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Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Review: The surround sound gaming headset, refined

Razer continually refines its products, always striving to make the ultimate gaming hardware. The manufacturer's latest revamp is the Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 headset. It sports killer surround sound, Chroma lighting, active noise cancelling for noisy environments, and a new headband design.

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 at a glance

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Gaming Headset

Razer released two similar headsets at the same time: the Kraken 7.1 V2 and the Kraken Pro V2 (opens in new tab) (the latter lacks surround sound). The Kraken 7.1 V2 connects via a lengthy braided USB cable. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and PlayStation 4 (sadly, Xbox One does not support USB headsets).

These are the Kraken 7.1 V2's features in a nutshell:

  • Advanced 7.1 virtual surround sound engine for pinpoint positional audio
  • 50mm audio drivers custom-tuned for balanced in-game audio and communications
  • Active noise-cancelling digital microphone for crystal-clear communication
  • Unibody aluminum frame for extended durability
  • Maximum comfort and zero fatigue
  • Razer Chroma lighting with 16.8 million customizable color options

Construction

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Gaming Headset

The standout features in the Kraken 7.1 V2's physical design are its new frame and headband. The frame itself is made of aluminum metal, and should prove sturdier than typical headsets with plastic frames. Like most headsets, the frame can be extended to accommodate larger heads. The extensible portion of the frame has engraved centimeter markings to help with adjustment – a cool touch.

Covering the frame is a cloth band bearing the Razer name on the outside and a thin layer of cushion on the inside. The padding could be thicker, perhaps, but I still find it comfortable atop my head.

The Kraken 7.1 V2's ear cups are massive, with the audio drivers jumping from 40mm in the old model to 50mm in this model. The exterior of each cup features a slick grill design with the Razer logo in the center. The logos each light up in a single color that can be customized with three different patterns (static, breathing, and spectrum cycling) or turned off.

The ear cushions are made of memory foam and cover the entire ear, blocking out a fair amount of external sound. I'm a wearer of thin-framed glasses, and the cushions never cause me any level of discomfort. They're some of the best I've used.

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Gaming Headset

The microphone extends and retracts from the left ear cup and flexes in any direction for easy positioning. Clicking in the button on the end of the microphone will mute it, activating a red light on the tip that's easy to see while you're wearing it. The headset has no other physical controls, so volume adjustments must be made through the computer.

Whereas the Kraken Pro V2 features an ECM boom microphone, the Kraken 7.1 V2 features a unique digital microphone. This allows for several advanced features, including active noise cancelling, ambient noise reduction, volume normalization, and mic monitoring.

The active noise reduction, a feature you toggle on or off, is designed to maintain voice quality in noisy environments such as eSports tournaments. The other mic features can be adjusted incrementally, so you get a lot of control over how you sound with this headset. But in my experience, the microphone sounded perfectly sharp at default settings.

Virtual surround sound

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Gaming Headset

The first time you connect the Kraken 7.1 V2 to a Windows machine, you'll be prompted to download and install Razer's Synapse software. Synapse is used to control lighting, microphone effects, and surround sound. The software's frequent updates can be annoying, but the way it saves user settings on the cloud is handy.

After installing Synapse, you'll go through the virtual surround sound setup process. The headset will play sounds from seven directions, prompting you to adjust a slider for any direction that sounds off. It's a bit confusing, but leaving the slider for each virtual speaker at the default position worked well for me.

The virtual surround effect is quite strong, and could potentially help detect things coming from behind you in first-person games. The Kraken 7.1 V2's sound is great all around, with strong high and low frequencies, and optional bass boost.

Overall Impression

Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 Gaming Headset

The Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 is one of the best USB headsets I've used. It really has no flaws – the frame, ear cups, microphone, and even mute button are all perfect. Along with great build and sound, you also get some visual customization thanks to the Chroma lighting. The Kraken 7.1 V2 retails for $99, and I have a hard time imagining a better headset for the money.

