Gaming headphones are like most things in modern technology spanning the super cheap to the "are they serious?" price ranges. The new Razer Thresher Ultimate headphones tilt toward the latter category at $250. But luckily your money gets you far with these head cans.
I've been using the Razer Thresher Ultimate with my Xbox One and Windows 10 PC for the last week. Here is what I think.
Razer Thresher Ultimate technical specifications
For $250 you would hope that the Razer Thresher Ultimate brings all the latest gizmos in sound technology, and it does. Here are the device's key features.
|Sound||7.1 Surround Sound with Dolby Headphone|
|Style||Noise-isolating leatherette over-the-ear cushions|
|Wireless||2.4GHz wireless audio|
|Wireless range||40ft (12m)|
|Optical audio||Yes (through base station)|
Optical in and out supported
|Driver||Two circumaural design with 50mm driver units|
|Frequency response||12 Hz to 28,000 Hz|
|Impedance||32Ω at 1kHz|
|Volume and mic control||On the headset|
|Approximate weight||408g (0.89lbs)|
|Dimensions of headset||196mm (W) x 214mm (H) x 104.8mm (D)|
|Battery||Up to 16 hours|
|Style||Retractable boom mic|
|Frequency response||100 Hz to 10,000 Hz|
|Sensitivity (@1kHz, 1V/Pa)||38 ± 3 dB|
|Signal-to-noise ratio||> 55 dB|
The big selling points here are those 50mm drivers with neodymium magnets, the wireless ability, and support for optical sound through Xbox One. It's not too common to find all of those in a single headset, and it certainly offers flexibility especially for the living room.
Noticeably lacking with the Thresher Ultimate is DTS support, Bluetooth, wireless charging, and mic monitoring.
Razer Thresher Ultimate setup
The Razer Thresher Ultimate comes in a large box adorned with Xbox One logos and coloring. The headset is certified by Microsoft to be sold as an official accessory and works with the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and the forthcoming Xbox One X. Additionally, users can use the headphones with any Windows 10 PC.
Razer sells another version of the Thresher Ultimate that can be used with the Sony PlayStation or PC as well.
What's in the box
- Razer Thresher Ultimate headphones
- Razer Thresher Ultimate stand
- Razer Thresher Ultimate base station
- Two micro USB cables
- One optical audio cable
- Instructions, quick start guide, and warranty info
Setup is very simple. For the Xbox One, the Thresher Ultimate connects via USB (power) and optical audio (sound). Users can run an optical-out from the base station as well to their stereo systems so the Thresher Ultimate acts as a pass through when not in use. For power, a micro USB cable is plugged into the base station with a standard USB connection to one of the two USB ports on the back of the Xbox One.
A PC set up without an optical sound relies on the micro USB cable going to the PC to handle all the power and audio. A switch on the back of the base station toggles between Xbox and PC setups.
Once the base station is powered and configured, a power button at the base and on the headphones enables the system. Users need to set their Xbox One or PC to utilize the Dolby 7.1 Headphone setting. On initial setup, the headphones auto-pair with the base station.
Being true to Razer, the snake logo slightly glows green on the sides of the headphones. There is a small LED on the bottom of the Thresher Ultimate to let you know they are on. Likewise, the base station has two LEDs: one for power and the other for Dolby Headphone.
Razer Thresher Ultimate stand
Razer always does smart things with its products, and that carries over to the Thresher Ultimate. The included stand is a simple plastic frame that just lets users hang their Thresher Ultimate when not in use. It's nothing fancy, but it beats tossing the headphones on the couch or the floor when not in use, plus it looks cool.
The ingenious design though is how the base station seamlessly fits into the bottom of the Thresher Ultimate's stand. For PC setups, this gives an excellent all-in-one configuration where the user just needs to pluck their headphones and hit the power button. For charging, a USB output from the base station plugs into the Thresher Ultimate, keeping an orderly setup.
But you don't have to use it like that. If your Xbox One is positioned below your TV, for instance, you may not want a stand next to it unless you like headphones blocking your view. With this setup, you can tuck the base station near the Xbox One but keep the stand to the side. You will still need to charge the headphones, but it's easy to use an AC-to-USB connector (sold separately).
Razer Thresher Ultimate comfort
The biggest gripe I have with giant ear cans is that they cause "head fatigue" at the apex of the skull. Wearing headphones for a few hours can cause sore spots and discomfort.
At just 408 grams, they are a smidge heavier than the competition. The dual-band setup with a metal frame for structural support and a softer slightly cushioned strap that sits on your head is the ideal configuration. Compared to my $199 wired and non-Dolby Turtle Beach Elite Pro, the Thresher Ultimate is more comfortable. The three pressure points – top of the head, and two ear cups – are evenly distributed with the Thresher Ultimate, whereas the Elite Pro's is heavier at my apex.
