As more and more PCs move from the dusty corners of your house into the living room, their multimedia capabilities combining with our high-definition outputs to become the centrepiece of our entertainment. This has lead to a surge in headphone users and a dramatic improvement in the quality of headsets designed for home computers.
Surround headsets aren't new, but usually stick to just 5.1 surround effects with varying degrees of success. Many claim to be surround but merely use software trickery to supply the effect. Managing to squeeze all the speakers needed for genuine surround sound in a headset is a complicated design challenge, which has led to some very curious designs.
Enter Razer, with the Tiamat. Not only is this a genuine 7.1 surround headset, but Razer have crammed a whopping 10 individual drivers into the ear-pieces. So theoretically this should provide incredible sound quality and the best surround audio we've yet seen in a headset.
With so many speakers the technical specifications of the Tiamat are lengthy indeed. When you've finished perusing them, move on to the next page and we'll take a look at the Tiamat in all its glory.
Volume Control Unit
PC Connector: Microphone-In, 4x Audio-Out
Speakers Connector: 4x Audio-Out, 1x Audio-In
As you'd expect from a headset costing the thick end of £160, the packaging is excellent. A beautiful cardboard sleeve highlights the key features, including the incredible job the designers have done in fitting so many speakers into a relatively compact ear-piece.
Sliding the cover off and opening the box reveals the Tiamat, with the documentation in a separate compartment. The first thing that strikes you is the depth of the padding and the weight. Although it's not the heaviest headset that we've reviewed, it's by no means a featherweight.
The headband is leather on the top-side, with an embossed Razer logo. On the underside it is heavily padded which helps spread the weight evenly and make the Tiamat very comfortable to wear.
Connection is a USB for the in-line remote, although it's far more than a mere volume wheel, and the five standard connections for the audio and microphone.
Considering the price the microphone is extremely cheap and plastic. That isn't to say it isn't going to be high-quality durable plastic, but initial impressions certainly aren't great.
Up Close Continued
The side of the ear-pieces have a very nice touch, with the cover being transparent. You really get a sense of the quality of the speakers, and how much thought has been put into the design. It's very cool.
If you prefer the more usual cover, the Tiamat comes with blank black covers which attach via magnets to the side, covering up the speakers. We can't see why you'd choose this option, but it's nice to have.
The heavily padded leather cups pull off with plastic studs, and you can see the complicated arrangement of speaker grills.
The volume control and mixer is another clever piece of design. At the top is a rotating selector to choose which element you wish to control the volume of. The big dial has a lovely smooth action, and if you click it down it mutes the volume. At the bottom are the buttons which mute the microphone and switch between stereo and 7.1 surround.
As well as the lights on the volume mixer there are Razer logos that light up at the base of each ear-piece.
Getting the surround effect right in the small amount of real estate available in a pair of headphones is a difficult task. After all, surround relies heavily on the space between the speakers to be at its best. When the speakers are almost overlapped in an ear-piece then that space is compressed dramatically.
Even with this potential limitations, the Razer Tiamat has the best sound quality of any genuine surround headset we've reviewed here at OC3D. We will start with the Bass, which is tight and thumping. Whether you have the general low frequencies of your MP3 of choice, or the chest pounding thud of a .50 cal gun, the Tiamat delivers taut bass at all times. However, bass is easy to do, although not always with this clarity. The important thing the Tiamat gets right is that the bass isn't overwhelming the rest of the audio spectrum. Both the midrange and the highs are excellent too. There is a real sense of definition throughout the range.
So the general sound is great, what about the surround effect?
It's fantastic. There is a superb sense of space and, most importantly, it's very easy to pinpoint the direction the sound is coming from, which helps you kill your foes, avoid your friends and enjoy the full-spectrum of sound in your favourite film. Of course when all hell is kicking off around you then the clarity of the audio is just as important as when things are quieter, but you really notice the directional audio in those quiet moments. Sneaking around is made much easier when you can hear a pin drop and define where it is.
Finally, it's extremely comfortable to wear for long periods. The heavily padded cups and headband distribute the weight very nicely, with no part of the Tiamat pressing upon your head.
As with all things there are a couple of elements that detract slightly. As one effects the other we'll start with price. It's a whopping £160. That's a lot of money in anyone's book, and given the excellent sound available from headsets costing comprehensively more, then it's very difficult to recommend the Tiamat from a value for money standpoint. This is emphasised by the sheer amount of plastic. We know that most headsets are plastic, it's sturdy, cheap and light. But with the big audio mixer, dual headbands and sheer size of the Tiamat in general you find plastic everywhere and never feel, sound quality aside, that you're in possession of something at such a premium price.
So if you can look past the price, forget that it's heavy on the plastic, the Tiamat provides the finest surround experience you can currently buy, and for that reason we're happy to award it our OC3D Performance Award, such is the quality of the audio.
Thanks to Razer for supplying the Tiamat 7.1 for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.