Razer has built a solid reputation for itself over the last few years as a purveyor of high-end gaming gadgets. Opening the box to the new Tiamat headphones suggests that they've got another hit on their hands; we can't remember ever being so impressed by a product's packaging, and that includes Apple's fancy boxes. This is one sexy package, with a thick cardboard box that opens into various sections, sealed by a magnetic flap.
The headphones themselves are almost as impressive, with slick, transparent panels showing off the five drivers crammed into each cup. The headband uses a similar set-up as the Audio Technica products, but uses a floating band instead of paddles. There's no way to adjust the length, but the band stretches to ensure a solid fit. Once again, circumaural ear cups have been used, and they're relatively small, ensuring a snug fit. The vinyl cushioning is nice and soft to the touch, but can get a little moist. The left cup hides a retractable microphone, while the lengthy cable is home to the amplification unit. This can be used to adjust the overall volume, as well as each individual channel — front, back, side, centre and subwoofer. It's all rather impressive.
If only the audio quality was good, too. The problem is that the drivers are the most expensive component in a quality set of headphones. For example, an AU$200 pair of headphones will probably have a pair of AU$40 drivers. When you try to squeeze five times as many drivers into the headphones, the cost per driver must decrease five-fold. The result is a set of headphones crammed with bad-quality drivers.
The specs for the Tiamat show the compromises that had to be made, using a single pair of 40mm drivers for bass, two 30mm drivers for front and centre and two 20mm drivers for side and rear. These deliver truly woeful audio quality. There's a massive loss of detail, with many of the effects blurring into each other. Directional audio is admittedly fantastic — the best of the bunch — but so many sound nuances are lost that the player is actually at a disadvantage. Making matters worse is the echo effect that plagues these headphones, which makes it sound as if you're playing in a giant tunnel.
After spending a few hours with the Tiamat, we can see why audio enthusiasts despise surround-sound headphones using multiple drivers. Sadly, unless gamers read reviews or test the product themselves, the fact that these offer true 7.1 surround will be enough to have them selling like hotcakes.