Best Bluetooth Headphones Buying Guide [2021]

Bose QC35 headphones on a desk next to some plant and a coffee pot

The market for Bluetooth headphones has grown a lot and there are plenty of options to go through. This can make it very confusing to decide what options to go with, especially if you want specific features or need to meet a budget.

After testing many headphones options, doing hours of research, and getting opinions from others we have decided the best options in various categories for you.

Let’s check out our favorite options now.


Our Top Recommendations

1. Sony WH-1000XM4s – Our Favorite Pick

Sony’s WH-1000XM4s or XM4s for short are regarded as one of if not the best Bluetooth headphones on the market. They are great in all categories and often set the bar for things like battery life, ANC, and design.

The XM4s get around 30 hours of battery life, deliver a pretty clean sound, and have arguably the best ANC in any headphone. You also get key features like a transparency mode so you can hear everything around you.

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2. Drop + THX Panda – Best Sound

If sound is your main priority but you still want Bluetooth then Drop and THX’s Pandas is your best bet. They deliver excellent sound quality, especially for a Bluetooth pair of headphones. For the on the go audiophile, this is an excellent option to consider.

Unfortunately, the Pandas do not have ANC but for some, the audio quality is worth the sacrifice. Drop’s Pandas still don’t have the best audio for any headphone but in the Bluetooth category, it is second to none. The sound is clean, balanced, and packs punches in all the right areas.

It is also rated for about 30 hours of battery life and has fantastic comfort.

3. Apple AirPods Max – Best ANC

Apple’s AirPods Max is fantastic in multiple categories but where is it is best at is ANC. It is great at blocking out consistent background noise as well as sudden noises. It also features a 20 hours battery life, an aluminum design, great comfort, and sound quality that is almost as good as Drop and THX’s Pandas.

Unfortunately, you only have full access to the features of the AirPods Max if you use the headphones with an iPhone. Although the AirPods Max are great in a variety of categories because of the lack of in-depth support with Android and Windows, these headphones are not our favorite pick.

The fact of the matter is these headphones are fantastic if you use Apple products but if you plan to use Android and you prioritize ANC then the Sony XM4s may be the best option for you.

4. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 – Best Interface

Angled view of Surface headphones from Microsoft.

The Surface Headphones 2 from Microsoft are a phenomenal pair of headphones but one area that makes them unique is the interface. Microsoft not only utilizes touch-capacitive functions that are on many Bluetooth headphones but they also provide two dials built into each earcup. The dials feel great and are very easy to understand. It allows changing volume and the level of ANC or background noise to be a very smooth process.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 have pretty good sound quality, a pretty decent battery life, and a comfortable design. They deliver a lot of what you would get with the top players like Sony’s XM4s but come at a cheaper price. If you are willing to make sacrifices on things like a smaller battery life (which is still quite good) and a slightly worse sound then the Surface Headphones 2 can provide a great experience at a fantastic price.

If you want to find out more about Surface Headphones 2, check out our review on them here.

5. Jabra Elite 85h – Best Value

If you are looking for a Bluetooth pair of headphones that gives you as much as possible at a fair price Jabra has a great option with their Elite 85h headphones.

The Jabra Elite 85h gives you ANC, a long battery life (up to 36 hours), fast charging, rain and water resistance, solid comfort, and a pretty decent sounding pair of headphones.

Jabra is known for providing great value audio devices and the Elite 85h is no different. These headphones are a great option to go for if you want all the key features and solid performance, without breaking the bank.

6. Razer Opus – Best Budget

For those who do not want to spend upwards of $200 for a pair of headphones, the Razer Opus gives you a ton of great features at a great price. While this pair still is not the cheapest Bluetooth pair out there, it is giving you a lot while not being overly expensive like the bigger players like the Sony XM4s or AirPods Max.

It is important to note that occasionally you can find the Jabra Elite 85h at a cheaper price and the Surface Headphones (1st generation) also hover at around the same price. Both are two great options to consider and out compete the Razer Opus in different ways depending on what you are looking for.

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Also Great

There are also some other competitive options that may be great for you but may not be the best in any one category.

Bose NC700

Bose NC700 headphones on a desk next to some keyboard switches

Another great pair of Bluetooth headphones is the Bose NC700. The NC700s deliver performance that is close to the Sony XM4s in every category but aren’t the best at anything. They are still a great option but we would usually just recommend going with the XM4s over them.

One reason you may choose to get Bose’s NC700s is if you like the looks. The sleek, modern design makes the headphones look good in any setting.

Surface Headphones (1st Generation)

If you still want the performance of the Surface Headphones 2 but you don’t have the budget then the original Surface Headphones are a great option. Not only are they a great value offering but they offer the same sound quality and almost all the same features as the Surface Headphones 2. The main differences are the battery life, more color options, and support for some more audio codecs.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones are very comfortable, have a great sound for the price, and the overall package is quite solid.


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Is ANC Necessary?

One of the most common features among Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. A question for many though is if they need ANC and if it is worth the additional cost.

ANC is a very nice feature to have because it can allow you to listen to music in more environments without being bothered by sounds from the outside world. This can help you stay focused while working in a public environment, allow you to able to listen to music outside in your own bubble or make everything quieter in a place like a plane.

In short, ANC is not a necessary feature but it can be very beneficial in many situations and along with ANC often comes a “transparency mode”. This will allow you to hear what’s around you, sometimes at an elevated volume, in case your in a situation where someone is talking to you or you need to hear anything else around you.

If you often use headphones while outside or work in a public or loud environment then ANC is very useful and a worthwhile investment. You can be more focused and enjoy music better in peace. Not to mention having ANC can make a flight much more enjoyable.

If you have extra money in your budget or ANC is useful in your use case it is a very useful feature.

Does Bluetooth Ruin Sound Quality?

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a new pair of headphones is the sound quality.

Bluetooth can affect sound quality but it also depends on the price point. For the vast majority of people, the sound quality from Bluetooth headphones above the $200 price tag will have great sound quality.

Only those who are used to very premium headphones or high fidelity audio will not be able to get the same experience with Bluetooth headphones but the Drop + THX Pandas and Apple AirPod Maxs deliver fantastic audio quality.

The amount of information that can go to Bluetooth headphones is capped unless you use them with a wire because only a specific amount of information can travel wirelessly. Again this issue won’t affect the majority of people.

