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Audible Discontent


Been awhile.  What to blog about?  What have I been up to lately?  Mostly doing that Udemy Unity course, but there were a few other things.  For this entry, lets talk about a botched PC hardware experiment.

I bought a Sound Blaster Zx because, in the prior paycheck, I succumbed to the lure of the Razer CES 2016 Appreciation event and bought Razer Kraken Forged headphones and I was hoping to get a rich sound source to go with it. 

In theory, having high quality headphones married to high quality sound hardware would mean I would get a superior experience over a set of 5.1 headphones with their integrated USB sound.  In practice, I have found disappointing little improvement over simply using a Corsair Vengence 1500 headset with its integrated USB sound.

Part of the problem is that Creative still doesn't know how to write good drivers.  When I tried to install the drivers I downloaded from the web, they couldn't find the hardware.  Fortunately, the CD drivers worked.  Unfortunately, the drivers frequently stop working when I switch from speakers to headphones and also the active application.  I often can revive the card by closing and re-opening some Creative volume control software, but it's an annoyance.   Another qualm is the use of the Zx accessory prevents the card from automatically detecting when headphones are plugged in.  All of these seem like issues Creative should have been able to solve.

I will say that the sound emitted by the Creative Sound Blaster Zx, a sound card with genuine hardware acceleration, is indeed quite rich.  It's not much of an exaggeration to suggest that Creative pioneered the PC sound solutions we use today, so one should assume the Sound Blaster Z series design does much more than just comically display the dedicated sound chip.   However, it feels as though the user must pay a price in cumbersome, oft-malfunctioning Creative bloatware to access the power of their hardware.

Yet, my main problem turns out to be the headphones.

These stupid Razer Kraken Forged have overpowered lows and sub-par highs and mids.  Some reviewers have suggested this makes them good for gaming.  I am an experienced gamer who believes what games need most of all is an accurate representation of the full range of sounds.

I really don't like how "quality" headphones have come to mean ridiculous reverberation of bass.  Perhaps it's a sign of the times, or perhaps the average "audiophile" headphone reviewer has vibrated their grey matter into partial dysfunction.  All I know is that this unbalanced, bass-heavy sound seems unsuitable for anything but listening to certain genres of music, and that severely hampers the potential of any sound hardware.

I was hoping a better sound card could equalize things, and it did help a little, but in the end the only real advantage the Razer Kraken Forged possesses is a admirably solid build quality.  "Forged" is right; this is some lovely aluminum, disappointingly hard to find in this day and age.  This is surely the best headphone that can double as a pugalistic accessory, just ask my beat up eardrums.

Adding insult to injury, it turns out that I can get these same Razer Kraken Forged headphones for about $170 on amazon.  The Razer store quoted me a $300 price, so I thought I was getting a real bargain when the "2016 CES Appreciation Sale" would cut that in half.  Nope!  After taxes and shipping, it was no sale at all.

Between the terribly unbalanced sound of these cans and the price gouging of their online store, I am left with the impression that Razer wants to market itself to a naive demographic.  After all, they blatantly tricked me with the price, and I can only imagine a grungy tween would genuinely want bass so heavy that it overpowers everything else.  After this ordeal, I will think twice before I buy the Razer brand again.

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