The Razer Tiamat is a gaming headset of epic proportions. It comes in a humongous and thoroughly magnificent box, it is humongous itself and the name's borrowed from a middle-eastern dragon that represents the very essence of chaos. One look at its unconventionally good looks that traverse the fine line between gaudy and futuristic and you probably won't question its Rs 16,399 asking price. But why is it so expensive, you ask? Does it ship with a fancy 24/192 USB soundcard? Nope. Has Razer taken pains, like Sennheiser, to create a bespoke driver out of unobtanium and other sophisticated engineering materials? Well, nope again. What sets the Tiamat apart—besides its badass name, of course—is the presence of ten discrete drivers, including a pair of subwoofers that work in cohesion to reproduce true 7.1-channel audio.
The plastic quality is impressive and Razer has managed to keep the overall weight low
If you weren't born yesterday, this statement should make your face light up with fond memories of the famous Zalman 5.1-channel headset. However, once the nostalgia wears off, you may remember how particularly shitty that particular headset actually sounded. Mind you, that isn't just a bad apple. True multichannel audio, for many valid reasons, is a curse that tends to ruin headsets. Even the Sennheiser PC 363D 7.1-channel gaming headset, I had reviewed earlier in the week, sounded as good only because it wasn't a true 7.1 channel headset at all. It bore a regular driver in each ear cup while using software interpolation to create the illusion of multichannel audio.
There have been so few examples of true multichannel headsets out there for the same reason why there haven't been any commercial cars bearing six wheels or a Swiss Army Knife with 345 different attachments. You see, cramming multiple speakers in a tiny space has never been the brightest idea from the perspective of acoustic design. Moreover, including ten drivers as opposed to the regular two means that the amount of money you can spend on each driver is five times less. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, then, to figure out why all multichannel headsets have sucked greasemonkey gonads till now.
The five crore question is: has Razer managed to create an exception to the appalling multichannel headset norm by creating one that doesn't suck? Well, before we answer that, let's see what makes this puppy tick.
Like I have mentioned before, this is as gaudy as any Razer headset. So if you're reading this with an intention of buying a Razer product, you probably don't mind a bit of "dhinchak" in your life. Once we have got that out of the way, this headset looks downright imposing and impressive. The Tiamat feels as expensive as it looks funky. This is thanks to acres of faux leather stretched onto the massive circumaural ear cups and another generous layer of padding on the self-adjusting headband. The see-through plastic windows on the huge enclosures lets you marvel at the ten individual drivers underscored with contrasting green accents. Razer provides snap-on magnetic shrouds to cover up the drivers, but I can't think of any reason to hide that singularly awesome display of multi-driver badassery.
A pleasure to wear
The plastic quality is impressive and Razer has cleverly used a combination of thin and thick sections in the chassis to keep the overall weight low without affecting the structural integrity to a large extent. If I must nitpick, the skeletonised head band tensioning assembly and the pivot points for the ear cups that allow it to shift along two axes and conform to your head are the only two areas that feel like they could have done with a bit of strengthening. Having said that, the sacrifices in the area of toughness has paid off in terms of comfort. The relatively light weight (for its size, of course) of the headset when combined with the luxurious padding throughout makes it a pleasure to wear. The leatherette cushions should have made me sweaty, but that was never a problem in the air conditioned Test labs. I have worn the Tiamat for hours on end without facing any sort of discomfort and chafing. This is genuinely remarkable for gargantuan headphones housing ten drivers.
The positional accuracy in video games is pretty good
The headset is permanently anchored to the huge inline remote control with a high-quality braided cable. The other end of the cable terminates in five 3.5 mm TRS connectors for front, centre/subwoofer, surround, side and microphone channels. That means, you still need a 7.1-channel soundcard to get the best out of the Tiamat. The rest of the terminations include a mandatory USB power source and another set of outputs to hook up your auxiliary 7.1-channel speaker system. The latter option does no wonders to audio quality by wantonly increasing cable length and introducing cold joints, but it comes in handy for those who switch between headset and speakers. All you need to do here is just push the backlit speaker button on the inline remote to switch to the speakers from the headset.
The remote also bears separate buttons to mute the mic and cycle between 7.1 and stereo modes. The channel selector knob at the top lets you individually select each, well, channel and use the large jog dial at the bottom to adjust the same to your preference. Pressing the volume control knob is also a quick and intuitive way to mute everything. Overall, the inline remote control looks impressive and is a pleasure to use as well.
You may have probably concluded by now that "this bugger will go on rambling about the headset in detail; it seems good so far, so what the heck—I'll buy it anyway". Well, in that case, I humbly suggest that you reconsider before reaching for your wallet. At least listen to what I have to say about its Achille's heel, and I mean its sound quality by that. Remember all the reasons I had listed earlier as to why no multichannel headset has ever sounded good? Well, there's no easy way to say this rather than being very blunt. Razer has pretty much failed to address any of those issues. This means, just like the Zalman 5.1-channel headset, the Tiamat too sucks greasemonkey gonads in a similar fashion.
The sound quality was so disappointing that I put the headset through a 30-hour break-in rigour to see if it would improve. Unfortunately, the performance was just as appalling as it was when I had taken it out of the box. Music in the stereo mode lacked detail and was too bright for my tastes. The bass was quite muddy and imprecise, while the entire mid and low bass simply overpowered the entire frequency spectrum. At this point, I would generally give details on how the headset fared on the subtle nuances within each of my reference tracks, but the Tiamat's poor showing in the stereo mode makes it all moot. The 7.1 surround mode isn't any better though. The sound signature that was dark and muddy now transforms into a tinny mess that completely lacks body. The soundstage does improve, but the imaging accuracy goes for a toss and instrument separation becomes even more confusing than it already was. It's a no brainer then that the Tiamat is as good as music as Sriram Lagoo is at open-heart surgery.
The huge inline remote control has a high-quality braided cable
The positional accuracy in video games is pretty good, but not nearly as great as that of the Audio Technica ATH-AD700. I tried the Tiamat with video games featuring excellent sound production such as Alan Wake, Mirror's Edge, Tomb Raider (2013) and Far Cry 3. In each instance, the surround channels were able to give a fair idea of where the enemies lay. Nothing underscores the Tiamat's positional credentials as hunting Komodo Dragons amongst tall grassy plains in Far Cry 3, where you really need directional fidelity because you're essentially hunting blind. Unfortunately, the lack of body and bass experienced in music also manifests itself in video games and movies. This means gunshots and explosions sound tinny and completely out of whack. Whatever the headset makes up with its positional performance is completely nullified by its abject lack of fidelity.
It's clear then that in the pursuit of shoving in ten drivers for the price of two, the overall audio quality has taken a massive beating. Mind you, we aren't dealing with mediocre performance here; the Tiamat offers a level of fidelity that's absolutely unacceptable at this price. I would recommend giving this one a miss, unless you are a sucker for true 7.1-channel portable audio.