In general, Bluetooth does not ruin audio quality but it will cap the potential for the audio quality. If you want the best audio possible you will either have to go with some of the more expensive Bluetooth options at $400 and $500 or just get premium headphones that aren’t Bluetooth.

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How Does Sound Quality Compare

If the only thing you value is sound quality, there are many options to consider. There are many Bluetooth headphones that have solid sound quality but the headphones with the best quality are not Bluetooth and you can get higher quality sound for the price as many Bluetooth headphones.

A lot of what you are paying for with Bluetooth headphones is the feature of Bluetooth. If all you care about is sound quality and the feature of Bluetooth is not important to you, there are various options on the market that you can look at. A solid Bluetooth pair will typically cost anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars but you can get the sound quality of a $200 pair of Bluetooth headphones for half the cost.

If sound quality is your main priority, there are many different headphones that you can consider like open-back headphones, which can offer a cleaner and wider sound.

Overall the sound quality of open-back headphones is not bad but for the price, there are better options and the best sounding headphones on the market are mostly wired, especially professional-grade options.

How To Choose Bluetooth Headphones

Top view of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds on a desk.

Choosing headphones can be very complicated and confusing. It is important to understand what budget you are looking at and then what features you prioritize the most.

Do You Need Bluetooth?

Before considering what Bluetooth headphones you want, you need to decide if you really would benefit from Bluetooth headphones.

If you want headphones to use on the go or you just want the ease of use of a Bluetooth device then Bluetooth may suit you perfectly. Bluetooth can make your setup easier and it can also make using headphones easier to use because there is no cable that you have to worry about.

If you plan to use your headphones with a desktop or in a studio environment then Bluetooth headphones may not be worth it for you and investing in a wired pair may give you better sound quality and price to performance.

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The Price

If Bluetooth headphones are right for you then the next important thing to decide is your budget. There are many Bluetooth headphones at various price ranges. If you have more money you can get headphones with features such as ANC in addition to great sound quality. There are also many fantastic value options.

Once you find what price is right for you, you should look at all the options in your price range. Finding what features matter to you is a great way to narrow down options and then you can find the best option for your price tag.

Sound Quality

The most important thing about headphones is how they actually sound. All the best sounding options will cost about $400 or more but you can still get great sound quality at a lower price tag.

When you have narrowed down your budget, understanding what options in your price range have the best sound quality is an important consideration. Of course, it is always good to maintain a balance of the best sound quality you can get in your budget while also getting the features that you prioritize.

Looking at comparisons between different options can be very helpful in deciding what are the best options.

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ANC

One of the most common features of Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. This uses microphones on the outside of the headphones so an offset sound can be played allowing you to hear less sounds from the outside world.

ANC quality depends greatly but it gets better usually as you spend more. Headphones with better ANC will block out more outside noise especially sudden sounds like a door closing or someone coughing.

Noise cancellation is incredibly useful in public environments, especially very noisy ones like a plane or a public building. This will allow you to be able to listen better and get distracted less. If you want Bluetooth but are not in loud environments often you can potentially save some money. Most people will benefit from having ANC but unless you are always in loud environments you should not stretch your budget to get a pair with ANC.

Looks and Build

The build among Bluetooth headphones is mostly similar among all the options. Typically they use a mainly plastic fame with the use of materials like pleather and potentially some metal. Occasionally you can find some options that have mostly metal designs like the Apple AirPods Max.

Although more premium feeling and looking builds are nice to have they are not necessarily needed. Most premium Bluetooth headphones have solid build quality even with mostly plastic construction. If you do prioritize having an all-metal build there are a few options to consider but you will most likely have to pay a premium.

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Other Important Features

Apart from the main priorities of build quality, sound, and price, there are other nice to haves like software support, a carrying case, or other features that improve your experience with the device. These other features may help you narrow down which headphone is right for you.

Many headphones do have these additional features like software, a carrying case, and potentially additional cables so you may need to look out for more specific things about each like how good the software is.

Why Trust Us

As a team with tech and audio enthusiasts, we not only study these subjects for work but also outside of that. We gather the most relevant information and like to test as much as possible ourselves.

We have had the opportunity to test these different headphones and also have experience in many other areas of the audio world. Additionally with this content not only can you get a recommendation from a user that may have similar interests as you but you can get a view from an audiophile’s perspective.

At The Tech Frontier, we have compiled this list through our testing of different Bluetooth headphones. We also have used previous knowledge with different kinds of headphones, platforms, and operating systems to provide recommendations for all kinds of audiences.


Conclusion

Surface Headphones with a plant in the background.

Hopefully these options have helped you narrow down your search as to what options are best for you and you now know what to look for in headphones when you’re researching what to purchase.

There are many great Bluetooth headphones that have little differences in their interface of an improvement in a specific part of how it sounds so doing some additional research is very useful to make a more informed decision.

If you want to check out more guides and reviews check out the rest of our site with new articles coming out every week.

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Best Linear Switches [2021]

Keyboard switches on a desk next to flowers and headphones.

There are so many linear switches available in the big bad world of mechanical keyboards, which one should you guys choose?

A linear switch is a switch that has uninterrupted travel all the way down. There is no feedback whatsoever and really no way to tell when you have actuated the switch besides when the entry shows up at the receiving end.

Terminology

Just like in the Tactile Switch article I have included a short guide with some useful terminology that will be thrown around.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch actually activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metallic contacts in a switch, these themselves actually actuate the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf on a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases it can be fixed by lube.

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Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions based of mine, the best way to get opinions on a switch is to just try them yourself, guides like this, sound tests, and keyboard senpais like Taeha Types is not a good way to understand how switches feel. Just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try them out. Use this guide to gain a general understanding of the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches.

Gateron Black Ink

Gateron Black Ink mechanical keyboard switch with rocks behind it.

Gateron Black Inks are a switch made by Gateron. They feature a 60g actuation and a 70g bottom out and actuate at 2 mm and with a total travel of 4 mm. They do not come prelubed and stock are quite mediocre. But when lubed and filmed they are mega smooth and have a very thoccy sound signature.

These are number 1 because of how pleasant the sound is coming in with a low sounding thocc in most cases. It also has top tier smoothness after lubing and filming.

We do recommend lubing these as in their stock form they are a bit scratchy and do not sound the best. Filming is also recommended but not required since the housings are not unbearably loose.

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C3 Equalz x TKC Banana Splits

C3 equalz Banana split mechanical keyboard switch resting on a flower.

