Razer Barracuda Pro Review – IGN

In the realm of gaming headsets, many of the best options are wireless as they bring the freedom of being cable-free along with a host of premium features. They tend to cost a good deal more than wired headphones though, and the Razer Barracuda Pro is another pair aiming to sit at the top of that stack, with loads of capabilities and a $250 price. But Razer might be trying to do too much to still stick the landing in every department. Let’s get a closer look at how it holds up.

Razer Barracuda Pro – Photos

Razer Barracuda Pro – Design and Features

The Razer Barracuda Pro doesn’t look much like the wireless gaming headsets it competes with, and that’s largely because Razer positions it as a dual-role headset: gaming and lifestyle. It comes with a more subdued design with no splashy colors or gaudy flourishes. In fact, almost every inch of the headset is pitch black save for the little green indicator on the mic mute switch.

One thing the headphones ditch in their aim to fit as a lifestyle headset is the boom mic – typically a tried-and-true staple on most gaming headsets. Instead, the Barracuda Pro uses dual beamforming microphones that aim to replicate the quality of a boom mic, but largely fail to do so (more on that later).

The headset supports Bluetooth 5.2 in addition to a dedicated HyperSpeed Wireless connection using an L-shaped USB-C dongle that’s compatible with PC, PlayStation, and some mobile devices (though my experience was shaky on a Samsung Galaxy S20). Compared to the $99 Barracuda X (recently updated) and $159 Barracuda, the Pro’s key differences are “Bio-Cellulose” 50mm speaker drivers and Hybrid Active Noise Canceling, the latter of which actually puts it into interesting competition with the best of the noise canceling headphone market, as it undercuts two of the most popular models there in price. The mics can also offer pass-through mode, which is handy for hearing surroundings without removing the headphones.

There’s a button on the right earcup, called the SmartSwitch button, which can switch between Bluetooth and HyperSpeed Wireless with a double tap. The button also cycles through ambient sound modes. With the initial firmware, the SmartSwitch didn’t always work for switching back to HyperSpeed Wireless, and there’s a slight delay when it does work. The latest firmware update fixed the switching issue, though not the speed, but that also requires using Razer’s Synapse software. Useful as it may be, Razer’s SmartSwitch feature doesn’t stack up to the simultaneous Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connectivity available on a great many SteelSeries headsets, like the new Arctis Nova Pro Wireless and earlier Arctis 9.

Considering the price, it’s no surprise Razer is also offering some blend of spatial audio support with the headphones. Unfortunately, it’s THX Spatial Audio, which is only accessible through Razer’s own software on PC – and also requires a user login.

The headphones offer a commendable 40-hour battery life, outdoing the many headphones that tend to stick around 20 hours. When the battery gets low, the lack of a wired connection can put you in a pickle. I had it getting low while I was in a meeting and couldn’t swap out to charge with the one USB-C connection on my laptop because then I wouldn’t have an audio connection, and Bluetooth is just never reliable enough as a backup. Once the battery gets to around 20%, the headphones say “low battery” every three minutes, which is hugely obnoxious, especially given that 20% battery should amount to another 8 hours of battery life.

That battery may be part of the reason these headphones are on the heavy side at 340 grams. The clamping force does a good job keeping them held in place, and the yolks have enough movement in them to get a good angle around the ears. But the memory foam in the ear cups and headband is pitifully low-density, not providing much comfort nor confidence in their longevity.

Razer Barracuda Pro – Software

Razer Synapse provides some key tools for the Barracuda Pro headphones. It will even try to install when you first connect the USB dongle. If storage space is tight on your computer, be aware that it takes up over 500MB. The key tool is the ability to upgrade the headphones and dongle firmware. Beyond that, the software enables custom equalizers, mic volume and sidetone adjustments, and the THX Spatial Audio setup (which will prompt a user login).

The implementation of the spatial audio is incredibly messy, though, seeming to appear in several different spots and not being consistent between them. The feature offers a test demo that all but confirmed the spatial audio was hardly worth the trouble, as it wavered between undetectable and simply not as capable as the easy-to-toggle Windows Sonic spatial audio setting.

Razer Barracuda Pro – Performance

The Razer Barracuda Pro headphones have to do a little bit of everything well, and for the most part they do. But they don’t quite do anything as well as the competition they’re up against in both the gaming and lifestyle headphone categories.

The Bio-cellulose 50mm drivers aren’t all hype. They prove quite sensitive, pumping out plenty of sound with the built-in THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier and remaining pleasingly accurate all the while. Bass kicks while crisp notes like cymbals and bells way up in the treble range still ring out clear. All the while, mids can continue to come through loud and clear. That clarity is the strongest point of the headphones, and it’s wonderfully backed up by Razer’s HyperSpeed wireless, which proves latency-free and manages to send a signal through a couple walls and about 30-feet of high-interference airspace before the signal starts to sputter.

That solid audio performance carries through in music, games, and entertainment. The soundstage is modestly wide, too, which makes the sort of spatial audio offered by games easier to tune into. I wasn’t caught off guard by enemy sounds seeming to come from the wrong areas while playing a bunch of Valorant with these headphones on.

The tune changes when turning on ANC or audio pass-through, though. ANC sucks every ounce of life out of the bass and shrinks the soundstage while the ambient mode makes for a tinny listening experience with harsher mids and treble. The ambient mode can also be a bit noisy and likes to pick up wind. It does sound transparent, but would get grating after prolonged use because of the sharper high-end. ANC is effective at drowning out some droning noises, like running fans, but it creates a much more noticeable feeling of pressure on my head than top-notch ANC headphones like Sony’s WH-1000XM4.

The audio experience is inverted when it comes to the mic. They sound good compared to the mics found on wireless earbuds, but they’re not a match for the boom mics on even budget gaming headphones. My voice feels like it’s getting picked up through a small tunnel and filtered by a computer first, and my pals on Discord confirmed this.

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