Unboxing the Razer Blackshark Headset

After babying my old Plantronics headset along for months with liberal applications of electrical and duct tape, it finally gave out a few weeks ago. Headsets don’t work well with one earphone hanging off the side. Plus, the duct tape kept sticking to my hair. Ripping out strands of hair every time I took off my headset was not my idea of a good time. I loved that headset. It was comfortable and had great sound.

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark!

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark! (image: razerzone.com)

So, I grabbed the Turtle Xbox headset back from the kids and plugged it in to chat with Trusty TorWars friends. This worked for speaking just fine. When I turned on the Christmas music, which includes everything from Michael W. Smith to Mariah Carey to Mannheim Steamroller to The Three Tenors to Messiah, I heard The Dreaded Hiss.

I loathe, despise, and otherwise bear negative sentiments towards hiss in music. I don’t cringe at the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Hiss makes me not only cringe, but also makes me want to rip my eardrums out with a pickle fork. This made the Christmas gift decision very easy for me. I suggested to the family that getting a new headset might even be an emergency in order to salvage my ear anatomy. Trusty Hubby smiled and nodded but decided no one was actively dying, so it would have to wait til Christmas when we got paid.

On Christmas Eve, we opened our gifts. I was delighted to see that there was a Razer Blackshark headset for me.

I love my family!

I love my family!

Pros

Razer products rock. I have an Orochi mouse (which replaced the Lachesis I wore out) and a Lycosa keyboard. I’m waiting, admittedly impatiently, for a lefty version of the Naga mouse. When hubby and I meandered around the Best Buy doing some Christmas shopping, we stopped by the headsets so I could drool. We both noticed that the Blackshark was made of metal, which would theoretically survive far better than the plastic on my Plantronics. Mind you, this requires that my daughter not do things like rip it off her head and drop it in frustration when losing an online match.

The headset is great. It’s heavy duty, the metal parts are sturdy, and the entire thing is very customizable. Even the mic has multiple adjustment points. Each side is adjustable to individual ear heights (mine are slightly different, being the asymmetrical person that I am). The earpieces swivel in several directions to make each one fit just right. It’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, despite being a bit heavier than the Turtle. I’ll take the weight for the sound improvement any day.

Most importantly, the vast majority of the hiss is GONE! My music sounds a bazillion times better. The true audiophiles are going to want to spend the extra bucks for a very high end headset, but that’s not what this headset is designed for. It’s designed for gamers. When Razer says this headset is noise-cancelling, they aren’t kidding, either. I can hardly hear any external sound with the headset on and the music playing. Now, mind you, I don’t play Skillet, Kamelot, or Lacuna Coil at low volumes, so that might be contributing, but I’ve noticed that the family has to come tap me on the shoulder now to get my attention. However, this is still a significant advantage when my kids decide to have a debate on the plot points and art style of My Little Pony and I wish to listen to ANYTHING else that won’t liquify my brain. I’ll have to play Star Wars: The Old Republic with Mumble on so that I can hear hubby’s comments, despite the fact that we’re in the same room.

Cons

The biggest disadvantage to the Blackshark design is a lack of a control switch for the volume and the mic. I mute my mic a lot when I’m doing raids and operations. My mute button is now ‘unplug the mic from the back of the tower’. Since my tower sits on a table where I can reach the back easily, this is a simple thing for me, but it won’t be for others. I also wish it had a volume control. I didn’t realize how much I adjust my volume until I couldn’t. This is not a negative for me, but it might be for some others: it does not come with a USB connector. I prefer to use the jacks, anyway.

Unboxing

Setup is an absolute breeze. You plug it into the proper jack on your computer, and that’s it. It comes with an additional splitter cable if you want to use the microphone, too. In fact, the only setup difficulty I encountered was actually opening the package to get the headset out. This is not unique to the Blackshark. EVERY Razer product comes packaged in such a way that you need 18 five-year olds and a table saw (not together) to open it.

Like the Orochi, the packaging says ‘if you’re even thinking of shoplifting me, you’re never going to get this open in time before store security catches you’. This means it will take approximately an hour longer to open than to plug in and use. I have hand arthritis, which did not help one bit.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Inside the main box are a series of other partial boxes and lots of plastic. Think Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, except not as cute. Razer helpfully labeled a tab ‘Open’ for me, but it was sealed too tightly for me to actually pull the tab ‘open’.