These switches are amazing, ill say that right off the bat. They are produced by TKC and C3 Equalz and are the first addition to the fruit switch lineup. They feature a hyper smooth experience with a nice high pitch clacky sound that is enjoyed by many typists around the world. They feature the typical 2mm actuation point and 4mm bottom out. They have no long stem action. These switches come with only a 62g weight option.

The Banana Splits take the number 2 spot because of the sound and smoothness being so good. They are pretty costly and have limited availability.

These switches don’t require filming or lubing but will benefit from both. We would recommend lubing these tasty switches up. There super good looking too, which is a plus.

Bobagums

Bobagum keyboard switch on a flower.

Gazzew’s linear deriving from the Boba U4s, which are top tier silent tactiles. These switches come in 62g and 68g variations, have great silencing power, and feature awesome smoothness.

Lubing these switches is always recommended but filming is not as housings may struggle to close with many types of film since they are already so tight.

These switches are perfect for a work or school keyboard. So if you like linear with a slight mush or just don’t want thocc or clack this is a right choice for you. They are the best silent linear on the market right now.

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C3 Equalz x TKC Equalz Tangerine

C3 Equalz Tangerine switch resting on a flower.

Smooth, clacky, and did we mention its smooth? By far one of the smoothest switches out of the box. This pre-lubed switch from TKC is amazing. It features a standard 2mm actuation and 4mm bottom out. These switches come with a 62g version and a 68g version.

It is hard to rank the tangerines considering it is among the smoothest switches you can buy, but some of TKC’s problems in the past really dock this switch a few points. Its sound signature is also, if you will, boring and flat. By no means is it bad, in fact, it’s great but the other switches here do better. Again, this is completely my opinion, you may love it you may not.

If you do like a lower more muted switch then these are a great switch to consider but if you want something more lively and clacky then they may not be for you.

Lubing is not required as the returns are diminishing after lube. Lubing with a thinner lube like 3203 or 3204 is preferred since the factory lube and the 205g0 can be too much. Filming will benefit the tangies but is not required by any means.

Gateron Milky Yellow

Gateron Milky Yellow switch on a flower.

Budget, budget, budget. These switches are as it stands the king of budget linears. Standing in at about 24 cents a switch. They have a very nice thoccy sound and feature quite smooth action after lubing and filming. They are no Black Inks but they are also not 75 cents a pop. These siwtches weigh in at about 50g actuation and 60g bottom out.

These earned a spot on the list since the Milky Yellows are pretty much the epitome of budget switches and have been for a while. These switches come in many forms or revisions. The outstanding outcome or what is widely agreed as the best outcome is the black bottom and milky top housings. As they provide the best smoothness and sound but obviously that is up to you.

Do lube and film these, as without they are quite scratchy and the housings are pretty wobbly.

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PrimeKB Alpacas

PrimeKB Alpaca V2 keyboard switch sitting on a pink flower.

These JWK Recolors follow a color scheme based on Minterley’s Bliss colorway. They feature very smooth travel with a deep sort of unique sound signature that is hard to find on any other switch making it a very desired switch throughout the keyboard community. They feature 62g springs which makes it a nice middle ground in terms of weight.

These switches do not need lube or films as they do come pre-lubed with a slight layer of oil and they have pretty tight housings.

Note that the latest version was tested. The previous iteration for this switch had quite loose housings but that has since been fixed. These switches are primarily only sold on PrimeKB and they have the newer version.

KTT Strawberry

KTT Strawberry switch sitting on a green plant.

These switches are an iteration of KTT’s higher-end switches. At around 40 cents a switch, they are mid to low-end switches in terms of price. But let’s not judge this book by its cover or more this switch by its price.

The KTT Strawberries are one of the smoothest stock switches out there right now, up there with tangerines for a bit more than half the price. And as far as sound goes, dang these really hit the spot, they have a clean and non-intrusive clack similar to that of the tangerines without the harsh high pitchiness. These have a 63.5g bottom out making them slightly heavier than Gateron Yellows.

Neither filming nor lubing this switch is required as they have very tight housings and very smooth travel in the stock form.

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Vintage Cherry MX Blacks

Vintage Cherry MX Black switch sitting on a rock.

Chances are if you have even the slightest experience in this hobby you have heard of Cherry’s lineup and cherry MX Blacks. These switches are those exact things, except old. When a switch is made a mold is used to cast the plastic, so these switches use an older mold which was known to be very smooth. This paired with cherry’s magically sounding amazing housings made the holy grail of linears.

Now if there so good why aren’t they number 1? Because these switches are very hard to come by, for starters it is near impossible to get these switches through a commercial vendor like NovelKeys, Cannonkeys, etc. Second, in most cases these switches must be removed from an old keyboard (like really old) and then cleaned and sold via mechmarket or something like that. That being said, these switches follow the standard Cherry MX Black weighting which is about 60g operating and 80g bottom out.

These switches do need lube but filming is hit or miss since they have nice and tight housings from the factory.

Conclusion

All these switches are great choices for any linear build. Some switches that weren’t included which are also great are most JWK manufactured Linears such as the Durock L Series, Halu Halos, H1s, Tealios, many KTT and TTC switches, and much more. We recommend going on YouTube and listening to sound tests and finding what you like as it is difficult to make a proper decision from just words and pictures.

If you want to try or buy any of these switches then a great place to start is by looking at your local vendor. Take a look at our vendor list. A compilation of tons of keyboard vendors sorted by region.

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

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Do You Need A Sound Card For Your PC?

Gaming PC on a desk.

Building a computer can be confusing, especially if you need to work out what parts you need to get. One component that you may be unsure about is a sound card.

In the past, dedicated sound cards were essential when building a computer because motherboards did not have any onboard audio solution. As motherboards started to get onboard sound cards people often still opted to get sound cards as it would give them more performance and onboard solutions at the time did not sound very good.

The main issue is if a sound card is still necessary today if you are building a computer.

In short, the answer is no, you do not need to purchase a dedicated sound card if you are building a computer. Almost all modern computers, motherboards, and other electronics will have an integrated sound card and most sound good enough for the vast majority of people. 

If you want to learn more about sound cards, see how one could benefit you, or you want some recommendations, then we will cover it all here.

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Dedicated Sound Card vs Integrated Sound Card

A sound card.

There are two different implementations of sound cards, integrated and dedicated solutions.

