We’re always happy to see AirPod-alternatives, and the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds do a great job of offering decent true wireless performance and features for a lower price than Apple’s headphones. Gamers may appreciate their low latency gaming mode, but audiophiles could be disappointed by the muddy bass frequencies.
Easy to set up
Relatively short battery life
Bluetooth connection can drop out
Limited EQ settings
‘Bass Boost’ sounds poor
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While the likes of Sony, Beats and Bose have released their own true wireless earbuds, Razer, a brand that’s more associated with PC gaming peripherals than audio tech, is a name that you might not have considered when looking for an AirPod-alternative.
However, Razer is no stranger to making audio tech, with an impressive lineup of gaming headphones and headsets, so its move into true wireless tech isn’t completely out of left field.
It also means that as well as bringing its audio expertise to the Hammerhead true wireless earbuds, it’s added some gaming features as well.
Gaming on our smartphones is almost as popular as listening to music on them, so if the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds can live up to the promises Razer has made about how they can improve your mobile gaming experience, then these could be earbuds that truly offer something different to the growing number of wireless earbuds.
Price and availability
The Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds are on sale for $99 (£99, AU$167.95), a fair bit cheaper than the latest Apple AirPods, which cost upwards of $159 (£159, AU$249).
This makes them quite an affordable alternative if the AirPods are a bit too pricey for your tastes, though they are not as cheap as the JLab JBuds Air Executive True Wireless earbuds, which cost just $69 (around £55, AU$100).
The price puts them in the same ballpark as the Optoma NuForce BE Free5, which cost $99 (around £75, AU$135) and the Funcl A1 true wireless headphones, which are available to buy for $79 (around $60 / AU$110).
Amongst that kind of company, Razer seems to be the more recognisable brand. It might not be in the same league as Bose and Sony when it comes to audio, but compared to Funcl, Optoma and JLab, Razer’s reputation could sway you, especially if you already have goodwill for the brand thanks to its gaming gear.
The design of the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds is very similar to the Apple AirPods – but in black.
So, each side is made up of the earbud themselves, with long stems that hold the microphones for making calls.
The design isn’t as minimalist or as smooth as the AirPods – the buds themselves are slightly larger and hold the ‘Razer’ logo. If you’re a Razer fan, then having the logo on display is probably a boon, and even if you’re not, the logo is discrete enough that it doesn’t impact on the overall aesthetics of the earphones.
What Razer hasn’t done is fill the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds with RGB lighting, like it does with its other gaming peripherals. This is a good move, as it could look quite tacky on the earbuds, and would impact battery life.
The larger earbuds have allowed Razer to include touch controls for media playback and answering calls. For example, you tap once to pause and play media, or answer calls, while two taps will skip media forward.
These work well, but can be a bit complicated – for example tapping the earbuds three times, then holding your finger on the earbud for two seconds turns on game mode. This is something that can be difficult to remember – and tapping three times without the pause at the end will skip your media back.
You also need to perform these gestures at certain speeds, and if you don’t get that correct, the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds will either not respond, or will perform the wrong task.
Luckily, there is a tutorial included with the Razer Hammerhead true wireless app, which allows you to practice these gestures.
Overall, the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds are nicely designed, with hints of Razer’s gaming heritage, and thanks to their similar design and black color, they make a statement as the ‘anti AirPods.’
As is the norm for true wireless earbuds, the Razer Hammerheads come in a compact carry case that charges the earbuds when they are inside.
The case itself is rather unremarkable, being a smallish black pillbox-shaped affair, with ‘Razer’ engraved in the top. It’s a little larger than the carrying case of the AirPods, but it’s still small enough to easily carry around in your pocket.
On the rear of the case is a USB-C port for charging. Opening up the case turns on an LED at the front which gives you an indication of the battery levels of the earbuds, and once you’ve connected them to your smartphone or other device, the earbuds will also automatically connect when the case is open (and disconnect when closed).
The earbuds sit in small recesses, and are held in place with magnets, which gives them a satisfying ‘click’ when you’re putting them back.
The right-hand earbud is on the left, and the left-hand earbud is on the right, and at first this can be a little confusing, but it does make sense as it means you’re using the correct hand to take them out and place them in your ears.
That’s if you’re using both hands though. If you just use the one hand to take them out and use them, it can feel a little odd, though you do get used to it.
Battery life and connectivity
Razer promises a battery life of four hours, with 12 hours of additional battery life within the charging case, which is ok, but not brilliant.
