They’re Kinda Awesome! Razer OPUS Headphones Review
You probably recognize Razer because of their gaming mice, their gaming headsets, and of course the Razer blades, but now they are venturing out into lifestyle audio. This is the Razer Opus ANC wireless headset and it’s pretty damn good, which is good since it is going against the Sony WH-1000XM3, the various Bose offerings, the Microsoft options, and the Sennheiser options.
Design & Price
This product is Razer’s way of trying to cater to their maturing fan base and they are doing a really good job since aside from the Razer text on the sides there is nothing else about the design that is Razer related. It doesn’t even come in green, only midnight blue and black, but I like this design separation between the lifestyle and gaming products. However, the big question is whether these headphones are actually good? Let’s find out.
The first thing I want to get out of the way is the price. At $199 USD I think it is quite competitive compared to the Sony flagships or Bose offerings, while still looking super stylish and part of the pack too. The midnight blue has just enough colour, and the lack of any additional branding I think is intentional as to not distract from the three very important letters (THX) on the side that give meaning to the sound properties of the Opus. This THX certification means you technically don’t get bad audio, the 40mm drivers are tuned to not have any distortion at high volumes and generally are supposed to sound neutral, balanced, and pure. More on the sound later, but yeah it’s good. Despite Razer’s affiliation with THX – as they own them – we are told there is no influence in the certification process and we will trust them.
Accessories & Features
Some value-added goodies include a short USB Type-C cable with a USB Type-A adapter, a headphone cable for wired listening, an airplane adapter which I appreciate, and a pretty decent carry pouch with a middle divider for accessories, but with a really awkward fit that requires an unnatural fold. Now comfort wise the headphone is light enough to simply disappear on your head, with perfect clamping force and beautiful soft ear cushions. I find the Opus insanely comfortable and a much better travel companion than my Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones. They fold into a really compact package too. The ear cups swivel inwards for a nice low profile fit around the neck. Really nothing is compromised and all the attention was given for maximum comfort, which I appreciate. Even the internal padding has some depth to smooth out any potential contact with the driver underneath, and they are also perfectly fine to wear with glasses.
The controls are well laid out with raised volume and multifunction buttons on the right side that they are easy to find. On the left side we have the ANC and ambient mode switch, a power button, the 3.5mm audio port, and USB Type-C for charging. It takes 4 hours to fully charge this device and battery life with ANC enabled is around 25 hours, which I would say is perfectly acceptable. If you disable noise cancellation you get about an extra hour of runtime, but you are buying this for the ANC anyway, so keep it on.
The crappy thing here with the battery is that there is no way to tell exactly how much battery you have left, neither in the app as the battery icon doesn’t show the percentage, and the power LED on the headphones is either green for fully charged or red when battery is low. It is honestly quite frustrating to not have a precise battery indicator on a pair of wireless headphones that you are most likely taking with you to travel. Whereas on my Sennheiser pair you click it 3 times and it actually announces how many hours of playback you have left. Now if you are running Android you get an actual percentage indicator in the Bluetooth settings, which is awesome, but it doesn’t exactly align to what I get in my iOS battery status in the actual application so I’m not exactly sure how accurate that battery reading is.
Fantastic Noise Cancellation
Finally let’s talk audio quality and noise cancellation. Their whole slogan about “forget the noise” is 100% accurate. Razer is using hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC), meaning there are two external and two internal microphones that work together to eliminate ambient noise. The ear cups also have such good passive noise isolation, so the end result is a complete blackout of world audio as you listen to your music.
With noise cancellation enabled and volume at about 50% I cannot hear my finger snaps, which is pretty impressive. It’s a bizarre feeling, but also one that leaves me satisfied, especially when I need noise cancellation for when I’m traveling somewhere or just need to blackout and listen to music while outdoors. I have experienced a virtual flight with these and the cabin sounds a lot more muted than my Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, which is nice. I do appreciate that we have the ANC toggle on or off in case you don’t want to use it, and when it is enabled it’s a smooth curve instead of a sharp activation. There are also very faint audio cues when it is enabled and disabled, and aside from the audio you cannot actually tell when ANC is enabled, there is no light indicator nor any mention in the app.
You can also enable ambient mode by pressing and holding the NC Ambient switch and this activates the microphones on the outside so you can hear your ambient environment. You no longer have to lift up one ear cup to hear your surroundings, you can simply hold the button and everything around you is audible just like as if you were not wearing the headphones. And probably my favorite feature is the proximity sensors inside each ear cup that have auto pause and play functionality. For example, if you have music playing and you lift one ear cup, it will pause the music. It’s pretty instantaneous, you don’t have to wait for it to activate. When you put it on your neck that also does the same thing, and when you put them back on your head the music starts to play back and that is all automatic without a need to actually click on the headphone or on your smartphone. This feature is actually app specific, so it works with YouTube, Spotify, all the major music apps as well. I haven’t experienced any issues with this feature so far.
EQ Presets & Opus App/span>
Now we know that comfort is good, ANC is fantastic, but what about that highly claimed THX certification? Well it doesn’t disappoint, it has plenty of power at 100% volume. In fact, it’s a bit more than I’m comfortable with, I like about 70% to 80%. The balance and the THX sound profile sounds excellent, with good amount of detail and forward presentation. The bass is a bit too neutral for my taste, but I would still categorize it as a fun headphone sound signature. I will say that my Sennheiser pair have a more full body approach to the sound, with deeper bass and more texture on the high end. However, enabling the amplified preset in the app gives me the sound signature that I prefer with warmer base and overall more character.
For the last point, I’m a bit conflicted about the actual Opus app. For example, you cannot create your own EQ presets, you can only change them through the app and not with a button combination on the headphone. This is too bad because all other presets actually sound pretty terrible. It almost feels intentional so that they lock you into the THX or the amplified preset that sound much better than the rest, but why? The vocal boost for example sounds like you are enabling surround sound, the bass boost is just like this mud bath, and the clarity preset moves everything back with a slight expansion in the soundstage, but again why? We are told that they are still tweaking the profiles and making them better, but they clearly sound nerfed. The THX preset is the way to go.
The internal microphone on the Razer Opus is barely acceptable for phone calls, but it is overall quite disappointing. It sounds quite distant and in a busy loud street I think your voice would just get drowned out, so keep that in mind. This microphone, the app features, and the presets are clearly the weak points for the Opus as literally everything else is well designed and executed. They are extremely comfortable, foldable, there is a USB Type-C port, noise cancellation is scary good, battery life should survive for a while although it sucks we don’t have a precise battery indicator, and they sound like a good $200 ANC headphone. I’m excited to see this lifestyle category grow with Razer and I hope you are too.