A dedicated sound card is a component that can be connected to the motherboard of a computer or can be plugged in via PCB. Many may add one while building a computer or upgrading the audio of an old motherboard if it doesn’t sound very good.

An integrated sound card is one that is built into a specific device, in this case, a computer. Most motherboards will have an integrated sound card built-in. You will find integrated solutions in phones, tablets, and most computers.

Integrated solutions provide a convenience factor as it is one less thing that people have to consider. In fact, the vast majority of people don’t even think about sound cards are even know what they are while buying electronics. This is due to dedicated solutions being so popular.

A dedicated sound card typically requires a PCIe slot on your motherboard. This could be an issue with ITX-specific motherboards since they have one PCIe slot. If you have a graphics card taking up the slot then you won’t be able to use a sound card.

USB sound cards also exist but often do not sound as good. They are commonly included with gaming headsets and they are great if you need a sound card but you don’t have space or don’t want to add a component to your computer.

Integrated sound cards may not have as good quality as dedicated cards, but they take up less space, are more convenient, and the sound quality is good enough for most people.

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Benefits of A Sound Card

Philips X2HR headphones.

In the past, getting a dedicated card was essential. Computer processors weren’t powerful enough for integrated solutions at the time.

As processors became more powerful, integrated solutions came about, but they still weren’t that great. For users who used their PC for more than just browsing the web and emails, a sound card was necessary.

Integrated solutions have constantly been improving but haven’t been that great until the past 10 to 5 years. Motherboard audio now suits the needs of most people. The main reason to get a sound card now is if you are creating with a premium audio setup or you are upgrading an older system.

Regular headphones most likely won’t see a sound benefit from a sound card but higher-quality headphones could see a sound improvement in clarity and quality.

Some sound cards support both virtual and true surround setups. Some models support 5.1 surround sound and there are some gaming options that support 7.1 surround sound. They are great for those who are looking for an immersive speaker or headphone setup for music listening, gaming, or movie watching.

It is also worth noting that a sound card may give you a bit better PC performance by taking some of the load off of your processor but if that is your own priority it is better to just invest that money into a better processor.

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Consider Getting An Amp & DAC Instead

Topping DX3 Pro DAC and amp combo.

Many people consider a sound card to not be a worthy investment when instead you can get an amp and DAC setup with better performance for the price. Creating a setup with both or just an amp is a great way to improve your setup and you can get past some of the issues that sound cards face.

Another way an amp and DAC setup can be better than a sound card is the space and looks. Sound cards will take up a slot on your computer’s motherboard and they often don’t look that great but amps and DACs often look a lot better and instead only take up space on your desk rather than in your PC.

Arguably the worst thing about sound cards and onboard audio is interference. Interference will negatively affect the sound that is outputted by your audio device and is caused by other electrical components. This issue is especially apparent with IEMs as they are very sensitive but can also affect headphones and speakers. Interference can be better or worse depending on the card but it is on all models.

With amps and DACs, you will find not only better audio performance but also more features. You can find gaming DACs such as the Sennheiser GSX 1000 that features virtual surround sound, a mic input, and much more. While there are sound cards with similar features you will find more interesting and useful features in the amp and DAC market.

Like sound cards, amps and DACs are only really needed for more powerful, high-performing headphones but an amp and DAC setup has more potential as there are many more options, especially at higher price ranges. Often an amp and DAC is the better way to go over a sound card.

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Value Sound Card Recommendation

If you are on a budget but still need to upgrade your audio setup, the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX 5.1 is the best option for under $50. The Audigy FX supports 5.1 surround sound but if you want more inputs for 7.1 surround sound and slightly improved sound you can also upgrade for a bit more to the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy RX 7.1.

Both are a step up from motherboard audio and provide plenty of outputs. Additionally, both these options have enough power for many high-quality speakers and headphones as they are able to supply up to 600 ohms of power.

Best Sound Card Recommendation

If you want a surround sound setup, especially for speakers, the Creative Sound Blaster AE-5 is fantastic. The AE-5 delivers excellent sound performance and is considered one of the best sound cards regardless of the price. It supports virtual 7.1 surround sound that is very accurate, providing great immersion in games.

This sound card not only has solid sound quality but also great looks. The card has a sleek black or white casing with RGB lighting.

This card is a great way to improve the looks of your PC. It delivers enough power and lots of clarity for all kinds of music and premium headphones.

Conclusion

Overhead view of a DAC and some IEMs.

Today you will not need a sound card if you are building a PC but if you plan to build a setup that will run premium audio equipment or you are upgrading an older setup then you could notice a benefit.

Although they aren’t necessary they do provide specific benefits for those who those who want to run a high-quality audio setup or want an audio setup that could provide a more immersive gaming experience.

If you are looking at a higher quality setup then you should definitely consider getting a DAC and amp. They share many of the benefits that you can get with a sound card but don’t face some issues that they have like audio interference from other components.

Overall there are many ways to improve your audio experience but most people will be perfectly fine with the audio performance of modern motherboards.

As always thanks for reading and happy listening!

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Keychron K6 Review: The Best Board For 100?

The Keychron K6 is a mechanical keyboard that is absolutely packed with features such as Bluetooth connectivity and RGB lighting.

In a compact and efficient 65% layout, the K6 delivers many features that make it a great option for anyone who needs a solid keyboard for a good price.

Let’s dive in and take a deeper look at the Keychron K6.

The Verdict

Top view of Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Keychron K6 is 65% that delivers backlighting, macOS support, and the option to get a hotswappable PCB.

In addition to that, the board features wireless connectivity with Bluetooth 5.1 with an 80-hour battery life.

You get a solid case with an adjustable height and if you are willing to pay about 10 dollars more you can get aluminum bezels.

Keychron gives you a ton of customization on what features you want, obviously at an increased cost, to get an aluminum case, hotswap PCB, and RGB lighting. You are also given the option to choose the three main kinds of switch, clicky, tactile, and linear.

If you want a board with a ton of features and great value all with a compact layout, the Keychron K6 is a great option. It’s not only a great value offering but the K6 also makes for a great travel board.