A helpful tab labeled 'open', which I had to rip off to open.

A helpful tab labeled ‘open’, which I had to rip off to open.

Once I’d performed a bit of rough surgery on the box, I found, yes, EVEN MORE PLASTIC.

Once you've removed the helpful 'open' tab, and open the box, there's more to open!

Once you’ve removed the helpful ‘open’ tab and open the box, there’s more to unlock!

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

The headphones were packaged in yet more plastic, and it’s that rigid, form-fitting stuff that locks the item in place so that it cannot move. It works so well that if a nuclear explosion hits, this headset would survive far better than Indiana Jones did in the lead-lined refrigerator. Steven Spielberg should definitely consider this for future movies.

But wait! There's more!

But wait! There’s more!

Having had the experience of the top popping off my Orochi mouse when I tried to remove it from this same kind of plastic packaging, I had nightmares of one of the earpieces popping off as I tried to extricate it from the plastic. Fortunately, I was prepared for Razer this time and had a Jaws of Life on call in case I had an emergency. The pièce de résistance was the twisty tie holding the cord in at the bottom of the plastic package-and/or-safe. When all else fails, and you absolutely, positively, MUST secure it, use either duct tape or a black twisty tie.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

The pile of packaging

The pile of packaging

Razer was so careful about security that they put plastic around their quick start guide. It had to be sealed for our protection, you know.

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Once everything was unwrapped, I plugged it in, fired up iTunes, and put on music. It sounded great. Razer even included a handy registration card and a cute Razer logo sticker.

The Razer registration card, with the handy logo on the back.

The Razerzone information card, with the nifty logo on the back.

The registration card also serves as a handy coaster.

The Razerzone signup card also serves as a handy coaster.

The sign up process is so easy, even a cat can do it.

Good thing I don't have a touch screen monitor.

Good thing I don’t have a touch screen monitor.

Packaging issues aside, I enjoy my new headset very much. If Razer comes out with a mute switch/volume control add-on for the Blackshark, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter! My handle is @JaeOnasi.

The Geeky Mom Guide to Installing, Configuring, and Opening the Package of your Razer Orochi

Razer USA Ltd snake logoImage via WikipediaLet me give you a little background first.

I a. am left-handed, and b. have small hands, being of the female persuasion.  Finding a wired gaming mouse to fit either of those requirements is hard enough.  Meeting both is darn near impossible, and thus miraculous on the order of the Virgin Birth and/or Congress abolishing income tax.  Take your pick on the miracle there.
Anyway, I was at Best Buy last night to get a new case fan to replace the cheapy one that comes from the manufacturer and has become ungodly loud.  I had to make this trip because I messed up and asked Trusty Hubby last weekend to buy a 120mm case fan, assuming in a rather large PC that this was the correct size.

Wrong.  It was an 80mm fan.

However, I’m never sad to go to any electronics store, so I was not devastated by this ‘mistake’.  I found a nice Antec case fan, a 3 speed LED Tricool that glows blue.  The fact that it glows blue had nothing to do with the purchase; it was entirely because it was an Antec and looked better built than the other 2 fans on the shelf.  Honest. 

