I’ll be honest: Razer blew me away with its Opus headphones earlier this year. Based on my experience with the company’s gaming headsets, I knew it had some decent audio chops, but I wasn’t expecting it to build a nearly complete package for $200. Now Razer is bringing some of the features that made the Opus so great to its true wireless earbuds. With the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro ($200), the company packed in active noise cancellation (ANC), THX sound and a low-latency gaming mode. There are a lot of features here, but they lack the fine-tuning needed to make them truly compelling.
Gallery: Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro review | 14 Photos
Gallery: Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro review | 14 Photos
Razer introduced its first true wireless earbuds last fall. The Hammerhead True Wireless are affordable at $100, offering audio latency as low as 60ms. However, the key issue was battery life. In late 2019, four hours on a charge was quite disappointing, and a year later, it’s near the bottom of the bin. With the new Pro version of these earbuds, Razer has updated the design and added a host of new features that almost make the pricer version a worthy AirPods alternative.
- Great sound quality
- Customizable options
- Comfy fit
- Great assortment of ear tips
- Limited battery life
- Polarizing design
- Gaming mode can be hit or miss
- No on-board volume controls
- No wireless charging
Aesthetically, the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro are similar to the Hammerhead earbuds that debuted in 2019. Razer kept the AirPod-like stickbud design, along with the company’s signature black-and-green color scheme. The biggest difference is that the Hammerhead Pro employs a collection of silicone ear tips where the original model was just plastic, not unlike AirPods. There are three sizes of “SmoothComfort” black tips with a “softer, smoother finish,” according to the company, plus three sizes of “SecureSeal” tips that have a “more rigid, grippier” exterior. Lastly, Razer threw in one set of “Comply” foam ear tips that expand in your ear canal for better passive noise isolation.
Another new element you’ll notice is a microphone grille on the outside of each earbud. Those “feedforward” mics monitor environmental noise as part of the Hammerhead Pro’s ANC setup. Razer also relocated the charging pins from inside of each earbud “stick” to the bottom edge. Because of this, the Pro buds sit upright in their charging case where the first version laid flat. The case is still very compact, though — not much larger than a box of Tic Tacs.
Inside, Razer opted for smaller 10mm drivers on the Hammerhead Pro. The original Hammerhead earbuds packed in 13mm units, but the company promises the same 20Hz-20KHz frequency response as the previous model. There’s also a feedback microphone inside each earbud to catch any unwanted noise that might sneak past the external ANC mics. A circular panel on each side handles touch controls, and they’re both adorned with Razer’s snake logo. Lastly, the Hammerhead Pro is IPX4 rated against splashes, so they should easily withstand sweat during a workout.
Setup and use
When it comes to the initial pairing process, Razer made things easy. All you have to do is flip open the case and the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro will appear in your Bluetooth menu. You don’t have to mess around with putting the earbuds in pairing mode first. The next time you flip open the charging case to remove to the buds, they’ll pair with your device automatically. By the time you get them into your ears, you’re ready to play music or a podcast. The company has already released a firmware update for the earbuds, and the companion app alerted me to install it from the jump. In less than 10 minutes, the process was complete and I was ready to go.
Speaking of apps, Razer has different software for the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro than for the Opus. That’s not really a problem unless you own both. If you do, things could get a bit cumbersome; it’s one more thing to juggle on your phone when most companies have one app that works with all their models. Inside you’ll find battery percentages for each earbud, custom EQ and the ability to remap the on-board controls. To tweak the sound profile, you can select from Razer’s collection of presets: THX (default), Amplified (increased low and mid frequencies), Vocal, Enhanced Bass and Enhanced Clarity (more emphasis on mid and high frequencies). There’s also a custom option that gives you total control of the EQ curve. The app saves your work there, and if you ever need to start over, there’s a handy “Set to flat” button.
For the touch controls, Razer allows you to reconfigure every gesture the earbuds will accept. In other words, you can totally remap single press, double tap, triple tap, long press and a triple tap and hold. That final, more involved option is set to activate the low-latency gaming mode by default. The other actions include play/pause, skipping tracks, stop, voice assistant and ANC/transparency mode. Razer also allows you to set a gesture to “nothing” if you see fit, and it will also let you rejigger the controls for calls. The default options are mirrored on both sides, but they don’t have to remain that way. The one key item that the company doesn’t offer is on-board volume control, so you’ll need to reach for your phone or trust your voice assistant to make that change for you. These earbuds do pause automatically when you remove at least one of them, so that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about.
Speaking of automatic pausing, the Hammerhead Pro will turn off after a few minutes of inactivity. And what’s even handier is that the earbuds automatically turn on again when you pick them up off your desk and put them back in your ears. You don’t have to dock them in the case first, or press and hold on both earbuds. It’s quick and easy, and it’s super convenient.
In use, the touch controls are mostly reliable. The one weird thing I had to reprogram my brain for was the single press, which is set to play/pause by default. Where a lot of earbuds are headphones make this a single tap, it’s a longer press here. The Hammerhead Pro won’t do a thing if you try to get away with a quick tap; you have to leave your finger on the panel slightly longer. It’s frustrating at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. It still feels strange, though, especially since the double and triple tap gestures are the quick sort of thing I’m used to.
Due to the assortment of ear tips, and the fact that the Hammerhead Pro earbuds don’t go all that far into your ear canals, I had no issue wearing these for hours at a time. I start to notice a hint of discomfort after about 45 minutes with most earbuds, but I never encountered the same pressure here, whether I was using the silicone tips or the Comply foam option. Razer’s companion app also includes a fit test, so you can get a second opinion after you’ve made your selection.
Like the Opus, Razer has built a well-tuned set of earbuds with the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro. There’s enjoyable punchy bass that swells and drones when it needs to accommodate drum machines, synths and driving beats. There’s also nice clarity in the highs and mids, which produces crisp vocals and allows details like textured guitars and gritty samples to come through clearly.
On Mike Shinoda’s remix of Deftones’ “Passenger,” there are easily identifiable layers. A booming, pulsing bass line with keys, synths, guitars and percussion are stacked on top of each other. Same goes for the Purity Ring remix of “Knife Prty,” although that track is a bit more open and atmospheric — as is most of the band’s music. The THX audio here isn’t the most immersive experience I’ve had on true wireless earbuds, but it’s pretty damn close. Simply put, these are a joy to listen to.
And it’s not just the intricate or detailed stuff that sounds good, the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro performs well across a range of genres. The chaotic, grungy metal of Every Time I Die comes through just as good, with frenetic guitar riffs, drums and screaming vocals standing on their own in the mix. You can also hear the texture in the distortion, it’s not just noise. Ditto for the finer details of acoustic instruments on Sturgill Simpson’s Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 2. Again, guitars, upright bass, mandolin, fiddle and banjo have ample focus — almost as if you’re in the room where these songs were recorded.