In The Box

Unboxing of Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

In the box, the K6 comes with several items that will help you get up and running as well as some extras to improve your experience with the board. In the box you will find:

  • USB-C Power Cable: You get a nice braided cable that is USB-C and has a 90-degree angle because the port is on the side. No kinks developed after months of use.
  • Warranty and Information: Keychron gives you all the essential information on how to use the board with clear instructions along with a pamphlet for warranty information.
  • Extra Keycaps: You get additional keycaps to add orange accents and for better support for both Windows and macOS. There are modifier keys for Windows and macOS-specific keys.
  • Keycap Puller: A wire puller is included which makes the process of taking off keycaps very easy while not scratching your keycaps like with cheaper plastic pullers.
  • Key Switch Puller: If you get the hotswap version of the board then a metal switch puller is included. It is not amazing but it does the job.

Overall it is great that you get so many things in the box and the extras really tie in the experience.


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Build Quality

Angled view of Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

The Keychron K6 has two case designs. Plastic and aluminum. The majority of the case is made from plastic aside from the aluminum top plate. If you do opt for the aluminum version there will be aluminum bezels around the sides for a more hefty feel and premium look.

There is little flex to the board and it feels quite sturdy, especially if you get the aluminum version.

There are 3 levels of height adjustment to the board with a flat typing angle, 6-degree angle, and 10-degree angle. On the bottom of the board, you will also find for moderately size rubber feet to keep the board from sliding around.

The front height was a common complaint with older Keychron boards but while it is still not ideal it is a bit better with the K6. I am able to comfortably type without my wrist rest.

On the left side of the board, you will find a USB-C port along with two buttons. The first button allows you to switch between Windows/Android and macOS/iOS. The other button allows you to switch between Bluetooth, wired, and off.

This is quite a convenient spot for the buttons as it is not in the way and easy to reach but it is not the nicest spot for the cable. It makes cable managing your keyboard cable a lot harder if you are using it in wired and removes the possibility to use custom cables.

For most people, this won’t be too much of an issue, especially if you plan to use the board with Bluetooth.

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The Keycaps

Keycaps for Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

The K6 comes with a set of ABS keycaps in the OEM profile with doubleshot, shine through legends. Included are some alternate keycaps including some mac keys and accent keys if you want to add an orange accent to the light or escape keys.

Since the keycaps are made of ABS they will develop shine over time but since the set is pretty good quality for a prebuilt board, it will take at least a month for it to show up. This shine will come from the natural greases and oils from your hands.

The OEM profile is the standard among pre-built mechanical keyboards. the keycaps are contoured to match the shape of your hands. Since this is similar to most pre-built mechanical keyboards, if you have used another in the past it will be very easy to get used to.

Since the keycaps use the doubleshot method for the main legends this means that the legends are reliable and won’t fade away. Although the main legends are shine through there are some printed sub legends to show extra functions that work with the fn1 and fn2 keys.

The keycaps, aside from the orange accent keys, have a gray theme with the use of both light and dark gray. They have a very smooth feel too. The legends on the modifiers look modern and simplistic which is very nice in comparison to other pre-built boards that have aggressive-looking legends.

The Switches

Switches for Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

Underneath the keycaps, Keychron gives you 3 switch options. You get a clicky, tactile, and linear switch from Gateron.

Gateron RedA light linear switch with a smooth travel
Gateron BrownA medium weight tactile switch with a light tactile bump
Gateron BlueA medium weight clicky switch. It has a loud sound and sharp tactility

Gateron provides some great switches for pre-built boards. All these switches are good options but if you get the hotswappable version of the board, you can replace the stock switches with any option of your choosing.

Gateron’s switches have a durability of 50 million keystrokes which just means that these switches will last a very long time and will probably last longer than the majority of other components on the board.

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The Stabilizers

Stabilizers often have a big effect on how a keyboard sounds and Keychron’s stabilizers are some of the better ones that I have tried on a prebuilt keyboard. Keychron has opted to use Cherry Style plate mount stabs that are factory lubed for a better sound and feel.

The sound and feel will also change based on what switches you use. Clicky switches will block out any rattle from the stabilizers while linear switches could make rattle or ping more obvious.

Overall the stabs are not perfect but they are much better than the stabilizers on most gaming keyboards. If you are coming from a Corsair, Razer, or similar keyboards these stabilizers will be an upgrade. If you get hotswap version of the board then you can easily mod the spacebar to sound and feel even better by lubing it and clipping it yourself.

Software (or Lack Thereof)

Sharpkeys Software for Keychron K6

Unfortunately, Keychron has no official software or firmware for any of their keyboards.

Keychron has rumored that they are making a software of some sort but little details are known about it and its release date.

Luckily there are some options that Keychron suggests for you to use. On Windows, they recommend that you use Sharpkeys and Karabiner for MacOS (Note: Karabiner won’t work on Linux and GNU based systems). Both softwares work by remapping the buttons of the keyboard input at a low level in the operating system.

This means that all these changes will not actually save to the board so if you move the board to another device none of your mappings will be there. This also means that if you plan to use any other board with your computer that the mappings will be changed because of these softwares.

Hotswap PCB

Keychron K6 with switches, keycaps, and switch puller

If you choose to pay extra, you can get a K6 with a hotswappable PCB. This means that you can change the switches without needing to desolder anything. This process takes a few seconds just to take out or put in a switch.

The board supports both 3 and 5 pin switches and it is north-facing. This means that the keyboard supports switches from most switch manufactures including Kailh, Cherry, Drop, and much more. The fact that the sockets are north-facing means that there could be interference between the switch and the keycap with high-end GMK keycap sets but it does allow more of the lighting to get through. This will not be an issue for most people that are in the market for this board though.

A PCB with hotswap sockets is a very useful feature and it makes this board great for those who want to get into the mechanical keyboard hobby but if you just want a keyboard to type on then there is no need to spend the extra money.

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Bluetooth Connectivity

One feature that makes the Keychron K6 such a great option is the fact that you can connect the board to three devices with Bluetooth 5.1. This is very useful for those who may use multiple devices or want to travel with the keyboard.

The Bluetooth works with Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

The board supports a 4000maH rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery is rated for 80 hours or 10 days with 8 hours of usage, while backlighting is on. This was consistent with my testing. After about 5 minutes of inactivity, the board will go into a low power mode turning off the LEDs. The only complaint you may have is that it takes a few seconds for the board to turn back on.

The latency with Bluetooth actually is not bad. Although I would not recommend it for gaming it is not a terrible experience. Depending on the game, it was not even noticeable that I was still on Bluetooth.

It is worth mentioning that I did have some connectivity issues when I first got the board. At first, the board would not go into pairing mode. I fixed this issue by leaving the board to charge for a few hours and then it worked. Ever since I have never had any issues with Bluetooth.

