over a few hours of gameplay connection drops were frequent and the vocal quality was sub-par according to teammates. We suspect it might be a firmware issue as a brief recording test in windows revealed that the mic picks up sound with no issues, even when the haptic feedback is going wild.
We tried in vain to mess with the mic settings in synapse but none of the changes resulted in any noticeable improvement. Given the $200 price tag, we expected better from Razer here, especially as this problem hasn’t been present on previous iterations of the Kraken headsets.
Given that reliable communication clarity is one of the crucial tenets of a headset these are very disappointing findings that tarnish our overall opinion of the Kraken V3 Pro. For a single-player experience, these are a true game-changer. If you frequently play multiplayer games and need good comms with teammates, you should look elsewhere.
Razer’s Synapse 3 has never been the most intuitive of software packages, and that really comes to light with its buggy, reluctant acceptance of the V3 Pro. As alluded to earlier, we experienced a few crashes, lock-ups, and drops in connection.
Additionally, the lack of sync with other Chroma enabled peripherals from Razer was disappointing, as was the inability to use the haptic feedback when the headset is charging is a senseless design decision.
Razer has managed to successfully continue its foray into the world of haptic headsets by providing an unparalleled physical feedback experience that is natively compatible with all audio sources if used wirelessly. The audio quality is serviceable and the haptics manages to amp it up too, and with a little EQ tweaking, the audio can be greatly improved.
The online multiplayer experience, however, is not good as the inconsistent mic quality and reliability can cause you to become a liability to your teammates, additionally, the software bugs shouldn’t be present given the price. We can only hope that the above issues are software/firmware-based and that Razer fixes them promptly.