Wireless headphones and earbuds are becoming the norm, whether we like it or not, thanks to the removal of 3.5mm jack ports from so many modern electronics. There’s undoubtedly a design trend for rechargeable earbuds, with so many looking perhaps not so subtly like a particular manufacturer and fruit fanatic, also doubling up their earphone carry case as a charging unit. Whether or not other companies can stand out from the crowd is a challenge they all face, and Razer has returned to its Hammerhead pair for a 2nd-generation refresh.
The Razer brand carries a lot of credibility in the gaming scene. The Hammerhead buds feature the famous three-headed serpent logo represented as multicolored LEDs for a striking visual element. However, whether or not this pairs up with a decent audio response remains to be seen.
I spent a long weekend with the revised buds, putting them through their paces with music playback and testing the low-latency gaming mode to see whether RGB lights are the only standout feature for my Razer Hammerhead wireless earbuds review.
Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen: Price and availability
Razer sells the Hammerhead 2nd Gen true wireless earbuds through major third-party retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy, for a $130 MSRP. Available in black, the logo on each earbud changes color via RGB lighting, and they come packaged with a charging case and USB cable.
Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen: What you’ll like
My first impressions of the Razer Hammerhead earbuds were good, if not without a sense of déjà vu. The glossy design of the buds looks stylish, if a little prone to fingerprints, and the dark colors feel more appealing than the often-seen white elephant tusks sticking out the ears of some. There’s no mistaking the inspiration here, especially when you get everything unboxed and note the three choices for silicone tips and a typical charging case.
Imitation is fine if you improve upon the inspiration, and thankfully a USB-C charging cable replaces the proprietary alternative. The connectors are highlighted in bright green in classic Razer fashion for that extra bit of branding. It’s minor, but I’m a sucker for trivial extras like this. When Apple comparisons end, you might wonder how these buds differ from the practically identical Razer Hammerhead Pro, a set our executive editor Daniel Rubino reviewed a couple of years ago.
You wouldn’t tell the difference at a glance, and the internal hardware doesn’t vary too wildly, besides a lack of THX certification on these regular buds. Aesthetics were a priority for Razer with these second-generation Hammerhead earbuds. Still, the meat of the review will come down to how they perform with audio, battery life, and the low latency gaming mode claiming no more than 60ms of delay over Bluetooth. Connecting to my phone is as simple as you would expect, seating the buds into the charging case to have them enter pairing mode.
Connecting to my phone is as simple as you would expect, seating the buds into the open charging case to have them enter pairing mode. You don’t get any personalization options without the companion Razer Audio app, available on Android and iOS, which thankfully doesn’t require a login. Once installed and paired, you can access a switch for the RGB lighting on each bud. Disabling them nets extra battery life, or you can select a custom color and animated patterns for a bit of flair.
It’s a painless experience, even if it means having a dedicated app for the Hammerhead earbuds. The visual equalizer makes up for it alone, allowing me to adjust the audio levels until they sound perfect. You can switch active noise cancellation (ANC) in this app, but it’s much easier with a single, two-second press on either bud with a spoken confirmation in your ear.
With the Chroma RGB feature disabled and the levels cranked up for extra bass, these buds became my primary drivers for a week of work. I’m delighted to tell you that these little buds deliver a well-rounded spectrum of sound powered by impressive hardware specs.
|Battery life||Up to 32.5 hours|
Razer claims that you can reach around 22.5 hours of battery life using the Hammerhead buds with ANC on and lighting off, with four total charges from the case. I occasionally switched to ambient mode to listen for sounds around the house and never had my phone set any higher than 30% volume. After the initial case charge, I worked multiple days wearing the buds and easily hit this lifespan goal. I’d likely have gone even longer if I resisted toggling ANC so frequently, but spending an entire day immersed in work means missing the sound of our doorbell.
The ANC effect is decent without being too overwhelming, as some noise-canceling earphones often left me with an uncomfortable feeling of pressure. I swapped out the silicone tips to make a better seal in my ears, which significantly improved the bass response and had me wearing the Hammerhead buds for hours without issue.
