The virtual surround sound is the key to an immersive gaming experience, according to Razer's product description for the Kraken 7.1 Chroma. The reality is that the virtual surround sound implementation is often overpowered by the bass-heavy audio of this headset's sound signature. Using the Razer Synapse software to reduce the bass levels to the lowest setting fails to make amends, as the bass-heavy profile constricts much of the mid-range and treble. Games that are heavy on speech and storylines fare better than games reliant on gunfire and explosions, so the virtual surround experience depends on how bass-centric the specific title is.
The perceived audio environment (read: soundstage) is constricted due to the excessive bass and closed design, and this makes it hard to pick out the location of different sounds. The closed design of the headset further amplifies the strength of the bass which makes it hard to register those mid-range frequencies that are associated with footsteps, gunfire and other important audio cues. We found the soundstage and general audio performance to be better with the headset in stereo mode, leading to food for thought about the value of virtual surround sound.
Another noticeable issue with the Kraken 7.1 Chroma comes with respect to the braided cable. Slight tugs of the cable and when then cable rubs on the user's clothing create noticeable interference with the audio experience. Razer needs to isolate the vibration feedback from the braided cable so that it doesn't pass upwards into the headset speakers. The cable is prone to tangling and lacks an inline volume control which makes changing the volume in-game very difficult unless a keyboard or mouse macro is implemented for volume control.
The microphone offers an acceptable experience for in-game chat and VoIP applications like Skype or TeamSpeak. Users will need to be mindful of the volume of their voice since any moderately loud and/or high-pitched noises cause the microphone to jitter and crackle in an unpleasant manner. To Razer's credit, the software does allow the user tweak volume normalisation, microphone sensitivity and ambient noise reduction options to find an optimal experience.
That last point leads nicely onto the bulk of the Razer Synapse software which offers a great deal of flexibility to the user. Synapse allows various filtering options to be applied to the audio including sound normalisation, enhanced voice clarity and a bass boost function. The latter bass boost option is largely unnecessary given the bass-heavy sound signature the headset already possesses.
Importantly, the Mixer tab allows the user to toggle virtual 7.1 surround sound and stereo 2.0 audio in an application-specific way. While it's nice to have application-by-application granularity the provision to toggle stereo and 7.1 modes for the entire system should be an option. Furthermore, such an option should also be available on an in-line control which the Kraken 7.1 Chroma does not have.
The EQ adjustment options Razer makes available in Synapse are welcome to users who like to tune their audio to a specific requirement. That said the offered EQ range that is adjustable is incomplete given the headset is capable of 20Hz to 20KHz; Razer only lets users tweak 8 intervals between 125Hz and 16KHz leaving many of the low-bass frequencies unaccounted for.