Razer Banshee Gaming Headset Review

Posted Jan 20, 2011
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To a lot of people, simply the words  Razer Gaming Headset would be enough to judge the quality of the product. And given Razer’s reputation for making top quality products, this certainly wouldn’t be a stretch. But before you simply scroll down and read the conclusion, you should know that the Banshee is a part of Razer’s StarCraft II branded gear and therefore has slight differences from regular Razer stuff we are used to.

I already reviewed the Razer Spctre Gaming Mouse, and would be covering the Razer Marauder Gaming Keyboard in a couple of days to complete my review of Razer’s StarCraft II branded lineup. But before I begin, I should point out that the Razer StarCraft II peripheral lineup was designed in conjunction with Blizzard Entertainment and therefore have a couple of unique features that integrate deep into the gameplay experience. Keep on reading the review after the break to find out more.

Specifications

  • Circumaural Design with 50mm Driver Units
  • Volume & Mic Control Buttons on the Headset
  • APM-Lighting System
  • 10 preset EQ
  • Detachable Microphone Boom
  • Braided 7 Foot USB Cable
  • Dimensions: 183mm(L) * 90mm(W) * 200mm(H)

Headphones

  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 32Ω at 1kHz
  • Sensitivity (@1kHz, 1V/Pa): >102dB at 1 kHz
  • Drivers: 50 mm, with neodymium magnets

Microphone

  • Frequency Response: 100 – 10,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity (-42 dB ± 2dB @1kHz, 1V/Pa)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >58 dB
  • Pick-up pattern: Uni-directional

Packaging and Design

Just like the Razer Spectre, the Banshee headset also comes in a quality package. The box has lots of Razer, Blizzard and StarCraft II branding but still manages to look elegant and attractive. The large window on the front gives you a glimpse of the headset inside. The bottom, and the sides are dedicated to describe the specifications, and features of the headset. Inside the box, you’d find the headset along with a Quick Start guide, and a user manual along with a couple of Razer stickers for your machine.

At first, the Banshee appears to be rather large and bulky – which is rather surprising given it is specifically crafter for StarCraft II tournament players in mind who would definitely prefer more portability. The large square-ish ear cups and a thick head band makes the headset look bulky. But once you actually pick them up, they are lighter than what you would expect.

The steel rim that runs along the head band serves as an extension base as well and the plastic cover on it is supplemented by a soft cushion padding on the inside which makes it really comfortable to wear and distributes the weight of headset quite well.

The circumaural ear cups themselves are padded with that same soft cloth/cushion material, and are large enough to cover ears of almost any size. Both cups have volume control and mute buttons on their back sides – the right cup has the controls for audio while the left side’s controls are for the microphone.

Speaking of which, the microphone is detachable and connects to the left ear cup via a 3.5mm jack.

The main star of the show, the APM lighting system is also present and accounted for. The LED lights are laid out on the ear cups with the three rim lights on the front and back, the StarCraft II logo and the underglow below. All three light areas can be customized with up to 16 million different colors using the configuration tool.

Unfortunately, the star feature of the Banshee also happens to be the quite useless one for the actual user of the headset. Since the lights are laid out on the ear cups, they wont be visible to the player anyways and instead would only serve as eye candy for those around him.

Overall, the build quality of the headset feels really good and comforting despite not having a lot ergonomic features that seem standard today, like rotating/tilting ear cups etc.

Performance

I already went through the details of the APM Lighting System introduced with the Razer StarCraft II peripheral series. If you want a refresher, then have a look at my Razer Spectre review which covers the features and the configuration utility in detail. Just to recap, the APM lighting system gives players feedback of their gaming performance by changing the color of the LED lights on the headset according to the number of actions (keystrokes) they perform in game. The LEDs are also used to display alerts and notifications for in game events like when a unit is under attack etc.

As far as the configuration features of the Razer Banshee are concerned, the configuration utility doesn’t offer a lot – and that’s not surprising given its just a headset. Of course you can still customize all the LED based features since they are standard across the series, but besides that there isn’t a lot. There is an 11 channel equalizer with 8 different presets built in including three dedicated for the factions of StarCraft II. You can also configure a custom preset according to your liking if that’s your thing. Other tuning options include ability to control the volume of individual speakers as well as the microphone.

As for gaming performance, the headset worked well in game. It was able to pick up and enhance the mid tones and the high notes so every little detail in the StarCraft II universe popped up really well – at least as far as sound was concerned. The player himself can’t really take advantage of the APM lighting system in the game, but those surrounding me while I was testing the headset out did acknowledge that it was working as expected.

I also tried the headset in other FPS games like Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Left 4 Dead 2 and Counter Strike: Source. While the audio performance was fair in all the games, Black Ops and Left 4 Dead 2 tend to get a little unbearable at high volumes because the headset boosts up the high frequency sounds (screams and gunshots to some extent). Hearing and processing footsteps in Counter Strike was relatively easy thanks to good bass in the Banshee but for anyone who has experienced these games in surround sound wouldn’t really be satisfied.

Voice chat worked quite well in all the games, and our friends on the other end reported a clear reception. Razer have put on a good quality microphone here which is detachable, bendable and has a gold platted connector.

For non gaming tasks like music and movies, the Razer Banshee didn’t really stand out. I don’t really blame it though, I mean it is a gaming headset after all, and they usually tend to be mediocre at best at these tasks. The music, even with its deep base felt quite unnatural and processed and the movies showed a similar experience. If you are a music freak then I would definitely recommend that you through on something like a Skull Candy or Sleek Audio headset when you want to enjoy some tunes because the Banshee just isn’t going to cut it.

Conclusion

While its show stopper feature isn’t really a hit – the Razer Banshee does offer a decent gaming experience which is specially tailored for StarCraft II tournament players. Is the audio good enough to keep you competitive? Yes. Is it enough to give you an edge over the competition? No – no headset in the world can really do that. Does it give a playable performance in everything else besides StarCraft II? Yes. Is it really a steal for $120? Unfortunately no. And no, it still wouldn’t have been even if the APM system was of some actual use on this headset.

While the Razer Banshee does get a lot of things right, it still manages to miss quite a few marks as well. Now all this would have been easily overlooked had the headset demanded a price of say around $70 – but for a piece which goes as high as $120, the performance isn’t really worth forking over that much cash. If you really are looking to spend that much, then I suggest you give the SteelSeries 7H a shot. With that said, I do look forward to seeing more exciting concepts from Razer because I know that the company has a lot more to offer compared to this.

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