Even though Battlefield 3 has been out for nearly nine months, Razer are just releasing their new ‘Blackshark’ Battlefield 3 edition gaming headphones. With a rugged, “military-inspired” exposed-wire design and some sleek black-and-orange colouring, they’ve an impressive looking piece of kit. But do they stand up in the crowded gaming headset market? We took them for a spin to find out.
- Price: $164.95
- Weight: 290g
- Drivers: 40mm neodymium magnet stereo with copper-clad aluminum voice coil
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Impedance: 29 Ω
- Sensitivity @ 1KHz: 105dB ± 3 dB
- Input power: 50mW
- Cable: 1.3m rubber sheathed
- Connector: 3.5 mm audio + mic combined jack
The first thing you notice about the BF3 Blackshark is, naturally, the construction. With exposed orange wires running everywhere, it’s a far cry from the usual setup of most gaming headsets who try to tuck everything neatly away – with the unfortunate consequence of making it difficult (if not impossible) to tell when or where something is busted. This is not a problem you’ll experience with the BF3 Blackshark, as every wire is visible right from the get go.
Although you might not think so from the appearance, the BF3 Blackshark is a well-constructed kit, and feels solid in the hands and on the head. At nearly 300 grams it’s a little on the heavy side, probably due to the large amount of metal in the build, but it’s comfortable on the skull and certainly not a problem to wear for hours at a stretch.
The ear cups are supposedly “inspired by those found on headsets worn by real pilots”, but realistically they’re a little on the skinny side for my elphantine ears, and aren’t as fully enclosing as I would like if I were an actual pilot. I found it difficult to really filter outside noise while wearing them, and wouldn’t recommend them for use in a gaming environment with a lot of background noise – but your mileage (and ear size) may vary.
Inside the ear cups themselves are a pair of 40mm neodymium magnet stereo speakers, one in each cup. The BF3 Blackshark is limited to stereo sound only, which seems bizarre as the audio environment of Battlefield 3 is designed from the ground-up to reward the careful listener and work hand-in-hand with surround sound. Regardless, with bass enhancement on the speakers the BF3 Blackshark is certainly a pleasant listening experience, with good depth on most applications. If you want to listen to music, you can even detach the boom mic and take the BF3 Blackshark on the bus with you, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The BF3 Blackshark connects with a standard 3.5mm audio jack, coming with a single audio + mic combined jack as well as an enclosed splitter. The splitter effectively doubles the length of the cord, and seems like a natural attachment for most gamers. As the Blackshark is stereo sound only, there’s no requirement for any drivers or anything to install, which means setup is quick and easy.
The unfortunate downside of that quick and easy setup is because the headset lacks any real audio tweaking features, or even onboard volume or microphone control. Where other headsets – even other Razer brand options – might offer a volume control on the headset itself or a mic-mute switch on the cable somewhere, the BF3 Blackshark relies on you to adjust your computer’s volume instead. This is a frustrating decision from Razer and it is strange that the BF3 Blackshark is missing what is essentially an expected feature of nearly every gaming headset.
At an AU RRP of $164.95, the Battlefield 3 Blackshark may come with a code to get you an exclusive in-game ‘Hydra’ dog tag, but it’s a a good $60-70 more than you’ll pay for other headphones which actually have more functionality. With Turtle Beach, Plantronics, Astro, and even Razer themselves offering headphones in the $70 – $100 range, the only real quality that the BF3 Blackshark offers over the competition is the ruggedly excellent exposed-wire design.
If Razer could combine that build quality with the simple addition of volume and mic controls, or even the inclusion of emulated 7.1 surround sound, this would be a much more tempting purchase. As it is, the BF3 Blackshark seems to be a headset that only the fans will be willing to shell out for.
- Exposed wire construction is durable and customisable
- Good sound quality with excellent bass, comfortable earcups
- Detachable boom mic, because why not
- Stereo sound only, not ideal for Battlefield 3
- No volume control on headset, or mic mute button
- Lacking in features that other gaming headsets provide