Over the past year or so, I’ve somehow turned my buying/returning attention to headphones. Without realizing it, I noticed 4 sets of wireless earbuds on my shelf and I thought to myself, “How did this happen?” I suppose it applies to nearly anything with me, but I’m always in search of that one thing that can do the best at being utilitarian: great at most things even if not the best at anything. In the past 12 months, I’ve been known to have multiple sets of earbuds, a few wireless earbuds, and at least one set of standard headphones on me at all times.
It really all started with the Bose QuietComfort IIs for me. I literally tried about 5 different brands of over-ear and on-ear headphones trying to find a way to get good sound, comfortable fit, and workable sound isolation from a set of cans that didn’t cost $300. I went through a ton of models before finally breaking down and buying the Bose. They provide great sound (arguably not the best), comfortable fit, and some of the best noise cancellation in the business. Once I landed there, I just stopped looking.
My attention then turned to wireless earbuds after I took the dive with Airpods a little over a year ago. After using them for a bit, I realized how much I love the idea of having a set of headphones I can keep in my pocket for use in nearly any situation. AirPods are a great little package, but they fall short in a few categories. First, they don’t sound that great. They don’t provide a true seal in your ear canal, so quite a bit of outside sound gets in. On iOS or iPadOS, gaming latency is great, but that doesn’t hold for Android or on Chromebooks, unfortunately.
Still, I love the portability and convenience so much, I began searching for a replacement that could do more of the things I was after. I tried a ton of different earbuds and, as this market is clearly exploding right now, I found quite a few I actually liked a lot. The Amazon Echo Buds did a lot of good stuff for their price, but the latency was pretty poor and the case was pretty massive.
Then I saw Razer put out their first truly wireless earbuds in the Hammerhead TWS Earbuds and they promised lag-free audio for gaming on the go. I read through the initial press announcement and liked what I saw; a small case, decent battery, an AirPod-like design, touch controls, and zero latency mode for games. I honestly was bracing for a big, fat price tag and was shocked at what the asking price ended up being: $99.
I, of course, immediately ordered them and since they arrived, they have been my go-to headphones. They are a daily carry for me at this point and have a permanent place in my pocket every morning. They sound far better than AirPods, but the case is equally pocketable. They charge via USB-C instead of the dreaded lightning cable. They allow me to skip tracks, play/pause, call up the Google Assistant, and enter gaming mode with just a few taps on either side. And they do all of it while looking good.
That gaming mode is not a gimmick, either. There is a discernible difference when playing games like PUBG or Call of Duty on any device when using these in gaming mode. Audio response feels just as good as wired earphones and this works across all platforms. I can connect to my iPad, Pixel, or use them while playing Stadia on my Pixelbook Go and enjoy the same lag-free experience across the board.
If you noticed earlier, I said they employ roughly the same design as the AirPods, so that may turn some off. While I love the seal of in-ear tips, I also enjoy the open sound of this style of earbud. If I had to choose just one style, I’d keep these over in-ear models.
The Amazon Echo Buds had a pass-through mode that was decent and from what I’ve heard, the AirPods Pro are pretty good at that too, but at this price point I’d give up noise cancellation for now to keep the option of getting a bit of the environment sound in my ear. I will say the Razer Hammerheads do a better job than the AirPods at blocking out the outside sounds when music is playing and their max volume is pretty obnoxious. I’ve never come close to cranking them up to full blast.
If you are a fan of the AirPod style of earbud and don’t want to spend a fortune on a great wireless headphone experience, I think the Razer Hammerheads deserve a look. In general, I don’t bother with much else in the way of personal audio these days. Until the Pixel Buds 2 come out in the spring, I think this is where I’m staying for a while. You can check out these and tons of other great gift ideas over at our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide if the Razer Hammerhead earbuds sound like something you’d like to try out or give to someone you care about.