Our PC monitors now curve around the edges of our desks, graphics cards can push enough pixels to give a true sense of photorealism, and virtual reality goggles can put you right inside the action. For that truly transportive gaming experience, it’s now more important than ever then to have sound up to scratch with the visuals. And while it may be a bit of a stretch for most to kit a study out with surround sound speakers, Razer’s simulated 7.1 set-up in its ManO’War gaming headset is about as good as it gets.
What Is It?
A premium, wireless gaming headset that offers tuneable virtual 7.1 surround sound. It’s primarily designed for PC gamers, though PS4 users can get some stereo kicks out of the ManO’War, too.
Who Is It For?
Anyone that’s looking for a step up from their stereo desktop speakers or headsets. Gamers on the hunt for a tidily designed wireless headset that isn’t a pain to set up. Those that want to up their game with performance-enhancing, footstep-isolating sound presets.
The ManO’War is a chunky old beast, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable. Far from it, in fact – it’s so lightweight and well ventilated, with its 375g bulk evenly balanced and distributed, that it can be slipped on for hours without fuss. Large over-ear cans, packing in 50mm neodymium drivers and plumped up with liberal amounts of leather-covered padding, do well to block out exterior sound without chafing the tips of your ears. An adjustable headband, while a little creaky, is also comfortably padded, with the cans twisting just shy of 45 degrees for a flatter profile when ready to be stored.
Though the mix of gloss and black plastics in the construction are put to use in a fairly straightforward aesthetic way, each can also houses an illuminated Razer logo. This can be set through the accompanying Synapse software to one of 16.8 million colours or to pulse through a selection of cycles, depending on how flash you’re feeling.
It’s the casing to the cans themselves that hide the finest tricks though. A push-in, pop-out USB 3.0 2.4 GHz wireless dongle sits discretely embedded in the headset itself, ready to be slipped out or stored safely away when not in use. There’s also a retractable bendy mic that extends about three inches from the left ear piece, ready to be adjusted for optimal in-game mud-slinging, which features an LED on the boom to let you know when you’re muted or broadcasting. These neat design choices are in addition to the mic and volume level wheels, which double up as mute buttons when pushed in.
It’s all very intuitive, and is reflected in the inclusion of a USB 3.0 extender cradle for the receiver, saving those without easily accessible USB ports from having to dig around the back of their machines every time they want to attach the wireless dongle.
Set-up is super simple. Once charged, you just unpop the USB dongle, plug it into your computer and turn on the headset. The two devices will then pair, and you can then set the ManO’War as your default audio output device. No reams of cables or separate mix amps required here.
This will get the headset up and running, but you’re encouraged to download Razer’s Synapse software too, which does the behind-the-scenes wizardry to make the headset’s two drivers act as though they’re a discrete 7.1 system through processing. The Synapse software (which also acts as the hub for controlling any other Razer peripherals you may have and the lighting functions) walks you through the 7.1 audio set-up with an interactive sound test, making a helicopter seem to fly around your room while you fine tune its placement.
Virtual surround sound can be a bit hit or miss, but Razer’s ManO’War is an easy match for even headsets loaded with individual drivers. There’s a remarkable sense of place and positioning here, with sounds sweeping around you naturally. Creeping around an irradiated bunker in Fallout 4, I was easily able to place individual sounds, and the movement of enemies behind me out on the radioactive plains. This is achieved without any loss of quality or lag too, with the ManO’War delivering a warm and balanced sound with great bass response by default. Dig into the Synapse software’s settings and you can tweak the EQ to your liking, while Razer has also included a number of presets designed to improve your competitive gaming performance, including a nifty one that isolated the sound of approaching footsteps for first person shooters.
Razer quotes battery life at 14 hours of continuous play with the lighting elements switched on, and after three marathon Fallout 4 sessions without having to recharge, I’d say that’s a pretty fair guideline. So that’s plenty of time.
The retractable mic is a great idea too – I loved being able to tuck it away when it wasn't in use, and its flexible build made positioning it to my liking very easy. It sounded crisp and clear too, and would be just as at home for Skype or video conferencing calls as it would be a quickly barked CS:GO command.
Though the sound is top notch, it’s Razer’s eye for detail that impressed me most. From the retractable mic design to the embedded slot for the USB reciever in the ear cup when it’s not in use, to the extender cable receiver cradle, Razer’s thought of and acted upon every conceivable way to make this headset as easy to use as possible.
Though the ManO’War can be used with a PS4, its reliance on PC software means that the console experience is limited to stereo sound. It’s still a comfortable headset with a superior mic design and solid sound, but the bells and whistles that come with adjustable 7.1 sound will be lost for console gamers.
Oh, and a carry case wouldn’t have gone amiss, either.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe I just have a hellishly temperamental sound card, but I’ve come into no end of trouble getting wireless headsets to work with my rig in the past. That the ManO’War, despite its wireless and simulated-sound complexities, was as simple to set up as it was, and designed so cleverly, came as a joy. Its strong sound performance caps off a headset that’s very easy to recommend for those that can afford its £180 price tag.
Razer ManO’War Specs
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20 KHz
Cup diameter: 2.36 inches
Drivers: 50mm, neodymium magnets
Receiver type: 2.4GHz, USB 3.0
Wireless range: 40ft
Compatibility: PC and Mac fully supported, PS4 in stereo only