Review: Razer THX Spatial Audio for Windows 10 delivers awesome headphone surround sound

If you have a Windows 10 PC or laptop and like to use your headphones for gaming, movies, or music, Razer's new THX Spatial Audio app is something you need.

Headphones Surface Logo Audio Sound
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Audio is becoming an increasingly competitive space on Windows PCs with companies forging partnerships with Bang & Olufsen, Dolby, Waves MaxxAudio, and more. Razer is now getting in on the action with its $20 THX Spatial Audio app today for Windows 10, which is available starting today with a free demo.

How does THX Spatial Audio stack up against Dolby Atmos for Headphones, DTS Headphone:X, and Windows Sonic? Surprisingly well, especially for customization and headphone support.

Razer THX Spatial Audio What it is

Razer Thx Install

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Razer THX Spatial Audio is a new software suite that provides stereo and spatial surround sound through headphones on your Windows 10 PC. The software enhances the audio experience by simulating 7.1 surround sound even from headphones that only have two speakers. (Razer owns THX, but it operates independently from the gaming and laptop company.)

On Windows 10, there are numerous competing options for similar technology, including Dolby Atmos for Headphones (opens in new tab), DTS Headphone:X (opens in new tab), and Windows Sonic. Windows Sonic is built into Windows 10 and is free (and is also the least impressive). The codecs from Dolby costs $15, and DTS is $20, by comparison. Razer is charging $20 for its THX Spatial Audio app, which has a free demo.

The main features of THX Spatial Audio are:

  • Superior Positional Accuracy from all sources: With sound that goes beyond 7.1 for more precise positional localization
  • THX tuned: Creating a lifelike, realistic cinematic-quality sound stage
  • Surround Sound Calibration: Providing the most accurate positional audio, based upon on personalized hearing preferences
  • EQ Customization and THX Pre-sets: Whether the listener prefers deeper bass or more clarity, the app can be balanced with mid, high and low frequencies
  • 3.5mm, Bluetooth and USB Compatible

While the whole spatial tuning is expected in any sound augmenting app, Razer and THX have gone quite a few steps further. For instance, the Razer version includes a ten-band graphic equalizer (EQ) with presets for game, movie, and music. Users can also save customized presets for their own EQ preferences.

Razer's app features a graphic EQ, customization settings, and works even over Bluetooth, making it a better value.

There are settings for manipulating the surround sound calibration, including adjusting volume levels and distances for the seven channels. Users can also choose app by app which style of audio they prefer for that medium: stereo or spatial audio. That ability lets you use spatial audio for video games or movies but switch to stereo for Spotify, where surround is not preferred.

But what makes Razer THX Spatial Audio stand out is the ability to work over Bluetooth headphones in addition to wired or USB ones. Dolby, Windows Sonic, and DTS only work with wired headsets, which dampens their appeal when traveling and using Bluetooth (or even USB) solutions.

Interestingly, if you did buy one of Razer's premium headphones (e.g. sub $99 headphones like Kraken X and Kraken 2019) and you unlocked the Razer 7.1 Surround upgrade (which is the predecessor to THX Spatial Audio), you can upgrade to THX Spatial Audio for $9.99 instead of $19.99.

Razer THX Spatial Audio How it works

Razer Thx Eq

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Users can grab the software directly from Razer (opens in new tab) to install it and try it out. You'll need a Razer account to log in, but you can use Google, Facebook, or Twitch credentials too.

Once installed and set up, you can simply choose THX Spatial Audio as your output. Within the THX Spatial Audio App, you pick which headphones you would like to use and configure.

Even though Razer is putting out the software, it works with any headphones from any manufacturer. It doesn't matter if you're using Surface Earbuds or Marshall Monitor II ANC they will all work.

Within the app itself, you have four sections: audio, EQ, calibration, and demo. That last one – demo – is just a simple video for THX that provides an excellent video and audio source to demonstrate the spatial surround effect.

Besides the EQ, there are also toggles for bass boost, voice clarity, and sound normalization. These all provide noticeable changes when applied, and I prefer to leave the bass boost on most of the time. Audio normalization is perfect for listening to music from various sources so that the volume does not dramatically fluctuate. Voice clarity is useful for spoken word or even productivity settings like Microsoft Teams or Skype calls.

Conclusion: Razer THX Spatial Audio is pretty great

Razer Thx Spatial

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I use DTS Headphone:X on most of my PCs. Up until now, I considered it the best of the bunch. But Razer THX Spatial Audio is simply more potent than DTS.

It is important to stress that most users on Windows 10 do not have access to premium audio software enhancements. That means no EQ or even surround settings. While DTS Headphone:X provides an excellent sound stage, Razer provides the following features over it:

  • 10-band EQ
  • Spatial surround settings/calibration
  • Supports Bluetooth and USB Audio
  • Toggles for bass boost, voice clarity, and sound normalization

Those abilities are significant to add to your system, whether for gaming, movies, or music. Dolby and DTS are just "set it and forget it" audio enhancers, but with THX, you are getting more customization for the same price.

