Razer are one of the stalwarts of the gaming scene, with their penchant for neon-green tinged equipment stretching from laptops and headsets to mice and keyboards. They’re not a company scared to take a chance on something new either, whether that’s expanding out into the mobile phone sphere, or building one of the most expensive Covid-19 face masks going. So it’s no surprise to find them partnering their Barracuda X with Embody’s Immerse Gaming brand and the new HIVE Plugin. This bring gaming audio to life in a spectacular surround sound partnership that’s intended to bring gamers into their digital worlds more effectively than ever before.
Let’s start with the Razer Barracuda X. This stereo headset is capable of being both wired in via 3.5mm or going wireless thanks to its USB-C dongle. On its own it’s a fantastic multiplatform choice whether you’re playing on PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch or PC. Unlike many of its Razer brethren, there’s barely a hint of neon green, opting instead for a black, monolithic look, its smooth expanse of plastic surfaces lightly embossed with the Razer logo on each earpiece and the word RAZER placed across the headband.
It’s an easy headset to live with. The removable microphone boom arm has a great range of motion so you can find just the right spot for it to avoid picking up every breath you take, and its simplistic array of controls – a volume dial, mic mute, and power button – leave very little for you to fiddle with. I did find myself consistently catching the volume when taking it on and off, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that the Barracuda X is capable of producing an excruciating level of volume. Seriously, if you’re looking for the fastest path to deafness, just turn this headset up.
The Barracuda X is compact and light, with a distinctly subtle footprint that won’t make you look like you’re trying some poorly thought-out Princess Leia cosplay. You could easily take these out of the house without drawing a single second glance, and they feel robust enough to withstand trips in a backpack. They are plastic, so I would wonder about whether they might be easy to mark if you’re the kind of monster that drops their keys in with all their other stuff.
The standard audio profile is, as you’d expect from Razer, very good indeed. Interestingly, Razer has recently foregone the bass-heavy tendencies of their past and started to aim for more balanced output, so just as with the Razer Blackshark V2, the Barracuda X is a much more even-handed headset when it comes to audio delivery. There’s a pleasing warmth to its audio profile, while retaining plenty of top end to bring out those all-important details.
Now we come to the other half of the package. Immerse Gaming’s HIVE Plugin is an all-new spatial audio solution for gamers, and it comes with a series of headset presets that caters to evertything from Audeze through to Steelseries. Of course, one of the presets has been created for the Razer Barracuda X.
Now, standalone spatial audio solutions aren’t unusual. Many of the big players like Dolby’s Atmos offer a yearly subscription or permanent unlock for their software, and while many headset providers offer their own option it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s something you should leave to the professionals. Immerse are already a player in the gaming arena, having previously provided their tech to Logitech, Beyerdynamic and Audeze, and they’ve got a forthcoming collaboration with Final Fantasy XIV as they bring 360 spatial audio to the fantastic MMO.
It’s fair to say that HIVE is an exceptional surround sound option. I’ve become accustomed to using Dolby Atmos wherever it’s available, enjoying the additional dynamics it provides when gaming or listening to music, but after a few weeks of testing I believe that the HIVE plugin surpasses it. The directional accuracy it provides when playing games like Overwatch or PUBG is impressively acute, helping you to target enemies via footsteps, gunfire, or audio cues. The software can also includes a visual sonar overlay that turns audio cues into directional highlights, giving you even more of an edge, with the addition to your UI helping to truly nail down your opponents. In the interests of everyone having a level playing field, we’d advocate for keeping this turned off when gaming online.
There’s plenty of customisation options, letting you switch between 2 channel and virtual 5.1 or 7.1 surround, though it’s set as 7.1 as standard. You can also increase the distance, a surprisingly effective option that can add even more depth to your game’s soundscape.
Besides that there’s a series of different presets, with the Immerse option primarily designed for shooters but offering the most pleasing enhancement for regular play across all titles. There’s also a high frequency boosting option that’s perfect for picking out the actions of others in MOBAs and one designed for fighting games and racers that ups the bass response to let those engines roar. You’ll be well catered to whether you’re playing Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5 or Final Fantasy XV.
The Razer Barracuda X weighs in with a £99 / $99 price tag, though it’s currently heavily discounted for the holiday buying period and we’ve seen it as low as £55. However, you don’t get HIVE as part of that price. HIVE is available as a free trial so you can test out its functionality before making a purchase, with a year’s license costing $14.99 while a five-year option offers better value at $39.99. In the scheme of things that does make it more expensive than Atmos’ one time fee of $15, or DTS:X’s $20 price point, but you are getting a higher quality option, with more customisation options and specific support for a range of the most popular headsets.