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It’ll tickle your ears alright.

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Haptic feedback can be pretty cool when it’s done right. Whether it’s a motor shaking our gamepads every time we squeeze off a few rounds, or our phone vibrating whenever an alert pops up, tactile feedback is satisfying, and makes experiences more immersive. Razer is bringing haptics to the gaming headset arena with the flagship model of its newest Nari wireless headset line (See it on Razer’s site). The Nari is offered in three trims: Nari Essential, Nari, and Nari Ultimate. The $200 Nari Ultimate is what I’m looking at here, and it’s the only model with Razer Chroma lighting and built-in haptics, so it kind of simulates having a subwoofer strapped to your skull. The $150 Nari is exactly the same headset with Chroma but no. The $100 Nari Essential is the bare bones version, with a similar design but with smaller drivers and no haptics or Chroma. All three offer THX Spatial Sound.

Razer Nari Ultimate – Design and features

The Nari headsets all look exactly the same regardless of price. There’s a metal headband with a padded suspension band below it. Earcups stay at a fixed vertical position, but swivel to lay flat against your chest when hanging from your neck or for fine tuning placement over your ears. Inch-thick cooling gel memory foam earcup pads keep comfy for extended periods of time, even if you wear glasses like me. On the backside of the left earcup you’ll find a mic mute button, game/chat mixer scroll wheel, power button, Micro USB charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack and retractable boom mic. On the right, it’s much less populated, with only the volume scroll wheel and spring-loaded holding slot for the 2.4GHz wireless USB dongle.

The industrial design is clean, minimal, and is monochrome until you power them on and the RBG Razer logo on the earcups lights up. As far as the haptics go, Razer uses big 50mm drivers and proprietary software for what it calls HyperSense haptics. It analyzes incoming audio signals and translate low-end frequencies to vibrations in both ears. Essentially, the haptics replicate the way a subwoofer’s massive driver operates, by moving motors at the same frequencies that a subwoofer pushes air around.

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My only concern with the overall design are the earcup mounts. Unlike the headband, they’re plastic and feel a touch flimsy; I was easily able to bend the frame with a little force. They don’t look cheap, but push hard enough and they’ll flex more than you’d expect.

Razer Nari Ultimate – Software

The Nari Ultimate uses Razer’s Synapse 3.0 software for adjusting the headset EQ, setting audio presets and tweaking the color, brightness and display pattern of the earcup LEDs. If you’re familiar with Synapse, you know what to expect. The app design is clean and intuitive enough that everyone else shouldn’t have trouble getting up to speed, though. Since it’s PC software you have to plug the wireless adapter into your computer to make changes, disconnect, and re-connect to your console. Though there are a lot settings you can adjust, the most interesting is the Haptics intensity slider, which also lets you disable haptics all-together if you don’t want to feel your head shaking for a bit.

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Razer Nari Ultimate – Gaming, Movies, and Music

I was wary going into my testing given experience with other haptic headsets. I shouldn’t have been. While the Nari’s implementation can be a little over-aggressive at times, I rarely wanted to turn it off. I have a dedicated 5.1 system in my living room with a 12-inch, 300 watt Klipsch Synergy subwoofer that hits all the way down to 24Hz, the lowest frequency the human ear can detect. I’m intimately acquainted with how games like Spider-Man, Super Mario Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, Overwatch, Floor Kids and Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor sound on a good audio setup. The haptic tricks Razer is doing bring the Nari Ultimate closer to simulating a subwoofer on your skull than I’ve ever encountered before.

The haptic tricks Razer is doing bring the Nari Ultimate closer to simulating a subwoofer on your skull than I’ve ever encountered before.

Walking into the Halloween party mission on campus in Spider-Man, the earcups thumped in time with the dance music, and accurately moved from left to right as I panned the camera across the scene. THX Spatial Audio is only supported on PC, but I was still able to get some great directional audio with generic surround sound on my PS4. As I walked out of Mysterio’s fun house, the girl in a costume inspected her fishbowl helmet behind me, and her dialogue was accurately muffled more and more as I walked further away, but was still distinct amidst the EDM beats and ambient chatter.

When the action music kicks in during a fight, the headset vibrates along with the bass-line there too. Each punch, kick and ground slam has its own level of force punchy feedback, and stays clear from other low-end frequencies. The Nari can be subtle too with things like throwing out web lines in Spiderman, for example, feeling like a soft “poof” every time I throw one out while swinging across Manhattan.

I loved using the Nari for action games, but in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, the haptics were a little too aggressive. Sure, gunfire and nature sounded (and felt) great, but I can’t say I enjoyed being “kicked” in the ears every time my horse galloped across the world. Music-based games benefit quite a bit, however. Both Metronomicon and Floor Kids have bass-heavy, dancey soundtracks that make full use of the Nari’s headlining feature and are perhaps among the best demo material for the headset.

My only real gripe is that to my concert-hardened ears the headset is just a tad too quiet…

My only real gripe is that to my concert-hardened ears the headset is just a tad too quiet even at max volume. The wireless signal remained strong throughout my house, though, and I didn’t lose signal until I stepped outside on my back porch and closed the metal entry door. Given that the onboard battery needs to power the haptic motors in addition to pumping out normal sound, I didn’t have high hopes for how long I could go between charges. However, I eked out almost ten hours per charge before the low power light came one, with a mix of music, movies and gaming at various volume levels.

I can’t stress how easy it is to find the main controls by touch without taking the headset off, either. Differentiating between the mic mute and power buttons took a bit longer that finding the game/chat mixer and volume wheels, but not by much. Razer using different shaped buttons for each could’ve fixed that. I loved the built-in holder for the wireless USB dongle, too. The USB dongle sits nearly flush on the headset when attached, and I never felt like it was going to pop out by accident or that I’d lose it, even while traveling over the holidays. That feature alone makes the headset much more attractive if you tend to game on the go. And because the haptic tech is built into the headset itself, anything you use them for (be it the wireless USB dongle or 3.5mm aux jack) immediately gets an audio upgrade.

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The Nari is primarily a gaming headset, but everything I listened to with them sounded great. Especially music, either via Spotify on my PlayStation 4 (Xbox One isn’t officially supported) or Tidal HiFi on my iPhone. Turn your TV off and you’ve got a killer way to listen to Spotify around the house without bothering the neighbors, or your roommates — even if you crank the volume. It’ll also play music louder than games because in addition to maxing out the volume level on the headset, with Spotify Connect, you can adjust the volume even higher via the mobile app. It might not be the best for your ears, but I tested it all the same.

I just wish the volume went this loud for gaming and movies. Speaking of volume, there’s a slight delay in the haptics when you quickly adjust the volume in either direction. It takes about 10 seconds for the software to analyze the new audio information and adjust the haptics to match the higher or lower volume, but after that the bass kicks back in and you’re good to go. Unless you adjust the volume quickly again, the haptics won’t stop.

Purchasing Guide

The Razer Nari Ultimate have an MSRP of $199.99, and they’re the same price on Razer’s site.

The Verdict

I came away incredibly surprised by the Nari Ultimate. Smart industrial design and easy-to-find controls won me over early on, but the sound quality and haptics kept me smiling throughout my testing. The extra $50 over the regular Nari is essentially a “haptics tax,” and it’s money well spent. The subtle feedback is absolutely a game-changer.



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