The Razer Barracuda Pro is Razer's new wireless headset that sports Active Noice Cancelling (ANC), in addition to being able to connect to multiple devices through Bluetooth or its 2.4GHz wireless dongle.
Razer claims that the Barracuda Pro is meant to be a multipurpose headset with a focus on gaming.
While I will definitely touch upon its uses in that genre, it also has features that are usually found in more conventional lifestyle headsets that are in the market.
At the price point of S$409, if it doesn't offer anything better or more than its cheaper counterparts (like the now heavily-discounted four-year-old Sony WH-1000XM3, which can be found locally at S$179), the Barracuda Pro will be a tough sell to anyone in the market.
Here are the specs of the Razer Barracuda Pro from Razer's press materials:
• Razer SmartSwitch Dual Wireless (2.4GHz and BT)
• Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Technology
• Razer TriForce Bio-Cellulose 50mm Drivers
• THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™)
• THX Spatial Audio
• Dual Integrated Noise-Cancelling Microphones
• Plush Leatherette Memory Foam Cushions
• Weight: 340g
• Battery life: 40 hours.
• USB-C Charging
The Barracuda Pro comes with a 2.4GHz dongle, a USB-A to USB-C male cable and a USB-A to USB-C female cable.
The headset also comes with a carrying pouch to store the headset for travel. It has compartments to house the two wires and the dongle as well.
On the left earcup of the headset, you will find a physical on/off button, a mic-mute button, a volume rocker and a USB-C charging port. On the right earcup, you will find a mode switcher button.
Razer has learnt the art of making their headsets very comfortable, period.
The Barracuda Pro is comfortable to wear for long sessions (I've worn it for 6 hours straight), and doesn't feel heavy at all on the head.
However, if you do bring this headset out in the public, the leatherette cups definitely adds some heat to your ears, especially if you are living in a place with a warm climate like Singapore.
Then again, any headset with ANC would be using the same leather material for their earcups, so this isn't a problem solely for the Barracuda Pro.
Headphone modes and audio quality
This is where the headphones start to show some hilarious quirks not fit for a S$400 modern ANC headset.
ANC isn't a new thing in the realm of portable headsets, and has been present in a lot of lifestyle headsets like the Bose QuietComfort and the Sony headphones.
ANC uses mics to hear the noises in your surroundings, and uses hardware configuration to mute these noises that can potentially leak through to your headset, hence the name of "Active" noise cancelling.
Headphones with ANC usually comes with three modes; ANC mode, Ambient mode and a Normal mode (ANC/Ambient off). The Barracuda Pro is no different.
Before I get to that, the audio from Bluetooth mode and the 2.4GHz dongle mode do not provide any perceptible difference in quality.
Like I mentioned, ANC headphones usually use mics that are built into the headphones to listen for sounds that it can actively cancel from entering the headset.
Razer uses two of these mics in the earcups — one internally, and one close to external part of the earcups, to put it simply. This is described as the hybrid ANC.
In an early version of the Barracuda Pro that Yahoo received, these mics were working on overdrive to cancel the noise.
The ANC was top notch when it was turned on as it blocked everything, including loud sounds, but it came at the cost of sound quality.
I had a theory that the internal mic was picking up the audio that was coming from the headphones and also cancelling it as well, hence the degrade in sound quality.
I reached out to Razer to confirm my suspicions, but to no avail. Instead, they took the headphones back for some internal testing and firmware updates.
Remember this scenario when you read about the Ambient mode later.
The current version of the Barracuda Pro with the updated firmware has subpar ANC.
I can still hear external sounds and my colleagues' chatter when they are talking. But at least it's not at the cost of sound quality.
The XM3, on the other hand, beats the Barracuda Pro hands down when it comes to noise cancelling. I hear less of the ambient sounds, and audio quality is much better than the Barracuda Pro.
Remember, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is only S$179 dollars currently and is a four-year-old design.
It sounds....subpar. Everything sounds flat.
Even when I am using the equaliser on Synapse, it just doesn't sound as good as something like Razer's own Blackshark V2 Pro, so it definitely isn't an audio degradation from being wireless.
Razer still has a long way to go when comparing their drivers to something like the Sony's. Even though the Barracuda has 50mm drivers, the tonal quality and sound stage isn't as good as the 40mm drivers from the XM3 in normal mode.
Ambient mode in ANC headsets use the mics present on the headset to amplify the sounds that are picked up, rather than cancelling it, much like a "reverse ANC".
This is so that you are able to listen to your surroundings more if you are doing something that requires you to, without the need to take off your headset.
When you activate the Ambient mode on the XM3, you can clearly hear everything that is happening around you, and to add to the experience, the XM3 actually lowers the audio coming from your device so that you can hear these external sounds more clearly.
Remember the little ANC hiccup that I mentioned in the early unit of the Barracuda Pro? It feels like the mics are doing the same thing for the Ambient mode even after the firmware update.
Since Ambient mode is a "reverse ANC", and my speculation of the inner-facing mics picking up the audio and amplifying it (Razer still refuses to confirm this with me), the headset sounds like a wireless open-back headset instead!
To explain briefly, open-back headsets generally have audio drivers exposed at the earcups, and unlike closed-back headsets (which is what gaming headsets generally are), these allow sound to leak through the headset instead of totally shutting off your surroundings.
While this may seem like a bad thing, it actually opens the soundstage of the audio driver even more, allowing the user to hear much more from the audio and games that they play compared to a closed-back headset.
The Ambient mode of the Barracuda Pro has a totally different (and better) sound profile than the other two modes, making it a mode that I am the most fond of, even for the wrong reasons.
Audio is clearer, the soundstage is fantastic, and I can even put this on a par with some of the Sennheiser open-back headphones I own.
But, if you are someone that is looking for a pure Ambient mode to actually listen to external noise, you would have to manually turn the volume down to hear anything that is around you. The XM3 scores higher again in this regard.
Wireless latency and battery life
Truth to be told, the difference in wireless latency of the Bluetooth mode and the 2.4GHz dongle mode is not really noticeable.
Both of the modes have no noticeable lag compared to one another, which is unsurprising, because Razer has always been top notch with their wireless implementations.
However, if you pit the Barracuda Pro against the XM3, there is still no noticeable latency difference, even though the XM3 is on Bluetooth 4.2, compared to the Barracuda Pro's Bluetooth 5.2
The Barracuda Pro lasted about 28 hours with ANC and Ambient mode enabled no matter the connectivity, while the XM3 only lasted around 24 hours.
I will admit, I have no idea who the Barracuda Pro is for.
If you are looking for a wireless gaming headset with good sound quality, I would direct you to the Razer's own Blackshark V2 Pro (S$269), just to keep it simple.
If you are gaming in a noisy environment and need an ANC headphone, I would direct you to the XM3, since it is better in almost every regard, including noise cancellation.
If you want multiple device connectivity, you can look for the newer XM4 or even some Bose headphones, albeit a little more expensive, but still not hitting the S$400 range.
Even if I would frame this headset as an all-in-one, realistically, you could say that about most of the other ANC headphones in the market as well.
While Razer touts this as lag-free due to the 2.4GHz dongle and Bluetooth, in reality, a lot of good wireless ANC headsets could essentially do the same on Bluetooth (with the added benefit of being cheaper).
Truth to be told, I was initially excited about the Barracuda Pro, since I have been looking to replace my old XM3. But this just isn't good enough.
And it definitely isn't good enough to warrant the S$409 price tag. Sorry Razer, I cannot recommend this to anyone.
Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.