Top positive review
37 people found this helpful
Excellent surround-sound headset
on 17 July 2013
I had a nightmare of a time trying to find which surround-sound headphones would be right for me. Before the Tiamat, consensus was that virtual (ie emulated) surround sound was both cheaper and better than genuine 7.1 surround-sound sets, but when the Tiamat came out, gaming-industry reviews have all been really good. However, user findings have been so mixed that I felt like I was taking an expensive risk. I'm now glad I did and I do believe that people reporting sound quality issues haven't thought (or aren't able) to adjust their soundcard settings, are using sub-quality on-board sound instead of a dedicated soundcard or are making incorrect volume adjustments to destroy the surround sound effect (more on all this later). I'm sorry that this is a very long review but I was SO fed up with every headset out there having a bunch of forum-based user reviews of doom that I wanted to address those same woeful comments of THIS headset for other tired would-be purchasers!
Things to note:
- These are GAMING headphones - not for music
- Treat them as speakers (don't pick 'headphones' in game settings)
- Sound will only be as good as your soundcard's capability
- All audio jacks and USB must be connected (not either/or)
- Bass levels should be adjusted in your soundcard settings
To cut a LONG post short, I highly recommend this headset for an excellent gaming surround-sound experience (bass is fabulous). I've given full details below for anyone wanting to know more about the headset and what to expect, and where some reported 'problems' might be a mistake by the user or lack of information from Razer.
There are five audio jacks (rear, side, front, subwoofer and mic) plus a USB connector. Unlike some headsets out there, ALL need to be connected. I had a few problems initially and it took me a couple of hours to figure out what was wrong, and the almost impossible-to-see colour coding bands on the metal connectors didn't help much. My sound card was missing pink and grey inputs that the headset needed (my Soundblaster card has blue and black instead). I couldn't tell whether the Tiamat's black was in fact dark blue, and I definitely had nowhere for a pink! After various cable-swaps with wrong results, I resorted to my soundcard manual and it transpires the pink mic jack must be plugged into the blue line-in of the Soundblaster (and the soundcard software changed to recognise this port as mic rather than line-in so the headset mic will work). This inconsistency was caused by my soundcard (not the headset) so I'm only mentioning this as Soundblaster is still a fairly common card and it might save others having the same confusion. Other soundcards will hopefully have more standard inputs with separate line-in and mic inputs!
GENERAL SOUND QUALITY
It's excellent - bass is very strong (best I've heard in any headset). First impressions were disappointing and I can see why some users complained immediately: bass was weak and ineffective and volume was just too quiet altogether. However, I'd previously tweaked my soundcard settings to lower bass levels (I have a booming subwoofer and near neighbours - alas, the two aren't compatible with each other)! Increasing my bass settings made a world of difference. Remember that these phones are simply speakers outputting your soundcard's settings, and the settings that work for your speakers won't likely be good for the headset so expect to tinker with bass, treble etc. Also, don't choose 'stereo' or 'headphones' as your in-game sound settings. You're using your 7.1 soundcard as output just as you would your regular speakers, so choose that.
My first game to test was Mass Effect 3. For people unfamiliar with this game, it has 'biotic explosions' that are deep, boomy and rip through airwaves rather like thunder-claps and I could not believe how deep the bass was (I had to turn it down!) and how clear the effect of travelling sound was relayed. Likewise, small-detail sounds like dripping water, insect noises and atmospheric sounds that I'd not really noticed in my games through speakers were suddenly very clear. Note: this headset WILL only be as good as your soundcard, and generally speaking, on-board sound is often 'okay' at best whereas dedicated sound-cards will give a much richer quality of sound - often easing pressure from the CPU at the same time. There's no need to go expensive: the card I have (Soundblaster Audigy X-Fi 7.1 PCI-e) is currently offered by Amazon UK for £30 ($48 Amazon US) and it sounds fantastic through this headset. Razer lists this and many more recent cards that are compatible with the Tiamat on their website's FAQs for the headset.
Direction of sound is very, very clear. Many action games can be won or lost just by knowing the exact direction of sound. My Mass Effect multiplayer scores showed immediate improvement as I found myself tracking down enemies with ease before any of my competitors. It really does work extremely well, with rear sounds genuinely coming from 'behind' and sound panning around correctly if you rotate yourself in a game. The factory-default settings of these headphones is that the front and side drivers are at a higher volume than the rear sound, and I recommend leaving them like this (sound behind ears is naturally quieter to us than sound in front, so rear drivers should be quieter to create that same effect). Note: there is some nonsense spouted by users (not official reviewers) about games not offering 7.1 surround sound and so such headphones won't work but in every instance where I've read this, the users stated they would 'never buy' - in other words, they likely haven't tried them. Surround sound gaming has been a feature of PCs since the 1990s, and the increase of hardware output channels merely increases accuracy of detected direction. Suffice to say, all games I've tried so far (including a couple of older games that wouldn't have known 7.1) have worked really well.
Not tested beyond 'it works' as I don't tend to use a mic often. It slides neatly into the ear-piece out of view when not in use, and a button on the controller conveniently enables or disables its use. The build quality of the mic is as reviews state: a bit on the cheap plasticky side. However, I've read that it does the job; you just likely won't be making any prized recordings with it!
COMFORT AND FIT
I have two problems with headsets generally: my head is on the larger side AND I have to wear glasses where the earpieces can hurt when wearing headphones. Although the headphones feel heavy in the hand, they're actually not at all heavy to wear (there's no downward pressure on the head, no sensation of hair being pulled downward and they don't squeeze inward tightly). During short to medium gaming sessions 2 - 6 hours I experienced no discomfort whatsoever; however, one particularly long gaming session of 12 hours with few breaks started to make my ears ache at the very end, - but 12 hours is on the extreme side and I wouldn't expect ANY headset to feel comfortable for that length of time. As for the set being wired, the length of cable is reasonable (more than adequate for a PC and desk arrangement at least) and the cable is made of lightweight and flexible fabric cord (similar to other Razer wired devices) and so is of no weight or the encumbrance of traditional plastic-coated cable.
WHAT ABOUT CONNECTING DESKTOP SPEAKERS?
The Tiamat controller comes bundled with an optional set of connectors for speaker pass-through so you can have both speakers and headset connected at once and switch between them at the press of a button on the controller rather than swap cables around. My speaker set is only 5.1 but the pass-through still works fine (I just used the front and rear Tiamat speaker connectors, omitting the side). My only criticism is that the pass-through cable length is unforgivably short.
SO, IS SPEAKER-HUM AN ISSUE?
There are a few comments out there about speaker-humming when the headset is plugged in and speakers are also connected to the included but optional pass-through cable. I encountered this for the first time recently, only later to discover that the pass-through connector had worked slightly loose in the controller (my fault - I'd knocked the controller off my desk but it's quite weighty and that likely led to the connector pulling loose. After pushing it back firmly into place, the hum was gone and I've had no problems since.
I'm so glad I bought this headset now. I'd considered others (the emulated variety) and had only hesitated buying any of these because of sound quality or comfort issues mentioned against them. The Tiamat headset is the only true (not emulated) surround-sound headset to receive across-the-board good reviews but there was still a gamut of user reviews either praising or bemoaning the sound quality and it was hard to know who was right. On this occasion, I found official reviews to be correct (Razer could help their reputation by offering clearer information on how to get the best out of the headset). Overall, I'm delighted with this purchase.