04-headphones

The Kraken Ultimate.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Razer extends the tentacles of its Kraken family of gaming headsets with two new models. The Kraken Ultimate, a new flagship THX Spatial Audio-supporting model similar to the Kraken Tournament Edition, eschews an analog connection and in-line controls with game/chat balance options. The other, the Kraken X USB, also forgoes the analog jack of the Kraken X in favor of the digital connection.

Both are available now. The Kraken Ultimate is $130 (the Kraken TE is $100), while the Kraken X USB is $10 more than the Kraken X at $60. The Storm Trooper Edition is a variant of the Kraken, and will ship before the end of the year for $110, $20 more than its unlicensed sibling.

In my brief use of the Ultimate I found Windows recognized the surround more easily than the Kraken X, with which I experienced some Windows 10, um, quirks, and likely because Razer's Synapse software has been updated quite a bit in the interim. Since no games specifically support THX Spatial Audio, it adapts the existing audio to THX's 360-degree soundstage, which should theoretically deliver more precise locational audio than simple 7.1.

In practice, while the headphones sound good (they use the same 50mm drivers as the Kraken TE), during my brief ears-on I didn't really hear an effective difference between 7.1 and the THX in-game, though both definitely help discriminate among sounds coming from behind. 

Razer Kraken Ultimate

There are only two controls on the earcup, a button to toggle THX Spatial Surround and a volume control. The only other control on the headset is a switch on the retractable mic, which has a red ring when muted. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though there's no chat/game balance option for the retractable mic, there is a sidetone slider in software (that sets the volume of your own voice coming through the headphones), and you can control the amount of background noise reduction through an active toggle and mic sensitivity slider, volume normalization and vocal clarity. 

Now playing: Watch this: Razer's Raptor 27-inch gaming monitor takes an imperfect...
4:50

The noise cancellation and mic sensitivity did make a difference in the volume of my load keyboard coming in through the mic, though not enough to completely counter the sound of my banging. It did compensate well on the defaults for Dan Ackerman shouting in the background, though, and the mic's sound quality seems very good -- definitely better than average. 

It's on the heavy side, though -- 0.8 pounds (363 grams) -- which isn't surprising given what's built into it. Despite that it's pretty comfortable, even with glasses on.

The Kraken X USB is a variation on the budget, lightweight 7.1-channel model, though it weighs more at 275 grams compared to the other's 250. The extra weight likely comes from the circuitry to support USB and the added support for Razer's Chroma lighting on the earcups.