Often Misused and misunderstood, Gaming audio often means inferior or excessively bass-heavy audio, something audiophiles frown upon. How did we get to this notion? In the past, gaming headset manufacturers wanted to accentuate weapons and vehicles in game so they over-extended the bass response for gaming headsets. Games nowadays are as complex in sound design as any blockbuster movie or musical performance. In-game weapons are designed to exhibit different characteristics and intentionally pitched differently. There are also vocals, music and environmental cues that gamers must consider. Interpreting sound correctly is key to effective gaming.
The science that goes into designing great gaming audio starts with carefully selected and finetuned 50 mm drivers that give you extra power and strong bass. This is needed to create an immersive experience that allows you to both hear and feel the sound, thanks to the extra-wide frequency range it can put out. Extra-large diaphragms help move enough air for impressive bass, and the finetuned voice coils allow free movement to deliver clear and high frequencies.
But the next step is the important one: Finetuning the frequency response curve. Finetuning our drivers for gaming is a careful process of selecting important in-game sound effects for popular games and measuring their frequency range. What are the most important sound cues? We played without the monitor on and tried to still identify the skills of different characters, identified weapons by the gunshot sounds and of course, most of all, estimating direction and distance of footsteps.
We then proceeded to tune our gaming audio to highlight those sounds specifically.
To further enhance the positional audio, we’ve included Dolby Headphone technology – the most popular virtual 7.1 surround sound technology that includes both XboxOne & PlayStation 4 compatibility.
The other vital aspect of gaming audio is the microphone. Without a great microphone, team-based games are a nightmare and your teammates will despise you.
How much a microphone picks up in terms of frequency plays into how natural and lifelike your voice will be transmitted. A wide range can help to not only capture voice fundamentals but also the mids and highs in your voice that make you sound like you. As a reference, in telephony the usable voice frequency band that most people would be familiar with ranges from 300Hz to 3400Hz. The Razer Thresher Ultimate picks up sounds from 100-10,000Hz creating a much more lifelike reproduction of your voice.
A decision was then made between either ECM (Electret Microphone) or MEMS (Micro-Electrical-Mechanical System). The Razer Thresher Ultimate uses a MEMS microphone. ECM is cheaper but we’re designing for performance, not price, and there are many inherent advantages to MEMS. Specifically:
Higher performance density, which means size can be reduced compared to ECM
Less sensitivity to temperature changes or vibrations
Nearly identical performance across different units which allows for a more consistent experience
The key metrics we pay attention to when designing a gaming headset then are sensitivity and pickup-patterns. Sensitivity plays a role in how far away from the microphone sound sources will be picked up, whereas the pickup pattern will either be a cone in a single direction or all around it, depending on unidirectional vs omnidirectional design. The Razer Thresher Ultimate has a unidirectional mic boom design to avoid picking up noise from unwanted sound sources with a sensitivity finetuned to the maximum distance of the mic boom from the user at standard voice levels.
Another major focus area is comfort. We, as gamers, can spend hours and hours gaming, and discomfort can easily get in the way of that. Comfort is, by and large, a result of the selection of materials and mechanical design, and highly subjective based on head and ear shape as well as a range of external factors such as temperature, humidity, noise and even stress levels. To ensure comfort for every scenario we do extensive stress-testing with both professional and casual gamers alike.
Let’s start with weight. The first objective is to reduce the weight as much as possible by minimizing unnecessary parts, creating efficient designs and using lightweight materials. The Razer Thresher Ultimate comes out at 402 grams (0.89 lbs). But a headset doesn’t just rest on your head. The right amount of clamping force can help distribute weight across a larger area.
Through a plethora of testing, our engineers finetune the clamping force to equally distribute force and weight across the full length of the headband and ear cushions, minimizing pressure on any particular part of your head.
Comfort also requires a good fit, so being able to adjust the headset to individual head size is crucial, because one-size-really-doesn’t-fit-all. To ensure a snug fit, the Razer Thresher Ultimate has three adjustable parts; the headband adjusts to height, while swiveling and rocking of the ear cushions adapts to specific head shapes.
Mechanically speaking any moving part is a durability risk, so with multiple important moving parts, it’s crucial to keep them separate to avoid the increased risk of breakdowns. Especially since the heat of battle can lead to less-than-loving-care of your equipment. The Razer Thresher Ultimate’s dual headband design spreads the moving parts across the headset to ensure maximum durability while catering to full individual adjustability.
Material selection is the last point that plays into both. Stainless steel 301 for the headband gives you the rugged strength and corrosion resistance required to withstand everyday wear and tear. To prevent buildup of heat and ensuring a smooth feel, the leatherette-wrapped memory-foam headband has breathable cloth on the bottom side resting on your head.
For the ear cushions itself, the Razer Thresher Ultimate comes with one of two possible choices. Straight up leatherette ear cushions that maximize sound isolation for the best possible performance, or cooling gel-infused cloth ear cushions that trade off on sound isolation and quality for the benefit of extended periods of comfortable gaming for hours. Choose based on your individual needs.
Both options come with an indentation in the foam that allows the foam to give in and be comfortable even when used with glasses.