If you're looking for a quick way to enhance your PC's headphone audio dramatically, Razer THX Spatial is it.

The audio quality is also quite good. Spatial sound is essential in gaming where hearing directional fire or approaching footsteps is key to survival. Or maybe you just want to listen to your favorite movie with a pseudo 7.1 surround system.

Unless you're really dedicated to Dolby or DTS for your sound profile, Razer's THX Spatial Audio is a definite better value.

My only issues are Windows 10 itself, which makes picking between audio sources difficult if you have multiple headphones, speakers, and microphone set up (I get eight choices on my system). But that complaint is on Microsoft, not Razer. The other is Razer THX Spatial Audio won't work on Surface Pro X and other Windows 10 on ARM PCs due to the engine not being able to install (likely a 64-bit application). While disappointing, it is also an edge case.

For users of Dell's premium XPS laptop line, which features Waves MaxxAudio Pro software, or if you're using some elite headphones like the $300 HyperX Cloud Orbit S, you'll probably be better using those solutions instead of adding THX on top.

Overall, if you're looking for a quick $20 way to enhance your PC or laptop's headphone audio dramatically, Razer THX Spatial seems to be a great option. Even better, you can try it yourself with the free demo before committing.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

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.

19 Comments
  • Might be worth mentioning in the article that you need Razer account *even to try a free demo*.
  • You can login in with Google, Facebook, or Twitch. I guess it's worth mentioning but doesn't seem really like a barrier to entry.
  • > doesn't seem really like a barrier to entry. Q: Will I need a new THX Spatial Audio activation code for every PC I install the it on? A: No. The activation code is tied to your RazerID. However, you can only run one active session at a time. (source: THX Spatial Audio FAQ) Which, to me, sounds like you are going to need internet connection to listen to enhanced audio. Hopefully, I am wrong.
  • "Which, to me, sounds like you are going to need internet connection to listen to enhanced audio. Hopefully, I am wrong."
    It needs to connect to the server to sync your profile/data/configuration preferences, not to run/do spatial audio. It's optional, not necessary. I just tried on Book 3, offline video, airplane mode, no issue exiting and restarting the app.
  • Great news, thank you. I wonder how/when they check for that "one active session at a time".
  • I looked into it; basically, if you're offline it works with no issues. But as soon as you go back online it checks to see if you're signed in/using the license somewhere else; if so, a message pops up telling you that on the other computer. So, in theory, you should be able to run it on multiple computers at once assuming they're all offline. Of course, most people don't operate a PC or laptop that way, not for very long, so likely not an issue for piracy. It doesn't seem to even disable the codec, it just disables you configuring anything in the app.
  • Maybe edit your hosts file to block the server, then you can be online and have multiple sessions simultaneously.
  • That wasn't the goal -- the concern stemmed from me downloading it right before getting on the bus in order to play with it while commuting and than not being able to... so, I guess, once everything is set up it will continue working, internet connectivity or not. @Daniel: thank you for testing all of that.
  • Sure thing, good questions 👍
  • the sound from my surface headphones using the app is great, but when I signed in to the software it said I only had 1 day of free trial left :(
  • Dan, do you know if there are plans for a supporting app for Xbox One?
  • Good question! I don't know but will ask. I don't see why they wouldn't, but I think it'd have to be a separate license/SKU from the PC version.
  • Pretty sure Dolby's works with Bluetooth as well, at least it does for me.
  • Another data point: I have not been able to make it work with Sound BlasterX G1 (only USB audio I own). So, I wonder what devices people had successes with. "Not able" means, I was able to set the device as the target for audio, but no sound came out. HDMI audio, Bluetooth and 3.5mm out worked just fine on the same laptop. Maybe, if I pay them, I can ask for support :)
  • The confusing part on Windows is you need to set two targets: In the THX Spatial Audio app change to target headphones In the taskbar, hit the speaker icon and change to THX Spatial Audio What makes it confusing is sometimes changing one changes the other, so you have to micro-manage it a bit. It's a PITA, but that's on Windows (NVIDIA RTX Voice has similar issues).
  • Understood... I have set THX as default sound sink and then went through changing targets in THX to HDMI, 3.5mm, Bluetooth headphones and SoundBlasterX G1. The former 3 produced sound, the latter did not :(
  • The purchase experience is lacking because it's sold via a storefront that is designed for physical product sales, not digital ones. I went through the order process yesterday evening and I'm still waiting for my activation code today. Razer order support was only able to "escalate" which could take another 24-48 hours. This isn't the end of the world but it is far from ideal. FWIW - My "trial" also claims to expire after 1 day. That seems to be a bug in their software. Hopefully the 15 day trial outlasts my wait for the registration key! As for the review: thanks for a great job, Daniel! The early look made me interested in trying it. :)
  • Just a quick follow up to share that the process time for my order was about 30 hours, in total. Not horrible, but worth being aware of for anyone who cares about turnaround time for a digital product order. My code was sent to me at 2:39am this morning.
  • Hi, I want to buy this program from my country, but I live in Turkey.Unfortunately there is no option to buy for my country