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.

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Geeky Kitchen Gadgets

We spent Labor Day weekend laboring in the kitchen. Trusty hubby finally had enough of the light-brown-striped wallpaper, and decided it was time to paint. I had chosen a nice sunny yellow, and told the family I was planning on doing cobalt blue accents. The kids then found a TARDIS cookie jar–cobalt blue, of course! This started a discussion on whether or not the kitchen should have a sci-fi theme, because, after all, we ARE a geeky family, and this could actually be a serious consideration.

The well-dressed sci-fi kitchen goddess begins here! (1)

While I did eventually decide that we’ll have a sort of French-country-kitchen theme with some cobalt blue fleur-de-lys stenciled onto the soffits, having a few sci-fi accessories are Good Things.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Star Wars cookie cutters. Williams-Sonoma has a variety of cookie cutters and pancake molds in the Star Wars theme, perfect for those of us who need something out of the ordinary for Christmas.

Darth Vader has never looked so yummy. (2)

They also offer spatulas that can be used to remove those cookies from the baking sheets.

Helmets come in handy for handling hot cookies. (3)

One of my son’s favorite gadgets, which he originally found at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum gift store, is the Enterprise Pizza Cutter. Since we make a universe of pizzas, this cutter could help us explore new worlds, and new toppings, and boldly go where no cheese has gone before.

The lasers could theoretically cut through even the thickest pizza. If not, a few photon torpedoes can do the trick. (4)

Just in case you need some drinks to go along with your pizza, Star Trek also offers you bottle opens that suit many needs, from Romulan Ale to prune juice.

Use the Bird of Prey to open your blood wine, while the bottle opener can help with that prune juice! (5)

Everyone agrees that the coolest geeky kitchen item is the Tardis cookie jar. This is chiefly because if it really is bigger on the inside, it will naturally hold more cookies. Plus, it would just look cool on the kitchen counter.

Will it be bigger on the inside? (6)

Share your favorite sci-fi kitchen gadgets and anything you’ve made with them! I’d love to see what other folks use! Feel free to follow me @JaeOnasi or on Facebook.

Image sources: (1) TheChive.com, (2), (3) http://www.williams-sonoma.com, (4), (5) startrek.com, (6) thinkgeek.com

The Assimilation Team

My church is Geek-Friendly. That’s not the reason I love my church, of course–there’s a great pastoral staff, great people, and it’s a great time worshipping. Just the same, I appreciate our church’s commitment to ministering to those of us who fall into the Geek category.

We have more than just the usual TVs and DVDs, and all the gadgets make my geeky heart happy. We are blessed with a sound system that has more buttons and levers than some small radio stations. I’m assured that they even all work and are not there merely for decorative purposes. The sanctuary computer runs the Powerpoint slides. The slides are used to display the lyrics to songs we sing that are still Too Cool To Go Into The Hymnal. In addition, the pastor uses it for the different sermon points. This is A Good Thing ™ because at any given time, my mind can go off on a variety of tangents, including but not limited to different Bible verses, a variety of historical thoughts, fanfics, Star Wars, writing, tornadoes, blogging…you get the picture. The outline on the screen lets my brain beam back down to where it belongs.

The church has a website, including MP3 downloads of the pastor’s sermons. I imagine they’ll be podcasting soon, which I think would be delightfully geeky. They also have a wireless network, which means I can log in when I bring my computer to the Welcome committee. Since I’m the secretary for the committee, this means I can type up the minutes at the meeting, spellcheck, and email them as soon as the meeting is done. This is good because then I can’t get distracted by friends, Star Wars, blogging, writing, tornadoes, etc., and forget about it until about 32 minutes before the next meeting. Of course, this also means I’ve now become very accurate in reporting the minutes, which may or may not be a beneficial thing for other committee members. 😀

I knew, however, that we had achieved True Geek Inclusiveness when I opened the church bulletin today. There was a list of the new names for the teams, which are replacing committees. I scanned down this list. One team is designed to help new members become involved in the church, and I was in heaven when I saw the name.

It’s called the “Assimilation Team.”

You can imagine my first thought. “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!” How many churches do you know that include sci-fi in their team names? I just thought that was seriously cool. Until I had another thought. Since I’m the secretary for the Welcome-Committee-Turning-Into-Assimilation-Team, did that make me a Borg Queen? That was disturbing. Even though I am not a vain woman, mechanical implants and a bald head are just not good looks for me.

You know what would make my church just uber-Geeky? Changing our mission statement to “We are Immanuel Baptist Church. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!” I have the distinct feeling that having my family and me as members means the Church has already met its uber-Geeky quotient, and further geekiness would make it explode or something. We wouldn’t want that to happen, now, would we? We should keep the old mission statement in that case. 🙂