Finding the right headset can seem like a daunting task, especially once you look at the price tags attached to your options. Always keep in mind that you’re going to get what you pay for, and Razer is going to make sure that you look damn good wearing it. I got my hands on one of the most beautiful pieces of the Mass Effect 3 licensed line-up, the Chimaera 5.1, right after the death of my Turtle Beach PX21s. I’d become quite attached to them, but knew it was only a matter of time before its frail plastic body failed and the sound left me. Yet when the cover of the Chimaera came off and revealed the N7 insignia, my period of mourning ended and a new day dawned. I’d entered the world of Dolby surround, special ops style. My life hasn’t been the same since.
Let’s start from the beginning. Razer doesn’t mess around with packaging. I opened this beast up to find everything neatly encased in black plastic, and unfolding it was almost a mini-game in itself. The ear covers are gray with that faux carbon fiber finish you see on Shepard’s armor, interrupted by a few understated red lines and the N7 insignia. These babies are stunning and incredibly sturdy. Once I’d oggled enough, I set to working bringing the Chimaera to life. This involved somehow putting two rechargeable AAA batteries into one of the ear muffs. I didn’t see a slot or button that indicated where exactly these batteries were supposed to go, but the pictograph set of directions indicated that either I needed to turn the ear muff inside out and punch myself, or pry the cover off with brute strength and dig for the battery compartment. It ended up being the latter, which wasn’t all that thrilling. I thought something as refined-looking and expensive as the Chimaera would have offered me a latch or release button that would reveal the slot. But no. Instead, after a few pitiful attempts, I managed to rip it away. It was not a graceful sight and I’m still grateful there were no cameras present for the act.
What happened next made me suddenly very cross with Razer for giving me a quick start guide with so few words. I somehow missed the green arrows telling me that I needed to line up the bottom two spokes of the ear muff cover, so when I tried to push it back in place, the bottom right spoke snapped clean off and disappeared into the abyss of my bedroom. Rather than shed tears, I removed the plate and tried again, this time following the directions just a little more closely. The loss of that spoke didn’t seem to affect the security of the ear cover, and I moved onto the cables. Then I came across yet another disturbance and was certain that the universe simply didn’t want me to have the moment of serenity I’d been hoping for during this setup. The Chimaera 5.1 is advertised as both PC and Xbox 360 compatible. Hurray! Excellent news, right? Yes, absolutely. After all, Razer is the voice of the PC nation. I figured my frequent transfers between floors from my computer to my 360 would be as painless as they were with my PX21s.
I was not correct in this assumption. First of all, the Chimaera 5.1s don’t even come with all the cables required for a PC connection. You either have to purchase an optical cable, 3.5 to 3.5, or RCA to 3.5. These aren’t incredibly expensive pieces if you’re willing to do a bit of searching. I, unfortunately, had only the Best Buy option, which set me back an additional $25 after I’d seen cables online for around $6 or $7. Razer warns that only way to ensure mic functionality is to run a 3.5 to 3.5 and an RCA to 3.5 (but rest assured, the chat function is available on PC.) I’d already planned on going the RCA route, but this seemed so odd to me. Sure, it was marketed as a 360 accessory and I know wireless technology isn’t going to be easy to move from device to device… but couldn’t it have been? Shouldn’t Razer have considered the possible convenience feature there? Would they have been set back too far had they included just one extra cable so as to make it work on PC? Or am I such a minority that this is really all embarrassingly trivial? If you do intend to switch between your PC and 360, rest assured that it’s a relatively simple process… relatively. You’ll have to drag the dock and power cable with you, but otherwise, it’s a very easy transition. Once you’ve synched the headset, you don’t need to re-sync each time you switch systems.
After I’d had a good cry about the cable ordeal, I got home, put everything together, and fiddled with the buttons until I finally found the proper combination. I had iTunes running as I tried to sync it up with my computer, waiting for the sound to herald my success. And lo, I heard it then. An ethereal chorus surrounded me, sounding suspiciously like Gotye, and I rose from my desk, free from the cables and plugs that had bound me prior. Honestly, I spent a solid second wondering where the hell that music was coming from, as nothing that clear had ever come from a headset of mine. It was just absolutely night and day compared to the PX21s. Once you’ve experience Dolby surround, it’s difficult to settle for anything else. You can cycle through treble, bass, or neither until you find the right combination. You can even turn off Dolby surround entirely. I did just that and found that while it certainly sounded different, both modes were of excellent quality. My head was enveloped by a blanket of sound, and I found myself surprisingly unburdened by the weight of the headset. Ample padding in the head band and ear muffs distributes the weight very well, and you can adjust the length of the sides to your liking. I never felt any pinching against my ears, as I found was the case with PX21s. This was just pure comfort.
I ran a Skype test to check out the recording quality of the mic and friends assured me I sounded lovelier than ever. Once I switched back over to my 360, I found that flitting between party and game chat was as easy and pressing a button on the side of the right ear muff. I absolutely love that the headset itself offers multiple buttons, so I’m not fumbling for a little chat panel just so I can re-balance my game to chat volume ratio. I feel like Commander freaking Shepard when all I have to do is press my ear in order to turn the headset on, sync with the tower, or adjust the volume. Mute operates the same way; all the key functions are right there. On your face.
Recharging is as easy as setting the headset on the dock. Furthermore, if the Chimaera doesn’t pick up an audio signal after a short while, it turns itself off. You’ve got abut eight solid hours of battery life in these things and a full charge will only take three hours. You can also enjoy 33 feet of roaming. Hell, I wandered downstairs while my Chimaeras were still connected to my PC and I was getting crystal clear sound in the kitchen with zero latency.
Now, the Chimaera 5.1s works perfectly for those of us who just happen to have the right setup. As I don’t currently connect by 360 to the TV via an HDMI cable, hooking up this baby is no big deal. Those of you who are rocking the HDMI connection will find that connecting the Chimaera is more of a pain, as you’ll have to go out and pick up an adapter. Chris Carlson, who first reviewed the Chimaera 5.1 on RipTen, found that the lack of independent chat/game volume control caused him some frustration. I, however, adjusted my chat volume via the Xbox Live preferences menu so that once I was in game, I didn’t experience a great disparity between the two. I just kept chat volume higher. I can completely understand how some may find the absence of separate volume controls annoying, but this was a non issue for me once I found an alternative.
As much as I’m itching to fault the Chimaeras for lacking the proper cables to be completely PC-friendly right out of the box, these are really intended for the Xbox 360. I suppose the fact that they’re compatible at all with PCs is something to be celebrated, but maybe I’ve just come to demand too much from Razer. It’s because I heart them so. I simply want the best for them.
You’ll find that $200 isn’t an uncommon price tag for a headset of this caliber, especially one branded by BioWare. The Chimaera 5.1 is incredibly versatile, comfortable, and most likely space-worthy.
I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite headset on the Citadel.
Here’s the Rundown:
+Incredibly comfortable and lightweight
+Fantastic sound, even with Dolby 5.1 disabled
+Buttons on ear cups are incredibly convenient
+Wireless liberty, latency-free
+The N7 logo has never looked so classy
+If you’re upgrading from a lower-end headset, the difference is astounding
-Razer, why you no 3.5 to RCA cable?
-Lack of HDMI support is a little frustrating
-Wish it was easier to switch between 360 and PC
9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, hardware that defines what that industry should be about. These scores are for hardware and peripherals that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.
The Mass Effect 3 Chimaera 5.1 was developed and manufactured by Razer and is available at the retail price of $209.99. The headset was provided to Stephanie by the manufacturer for the purposes of review. She chose the red ending.