We went hands-on with the gaming headset, which uses a wireless dongle across multiple gaming platforms for your play-anywhere lifestyle.
Razer's new $100 (£100, AU$150) Barracuda X wireless gaming headset targets the same one-headset-for-all-platforms crowd as the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless: peripatetic gamers playing on the Nintendo Switch, Android (on phones that support USB-C audio), Windows and PS5. And though the company doesn't claim compatibility with any Apple products, the headset also works very well on my iPad Pro 11, with the Barracuda X's excellently rendered incidental audio leading to some truly terrifying nights in Don't Starve.
Unlike the Arctis 1, there's no native Xbox support, but that model lacks Android. And if you're willing to go wired you can extend compatibility to the Xbox and any other device that has a 3.5mm analog jack.
You can get 7.1 surround sound on Windows with its app, but if you don't like being forced to create an account and log in just to run an app that does nothing but toggle the surround, you can run away laughing now. (Yes, it's a common practice, but we don't have to like it.) A code for 50% off Razer's THX Spatial Audio app comes with Barracuda X if you want to level up the sound controls. That brings the price down to $10.
There's no Bluetooth here either, which is a mixed blessing. The Barracuda X comes with a large 2.4GHz USB-C dongle similar to the SteelSeries', which you'll probably want to use with the bundled extension cables, since it frequently blocks other ports on a laptop and sticks awkwardly out on the end of your phone.
Using the dongle allows it to eliminate the irritating connection problems that plague Bluetooth, such as latency and having to turn Bluetooth off on a paired device if you want to connect to a different device in the vicinity. However, you lose the broader wireless compatibility without Bluetooth, which would make it more suitable as a general phone headset and, possibly more importantly, not bogart the port needed for charging.
The design is solid, if somewhat bland. At the moment it only comes in black, but that could change at some point. By scooping out around the outside edges of the ear cups Razer's managed to shave a tiny bit of weight off compared to the Arctis 1: It's 250 grams, while the Arctis is 252 grams. Both are among the lightest gaming headsets I've tested. It has rotating ear cups, though they rotate so that the insides face up rather than against your shoulders when resting around your neck.
I have mixed feelings about that. One one hand, it means you can listen without wearing them on your head, a great perk if you get the brain hurts when wearing headphones for a long time; there was no noticeable distortion with the volume cranked up to use them that way. But it also leaves the cushions exposed to the environment, which could possibly be an issue. Not too tight on my head and with adjustable height, they are pretty comfortable, but they did feel a little snug when hanging around my neck because of the way the cups angle slightly upward when you're wearing it normally.
The cushions combine fabric on the surfaces that touch your head and leatherette inside, surrounding the speakers. Razer says that this improves sound isolation over all-fabric designs and is more comfortable than all-leatherette designs. I find it more sound-muffling than isolating, but I do prefer fabric over leatherette for comfort and breathability.
On-ear controls consist of just power, mute and volume, plus there's a jack for the removable mic. I really wish it was a flip-up mic. Razer says it enables a slimmer design, but given the carved-out portions of the ear cups, the company could have used a bend-up design like the mic on its own Kraken V3 X. Yes, I'm a chronic loser of things and that matters to me.
Its unidirectional cardioid mic, which uses a HyperClear-technology mic similar to the Kraken V3 X's, doesn't offer noise cancellation. So it picks up my air conditioner and not-terribly-loud keyboard -- a Razer Ornata V2, the keyboard I use for work and which is much quieter than a typical mechanical model. The lack of noise cancellation does help keep your voice from sounding tinny and compressed, though.
The headset also incorporates Razer's TriForce Drivers, a branded way of saying it uses components that enable it to split the frequency range into three rather than two groups so that you can tune the midtones -- where dialog lives -- separately from the bass and high frequencies.
In order to hit the physical design requirements, Razer had to go with smaller 40mm drivers instead of its usual 50mm (such as the ones in its BlackShark V2 line), but I don't think the bass response suffers audibly; the tuning parameters bump up the bass response to compensate. The sound had good separation, with full-bodied tonality in stereo (the soundstage) and directionality in surround -- at least to my oh-so-not-audiophile ears.
In addition to the iPad, I tested the headset wirelessly with a PC and a Samsung Galaxy S20, as well as wired with an Xbox Series S. I didn't get a chance to dig out the Arctis 1 for comparison, and I couldn't test on a Switch, so I can't tell you if it's better or worse in those cases (but I don't expect it to perform worse on a Switch than the other devices). It delivered a solid wireless signal as far as 30 feet away and through walls for playback; while talking, it did drop briefly while trying to penetrate a few walls, but reconnected more quickly than usual.
The performance, audio quality and design of the Barracuda X make it an excellent choice for cross-platform players. I wouldn't recommend the headset for cloud gaming , though. Piling the wireless connection on top of the network audio added too much latency, with popping and dropout that doesn't occur otherwise, at least for borderline cases where the network latency is just about good enough to play but can't handle much more.