It’s a lot shorter than the budget JLab JBud Air Executive True Wireless earbuds, which offer six hours of battery life, and 24 hours additional juice with the charging case.
In our tests we found we could go around two days between charges with occasional use during a 40-minute commute. However, for people with longer commutes, or who will be using the earbuds more often, you may find yourself needing to charge them more often.
Another thing to note is that the earbuds and case don’t hold their charge for that long. We stopped using them for about a week and a half, and when we returned to them, we found the batteries to be completely depleted.
At least charging doesn’t take too long, with around an hour and a half needed to recharge the case. As it uses USB-C, these days it shouldn’t be difficult to find a spare cable to top them up – and one comes included with the earphones as well.
Connecting the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds is pretty simple – you can either do it through your device’s Bluetooth settings, or via the Hammerhead True Wireless app.
The app itself is rather basic, but we’re not always fond of Razer’s overly complicated software on PC, so we're not too upset about this. Once paired, the app allows you to install firmware, as well as view the battery levels of the earbuds, and select from a few limited EQ presets.
You can also view tutorials for using the earbuds, including using the touch controls, as we mentioned earlier.
Once paired with a device, the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds connect automatically when the charging case is opened. It’s a quick and seamless process, and usually by the time you’ve put the earbuds in your ears, they’re connected. It certainly beats having to mess around with Bluetooth settings on your phone.
While the initial connection works well, we did occasionally find that the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds would drop the connection, leading to distorted noise. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was annoying.
The audio quality of the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds is generally pretty good, and with the default settings offering clear and detailed audio, though it lacks a bit of the warmth we’ve found with other earbuds.
This could be because with the default EQ settings, bass is rather understated, while the mid-range and trebles are more prominent. For podcasts where people are talking, and for phone calls, this leads to clear dialogue, though the lack of bass can make certain music tracks lack bombast.
Potentially solving this (on paper, at least), is the ‘Bass Boost’ EQ setting. While this does up the bass, it ends up muddying the overall quality of the sound. Unless bass is of utmost importance, you’ll probably find yourself turning off bass boost not long after turning it on, like we did. In some cases it almost sounded like you have a bit of water in your ear.
There’s also ‘Treble Boost’ which goes in the opposite direction, leading to a clearer, yet also colder, sound then the default. We tried the different settings on a variety of different tracks, and each time we ended up sticking with the default EQ setting. It’s not perfect, but as the most balanced option, it offers the best audio quality.
It’s a shame that there’s only three EQ presets, and no way of adjusting them, so we could get a better experience that suited our tastes better.
Overall, the sound quality of the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds is good, and can occasionally be impressive, but audiophiles will be left unimpressed, and the muddy bass boost mode in particular is disappointing.
However, we’ve not mentioned the main selling point of the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds, which is the game mode.
This mode offers low 60ms input latency, effectively eliminating any lag between the games (or videos) on your device, and the audio from the earbuds.
Many people might not ever notice this lag – especially if you mainly just listen to music – but for anyone who has been frustrated by this when gaming, then this is a feature that could temp you.
As the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds use a Bluetooth connection, you don’t just have to use them with smartphone games, either, but with PC and PS4 games as well.
To be brutally honest, we played a few mobile games with the game mode both on and off, and didn’t see much of a difference. If you’re more susceptible to lag, then this might be of use to you, and they were certainly a nice pair of earbuds to use while playing games – and there was definitely no perceptible delay between the onscreen action and the audio, but that was true with both game mode on and off.
With the Hammerhead true wireless earbuds, Razer has come up with a stylish pair of true wireless headphones that look great and work well – especially considering the price.
Initial setup is easy, and the instant pairing and unpairing when you open the case and take out the earbuds, or put them away, is a nice touch.
They are comfortable to wear, and while the touch gestures take a bit of getting used to, they end up being handy ways of controlling your media and answering calls without resorting to whipping out your phone.
Audio quality is also generally pretty good, though the limited EQ options, and the muddy quality of the ‘Bass Boost’ preset is disappointing.
The main selling point of the Razer Hammerhead true wireless earbuds is its low latency game mode, and while this will appeal to a niche audience, for most people you won’t even realize the feature is turned on – or off.
However, at the end of the day, Razer has made a good pair of true wireless earphones that will appeal to gamers, or anyone who wants a bit of the AirPod’s style without paying Apple prices.
Speaking of price, we think Razer has pitched the price tag as about right for the performance and features you get with the Hammerhead true wireless earbuds.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.