Mac Support

Angled view of Keychron K6

A very nice feature about all Keychron boards is MacOS support. Many boards only officially support Windows so some boards either won’t work or some of the modifier keys may have no functionality.

On the side of the K6 is a button to change between Windows/Android or Mac/IOS. This is complemented nicely by the Apple-specific keycaps.

This feature is very nice because it means you can use this keyboard no matter what operating system you plan to use. If you are primarily a Mac user then this is one of the best boards that you can get.

Back Lighting

RGB lighting on Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

The Keychron K6 features either white or RGB backlighting the RGB option will cost a bit more. The RGB lighting is not as bright as gaming keyboards that I have tried from Corsair, Logitech, or Razer. It is not very bright but is still noticeable.

RGB lighting is always nice to have to add to a desk theme and the white blends well in an office environment.

The LEDs along with the modern font of the keycaps are not obtrusive and don’t make the board look overly gamery. The LEDs are versatile for any situation.

Due to the keyboard having no dedicated software currently, all the effects are on the board. There are a variety of effects from static colors to type lighting. With the white LED models you won’t have nearly as many lighting effects.

You can also easily turn on and off the LEDs by pressing either fn1 or fn2 and the light button.

Conclusion: Should You Get The K6?

Side view of Keychron K6 mechanical keyboard

The sub $100 price range is very competitive but the Keychron K6 emerges as a great option with great performance and features.

It delivers tons of utility with a nice-looking case. You get Bluetooth, macOS support, backlighting, and the chance to get a hotswappable PCB. You get all the utility that you need while in a compact 65% layout.

The wireless connectivity helps this board be very portable and it allows you to have a clean setup.

The board is quite sturdy with minimal flex and a decent weight for its size.

The only major drawbacks of the board are the fact that the USB-C port is on the side limiting your options for custom cables and cable management options as well as potential Bluetooth connectivity issues. Luckily the connection issue that I faced had a simple fix but, unfortunately, these issues are common.

If you are interested in checking out this board then you can see the Keychron K6 on Amazon.

Also if you enjoyed this article consider checking out some of our other keyboard reviews.

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Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 Review: ANC, Bluetooth, Style

The Surface Headphones 2 are a pair of headphones for enjoying music especially while on the go.

Microsoft positions the pair in a highly competitive market of Bluetooth, ANC headphones with an interesting twist on having a more unique interface and look.

Let’s dive in and take a look and see how they compete.

Angled view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The Verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you want an excellent pair of headphones that has Bluetooth, ANC, and a solid build, the Microsoft Surface Headphones are a great option to consider. They are a great option for music listening at home or on the go.

If you want everything that the top Bluetooth headphones deliver at a slightly cheaper price this is a great option. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 are still very competitive but have a better value over some of the more expensive offerings on the market.

The Surface Headphones 2 are often compared to more expensive options like Sony’s XM4s or Bose NC700s. Although the Surface Headphones are 100 or more dollars less expensive, they compete very closely with these options and are often compared to both.

The build is strong along with a comfortable design that makes these a great option no matter where you are. You can use them throughout the day. Along with this, you get similar sound quality as other premium Bluetooth headphones.

The interface is one of the most unique things about this pair and the inclusion of dials makes interacting with the device very easy while still having a lot of functionality.

Additionally, there is support from many other features like a carrying case, software support, fast charging, ANC, and ambient sound.

If your main priority is having the best sound quality then there are other options to consider but for a Bluetooth pair, this is excellent.

You can find the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon for a great price.


In The Box

Unboxing of Surface Headphones 2

Everything is packaged very nicely. In the box you will find the headphones and some accessories.

  • Carrying Case: A carrying case holds almost everything that you will need to use the headphones, including the pair themselves. It is a well-made, hard case with fabric.
  • Headphones: Inside the carrying case are the headphones with some protective paper that you can peel off.
  • USB-A to USB-C: You get a rubberized cable for fast charging the device at 4.1ft (1.5m) .
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm adapter: If you want to use the pair wired, you get a 3.1 ft (1.2m) long cable.
  • Instructions: In the case, by the cables, you will find the instructions on how to use the buttons and gestures.
  • Manual: You will also get a manual that covers everything that you may need to know like contacts and support.
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Technical Details

  • Drivers: 40mm Dynamic Drivers
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Sensitivity (Sound output): 115dB with cable or Bluetooth
  • Noise cancellation: Up to 30dB for active, up to 40dB for passive
  • Inputs: USB-C, 3.5mm
  • Weight: 0.64lbs (290g)

The Build

Top view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The build of the Surface Headphones is quite good. You have good use of aluminum, plastic, fabric, and pleather. Plastic is used for most of the design with aluminum for the frame. You can also see aluminum connecting the earcups to the headband. The earcups and top of the headband use pleather with fabric inside the earcups.

I have accidentally dropped the pair and they have been fine. Through regular use, you should have no issues. You get the standard build with other headphones premium ANC headphones.

There is no sweat rating on the Surface Headphones but I had no issues with regular use or exercise. I wouldn’t want to risk anything with more premium headphones but I have taken the pair on runs and to the gym and had zero problems. They are fine from my testing but there is no official rating to back it up. I would also not recommend using the pair in the rain as there is a high risk of damage.

After using the pair for about a year, there are some sweat stains on the inside but it is nothing too bad and there is no effect on the performance of the device.

To back up the build of the device is a 1 year warranty.

The pair feels well build and nice to the touch. I have no complaints.

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Style and Comfort

You have two color options with the Surface Headphones 2. You can get a matte black or a light gray. Both look quite nice and are resistant to scratches and other cosmetic issues.

There Microsoft logo is on the lower part of the headband on both sides. It is a reflective material that is consistent with the logos on the other Surface line’s products. Overall this style looks quite nice, especially if you own other Surface products.

The comfort of the Surface Headphones 2 is pretty good and it is among the best for Bluetooth headphones. There is a decent amount of cushioning on both the headband and earcups so there are never pressure points. I only found that there would be too much pressure if you are using the headphones for extended periods of time of two or more hours.

Using glasses with this pair is not as good as some other headphones that I have tried but it is pretty good.

Although there isn’t too much pressure, the Surface Headphones stay on your head really well even if you are running or jumping. The Surface headphones are a decent option for working out but they don’t support any official sweat rating so use them at your own risk. I have not had any issues with my pair and I have had them since they came out, using them for everything from working to going to the gym.

