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Razer Hammerhead Pro review: Great sound, brutally overpriced

Great sound quality can't compensate for everything.

Basics

Razer has another entry in its lineup of "truly wireless" earbuds, and they're called the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pros. Quite a mouthful, but these earbuds are THX certified, feature active noise cancellation, and look a lot like another popular wireless earbud, but can they compete?

Specs

- In-ear design

- Active noise cancellation (ANC)

- 10mm driver

- "Beamforming" microphones

- Touch controls

- IPX4 splash resistance

- MSRP of $199

Physical design

Let's just get this out of the way: Razer's Hammerhead Pros are made from a plastic that I personally find to be lacking. Apple's AirPods Pro are filled with glue (much to the chagrin of repair advocates), and therefore feel much more substantial. Samsung's Buds+ aren't filled with glue, but still feel much higher quality. But this (by itself) isn't a dealbreaker, as we'll see.

Physical design (cont'd)

Yes, the plastic is very thin and doesn't feel as good as either of its biggest rivals, but the Hammerhead Pros are IPX4 water resistant, so it's not all bad. Plus, the light weight is actually beneficial for longer listening sessions.

Sound quality

What the Hammerhead Pros lack in physical splendor they thankfully make up for with great sound quality. I don't have AirPods Pro, but I do have a pair of Samsung Buds+ and a pair of Sony WH-1000XM2s, and I'm happy to report that the Hammerhead Pros sound better (and just louder) than the Buds+.

Are they as good WH-1000XM2s? Not quite, but the margin is smaller than you'd think.

Noise cancelling

Active noise cancelling is also a bright spot. I compared the Hammerhead Pro's ANC to the well-regarded WH-1000XM2's ANC by playing a bit of white noise (my best approximation of airplane noise) on my desktop speakers and the Hammerhead Pros are surprisingly comparable. These won't completely neutralize all the sound around you like some other premium buds will, but it's still a notable achievment.

The case

Like the buds, the case for the Hammerhead Pros is made from lesser plastics, but it has a few things going for it; it closes with a pleasant snap, it charges over USB-C, and the buds are magnetically sucked into the case in a reassuring way.

Battery life

Razer's Hammerhead Pros are quoted at four hours of battery life in the buds themselves, and I found this to be a bit of a stretch, but not far off — more like three to three-and-a-half with ANC on and the volume bumping.

The case is quoted for 16 hours of charge, which is what you'd expect for a case this size. It charges up the earbuds fairly quickly, too.

Drawbacks

There are some other quibbles with the Hammerhead Pros. Here's what I found:

- Microphone quality on calls is terrible. In a video-call world, this is a dealbreaker at $199.

- The touch controls are so sensitive and inscrutable that when you move the buds into or out of the case, you will change your podcast, skip your song, or disable ANC.

- There's also no audio feedback when you do use the touch controls, so there's no way to tell what's happening.

- The LED on the case is oddly dim?

- The internal voice that says "pairing" and "ANC on" sounds like Crazy Frog.

Price

At $199, it's hard to recommend Razer's newest wireless earbuds. It's not just the poor build materials; taking the buds in and out of your ears is bound to trigger the capacitive gestures, causing all kinds of chaos. Then there's the awful microphone quality on calls.

It doesn't help that the wireless earbud space is really competitive right now. Setting the AirPods Pro and Samsung's Buds+ aside for a moment, there's also the identically priced Jabra Elite 85ts which have six microphones for voice calls, or Sony's WF-1000XM3s which sound fantastic and can often be found on sale.

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Should you buy them?

Razer's Hammerhead Pros are good wireless earbuds, but they're not premium wireless earbuds. At least for now, our world revolves around online communication, and shipping a pair of earbuds at $199 with bad microphones just isn't a winning strategy. The audio quality for playback is there, now we just need to bring that over to voice calls and we'll be good to go.

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