As far as gaming headsets go, the Razer BlackShark is an iconic series for esports gamers. Seen at the forefront of endless competitions, the headphone brand is reliable, comfortable and resilient, and the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro 2023 refresh is set to continue that.
Following the release of the 2022 BlackShark 2 refresh, it only made sense for the iconic green-and-black gaming company to go hard on improvements for the product line’s “Pro” counterpart. With that in mind, Stealth Optional sat down with Razer’s Global Esports Director Flo Gutierrez to discuss the massive changes that have come to the headset three years after its prior revamp. However, the biggest decision with changing the headset was deciding not to change too much.
“The good thing is that we knew that there was no need to change the shape and the whole structure of the headset,” Gutierrez told Stealth Optional. “Because it's a comfortable one, like a super comfortable one, you can work the whole day and you're quite happy with it. Most of the changes came from the components inside.”
Gamers aren’t always a fan of change, and that’s more true for esports gamers. When altering a product that a player uses for a dozen hours a day, every day, you need to make sure that the new product doesn’t become unfamiliar. Last year, the company massively redesigned its iconic Deathadder mouse, an intimidating move for everyone at the company, but with the BlackShark V2 Pro, there was no need to change its already comfortable design. For Razer, the improvements needed were obvious: better speakers for crisper audio, a bigger battery for longer listen time, and — for one of the first times in a gaming headset — an actual good-quality microphone that can be used for professional conversations, streaming, and communicating with other players.
As with all Razer products, the new BlackShark V2 Pro 2023 refresh was extensively tested by internal product leads as well as esports professionals from DRX, Koi and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Just like the company’s long-standing slogan “For Gamers. By Gamers,” the new headset was designed with the requests and complaints of pro players and fans in mind. Just ten years ago, many pro players didn’t even use headsets, but as games become more designed around advanced audio systems, the hardware has to match them.
“In the early days, not really a lot of people understood the strength of the sound when you played games, right?” Flo told us. “I often saw pro players without even using headphones. And if you look at some fighting games players today, they still don't bother using the side of the game. FPS games, for instance, are the ones that are really critical when it comes to sound. It just elevates your game when you start paying attention, when you start playing even by closing your eyes and focusing on what you hear and less what you see in CS:GO, Apex Legends, you can aim and then shoot better.”
For the BlackShark V2 Pro 2023, the ability to hear a game’s most important sounds was the main focus of development. This led to creation of ProTune, a new equalizer setting that lets you store different EQ profiles for specific games such as Apex Legends, Fortnite, Counter-Strike and more. With each game having its own telltale signs, such as directional footsteps in Fortnite, software and hardware meet to make sure you have every advantage you’d ever need.
“We knew how important [audio] was for the eSports Pros so we worked with them to develop Protune. Onboard BlackShark V2 Pro, there are five different settings paired with different games that optimise certain EQs and audio cues when you play CS:GO, Apex, Valorant, Fortnite, Call of Duty. We give you an optimised eSports experience during the game so now you will hear footsteps better, changing weapons, releasing and more.”
Available to switch at the push of a button, ProTune is an incredible feature that Razer has introduced to allow gamers to perfectly fine tune compatible headphones with individual games. Using Razer Synapse, you can modify EQs and save as a preset which can be sent and stored on the BlackShark V2 Pro, and anyone can create and share their own presets online.
Despite the huge improvements that have come to the new Razer headphones, sacrifices still had to be made. As esports headphones, they have been designed to bring forth the best gaming audio possible, and that means that some features have to be left on the wayside. For the BlackShark V2 Pro, that was Active Noise Cancelling, as bringing ANC to the BlackShark would’ve undoubtedly sacrificed the quality of the headphones’ sound.
“One feature we focussed on is soundproofing,” we were told. “We have worked on passive noise cancelling, to stop external sound coming into the headset itself, because ANC would affect the quality of the audio, and possibly bring in lag due to the bandwidth limitation of the headset. It’s about compromises, right? This is really heavily oriented for esports players. Slightly sacrificing the music aspect of it means you won’t have the best super clear sound you get with expensive, high-end Audio Technica, but you can still enjoy the nice bass, the perfect EQ for music.”
Gutierrez admits that the BlackShark V2 Pro isn’t as suited to music as high-end, £2000+ headsets like Bear Dynamics, it’s not the flat audiophile profile of the classic Sennheiser HD600s, but as a music producer himself, Razer’s Esports director has helped to push the new headset to be a fantastic music experience as well as a gaming one.
“I was an asset with the team working on the musical side of things,” he told us. “I’m producing music and I was really pushing for that to get a real headset that I don’t want to change when I’m not working or not playing, and I really spend more time making music than anything else. We got to a level that I, personally, definitely accept and I listen to music on this platform with pleasure. I could always find better for music, but can I find better for esports and music? To that, I think we’ve probably released the best product in that specific field.”
At $199.99 USD, the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro is only double the price of its standard counterpart. With new wireless capabilities rated at over 70 hours of battery life, the best microphone we’ve ever heard in a gaming headset and the brilliant tweakability of ProTune, Razer’s latest headset is designed for the pros, and ready for the rest.
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