Tech Review: Razer Hammerhead BT: Little where it counts *Updated*

It’s been a while since I wrote a review where I was heavily critical of a pair headphones, much less a pair of Razer headphones. But the time has come once more to be a bit hard on a pair of well-meaning earbuds.

Editor’s note: The severity of the following review rather alarmed the manufacturer, and they believe we’ve received a faulty pair of buds. We have agreed to send the review kit in for assessment and a second set will be provided for a revised review should they be found to be faulty. In light of this, we have amended some of the stronger language in this review and bumped our score a touch (they are quite well built after all and that’s not nothing). Will be happy to more fully amend this review in the event that they are faulty. Until then, these are our thoughts on the model initially provided.

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Let’s get the bad out of the way at the top of the review so we can move onto the good. If you are the sort of person who resolutely uses Beats by Dre headphones, then you’re the sort of person who will gravitate towards the Razer Hammerhead BT. They have a cool look, they feel quite nice when they’re in your ears, they feel like they have a solid build quality and they sound like a much cheaper set of buds.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a pair of ear buds that are this uneven at their job. While the sound stage is quite wide, the audio levels are all over the place. I’ve blasted Razer in the past for wonky sound mixes that leaned into bass to the exclusion of everything else. The Hammerhead BT goes completely the other way, obliterating the bass and leaving little more than treble-heavy tin in its stead. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that can take any song you feed into them and spit out pristine acapella, these are the ones for you. Instruments fade into a background haze, little more than an indistinct buzz. On the train, with significant background noise, vocals were all I could hear.

“Custom tuned 10mm drivers for unmatched audio fidelity,” reads the back of the box in what is some of the most optimistic marketing I’ve read in a while. Razer wants $169.95 AUD for the Hammerhead BT, a number I’m sure they feel is reasonable but which I can’t quite believe. I’d urge you to compare them to the Sennheiser CX’s instead, they’re in the same price range and they’ll blow the doors off these things in terms of sound for music or for games. Based on the sound quality provided by the model we were sent for review, that price point seems extremely high.

The good news is that, elsewhere, things pick up considerably. The Hammerhead BT has a nice weight to it for a pair of wireless earbuds, the counterweight/lapel clip at the back just light enough to keep the buds from disappearing down the back of your top but also heavy enough to keep them from disappearing if they fall out your ears (which they did, frequently, but this less of a knock on the headphones as it is on the earbud-repelling shape of my ears). The cabling is thin and light and the buds themselves are quite long and sturdy-feeling. I do feel like the volume and mic controls could stand to be a little further down the right-side cable but it’s not exactly a bugbear.

Unlike its claims about its audio quality, the Hammerhead BT’s battery does live up to its claim of 8 hours of continuous play, though I had to have the volume quite low to get there. Cranking up the sound to around 75% brought me somewhere closer to five hours of continuous play which was fine.

All told, these are headphones that are functionally excellent in every way except that one that actually matters. If Razer could pair these buds with sound that didn’t make you wince every time you put them in your ears, they’d be must have’s. I take no pleasure in being mean to them, Razer have been hard on the road to improving the quality of their audio kit in the last few years and I respect the hell out of their hustle. But the Hammerhead BT’s feel like the old Razer, the ones that only cared about form and not function. I look forward to seeing how they can improve this line going forward.

Score: 6.5 out of 10
Highlights: Solid design; Good weight; Good battery
Lowlights: Bloody awful sound for buds in this price range
Manufacturer: Razer
Price: $169.95 AUD
Available: Now

Review conducted with a retail pair of Razer Hammerhead BT’s provided by the manufacturer.