Razer's Chimaera: wireless 'n' stylish, but how do they sound?

Struck by the Chimaera's pro-gramer looks, we took the $130 stereo headset to our Xbox 360 to see whether or not Razer, makers of some of the best gaming gear on the planet, could create an unmatched personal audio gaming experience. Read on to discover if the Chimaera roar is loud and mighty or low and weak.

Comfy, Lightweight and Lasts Really Long

It's big. The Chimaera headset is really large, but not heavy. In fact, once worn, we almost forgot it was even on our heads. Two cushions on the extendable headband and two on the "circumaural ear cups" provided plenty of head support even during hours of continuous gaming. We never once felt constricted by the Chimaera, which is good, because it's usable for 12-hours on one charge.

Underwhelming Sound With A Clear Mic

When you're a gaming peripheral company like Razer, people expect great gear — the very best. Amidst all the gravy about it having 50mm neodymium drivers, running on a 2.4GHz frequency and having a range of 33 feet, we found the audio to be very average. Yes, we know that a stereo headset outputs stereo sound, but we were hoping for enhanced stereo sound. Competitors like the Ear Force X11 can do amplified stereo sound and cost only $60, why can't the Chimaera?

Needless to say, grinding chainsawguns into our foes in Gears of War 2 was noticeably underwhelming. To put it into comparison, our $30 Sony DJ stereo headphones plugged into our HDTV's 3.5mm jack produced more boom in FPS-games than the Chimaera did. A $130 gaming headset shouldn't be trumped by a $30 one. But hey, at least Razer got the mic right. Trash talking our buds over Xbox Live was crystal clear. For once, we didn't have to ask "what'd you say?"

Prepare To Downgrade Your Visuals, Unless...

This one is a shame — a real shame. The Chimaera's charging station taps into your Xbox 360's sound through RCA cables (that's an analog signal for you digitally spoiled folk), meaning you're left with no choice but to use a composite or a component cable for video.

For those who don't know, here's a briefer: composite cables can only output at standard definition (480p) — meaning all those pretty high def 720 and 1080p games will get downgraded into non-HD. Ultimately, you'll have to decide whether downgraded graphics is worth the tradeoff for a wireless headset when using composite. For us, it isn't; squinting at blurry text is not fun — nuh uh.

But wait, there are two solutions — one that requires yet another dongle sold separately and one that requires a different analog cable. If you can't live with the picture downgrade (which kind of serious gamer still uses analog?), you'll need to get an RCA cable adapter that will allow audio through analog and digital video through HDMI or use an analog component cable.

For us, Razer was kind enough to provide a $8 dongle (not included) for sound and HDMI for video. The adapter is a decent workaround, but since the sound was still coming through an analog signal, it was still just as poor as before — only this time, the game's graphics didn't plunge with it.

The second solution is to use a component cable which can output HD, but again is sold separately. While still an analog cable, a component cable will preserve the HD picture while cranking out stereo sound without the need for the extra dongle.

Seeing as how a composite cable comes standard with every new Xbox 360, there will likely be confusion during setup time with the three options: 1) composite cable 2)HDMI + RCA adapter dongle or 3) component cable. The latter two options of which you have to purchase separately.

Razer's official stance on being forced to use RCA is stereo sound is analog and so even competitors have to use RCA. All Razer did in choosing RCA was to ensure that the Chimaera would work on every Xbox 360 to date.

All Is Not Lost: PC Compatible

The Chimaera headset will also work on PCs — but again, there's a catch. It needs a two 3.5mm adapter cables (sold separately) to do so.

If everything we just told you went in one ear and out the other, then you can pick up the stereo sound Chimaera headset starting for $130 as of yesterday. But, if it was us looking for a sweet looking gaming headset, we wouldn't buy the stereo sound Chimaera. We'd go the full nine yards and get the $200, 5.1 digital surround sound model Chimaera instead. Not only will the pricier Chimaera support digital optical out (you'll still need the $8 audio adapter for composite cables), but at least you'll know its surround sound will be worlds better than stereo sound.

Via Razer Chimaera

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