Razer Nari Wireless Gaming Headset Review
The Razer Nari is a competitively-priced wireless headset with exceptional comfort, a robust feature set, a decent microphone that’s heavy on the noise cancellation, and a sound signature, build, and design that won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Its THX Spatial Sound works well enough to more than compete with Microsoft’s Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos.
Razer makes three different Nari headsets: Nari Essential ($99), Nari ($149), Nari Ultimate($199). I bought the middle one, and it’s the ‘standard’ model. It has 50mm drivers, cooling gel ear pads, a suspension headband, rotating ear cups, THX Spatial Audio support on PC, a retractable microphone, wireless and wired connectivity, and Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting.
The Essential strips out a lot of stuff to lower the price point. The drivers are 40mm, the USB dongle is much larger and doesn’t hide in the ear cup, wired connectivity is removed, the ear cups don’t swivel flat, the microphone only flips up instead of retracting, and RGB lighting is removed.
On the top end, the Ultimate is nigh-identical to the standard Nari, but it adds a gunmetal color scheme and audio-based directional vibration from a company called Lofelt. That’s the pair that got sent to most Youtubers/Influencers for review, and is also the only one my local shops don’t carry. I try to buy headsets from a place that has them right now, because I’m impatient and don’t like to wait for shipping.
THINGS I LIKE
THX SPATIAL AUDIO
When Microsoft finally revised the way audio works on the Windows and Xbox platforms in 2017, we got the Windows Sonic spatial audio platform. Not only did this provide excellent free spatial headphone audio in Windows and on the Xbox One, it also opened the door for other software makers to create their own spatial audio software. Dolby Atmos was the first, and up until recently, the only other option available.
THX Spatial Audio is Razer’s new spatial audio software for Windows, and it’s available exclusively on the Razer Nari and Razer Kraken Tournament Edition. A few years ago, Razer bought THX out from under the Lucas/Disney merger, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting whatever the audio engineers there would do for the gaming brand.
Like Atmos and Windows Sonic, THX Spatial Audio is a 3D virtual surround system that supports both horizontal and vertical directional audio, attempting to simulate a 360 degree sphere of audio around your head. Unlike those other two systems, THX very obviously feels designed around movie mixing, to me. It works well for games, but it’s got a diffuse quality to it that’s not unlike the feeling of sitting in a movie theater.
Have you ever been inside a cineplex and seen how many speakers are along the back walls? Those don’t all receive unique audio signals, usually. Rather, they’re attempting to make the surround information sound diffuse to your brain, so that it kind of comes from “everywhere” behind you and makes the world of the movie feel bigger.
THX Spatial Audio places surround audio sources in a similar way. It’s very fun, big, and immersive…but it doesn’t have quite the same specific directionality that Atmos and Sonic do. I think that THX is better for single player games, and any competitive players who would give virtual surround the time of day (which isn’t many) probably won’t love it.
Still, I think it sounds very good and I’m happy that it’s not just a slightly tweaked version of the spatial systems we already have. The calibration tool in the Synapse software is very similar to the old Razer Surround tool, meaning you can nudge the positions of the different channels around to suit your personal head and ears, a nice touch!
Hopefully, Razer will eventually sell this software separately instead of tying it to specific headsets. The presence of the Windows Audio system on Xbox means it could conceivably release there someday as well. Currently, you can only use THX audio with the Nari when you’re operating in wireless mode connected to a Windows 10 PC.
This might be the most comfortable gaming headset I’ve ever worn?
The ear cups and pads are massive. They’re not quite as tall as the 70mm oval cups on the current Razer Krakens, but they’re still about 65mm high and have a slightly oval shape. These will cover and surround all but the most massive of ears.
Foam is great, with a dense though fast-rebounding memory foam covered in a layer of cooling gel. Remember those weird mouse pad wrist rests made out of gel? It’s like that. The gel feels immediately cold on your head, and stays that way for about 10 minutes. After it warms up, the pads feel like normal pads…but my ears and face don’t sweat as much under these as they do under some other pairs.
In order for you to feel the effects of the gel, the front part of the pads is made out of an athletic fabric, and the rest of the surfaces are leatherette. The pads are easy to pop off for cleaning or replacement, too.
This headset looks gargantuan, and like it would be a real squeeze on the head, but the suspension headstrap perfectly holds the weight and the clamping force is just strong enough to keep them on without discomfort. You won’t be able to throw your head around a ton, but since these are designed for home or indoor use, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I’ve worn these for multiple 3 hour sessions without a single hint of discomfort and without needing to adjust them at all. They also don’t have any comfort or sealing issues with my thin-armed glasses, thanks to hidden channels in the foam that seamlessly go around glasses.
The big ear pads provide exceptional passive isolation, making these perfect for the noise of an office or coffee shop. Or I guess, a gaming tournament. Assuming you don’t feel silly wearing these in any of those places.
While I’m…a little mixed on the standard tuning of the Nari, as I’ll get into below…their soundstage is wide, spacious, and pleasant. They have very little “in-head” effect, even without the surround software turned on.
The microphone has above-average performance for a wireless model. Usually, wireless mics have a tinny sound thanks to their bandwidth limitations, but this one doesn’t sound half-bad. Razer provides a ton of software mic options too, to turn active noise cancellation and volume normalization, among other things.
The tonal quality is still a little lacking compared to some of the best wired mics out there. Fortunately, if you want a bump in voice clarity, the microphone also works wired! Unlike certain other headsets that cost more. Ahem Cloud Flight ahem.