The dual-band setup does not have any presets but instead relies on a flexible design that stretches to your head. The tension was spot on and did not require any force.
Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament headset review
The removable leatherette ear cushions with memory foam are also excellent.
Another neat innovation with the Thresher Ultimate is for those who wear eyeglasses for distance. Razer put in subtle "foam indentations for temple relief" that won't press your glasses into your head. I could not feel my eyeglasses when wearing the Thresher Ultimate, but I did when I wore the Turtle Beach Elite Pro's that lack such a feature.
The ear cups also rotate, as is common with these types of headphones. The rotation is smooth and the hinge sturdy. That said, this is likely the weakest spot in such a design, so caution should be heeded.
Compared to my Turtle Beach Elite Pro and my HyperX CloudX Revolver (which I adore) the Razer Thresher Ultimate wins for overall and long-term comfort.
Razer Thresher Ultimate sound
The Thresher Ultimate supports Dolby Headphone 7.1 for PC and Xbox One. Dolby Headphone is a digital signal processing (DSP) technology that can give 5.1 or 7.1 mixes a more binaural feel. Some people like it, others find it strange. It certainly does add "space" to the sound mix to make it seem like you are in a larger room.
To use Dolby 7.1 Headphone you just click a simple toggle button on the Thresher Ultimate base station. That also means it's entirely optional. There is no toggle on the actual headphones nor is there support for the competing DTS technology. Seeing as Microsoft appears to be working very closely with Dolby these days that is likely an OK limit, but audiophiles are likely to have strong opinions on which sound DSP sounds the best.
I found the frequency response for the Thresher Ultimate to be excellent. The sound is rich, and the bass response is fantastic. Sound direction too is also very good with directional elements easily identifiable, something essential for first-person shooters. All of this is impressive for a 2.4Ghz wireless system.
Conclusion: Razer Thresher Ultimate is a winner
The two biggest areas for me when it comes to gaming headsets are comfort and audio fidelity. In these regards, the Thresher Ultimate is excellent and ranks as my top gaming headset.
The ability to comfortably wear my eyeglasses or shift between PC and Xbox One setups is also fantastic.
The microphone is decent with no complaints from those on my team when gaming. If you've watched our MGL podcast on Thursdays, I've been using the Thresher Ultimate. The ability to retract the microphone is very convenient for when you just want to listen and not talk. While mic monitoring would be welcomed, I didn't miss it much. Thresher Ultimate is more about audio playback than underlying microphone technology.
My least favorite feature of the Thresher Ultimate is the micro USB charging because it means more wires to manage. Battery life is rated for 16 hours, and my experience confirms that the Thresher Ultimate can go very long without needing to charge. I would have preferred a wireless charging solution while acknowledging that it would likely drive up the price further.
Additionally, I didn't love the on-headset controls. While they worked well with independent volume wheels for sound and microphone, those plastic wheels and power button felt a bit cheap.
I also generally disparage Bluetooth audio for gaming, but adding a Bluetooth radio would have been an excellent option. It would give the Thresher Ultimate a bit more flexibility to be used with other devices. And I imagine some users will be disappointed with the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack, which would also extend the Thresher Ultimate's usefulness.
Regarding price and value, the Turtle Beach Elite 800X is comparable at $250 and has more features like wireless charging, DTS support, and mic monitoring. However, the Elite 800X's single-strap design, narrower frequency response range (20Hz to 20KHz versus 12Hz to 28KHz of the Thresher Ultimate), and worse battery life aren't as enticing.
In fact, the 12Hz to the 28KHz range of the Thresher Ultimate is one of the best of any wireless headphones on the market. That range means blasts, gunshots, and other dynamic content found in fast-action games or movies just sound better. Likewise for the positional sound, which is very accurate.
For wireless range, I also was impressed. I live in a 1,900-square foot house and could go up to the main floor, down the hall, and into my office while still listening to a movie on the Xbox One on the lower level. I got slight clipping at this point but at 50 feet away from the base station, through a floor and a few walls, I can't complain.
Overall, I'm thrilled with the Razer Thresher Ultimate. For comfort, frequency response, and convenience, the Razer Thresher Ultimate may be the definitive wireless solution for Xbox and PC this year.
- Comfortable for long gaming sessions.
- Great for those who game with glasses.
- Best frequency response range of any gaming headset.
- Fun setup with base station and stand.
- Decent retractable microphone.
- Excellent wireless range and battery life.
- Microphone lacks monitoring.
- Micro USB charging is never fun.
- Buttons and volume wheels could be better.
- No 3.5mm headphone jack or Bluetooth.
Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.