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Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

32 Comments
  • Is it true 7.1 or software based ? I still have 5.1 headphones that have the 3 analog inputs for the channels
  • I believe its software based. The Razer Tiamat 7.1 is their only true 7.1 headset.  (Other commentors please correct me if I'm wrong.)
  • They have virtual surround sound, just like most surround sound headsets. You don't need "true surround sound" to hear sound from where it actually is.
  • You are correct. I was on the verge of buying those. Was going to preorder cause I always wanted a pair of true surround sound and not USB pretend crap.
    Then they delayed release in the country and read some bad annoying things about it and skipped it.
  • Software. USB is the giveaway. Like the other reply to you, Tiamat is their only headset with true surround.
  • Unfortunately the lack of an external volume control is big disadvantage for youtubers and streamers, where you may need to keep the game/system volume at max but lower the headphone volume because these headphones tend to be too loud at max volume.
  • Being able to do that on the fly would be great, but can't you just adjust the levels individually through Windows?
  • I couldn't yet figure out a way to set the volume separately for the main audio and the jack output. Maybe my sound card doesn't come with that feature?
  • @MrGoodSmith, if you're in Windows 10, you can do this by clicking on the speaker icon in the System Icon area, then in the upper right, you should see a carrot ^. Click on that, and you can change the output speaker and the volumes for each. Also, you can right click on the same speaker icon in the System Icon area and select "Playback devices". From there, you should see the full list of all your playback options. You can right click on any one to set the default device (and an optional separate default communication device). Double-click on any and go to the Levels tab to set independent volumes.
  • Hmm, I'm on the fence between buying the Tiamat and the new Kraken 7.1 V2... I bought the Plantronics RIG 500E but I'm not terribly impressed and I wonder if it's because of the virtual surround sound.
  • The virtual surround sound is something that is very helpful
  • Hmm, can anybody who uses gaming headsets with "surround sound" comment on whether it is actually any better than a good pair of open headphones? Curious how something like my Sennheiser HD598 stacks up against something like this when it comes to "surround sound."
  • I don't know for sure, but I imagine Seinheisers still sound nicer. They're in a much higher price bracket, after all.
  • Your sennheiser hd598 is miles above the ones mentioned here. Virtual surround sound is just gimmick (unless implemented by your game engine in the software level, and even that has nothing to do with an external software). This is an utter bullshit article.. Please windows central, if you are covering windows, do windows. You're good at that. But Don't misguide people with other purchases, especially ones where you haven't tried the better alternatives!
  • Stop insulting the article and using foul language in comments. Thanks.
  • Ok. I'm sorry for the foul language. But I think these articles are misleading people. The ones that I mentioned are not really that expensive, are all good gaming headphones, and I mentioned only a few. The hyperx cloud is known to be a good headphone as well. What I am against this headset without any valid comparison to alternatives like hyperx cloud or Philips shp9500 both of which are less than or equal to the price of the razer!! And the two most important parts of a headphone - sound and comfort were the least discussed. All stuff discussed were flashy lights gimmicky software (which is already available for free as plug ins in softwares like foobar) and stuff like that.
  • KRAKEN!!!! EVOLVE FOREVER!!!
  • woah, 7.1 headset at the price of $99? it gonna blow my ear drums 7 ways :P
  • Too bad these don't work with Xbox One. Otherwise, your article would have me sold. Good price and features. It is a bit surprising about the lack of on the fly volume.
  • This is an utter bullshit article.. Please windows central, if you are covering windows, do windows. You're good at that. But Don't misguide people with other purchases, especially ones where you haven't tried the better alternatives! Virtual surround sound is just gimmick - unless implemented by your game engine in the software level, and even that has nothing to do with an external software. And don't fall for 5 drivers in a headphone gimmick. We have 2 ears and directional sound perception is because of HRTF - search about that in Wikipedia. 1 good quality driver>>>>>> 5 ****** drivers. Ever tried a Philips shp9500, sennheiser hd598 or beyerdynamic dt770? They have proper quality drivers (the physical vibrating membrane that produces sound, not the computer software driver!!) and that is the most important part of a headphone. It is what produces the sound. Razer and Triton are one of the worst performers when it comes to headphones. I say this as a owner of an amazing hd598 and a ****** Triton ax pro.
  • Well, that's a biased and extreme response. Just because you don't like something, that doesn't mean nobody else can like it. And comparing a $100 headset to a $150 headset is not fair or productive. The one Triton headset I used was indeed bad, though.
