Once you’ve pulled it free of its little plastic prison, you begin to realise how lightweight the BlackShark really is for something that looks so sturdy. The simple but stylish design is heavily drawn from military aviation headsets and this results in a piece of hardware that looks built to last with none of the ostentatious frills common amongst Razer’s competitors. It’s almost skeletal appearance sets it apart but of course, what really matters is the quality of the material. A strong metal frame makes up the main body, padded with leatherette memory foam on the top and the ear pieces. The cans themselves are glossy black plastic which are obviously going to show up a lot of oily fingerprints over time. It’s an exceedingly minor gripe but given the solid metal look, matte black would have been much more practical and better looking to boot.
Needless to say it doesn’t feel fragile at all. In fact, the boom mic was initially so stiff I thought it was stuck in place by some over-eager Razer factory worker, but as it turns out you can apply a lot of stress to the set and it comes off without a scratch. All of the signature bright green wiring feels thick and secure within its connections, but the rubber housing on the jack and headphone connection could be longer – huge amounts of flexibility are hardly a concern when it comes to headsets you’re likely to be using for hours at a time when it could be traded off for a little more security. Most of the wiring is external, accompanied by black plastic clips to attach and support them, and these are well-fitted to the usual standard you’d expect from Razer. The connection between the set and the detachable microphone is just as sturdy but simple enough to remove – I didn’t feel like I was going to break anything when I first pulled it away, and nor does it look like the connection is going to deteriorate with use.
A huge concern with premium headsets is their weight – all that tech packed into something you want to wear on your head for several hours of shooting terrorists/aliens/zombies/My Little Ponies often results in something that’s quite heavy and unwieldy after a while. The BlackShark should definitely be considered the headset of choice for gamers on the move in that regard – their ability to transform from a premium headset into a decent pair of headphones with one twist is incredibly useful.
The headset fits snugly if you’ve adjusted it correctly and it’s comfortable enough that you can forget it’s even there after long gaming sessions. I’ve got a reasonably large head so using most headphones and headsets for me is akin to wearing a pair of medieval torture clamps on my ears. Having hardware that sits easily and securely on my giant cranium feels like a gift from above, but to have it go from that to, for example, fitting just as well on my unsuspecting tiny-head tester (AKA: Girlfriend) is a paradigm of comfort that someone at Razer must be feeling exceedingly smug about. If Razer made chairs out of BlackSharks, no-one would ever stand up again.
The BlackShark already has more than a few ingredients for greatness simmering away in Razer’s cauldron of ideas, with the lightweight, comfortable build ensuring you’ll be able to use it for hours on end without any unpleasant head-squeezing side effects. The mic adds hardly any weight to the headset and feels excellently balanced, easily adjusted to the position you need it in. I tested the audio in a variety of games and this is where the BlackShark really shines, delivering from Skyrim’s titanic score accompanying endless treks across the snow-bitten mountains, Medal of Honor’s bullet-ridden war-scapes, and BioShock’s haunting atmospherics.
What’s most important in the heat of the online arena for many gamers is sound isolation. Whether you’re an eleven year old far better at Call of Duty than you have any right to be, still playing World of Warcraft way past its prime, or attempting to co-ordinate your team in League of Legends, you want to be able to hear all the trash-talking without your mum/wife/ten thousand cats getting in the way. The BlackShark’s circumnaural design does just that, blocking outside sound with alarming efficiency – I wouldn’t recommend wearing them across a busy road. The microphone delivers the same incredible isolation and the playback is crystal sharp – you’ll hear your enemies/teammates with as much clarity as the BlackShark can deliver but you might start wishing their hardware was as up to scratch as yours is. It has a weird side-effect of making you more confident as you play – maybe it’s the fact that you’re wearing some extremely coo military-looking hardware, but the BlackShark ups your game, partly by making you feel more of a part of it.
It’s important to remember that the BlackShark is by no means primarily music hardware. The ability to use them as headphones should therefore not be judged alongside music hardware in the same price bracket – you’re not going to get the kind of response from these as you would from similarly priced Sennheisers, for example. What you get when you remove the boom mic and go mobile with them is in essence a decent pair of multimedia headphones, with the enhanced bass drivers making electro and house fare much better than rock, metal, or orchestral music which sounds a little muddy on mid and treble which don’t sparkle as much as they should. The extra bass ‘oomph’ definitely adds an epic edge to soundtracks (One of the first pieces of music I tested it with was the Lord of the Rings OST) but the option to turn it off or even equalise it into something more even would have been welcome. Regardless of genre the audio quality is decent enough, more than adequate for what should be considered a secondary function.
In addition, for a headset, the BlackShark is compatible with a hell of a lot of devices, tested on iPhones, iPads and a variety of laptops, but it seemed to struggle with a few different Android phones despite claiming to be compatible. My Xperia Arc S claimed it was an unsupported accessory even when I ran it through the audio-only splitter jack, yet it worked perfectly on the iPhone 4S and 3 with the regular audio/mic combined jack.
This is the best of the premium headset range you’re going to get without having to take out a loan or selling a kidney, with only a few minor gripes to pick at and faultless audio quality, both in terms of playback and recording, and comfortable to boot. So if you’re looking for a new headset but don’t want to break the bank, look no further – the BlackShark should be your first and only port of call.
What’s in the Box:
- The BlackShark
- Quick Start Guide
- Razerguy Note
- Razer Logo Sticker
- Microphone replacement cap
- Stereo sound with enhanced bass
- Sound-isolating circumaural ear cup design
- Detachable boom microphone for voice chat or added mobility
- Audio/mic splitter adapter cable
- Memory foam leatherette ear cushions for maximum comfort
- 40mm neodymium magnet stereo drivers
- Drivers: 40mm neodymium magnets with copper-clad aluminum voice coil
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Impedance: 29 ?
- Sensitivity @ 1KHz: 105dB ± 3 dB
- Input power: 50mW
- Cable: 1.3m rubber sheathed
- Connector: 3.5 mm audio + mic combined jack
- Frequency response: 50Hz – 16KHz
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 50dB
- Sensitivity @ 1KHz: -37 dB +/- 4dB
- Pick-up pattern: Unidirectional
- Devices with separate 3.5mm audio and mic jacks
- Devices with combined 3.5mm audio + mic combined jack (works with all portable audio/mobile/computing devices including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android phones, Razer Blade, Macbook Pro, or today’s newer Ultrabooks.)
- 1m / 3.2ft audio/mic splitter adapter extension cable included
Now go BUY the Shark http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-audio/razer-blackshark
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.