Here are some quiet room mic tests in wireless mode and wired mode. I also included a wireless test with all the software options turned off. I didn’t do a loud room test this time, because the noise gating, acoustic noise cancellation, and digital noise cancellation are all so strong and decent that I couldn’t imagine anyone having an issue with background noise, so the test seemed redundant.
Plus, as I’ll get into later, I feel really dumb wearing these in public.
These have all the features you’d want out of a $150 gaming headset, in today’s market. They haven’t made any compromises compared to the competition. The volume dial and mic both work wired. The RGB lighting is fully controllable. The battery life is a respectable 14 hours with the lights turned on, and longer if you listen at moderate volumes or turn the lights off. The wireless dongle tucks into a little spring-loaded magnetic slot in the right ear cup. The included cables are really nice braided models. The software includes a robust EQ for all your sound-tuning needs, in case you don’t love the default tuning, like me. They’ll even work wirelessly with a PS4, in stereo mode only.
I can’t really think of another feature they could add for this price. If the haptic Ultimate model instead included bluetooth or active noise cancellation, I might have considered ordering that pair instead. But the haptics seem like they’d be…fun at least?
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
I don’t think these sound awful exactly….but they have a very “consumer” sound tuning to them. They’re tuned much more for enjoying a movie or a bombastic video game than they are for critical music listening. They have a warm, gentle sound that’s perfect for marathon listening, but won’t bring out the details that other headsets or headphones can provide.
At least, if you don’t use the EQ in the software.
Bass is thick and a little bit muddy, and the boominess extends a little too much into the midrange, making these feel darker and warmer than they probably should. The midrange is fine in overall tone, but a little lacking in response or volume, and the highs are smoothed out so as not to cause fatigue.
There’s barely enough treble detail to keep these from sounding bad or over-veiled…but the quality of that treble isn’t amazing, with some confusion/grain to it and a lack of detail in quick sounds like cymbals.
It’s still a much better sound than Razer’s earliest headsets (although I sometimes miss what absurd bass cannons those were), but I think the current Kraken lineup has a nicer, slightly more neutral sound. The Nari isn’t really being marketed as a “Tournament-style” headset, that’ll bring out footstep detail and directional awareness, and I think that’s a wise move. If you want the best competitive performance and you must have a Razer product, the Nari probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
But if you’re looking to relax and consume some content at home, then the Razer Nari is still a good-sounding choice. It’s just not quite in line with the more premium sound you’ll get from some other headsets at this price point, like the Rig 800, Cloud Flight, or Astro A20.
I’ve made numerous allusions to not liking how these look on my head.
I think they look fine when they’re not on my head. I like that the headband is made out of metal. I think that the lighting is very well-done.
But when I put them on, MAN do they stick out! And the cups are probably a bit wider than they really need to be. Razer stuck to the same design language they first established with the original Kraken, and that means the cups are huge.
If you don’t like that sort of look, you need not apply. I wore these to my local coffee shop a few times, but they’re easily the widest pair of headphones I’ve ever worn. I could see them out of the corners of my eyes.
Build quality is not quite where I want it to be, but still average for the price bracket. The swiveling hinges for the cups are my biggest fear. They seem to be small metal posts that connect the plastic bottom frame to the metal top frame, and they take a lot of stress when you’re actually wearing them on your head. I’m sure that Razer tested these to last for a while…but they also designed the Man O’ War headband that was famous for cracking, so maybe not.
I don’t have any fears about the headband itself, which feels more premium than the rest of the headset. I wish they’d gone with a full bauxite aluminum frame like on the current Krakens. Those are a more robust-feeling headset with no obvious stress point like the hinges here.
Razer might have actually been on to something by removing the swivel hinges from the Essential version of the Nari. While I think the swivel system does add to the comfort and help tune the fit, and mine have shown no signs of creaking after a week and a half of use…I’ve been keeping a constant eye on them wondering how many times they can be bent on and off of my head.
A thicker post or a different hinge design would be a good idea for a Nari V2.
SOUND DEFAULTS TO STEREO, NOT THX
Razer plastered the Nari’s excellent packaging with the THX logo. So you’d think that your software would default to surround mode.
Every time you launch a new program, it pops up in the THX Mixer inside Razer Synapse, and it defaults to stereo playback. If you want to turn on THX Spatial Audio, you have to manually open the software and toggle a little option next to the program you’re currently running.
On the plus side, you only have to do this once for each program, the first time you run it. However, you can only change the settings for programs that are currently running. So if you’re running a game, you have to alt-tab out and open Razer’s software, then switch the sound mode, then go back to your game. And once you quit the game, it’ll vanish from the options list back into the ether of the software.
At least your settings save permanently, otherwise this would be even more frustrating. I
don’t know why Razer doesn’t allow users to access the list of THX settings for all software they’ve ever run, and not just currently running programs. It’s weird. The software is otherwise so robust that it’s still worth installing, but I wish games either defaulted to surround, or I could access the options for programs I’m not currently running.
If you’re looking for an exceptionally comfy wireless headset with a decent wireless mic, and a sound that’s fun for content consumption, the Razer Nari is a great choice. Audiophiles and pro gamers should perhaps look elsewhere.
I completely love the way these feel on my giant head and don’t really like the way they look while they’re up there. Their default sound tuning is a little too laid back for certain types of listening, but you can fix that with the included EQ.
The comfort is so good that I’ll be keeping my pair forever, but mostly as a home-use single player game/movie watching pair. That’s what they’re best for.
I’ll be writing more about THX Spatial Audio, and some sort of virtual surround showdown, over on my Medium Blog next week.