The earpads use of pleather makes them very comfortable but if your ears get hot easily then you could run to comfort issues. My ears get hot no matter what headphones I use. With the Surface Headphones, my ears get uncomfortably hot after about 45 minutes of usage. For most people, you could probably use the pair for upwards of two hours.

Another potential issue you may encounter with the Surface Headphones is that your ears may touch the drivers. The material on the inside is some sort of soft fabric so it doesn’t get uncomfortable.

Most people will not have an issue with the size of these headphones unless you have a very small head. Most small heads will fit well but children may encounter problems.

The headphones are quite light at 290g or 0.64lbs. This helps them not feel heavy on your head even after long periods of time. The low weight also makes the headphones very portable.

Sound Quality

Frequency Response of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Frequency Response Results From Sonarworks

The Surface Headphones have a more “appealing” and “fun” sound signature that is mainstream among Bluetooth headphones. There is more of a V curve meaning there is more of a boost in bass and some of the vocals.

The bass hits quite nicely and vocals don’t sound harsh but unfortunately, the mid-range controlling most instruments is a bit recessed.

Although these headphones have the same sound profile as many consumer headphones there are some other factors considered like the clarity of the sound and separation between different sounds.

I would say that you get what you pay for. The sound quality is better than most of the cheaper offerings and even options at the same price range. The quality is quite good but not as good as maybe the Sony XM4s, although they are more expensive.

I noticed that the quality of the sound was the same between wired and Bluetooth. This is also due to the fact that most audio platforms, like Spotify or Apple music, only playback audio at a quality of 320kbps. The amount of information in the music would have to be much different to notice much of a difference between wired and wireless.

Overall the sound is quite good and unless you are used to very premium headphones or audiophile quality pairs the sound is amazing for most. The only issues I felt were that the mid-range instruments were not as present as I hoped and although there is quite a lot of bass and it is able to hit hard, it was not necessarily always clean. This is common among popular noise-canceling headphones.

That being said, this is a deep-level analysis from someone who has tried more premium sounding headphones so the sound signature and quality will be great for most people in the market for Bluetooth headphones.

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The Interface

One of the most unique aspects of the Surface Headphones is the interface. Most high-end Bluetooth headphones will support gestures to skip songs or change the volume but Microsoft takes it a step further.

Microsoft uses two dials, two buttons, and both earcups are touch capacitive.

One button is used to turn on and off the device and the other button is used to activate either Cortana or your device’s virtual assistant. This makes communication with Google Assistant or Siri very easy, even if you don’t have your phone is in another room.

The controls on the earcups allow you to skip or go back to a track as well as pause and play. It doesn’t matter which earcup you use because the controls work on both.

Finally, arguably the most unique thing about the Surface Headphones, the dials. These dials are smooth and continuous. On the edge of the earcups are two dials. The left one controls the level of ANC as the dial on the right controls the volume.

The control that is given to you from the dials makes the Surface Headphones very easy to use and the interface is one of the best on any headphone. It is very easy to use and you have a lot of functionality without needing your phone.

Software

Software for Surface Headphones 2

Software is always a great thing to go alongside a pair of headphones. With the Surface Headphones, Microsoft has their Surface Audio app both on the PC and phone.

The software allows you to monitor important things like battery or volume and gives you access to in-depth functionality.

With the software you can change the name, edit EQs, change language, and update the device.

Over the air updates can improve things like battery life and even sound quality.

Cortana and Voice Assistants

One interesting feature of the Surface Headphones is the inclusion of a voice assistant, Cortana. You can use Cortana to do things like read emails to you or interact with any Microsoft app.

Ultimately I don’t find Cortana to be useful but you can still use the headphones with the virtual assistant of your device. To interact with the assistant of your device, simply long-press the side of either earcup.

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Connectivity

The Surface Headphones support the industry standard Bluetooth 5.0.

I was able to go about 100 feet (30.5 meters) away from my computer or phone with obstacles in the way before the audio started to cut out. Without walls or other obstacles, you can probably be over 200 feet (61 meters) away from your device without it cutting out.

You could leave your device and walk anywhere around most apartments and even many homes without the audio cutting out. At the gym, you could potentially leave your phone in a locker if it is close enough to you.

Pairing the device is also easy. Simply press the power button and then press again and hold for about five seconds until you hear, “You’re ready to pair”. Whenever you turn on the device it will automatically connect to paired devices.

You can pair with multiple devices for seamless switching from a phone and computer with audio plays from a different device.

Overall this is standard Bluetooth performance with options from the likes of Sony and Bose but it is still quite good and works with few issues.

You can also use the Surface Headphones wired if you want via the 3.5mm cable.

Battery and Charging

The battery and charging are not as good as some of the industry leaders but the performance is still quite good, especially for the price.

Microsoft’s Surface headphones can charge to 100% in under two hours and get an hour of playtime after 5 minutes of charging. Sony has a charging speed with their XM3s of five hours in just 10 minutes.

As for the battery, you can get about 20 hours of music playback while using Bluetooth and ANC. I found that this was enough to last me over a week with two to three hours of daily usage. While using them at work, they can last me a few days if using them for the majority of the day.

Microphone

Close up of earcup for surface headphones 2

In order to have noise cancellation, the headphones need multiple mics. As a result, the Surface Headphones have a better mic than most headphones I have tried and on par with more premium Bluetooth Headphones.

They are better than the mics of AirPods but still worse than a dedicated microphone.

The sound is good enough for calling but I would not recommend using Surface Headphones for any recording.

ANC and Ambient Sound

One of the defining features of the Surface Headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation alongside an ambient sound mode.

In total, you have 13 levels of ANC adjustment from amplified ambient sound to full noise cancellation.

The ANC performance is not the best but it can block out the surroundings while in a bus and remove a lot of the sound of a plane or vacuum. It is pretty good and definitely one of the best options but still trails the likes of Bose and Sony with their flagships.

As for the ambient sound, it is quite clean sounding. It sounds as if you were hearing all the sounds around you with your own ears.

There is an amplified ambient sound mode. This makes everything louder than it actually is. I found it very useful to listen to people talking to me from another room and it helps you to hear your surroundings while still listening to music.

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Alternatives

Many of the alternatives to the Surface Headphones are at higher price points but they are still able to compete in many areas.

Sony XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4s is arguably one of the best headphones in this category of Bluetooth, ANC headphones. Compared to the Surface Headphones 2 they can’t compete with the dials and the build is very similar. They both share many features like being able to connect to different devices, fast charging, and more.

