Razer’s $200 noise-canceling Opus headphones focus on what’s important
The THX-certified headphones punch above their weight.
High-end headphones typically justify their lofty price tags with lots of features. They boast in-depth companion apps for your phone with lots of options to tweak, gesture-based touch controls for navigating playback, and active noise canceling that’s powerful enough to block out the incessant sound of people in coffee shops trying to rope each other into internet pyramid schemes.
For its first foray into non-gaming audio, Razer cut many of those bells and whistles and introduced a really excellent pair of headphones called Opus.
What are they?
Razer isn’t totally new to the headphone segment—it already has a successful line of high-end gaming headsets in its roster. The Opus is a completely different animal, however. These wireless headphones will work for gaming if you want them to, but they’re more geared for general use.
As the logo on the left ear cup suggests, Razer relied on THX to help ensure the headphones sound good. Razer acquired the iconic audio company back in 2016, but insists that the Opus headphones endured the same rigorous certifications process any other pair of headphones would receive.
How do they sound?
Dig into the Razer app and you won’t find tons of audio options. You can choose from five different presets, including the THX mode, a vocal setting that’s great for podcasts, and enhanced bass. Personally, this is the amount of control that I like when it comes to tweaking sound. It’s the sweet spot between tweaking individual sliders on an equalizer and completely automated and closed systems like you’ll find in the excellent Beats Solo Pro.
In THX mode, you’ll get a reference sound. That’s meant for accuracy, and may make it sound flat if you’re used to the bass-heavy boom offered up by many consumer headphones. After settling into it, however, it’s the mode I found myself using the most. The enhanced bass mode—perhaps unsurprisingly—fares well when songs have lots of low-end, but I typically didn’t find the extra oomph worth making the change.
I put the Opus headphones through my usual cadre of weird review tracks. I was most impressed with how they handled “Cafo” by Animals as Leaders. It’s a progressive metal track with no vocals and a relentless barrage of sweeping guitar phrases and syncopated drum patterns that can turn into a real mess if headphones aren’t responsive enough. The Opus phones handled it nicely. “I Got a Man,” by Positive K sounded clear and lively. And “The Shortest Pier” by late songwriter Tony Sly reproduced the squeaks and squawks of the pick against the acoustic guitar strings just as intended.
High-end headphones have engaged in a noise-canceling power war in recent years. Companies such as Sony and Bose have been tweaking their algorithms and maxing out on microphones in an effort to eradicate any possibility that users would ever hear even the faintest roar of an airplane engine.
Razer has taken a somewhat simpler approach to ANC. Four microphones—two outside and two inside the ear cups—provide a hybrid noise-canceling approach with a single power level.
If you’re looking for maximum noise nuking, the Opus shouldn’t be your go-to. However, I found the single noise-canceling setting quite pleasant and more than enough for my regular needs. I did notice a slight hiss coming from the NC tech, but it’s slight and I stopped noticing it shortly after I started listening to music. I’m susceptible to ear pain from pressure due to active noise canceling when it gets too strong, but that wasn’t an issue here.
The ANC falls in line with just about every other feature on the Opus headphones. It’s not the absolute best around, but it’s easy to use, reliable, and overall excellent, especially for headphones that cost $200.
Design and usage
Battery life is one of the most important aspects in a pair of wireless headphones and the Razer cans really impressed me. They promise a full 25 hours of playback with ANC turned on, but I got slightly more than that. Even right out of the box, they had plenty of juice inside to handle a full workday without a charge.
I did miss one feature many high-end cans offer and that’s the ability to quick charge, which allows you to get an hour or two of playback with just ten or fifteen minutes of charging. If you’re not as forgetful—or lazy—as me, however, that won’t be as much of a drawback.
The leatherette ear cups have memory foam inside and I found them extremely comfortable, even during a five-hour Zoom meeting marathon. The headband is roomy, which I really appreciated, especially after using the too-small Beats Solo Pro headphones for a while.
The microphone works fine when you’re using them as a headset, but it still doesn’t beat a wired solution if you’re looking for maximum clarity.
I’ve never really been a fan of touch-based controls like you’ll find on Sony and Bose models, so the omission here doesn’t affect me at all. If you want a way to change tracks without touching your phone, however, you may be a little let down in that regard.
Who should buy it?
Razer made an excellent pair of wireless headphones for $200. They lack some of the customization features and brute force noise-canceling power of flagship devices, so they’re not for everyone. But, they’re comfortable, they sound great, and the ANC won’t punish your ear drums. Impressive.