  • You can like it or not like it. But the article really felt like - hey I bought a new headphone and it glows!!
  • I don't find an option to delete my comments! If possible delete it! You are leading people to a product that has much more alternatives that are more worth the money. I am sorry if it was abusive, but the article triggered me for obvious reasons, especially since it is in a community that I am proud to be a part of - windows central.
  • you are indeed entitled to your opinion but you don't have to be so foul about it... People of all ages read these articles and some do not want to see your bad language... And also not everyone can afford those high priced earphones you are mentioning. If you don't like reading about earphones then don't click the article. 
  • Some people need a more affordable option though....and if Razer can provide that with a pretty decent pair of headphones, such as the ones being reviewed, then I'm all for it. I personally love Razer headphones because of their quality. I don't want any Sennheiser headphones because, while probably really good headphones for multiple purposes, are obsenely expensive for me. I could certainly live with a wireless set of headphones for $100 rather than an extremely professional-grade and expensive set for $250-$300. I don't need those kinds of headphones. If you had stuck with how virtual surround sound has nothing on real surround sound, then I could accept your comment. But insulting the author because he reviewed a pair of headphones doesn't really make sense. He just said what he thought about the headphones, and not much else. 
  • Once again. Sorry for the foul language. I just felt it was misleading people to a worse purchase for their money!! 100$ can still buy you a pretty good headphone. Philips shp9500, hyperx cloud(which is a clone of taskstar pro 80, but at least they took a good headphone to paint and sell).
  • I beg to differ, referring to your comment about multiple drivers in a headphone.  When manufacturers put multiple drivers in a headphone, it is not to mainly to open up the directional soundstage. It is because if you have a single driver trying to reproduce the entire frequency range, it is going to sound muddy. You get the diaghram vibrating with lots of bass, and the highs won't sound as clear because of the differences in vibrational frequency required. Or too much mids because you can't control it. A separate driver for lows and highs helps to clear up that sound. Three drivers - low, mid, high - helps clear it up even more. The top of the line IN-EAR monitoring system from Shure has 4 drivers per ear, and Ultimate Ears's top of the line has 6 drivers: dual high, dual mid, dual low. More drivers = less energy per driver to recreate the sound in that driver's frequency range = less dB spl needed to hear everything well. As far as the 2 ears / directional sound / HRTF comment goes, the thing you neglect to consider is that when you have single driver headphones on, it's still just two speakers. You can have a sound softer on one side and louder on the other, and be able to hear that sound as coming from the louder side. This only REALLY works when it comes to stereo imaging, because the audio source is so close to your ears. It does nothing for simulating sounds coming from the front versus the back. If you have multiple drivers, let's say five because you mentioned that number, if they are laid out correctly they can most definitely give you some kind of sound imaging as coming from in front of you or behind you. Because the sound can hit your ear canal from different angles, causing minute differences in air pressure, causing minute differences in ear drum vibration, and the brain is a wonderful thing. Has any headphone manufacturer perfected it yet? No, not yet, from what I've seen and heard, but it's definitely not a gimmick if the manufacturer has an inkling of an idea of what they're doing.
  • I'm sorry but i don't believe in USB surroud only real Analog like the Roccat Kave 5.1 i have. Amazing Headset by the way and with a proper sound card (like Asus Xonar DS/DX) will give you best sound experience you can have. It has 4 Jack plugs and 1 USB. I will never change from Kave+Xonar unless Razer releases an Analog headset (to my knowledge they only have USB).
    But will check one day if i can The Razer one, i have not heard any major problem with it really. I'm just saying that once you go Analog with a proper soundcard, you will never go back.
  • At least Razer is improving their design lately.
  • I wouldn't call this an improvement....those earcups are sooooo biiiiig I'd look like a fricken monkey with them on. And they are so thick I don't how accurate the surround sound signal would be bouncing to the inner ear....so I give the design a 5-6.
  • Though Paul pointed out they are comfy due to their size and the sound was good so it might be a good decision no? Nobody buys these things to walk around the street with (I hope :-) . Each to their own of course, tempted by some of these to be honest though granted I'm no audiophile. I already have Synapse installed due to mice so no extra overhead compared to what I have now.
  • This would be a nice upgrade to the Kraken headset that I have. Customizable settings are a good thing.