Razer is well-known for its myriad gaming mice, but the company has recently branched out in an attempt to capture other areas of the PC gaming market. In addition to the Tarantula keyboard, this year has also seen the company introduce the $130 Barracuda HP-1 Gaming Headphones. The surround-sound headphones are equipped with eight built-in drivers and an amp. They interface with any 5.1-capable sound card, but they're optimized to work with the upcoming $179 Razer Barracuda AC-1 Gaming Sound Card.
The Razer Barracuda HP-1 Gaming Headphones are a full-size set with extremely comfortable soft fabric, padded ear cups and headband. The HP-1s come in one color--black--with illuminated Razer logos on the outside of the earcups. The headphones' six-foot cable terminates with a proprietary 20-pin connector that's designed to plug directly into Razer's AC-1 Gaming Sound Card. Otherwise, you can use the included adapter, which has side, front, rear and microphone minijack plugs--which should interface with any standard 5.1 PC sound card--as well as a USB connection, which is necessary to power the headphones when using a standard sound card. An in-line remote is located about two feet from the earphones and is form fitting to the hand, with master and channel volume dials.
When we tested the HP-1s, the headphones lost a little lustre. We compared the HP-1s it to the similarly featured and priced Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA headphones. The HP-1s performed quite well when we played Doom 3--we were able to keep track of the frantic action, and the bass was strong for headphones, allowing us to accurately feel the character's heart thumping. When we moved on to movies, though, we were less impressed. It took a lot of tweaking to accurately portray the action in the "Riker Maneuver" scene of Star Trek: Insurrection , without missing out on the pertinent dialogue. Finally, we tried The Darkness's album Permission to Land and were dismayed by the flatness of the vocals. Conversely, the Turtle Beach headphones couldn't quite match the gaming acoustics, but were an all-star when we played music and movies. More importantly, it didn't require us to toggle with the separate channel volume nearly as much. In the Barracuda's defense, however, it was much easier to connect, since it was powered by USB and not an AC adaptor. The removable microphone, meanwhile, works great. It's so small that we sometimes forgot it was there--probably fine for most people, but a bit disconcerting if you prefer larger, headset-style boom mics.
If you're a hardcore gamer, we give the duke to the Barracuda--it's much more portable than the Turtle Beach, and its sound in games is unmatched. It also has the Turtle Beach beat in design and comfort. But if you're looking for something to satiate all of your PC media needs, there are better options for music and movies.