First True 7.1 Surround Sound Headset Makes Me Want A Better Sound Card

First True 7.1 Surround Sound Headset Makes Me Want A Better Sound Card

Back in 2002 I dropped a large chunk of change on a pair of “true” 6.1 surround sound headphones. They were essentially a pair of normal headphones with extra speakers extending out to either side of each ear cup. They looked ridiculous. I loved them.

After spending three weeks with Razer’s Tiamat 7.1, the world’s first true 7.1 surround sound headset, I realise what an easy-to-please idiot I was 10 years ago.

Since my initial foray into surround sound headphones so many years ago, I’ve kept myself occupied with simulated surround, convincing myself that it was just as good as the real thing. I could live with inconsistent volumes across simulated channels and the occasional dead spot, as long as I could vaguely tell which direction the bullets were coming from.

The same goes for PC audio hardware. Onboard all the way, why waste a slot on a fancy sound card when what I’ve got has all the required inputs and outputs?

Those of you used to a richer audio experience are probably ready to strangle me right now. I’m right there with you.

The Razer Tiamat 7.1 has shown me the light. Or let me listen to the light from different directions. Something like that.

The difference is plain to see the moment you free the Tiamat 7.1 from its extravagant packaging. Windows on the outside of each ear cuff (which can be covered with a pair of opaque plastic pieces) deliver an excellent view of the 10 drivers powering this beast: two of each front, centre, side, back, and subwoofer.


This arrangement makes for a rather beefy set of headphones, but no more so than your average larger-sized headset. The padded leatherette ear cups are almost too small for my giant-sized noise glands, so they shouldn’t be too unwieldy for those tinier than me (i.e. a large percentage of our readers).

The Razer Tiamat 7.1 Price: $US179.99 / €179.99

Product Features:

  • True-to-life pinpoint positional 7.1 surround sound from 10 discrete drivers
  • All-in-one volume control unit for multi-channel adjustment, personalisation and toggling between headset and speakers
  • Comfortable, snug fit for extended play
  • Retractable, noise-filtering unidirectional mic
  • Interchangeable ear cup covers
  • Replaceable soft-touch leatherette ear cushions
  • Braided fibre cable

Available soon at Razer’s Online Store.

A slight panic gripped me as I unravelled the Tiamat 7.1’s braided cord to be met by five audio plugs and a USB cable (for powering the drivers and the signature Razer glowing squid thing). I wasn’t certain my PC had that many audio ports. Being a computer manufactured within the past five years it certainly did, but again, that goes to show how little attention I’ve been paying.

So I hooked them up, loaded up some Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (which doesn’t expressly support 7.1 surround), and the difference was immediately clear. These 10 little drivers we’re doing a better job of keeping me surrounded on all sides by crystal-clear audio than anything else I’d plugged into my PC earlier. And once I realised the bass drivers weren’t firing and went into my control panel to fix that, they sounded even better.

Gone were those pesky dead spots. Volume inconsistencies were handled readily via the bulky-yet-lightweight control module, which features individual volume controls for each of the five channels as well as the retractable built-in mic (which, incidentally, certainly did the job it set out to do).


The control even features a pass-through for my PC speakers, so I don’t have to keep handing the wife my headset whenever I want to show her YouTube videos of our children.

Looking into games that expressly support 7.1 surround sound I was delighted to discover that Left 4 Dead 2 was on that relatively short list. I quickly discovered that sometimes knowing where the zombies are coming from isn’t a comforting thing. I found myself jumping at every sound made by the infected, my teammates, and myself.

In fact the only thing I wasn’t jumping at were the normal sounds of my household — annoying cat, babies in peril, things on fire. The Tiamat 7.1 does a wonderful job of muffling the outside world, something I can’t recommend enough at this point in my life.

And I can’t recommend the Razer Tiamat 7.1 surround sound headset enough either, though keep in mind this is coming from someone that’s gone from “OK, that works” to “more sound than I knew existed”. The only two major problems with the unit currently is availability: Razer is sold out and struggling to meet overwhelming demand, something that seems to happen quite frequently with their oft-delayed high-end products.

Some may also balk at the $US179.99 price tag. I’d say this is a case of getting what you paid for. Hell, I’m shopping for sound cards now, convinced more hidden audio treasures are waiting to be uncovered by these inexperienced ears.


  • good stereo headphones are still better in my opinion.. ad700s + soundcard is muh better than aheap of rubbish drivers shoved in a headphone.

  • One great driver in each ear will always sound better than 5 cheap shitty ones. What is so hard about this concept for most gamers to grasp?
    As a general rule of thumb, if the headphones have a microphone attached, or have the word “gamer” in it’s title (or the company is a gamer focused company) you’re probably getting lower quality headphones.

  • As Steve said, this seemed like more of an advertisement than anything else.
    While we’re on that topic, Sennheiser HD598s are the greatest things to ever receive my unwieldy ears.

    • Buy Razer headsets. That’s all I’m going to say on this comment.
      Just kidding, I’m going to say more. I’m constantly surprised at the amount of hate directed at Razer on this particular site. Instead of everyone just mercilessly bad-mouthing Razer, how about supplying people with an alternative? I see some have intelligently done so.

      As for Razer headsets, I have the Megalodons, never once failed on me, I couldn’t have asked for a better gaming headset.

  • I’d rather have two great drivers than several bad drivers.
    Virutal / Real surround is a gimmick as you cant distinguish the sounds as the positions of the drivers are TOO close to your ears.

    AD700 + clip on mic is the best combo ever, that is real surround sound as it has a great soundstage

  • showing the love for sound card + AD700’S + Zalman clip on mic.
    can’t do better, just look at any forum, and it’s all affordable!

  • Another gimmick. Good quality (I.e. Non gaming brand) stereo headphones are all you need.

    I agree with the sound card part though, they are essential for great sound!

  • I’m a wannabe audiophile, look at me spout drivel about headphones and hating on sets just because they have “gaming” in the name. What makes my opinion better? Oh I totally use Beats by Dre. I’m so hardcore. Seriously? STFU! Gamer sets are good or bad regardless of having the word “gamer” involved. Hell, the Logi G35’s put to shame many a more expensive set of “regular”, “non-gaming” sets.

    I love my senn earbuds for my mp3 player, I love my senn headphones for making music (monitoring set yo) but when it comes to gaming? Gaming headsets tend to be the best. Sure they may not make your favourite songs sound perfect but by god you hear what you need to hear when GAMING!

    What’s next? Complaining about “sports” model cars for being to aggressive on acceleration or traction?

  • Glad to see all the love for the Senny HD598s (I’m looking at upgrading my venerable HD465s to them, glad that Sennheiser finally put out another mid-level open headphone).

    But as a long-time surround junkie in addition to a hi-fi junkie, I wish that the interview had said more about the sound localization. I just can’t get convince myself that having all those drivers in such a cramped space will really let you localize sounds accurately.

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