The low-latency gaming mode works well enough, with a minor delay that becomes less noticeable the more you play. It’s far better than mobile gaming with a regular Bluetooth headset, which usually renders an Xbox Cloud Gaming (opens in new tab) session unplayable on my phone. 60ms isn’t perfect, but good enough considering there’s no dedicated USB dongle, and I managed to forget about the latency after a few races in DiRT 5 (opens in new tab).
Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen: What you won’t like
The unique selling point of the Razer Hammerhead buds is also the part that frustrates me the most, putting color-changing LED lighting into wireless earbuds. It looks neat for a first impression, and then some questions come to mind: Who is this for, and wouldn’t they soon disable it?
Razer breaks down the potential battery life of the earbuds into sections, including whether or not you have ANC and RGB lighting switched off. One of the ridiculous settings is an equalizer-style pulse that reacts to the music, visible to everyone else besides you. I can’t see why you’d have a set of rainbow-flashing bulbs in your ears unless you’re on live streaming on camera, which is probably the only audience who would use it.
It keeps returning to Razer being a gaming brand, which is fine for excusing most aesthetic choices, but wireless earbuds are inevitably taken out of the house. Advertising $130 of high-tech buds in your ears, like some neon-lit Las Vegas billboard, would be a terrible idea in some busier public places, but knocking the score down for the notion of the potential theft isn’t exactly fair.
Still, the battery drain is enough of an issue to disable the Chroma RGB lighting immediately. It’s cool enough as a party trick to show off to friends, watching your favorite colors cycling on the buds, but the novelty ends there.
Heading outside is where another problem, unfortunately, reveals itself in the microphone. Though the dual-mic setup works well for the noise canceling during audio playback, any amount of wind seems to destroy the quality of your voice during a phone call. Walking down my quiet street on a relatively mild day, any amount of blowing into the buds reduced the microphone clarity. It’s another hint that Razer expects you to mostly remain indoors with the Hammerhead buds and stick to gaming since they sound fine in party chat when sitting at my desktop PC.
Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen: The competition
If you’re looking for alternatives to the big players, you can save plenty of money on cheaper sets offering comparable quality like the UGREEN HiTune X6 ANC wireless earbuds (opens in new tab). They feature the same uses with a charging case and replaceable silicone tips, but you suffer on battery life against the Razer Hammerhead buds.
For something with more of a unique style, the EKSA GT1 Cobra gaming earbuds (opens in new tab) feature an impressive 36ms latency, lower than Razer. They stand out with that so-called gamer aesthetic, looking like a prop from a sci-fi movie set, and they’re a fraction of Razer’s asking price.
It’s sometimes tempting to head straight for something more first-party, like Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 (opens in new tab) (via Android Central), which also features a gaming mode for low latency. Still, the quality on offer with cheaper sets is often fine for anyone who isn’t an audiophile fanatic.
Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen: Should you buy?
You should buy this if …
- You’re looking to stand out from the crowd.
- You need a well-rounded sound with solid bass.
- You want an RGB aesthetic for gaming or live streaming.
You shouldn’t buy this if …
- You need ultra-low latency earbuds.
- You plan to talk on the phone in noisy spaces.
- You don’t have storage space for companion apps.
The Razer Hammerhead 2nd Gen buds provide well-rounded audio when paired with the appropriate silicone tips best suited to your ears. The battery life is excellent when RGB lighting is disabled, a feature that I can’t imagine many would use unless live streaming since you hardly ever see it yourself. Overall, these buds are intended for indoor use, primarily aimed at a gaming audience, which is no surprise for an accessory from Razer.
It’s a shame that the microphone quality dwindles so much when used outside, dropping voice quality to almost unrecognizable levels when faced with windy weather. However, the noise cancelation still works brilliantly for the listener, and the buds are comfortable for all-day use. For anyone looking at the Hammerhead buds for wireless gaming, you should check out some of the best Razer headsets (opens in new tab) first.
Razer Hammerhead wireless earbuds (2nd Gen)
Razer’s second-generation wireless earbuds feature a 60ms low-latency mode and customizable RGB lighting, which reacts to music. A mix of comfortable tips and all-day battery life make them a fantastic gamer-centric choice.