Gaming Headset Buyer's Guide & Roundup

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Razer Megalodon

The second Razer gaming headset in our round-up is the Megalodon. Named after the largest shark that ever lived, the Megalodon continues Razer's predatory fish theme for their sound products. The Megalodon and Carcharias are very similar in many ways, but also very different in several key areas.

The first thing you'll notice is the Megalodon looks exactly like the Carcharias. We can confirm that they are physically identical in appearance and dimension. The only visual difference between the two headsets is the Razer logo in the center of each ear cup lights up on the Megalodon, while the Carcharias doesn't. They are made of the same materials and have the same feel and build quality. While we can't confirm if they have the same internals, the two headsets sport identical specifications.

 Razer Megalodon
 Frequency Response
 20Hz - 20kHz
 Driver Design
 40mm per ear cup
 102 dB
 Impedance  32 Ohms
 Cable Length
 11 ft (3.3 m)
 In-line Volume Control
 In-line Mic Control
 Input Method
 Frequency Range (mic)
 50Hz - 16kHz
 Microphone Pick-up Pattern
 Removable Microphone
 Price  $126.84

The primary difference between the two headsets lies in how they interface with your computer. While the Carcharias is strictly analog, and uses a set of standard 3.5mm audio jacks for the audio and microphone connections, the Megalodon is a digital unit with a USB interface.

Similar to the Creative Arena Surround USB, the Razer Megalodon connects to your computer using a USB plug. Also like the Arena Surround, the Megalodon features digital virtual surround sound processing and active microphone background noise suppression. The control pod houses a digital signal processor Razer calls the Maelstrom, which effectively acts like a dedicated sound card and provides the virtual surround sound effect.

Design & Comfort
Since the Megalodon headset is physically identical to the Carcharias, please refer to the previous page for our build quality and design impressions. The Megalodon has all of the same advantages (high comfort, good build quality) and disadvantages (limited mic adjustment, sound leakage) as the Carcharias.

The main attraction with the Megalodon is the digital control pod that replaces the Carcharias' in-line volume clip. The control pod offers a wide range of adjustments from the main volume and microphone volume to the bass level. In virtual surround sound mode, each virtual channel's volume can be individually adjusted. The control pod also houses the headset's dedicated sound card.

Overall the control pod seems to be well designed. It's also fairly slick looking, but the glossy surface is a fingerprint magnet that's difficult to keep clean. The built-in sound card is entirely plug-and-play and requires no drivers to work. Just plug it in and you're ready to go. Unfortunately, unlike the Creative Arena Surround USB, which offers optional driver utility for more tweaking options, there are no drivers or utilities for the Megalodon. So if you are unhappy with how they sound or operate, you are limited to the adjustments built into the control pod.

Sound Quality
For the most part, the basic sound quality of the Megalodon isn't much different than the Carcharias. The difference is the Megalodon has a virtual surround sound option built-in, and it offers audio adjustments for tweaking the bass and the levels of each channel in virtual surround sound mode. This lets you tweak the sound of the Megalodon a bit which results in a generally more pleasing listening experience than the Carcharias, but it's worth mentioning that a similar effect can be achieved on the Carcharias if you use a sound card with similar adjustments.

We found the quality of the virtual surround sound effect produced by Razer's Maelstrom engine was extremely sensitive of the audio source. With true 7.1 audio sources like blu-ray movies and certain games (ie. Left 4 Dead), the Megalodon's virtual surround sound worked very well. The effect was as convincing as the best virtual surround sound technologies we have encountered. However, with non-native surround sound sources, the virtual surround sound algorithm simply wasn't up to snuff. In fact, sometimes the virtual surround sound was lacking, like with certain stereo sources. It created disturbing distortions in the sound that marred the experience. Luckily the control pod has a toggle button for the virtual surround sound so you can easily flip to stereo mode.

Compared to the Creative Arena Surround, the Megalodon's virtual surround sound algorithm is much more aggressive which means is sounds even better when virtual surround sound works, but it also sounds even worse when it doesn't.

The Megalodon seems to be aimed at people who want a simple all in one, plug and play sound solution. For $150, you can have a headset and sound card all rolled into one. Considering the Megalodon is basically the same headset as the Carcharias, with the Megalodon you are basically paying the extra $70 for the dedicated sound card. The Megalodon also includes a nice carrying case which is worth something, but it doesn't account for much of the price difference.

If you think a $70 sound card with slick integration is worthwhile, then the Megalodon might be a good buy. However the rest of us might be better served with a Carcharias and spending the $70 difference on a discrete sound card. While it won't be quite as plug and play or slick, a basic gaming sound card from Creative, Asus or any number of other manufacturers is likely to be more versatile than the single-purpose Megalodon unit.

On the other hand, if you aren't particularly taken away by the Megalodon/Carcharias' design, and/or you aren't pleased with the recessed midrange, consider picking up the Creative Arena Surround USB. It's effectively the same package as the Megalodon at 2/3 the price.

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