While I was looking at fans, I passed by the section with mice.  I love gaming mice, particularly wired mice, since I click buttons so often that I go through batteries approximately every 2.38 seconds.  However, the wired gaming mice found at any retailer are all made for right-handed people with Godzilla-sized palms.  When I game, it’s typically for a long period of time, and huge mice make my hands cramp after awhile.  Using a righty mouse is impossible. Here’s a hint for retailers–10% of the population is left-handed.  It won’t kill you to keep at least 1 lefty mouse around for us to try out.  The only reason I don’t buy a lefty mouse online is because I want to actually handle the thing before buying it so that I’m not stuck with something that only guys with hands the size of the Texas Roadhouse super-size 500 pound steak can use.
Usually, I’ve gone to ambidextrous laptop mice.  They work well enough for most of my needs–they’re not righty-based, and they’re usually small enough to fit my hand well.  The only problem is that they’re not designed for gaming, so the dpi is not terribly high.  When you’re fragging a boss, the higher the dpi, the better, and laptop mice typically just don’t cut it.  Then there’s the 2.38 seconds of battery life.  You have no idea how annoying it is to be gaming, have a boss down to about 2 hit points of life left, and then have the battery decide “Wow, now would be a simply EXCELLENT time to die!!”  By the time I get the battery changed, the boss has now pounded me into oblivion and regenerated all his/her/its health.  This is Not Fun.  It didn’t help that I’d dropped it a few times and gotten enough cat hair inside the laser opening to create a giant hairball, so the functionality was lacking quite a bit.
So, there I was, browsing around the mice, not very hopeful of finding one that would meet all my needs. Imagine my surprise when I found a wired, ambidextrous gaming mouse that was small enough that my hand would not spasm after 3 minutes of play, called the Razer Orochi.  It’s a laptop mouse that can be used either wired or wireless via bluetooth, which I thought was a very cool feature.  In case you’re wondering, Razer loves naming all its mice after snakes, and giant, poisonous ones at that, like “Copperhead”, “Mamba”, “Naga”, and “DeathAdder”.  Apparently nice, friendly snakes like garden, corn, or milk snakes don’t qualify.  I have to admit that the Cool Factor ™ would not be quite the same if you called up your gaming buddy and said “Hey, I got the cool new Razer Milk Mouse!!”
In the past, I’ve used the Razer Lachesis, which, oddly enough, is named not after a ‘Serpent of Terror’ but a Greek goddess who determines one’s fate and length of life. Despite the fact that it performed wonderfully for gaming, it was just a bit too big, and my hand kept cramping when gaming.  When the wire shorted out on it, I decided to go back to a mobile wireless mouse until the performance and battery issues drove me up the wall and out the door to actually shop. Having been generally pleased with Razer, I decided to try out the Orochi.  Now, the Orochi isn’t a lefty mouse.  I’m probably going to have to get with some engineer to design lefty gaming mice for women or something like that.  Nonetheless, it met my needs–it could be used by a lefty, it was a gaming mouse, it was wired, and it was not Godzilla-sized.  
In case you’re wondering, an Orochi is a mythical Japanese 8-forked serpent, complete with not only 8 heads, but 8 tails too.  This mouse is well named, because it takes 8 hands to get the package open.  The package had 4 separate compartments–I am not kidding.  It has the outer package, made of a sort of plasticized cardboard that was ‘Hermetically Sealed For Your Protection‘ with about 18 thousand pieces of clear tape heat sealed on.  I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into it.  Fortunately, being of the female persuasion, I have some nails–not long, mind you, because that would get in the way of keyboarding, and a Geeky Mom does have her priorities.  Nevertheless, after about 10 minutes, I was able to pick enough of the tape off to get past the outer package to the 3 inner packages.  
Two of these 3 packages were in the same plasticized cardboard, but weren’t heat-seal-taped shut.  These contained the handy zipper fabric pouch for the mouse, the detachable USB cord, and 2 AA alkaline batteries.  Including the necessary batteries is a very nice touch, because it is virtually guaranteed that when you buy an electronic item, you have exactly one battery less than what you need for it in the kitchen junk drawer.  
The other cardboard package contained the user manuals.  Plural.  There were 5 of them, I kid you not.  There was the ‘quick start’ guide for folks who have ADD and/or don’t feel like reading more than one page of instructions, including the 2% portion that isn’t pictures. Then there was the instruction booklet for Mac users, another one for PC users, and 2 more of the same, but in French.  Apparently, Razer ships frequently not only to the US but also to France, Quebec, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  
The final package held the actual mouse.  It was made out of that heavy-duty clear plastic, hermetically sealed with another 18 thousand pieces of heat sealed clear tape which said “You are NOT going to shoplift this thing!!!” I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into this one, either.  After picking at this set of tape with now-sticky nails for another 15 minutes, I finally got one end open.  I discovered the mouse was embedded in more of this heavy duty plastic.  Fortunately, my hands are small, so I was able to get one hand inside the package to grab the mouse.  It was a good thing I didn’t have bigger hands.  Anyone else would need a chainsaw to cut through that plastic.  I pulled on the mouse, only to discover it was stuck in the packaging.  I pulled harder.  The top came off.  Usually, this is A Bad Thing.  What I didn’t know at the time was that the top is supposed to come off in order for you to insert the batteries.  After sighing my relief that the top snapped back on and I hadn’t broken it, I managed to get 2 fingers of the other hand under the plastic that was hanging on to the mouse for dear life, and push up to pop the mouse out.  If your hands are too big to get inside the package, find a 3 year old or your trusty chainsaw to help you.  It’s the only way you’ll get the thing out of there.

