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Razer Mako: hands-on and review

Darren Murph

For a fair majority of you out there, this could easily be the first time you've ever heard of Razer's own 2.1-channel enthusiast speaker system. But if you've been in the market for a swank new setup to pair with your computer or gaming rig, here's to hoping it won't be the last. To bring you up to speed, this uniquely designed, THX-certified set was originally trumpeted at CES 2007, but curiously, it soon fell off the map just as quickly as it had arrived. Fast-forward a dozen months, and sure enough, it made yet another entry at the very same trade show -- this time at THX's own booth. Needless to say, these three speakers have taken their sweet time in coming to market, but were they worth the wait? Click on to find out.


Upon cracking open the box, we found Razer's fingerprints all over the three speakers and single control pod packed within. Each of the quasi-orbs were doused in flat black and featured equally dark grills, a subtle Razer logo on the top and an obligatory THX logo on the front. Needless to say, this trio could slither into nearly any nook or cranny and hide away easily, but we wouldn't hesitate to lay these out in the open and let people stare.

Gallery: Razer Mako unboxing | 23 Photos

As you can see in the gallery above, the beastly subwoofer is crafted to look like a larger version of the two satellites, and all three feature grills that wrap entirely around their enclosures in order to emit sound from every direction. Additionally, every unit has a non-slip coating on the bottom, and each is plenty heavy to stay put when the jams get rockin'. One of the most interesting design cues here is the reliance on a specialized flat CAT5 cable to deliver power and signal from the subwoofer to the two satellites. Yes, Razer does include tags warning you not to use them to connect your PC to a router, and no, we weren't fearless enough to try. All in all, we personally found the design to be quite gamer-centric, but calm enough to be used in basically any environment without looking out of place.


So, what exactly does $399.99 buy you? Aside from the obvious -- a pair of two-way satellites with downward firing 3-inch mids and a 0.75-inch tweeter, alongside an 8-inch long-throw subbie -- this kit packs a 300-watt Audera ClassHD digital amplifier along with THX's patented Ground Plane and Slot Speaker technologies. This system is in fact the first to be equipped with the latter two innovations, which claim to "address desk bounce and comb filtering issues found in conventional desktop speaker systems." The entire rig touts a frequency range of 25 to 20,000Hz, and while each sat is bi-amplified at 2 x 50-watts, the subwoofer nabs the remaining 100-watts for itself.

Gallery: Razer Mako hands-on | 5 Photos

Razer also claims that the aforementioned ClassHD amplifier utilizes a "tracking power supply," which intelligently dishes out the precise amount of juice to each speaker as necessary. As for the port assortment, you'll find a pair of apparent Ethernet jacks to connect the satellites to, a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary port, one set of RCA stereo inputs, a power socket, on / off toggle switch and a serial port for connecting the bundled control pod.

Gallery: Razer Mako port assortment | 7 Photos

Said pod boasts a touch-sensitive surface that allows your fingertips to switch Line 1 to Line 2, adjust the bass level, mute everything or crank up / lower the overall volume. It should be noted that the LED-backlit device -- while extremely attractive -- proved to be somewhat annoying in use. The touch response was far from stable, and in most instances, we found ourselves poking and prodding just to get it to realize that we really needed to roll the volume down for fear of getting evicted. And considering this is your absolute only option for controlling the set (read: there's no remote), we would've liked something a bit more hassle-free. Still, the powered headphone socket and auxiliary input right on the pod itself were very welcome extras.

Gallery: Razer Mako control pod | 12 Photos


Hooking everything up was akin to a trip down easy street. Simply set the speakers where you like, make a few simple connections, avoid the extreme urge to swap that neon green Ethernet cord for one of these speaker cables and you're practically set. Notably, satellite placement in this 2.1 rig wasn't nearly as important as it is with most setups. Due to the 360-degree design, sound really was emitted from "everywhere." We'll be honest -- we weren't expecting such a gimmicky sounding feature to actually affect results, but we truly grew to appreciate the expansive "sweet spot" this setup provided.


After everything was properly in place, we snatched our resident iPod and a nearby PC to utilize as sources. Upon queuing up Anberlin's Cities, Norah Jones' Come Away With Me and a variety of tunes (all of which were ripped in WAV) from every genre we could find, we were immediately taken aback by how much power these critters possessed. When ratcheting the volume around 80-percent of the way up, we literally had to back away in order to prevent our ears from throbbing. Best of all, however, was the fact that we didn't want to. No, even at four-fifths of the way to maximum volume, the Mako performed admirably -- no clipping, no bottoming out and no other audio issues that tend to rear their ugly heads when signals are cranked.

Upon restoring the overall level to a slightly more sensible point, we began listening for the subtleties often heard only when a decent set of cans are wrapped around your dome. Particularly in the regions of 5,000Hz and up, we were admittedly impressed with what was delivered. Quiet background tracks were presented fully, driving rhythm and lead riffs were allowed to cut through, and vocals never seemed too "in front." Put simply: these speakers were actually living up the THX logo that graced each of them. As for the lower frequencies, we were reminded that we weren't parked in front of a multi-thousand (million?) dollar home theater. Sure, the bottom end was copacetic, but we did feel that it had a somewhat tough time delivering the necessary punch when faced with double bass runs and the like. Still, under the majority of circumstances, the bass maker was a real champ, and for folks who just can't get enough of the low-lows -- precision be darned -- we can assure you that the Mako won't disappoint.

Realistically, this system wasn't designed just for music. Rather, we got the impression that it was created for music lovers, gamers and movie buffs alike -- albeit buffs who don't mind a non-5.1 system every once and awhile. When we tested the speakers in each of the aforementioned scenarios, we came away pleasantly satisfied every single time. The bass was full and impactful, the mids and highs were crystal clear and the enveloping sound emitted from the satellites almost made us forget that we were listening to just three speakers -- almost.

Gallery: Razer Mako 2.1-channel speaker system | 18 Photos


As if you couldn't tell, we honestly think Razer (and THX) has a winner on their hands here. No, it won't replace any bona fide multi-channel setups or anything, but unfortunately, it never intended to. Our biggest gripe with the Mako -- beyond the finicky control pod -- is the fact that it's not available in a 5.1 flavor. This unit packs quite a punch, and certainly rivals some of the more expensive 2.1 systems our ears have been lucky enough to hear. But it removes itself from the ever-expanding HTIB category by not including a bit more oomph and three more channels. Still, it's hard to knock the Mako for what it actually is, but we do feel that it's launching about $50 to $75 higher than it should be. Nevertheless, if you're willing to pony up in order to make sure your next bedroom / computer / office setup has George Lucas' approval (and sounds mighty fine, too), we can't imagine this product disappointing.

Razer is getting set to launch the Mako in a number of (currently undisclosed) US big box retailers "in the coming weeks," and we've also confirmed that it will make its way to Germany and the UK sometime in the future.

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