It’s an interesting marketplace at the moment when it comes to headphones and earphones. Some manufacturers claim it’s the current market need or want and are removing the headphone jack, which puts some buyers like myself who have invested in really good headphones in an awkward position – to buy or shy away from a phone with only a USB-C connection. Particularly for any users who travel on a semi-regular basis this becomes more and more important.
Razer make some truly amazing equipment for PC gamers, streamers and audio enthusiasts but they’ve also release some Active Noise Cancelling USB-C earphones called the Hammerhead USB-C ANC. They’re clearly intended as an accessory upsell with the Razer Phone 2 which we reviewed a couple of months ago and they certainly added a dimension to the gaming experience of a phone, but the earphones deserve to be recognised as a stand alone device.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Razer gear personally over the years, will continue to spend money on it because it’s high quality, aesthetically GORGEOUS and because it lasts so long – to me at least, represents good value. Earbuds and earphones are a hugely personal item, I know plenty of people who dislike earphones as they don’t like anything in their ears, others who can’t get comfy earphones and some who simply swear by them.
For anyone who has seen and used Razer equipment in the past, there is no mistaking their branding on the Hammerhead ANC. That well known black and green colour combination with their logo illuminated on the earbuds themselves leaves you in no doubt of who the manufacturer is.
The earbuds are an aluminium construction which makes them not only sturdy but lightweight and given their likely usage patterns for most users, this is critical to their longevity. They are also delivered with some excellent options for different ear size and shape with multiple tips including silicone (which worked best for me) and some memory foam tips as well.
I like the fact that the cord is braided, it feels really strong and offers a bit more peace of mind around the potential for snags of the cable. It’s also a reasonable length which makes it useful for plugging into not just a phone that you can drop in your pocket, but also devices on your desk through the USB-C connector. The in-line controller on the cable offers (on Android devices at least) volume up, volume down, play/pause, forward and back track for playback and call answer/hang up. It’s simple but it works.
What are they good at?
- They’re earphones, so most importantly, the sound quality is great.
- The noise cancellation is really solid, it will cover off many noises around you – not just general background noise
- There are both silicone and memory foam tips included in the box
- They’ll work with your laptop or tablet’s USB-C port
- They come with a handy little carry pouch with a carabiner for easy carry and access.
What’s not so good?
- And we’re back to tangled cables which can be really annoying!
- I’ve found a few issues with device compatibility: Razer are really open about the compatibility – you just have to find the list!
- It looks great, but the illumination on the earbuds can be distracting to those around you
I’ve already mentioned what really counts with earphones and it’s the audio quality which for the Hammerhead is excellent. But there’s a couple of variables that I feel warrant some further exploration to really put the full picture forward.
The Noise Cancelling is very good, probably the best I’ve used on in-ear style earphones to date. They don’t drown out all noise around you. You’ll still hear nearby conversations, you’ll still hear cars and horns around you if you’re commuting – but the background noise of the world is gone! It offers you a way to tune out to the world without removing yourself from it and I found it removed the feeling of “hustle and bustle” from daily life.
The Hammerhead USB-C ANC are quite versatile in the sound delivery offering plenty of volume at a theoretical peak of 110db (more than enough to permanently damage your hearing) and a (particularly for earphones) a broad range of response frequencies: 20 Hz to 20 kHz to be precise.
On paper that’s all reasonably impressive, but in practice Razer have delivered some really crisp mid-range sound and clean highs (I tend to find earphones shrill, almost hard to listen to in this range) but if I was to really criticise – the bass is a bit lacking for certain genre of playback. Honestly though, that’s ok depending on what you listen to. If you’re a doof doof listener, you’re going to be disappointed – but if clean sounds without overpowering bass excites you, then these Hammerheads are really going to float your boat.
I also found the tuning with use of an EQ app on the Hammerhead ANC earphones to be hugely responsive, so if you’re someone who really likes to tweak sound to your liking then these should be fairly high up on your list.
So should you buy some?
They’re not cheap ($169AUD) as far as earbuds go but they’re really well built, beautifully presented and offer excellent quality sound. You also get the latest addition to a long line of great hardware from a well recognised manufacturer of mobile and gaming hardware.
If you don’t like earphones (in-ear vs on/over-ear) then you should probably keep moving because if you don’t like earbuds – these won’t change that. They do however, give you the versatility moving forward to keep them as we’re almost at a point where one port will rule them all.
When you couple the frequency response with the volume, Active Noise Cancelling and comfort, you’ve got a set of all-rounders that suddenly come across as a great value investment instead of a potential luxury item. The upshot is that if you’re in the market for a set of wired USB-C earphones then I’d happily recommend that you put the Razer Hammerhead Active Noise Cancelling set to the pointy end of your shortlist.
The Razer Hammerhead USB-C ANC earphones are available from the Razer online store for $169.95 and from other online stores where Razer products are sold.
Due to the health issues associated with sharing 'in-ear' devices, Razer have allowed Ausdroid to retain the Hammerhead USB-C earphones.