The last thing I found, in a box virtually dripping with venom and Death, was a haiku. One does not typically find poetry inside a box of any electronic items, much less those promising to kill anything that happens to get in your gaming way.  It was titled “Ode to Yamata no Orochi”.  Fortunately for the Congolese, it was also conveniently translated into French.

Eight-headed serpent
of myth, longer than mountains
Whose tail hides the blade.
Serpent a huit tetes
Du mythe, plus long que les montagnes
Dont la queue cache la lame.

I would like to take a moment to point out that odes and haiku are two very different types of poetry, and that the French version violates the classic 5/7/5 syllabic convention.  I did wonder briefly if the programmers sat around and had a little contest to see who could write the best and/or worst one, with a prize being a Starbucks latte, but I’m probably descending into the snarky at this point.

Shockingly, I read all the instructions, except the ones destined for Congo, prior to plugging in my mouse.  This is a Geeky Mom, thing, I think.  I hate having to go back and fix mistakes because Someone *cough*Trusty Hubby*cough* hasn’t read the instructions first.  I learned you can only configure it in wired mode, and since I always re-map my mouse buttons to work with my leftiness, this was good to know.  Of course, I planned on using it only in wired mode anyway, but I deemed that useful information if I ever get another laptop.  I then plugged the mini-USB part of the cord in the proper place on the mouse and read the instructions on how to plug the mouse in in order to load the drivers. I cheerfully went to the Razer support site and downloaded the firmware updater software as instructed in the manual.

You have to understand that this is meant to be a laptop mouse.  The cord is quite short.  If you’re like normal people and have your case at some distance from the top of your desk, the cord likely won’t be long enough.  My case sits on top of a nice little glass tray table next to my desk so I can reach it more easily after having the knee surgery, so this worked just fine.  

After reading the discussion of how to plug it in to install the firmware, I realized that people with the “normal” computer set up would have trouble with following the instructions on installation unless they were either human pretzels or members of the Circque du Soleil.  In order to plug it in, you first have to turn the power switch on the mouse to the ‘off’ position, conveniently delineated by the side of the switch not marked with a tiny hash mark that one can see only with a 5x magnifier.  Then, while pressing the left, right, and center buttons simultaneously, you plug the mouse into a USB port on your computer.  If you only have 1 hand, or have the coordination of a dead flea like me, you’re screwed.  So, I did a few taekwondo arm stretches, focused my chi, said a prayer, and got the thing plugged in.

Then I tried to find the “Configurator” as instructed in the manual.  I searched all over my computer for this. I tried to search on the Razer site, only to discover I ‘had to be logged in’.  This required a serial number, helpfully located in miniscule numbers on the underside of the little plastic tab that you use to pull your batteries out when they die in 5.82 seconds (I figure Razer’s batteries last a little longer than Microsoft’s).  It did not help that on this tiny tab of plastic there was a string of numbers that was about as long as pi carried out to the 58th digit.  I registered my product and still needed to log in.  However, Razer has apparently decided login fields are not required on their site.  So, I did the next best thing, and googled my problem.  After a few searches, I found a forum where a guy posted a similar problem to mine.  After reading several of the less-than-helpful answers, like “RTFM!!” and “Dude, are you blind? It’s so EASY!!”, someone asked “did you download the drivers?”

This made some part of my brain go “Wait–didn’t I just download and install the drivers???”  Then I looked back at the Razer site.  It turned out that you have to download TWO programs, not just one. I’m not sure why no one thought about bundling them into one package.  It did not help that Razer separated them on the list of programs, and put the drivers, apparently as a test of our intelligence, at the bottom of the list of software, completely separate from the firmware updater, which is at the top of the list.

So, just to be clear, you need TWO things to make your Razer Orochi run in anything other than ‘basic’ mode.
1. The firmware updater.  Install that first, then plug your mouse in using the method described in the manual. Consult the Cirque du Soleil if you have trouble with that.
2. Then, download and install the drivers needed to install the configurator.

Once I got that done, the configurator worked as the manual instructed.  I got my mouse buttons remapped, my scroll light turned on, and the mouse is working beautifully.  

                            
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