The XM4s do perform better in multiple fields though. Sound, ANC, and Battery are all a bit better with the Sonys. The performance is not huge but the XM4s deliver some of the best performance in these fields for Bluetooth headphones. You get 30 hours of battery life, a cleaner sound, and arguably the best ANC in any headphones.

It is important to mention that the XM4s are often $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2 and understanding if spending the extra money is worth it is essential to understanding which one is best for you.

Bose NC 700

The Bose NC 700s are another fantastic option that is positioned often at a higher price point than even the XM4s. They deliver a minimalistic look, a similar design concept to the clean look of the Surface Headphones.

They have similar build quality, comfort, Bluetooth performance, and battery life. Where the Bose NC 700s pull ahead is in cleaner sound and some of the best ANC. The ANC is better at blocking out consistent sounds like an airplane and sudden sounds like a door closing.

Again the Bose NC700s are also, usually, over $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2. They may have less value but then looks, and improved ANC and sound quality may make it worth it for them.


Conclusion

Angled view of surface headphones 2 on a desk

Competing with the best Bluetooth headphones, the Surface Headphones 2 delivers great value and performance competing heavily with the top options.

They are a great option to use both while you work and while you work out and they can get you through the day with long battery life. Microsoft delivers on giving a solid build with great sound quality and ANC.

All this is supported by the abundance of other features like fast charging, a carrying case, software support, and the interface with dials. The interface itself makes the headphones such a great option along with everything else.

The Surface Headphones 2 are well rounded and will deliver everything most people need at a price that is cheaper than its competitors

If you think these are a great option for you, then check out the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon.

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Razer Viper Review: Your Next FPS Mouse?

The Razer Viper competes in a heavily saturated market of low-weight gaming mice with competitive prices. Razer delivers excellent performance alongside a shape that has allowed the Viper to become a very popular option.

Let’s take a closer look at the Razer Viper and see if it could be the right mouse for you.

The Verdict

Razer viper front view

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Razer Viper is a gaming mouse featuring a lightweight, accurate sensor, and popular shape among many gamers.

Its shape and weight make it very popular for those who game often, especially those who play FPS titles. The light weight makes flicks easy with the shape with an ergonomic design that is friendly for claw and fingertip grips, grips often used for gaming.

The mouse features RGB, friendly software, and onboard memory to store presets. This makes the software customization pretty easy.

There are no major downsides with this mouse but the price is occasionally overpriced for a wired mouse. Paying $80 or over may not be worth it if you do care about wireless connectivity. Also, it is worth mentioning that due to the side buttons being on both sides you may find that distracting and have to adjust to it.

Overall Razer delivers a fantastic option for gamers if you think this mouse suits you then check out the Razer Viper on amazon.

In The Box

  • Manual: This tells you everything that you need to know to use the mouse and in case you run into any issues.
  • Razer Stickers: The stickers have the razer chroma lighting and look like something you would get with a CPU.
  • The Mouse: The mouse is packaged nicely with the cable tied to keep it all neat in the box.

Build Quality

Angled view of Razer Viper on wooden desk.

The Razer Viper has an exceptional, lightweight build, coming in at 69 grams. This is very light for a gaming mouse and it does so even without having holes. There are some slightly lighter options but those do have holes in their frame. So, if that bothers you, this is one of the best choices.

Mice with honeycomb shells often have issues in the long term with cleanliness as dust and dirt can get in and although no super common, can cause issues. It is nice to see that Razer didn’t opt for the honeycomb design.

The shell is made of high-quality black plastic with rubber for the sides providing additional grip. Mine has a little rattle when shook, however, I’ve owned mine for a long time. Although I have this issue it is common with many mice. This is because scroll wheels will often move around a bit.

The Viper has an amazing flexible cable that doesn’t slow the mouse down. It also has great feet with a smooth glide.

Overall the build is quite nice and delivers a standard experience among many high quality gaming mice.

Shape and Comfort

Razer Viper mouse on a deskpad.

The Viper is a medium-sized mouse with an ambidextrous shape. It is ideal for a fingertip grip as well as a claw grip. Palm grip works as well if you have smaller hands however, ambidextrous designs are better suited for the other grip styles.

The great compatibility with claw and palm grips makes this mouse a great option for gamers.

The sides have a rubber texture and are indented quite a bit making them easy to grip and it has a fairly large hump that does not get in the way when claw or figure gripping it but is comfortable when palm gripping. The shape works well for FPS games which require very precise aim.

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Switches and Scroll Wheel

The Razer Viper has optical switches that have a nice and satisfying click. Razer claims that these switches have lower actuation times and longer life spans. Also, they are meant to eliminate double clicking issues. In my experience, these are amazing switches but there has not been a perceivable difference compared to ordinary switches so I would not recommend buying this mouse based solely on that.

It also possesses side buttons on each side allowing you to use this mouse with either hand. These are smaller than most to avoid accidental clicks. I’ve gotten used to them however, I still prefer bigger side buttons on one side.

The scroll wheel also is top-notch with nice, tactile steps.

Additionally, to avoid accidental clicks, the DPI button is on the bottom. There is a light on the bottom of the mouse which changes color based on the sensitivity.

Sensor and Polling Rate

The Razer Viper utilizes the Razer 5G optical sensor with a DPI range of 16,000. You can change the DPI in increments of 50. Most people use a DPI of 1200 or lower, but the high range shows the great accuracy of this mouse.

The sensor is one of the most accurate ones in any gaming mouse at the moment. During my use, I have encountered no issues. It is very light too and helps the mouse achieve such a low weight.

As for the polling rate, the Viper supports the standard 1000Hz and you can change it for whatever reason in the software.

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Chroma RGB Lighting

One feature that the Razer Viper supports is their Chroma RGB lighting. The Razer logo lights up with decently bright RGB lighting. It also features a lot of customization.

It is quite bright, and you can choose the color and effect. The effects include breathing, spectrum cycling, reactive, audiometer, and static. Additionally, there are more advanced effects in Chroma Studio which allows you to customize the RGB more in-depth.

Useful Razer Synapse

Razer Synapse software being used to control Razer Viper mouse.

The Razer Viper utilizes Razer synapse which provides a deep level of customization. You can change the lighting of the Razer logo on the back, edit button mappings, change the sensitivity, and more.

The DPI can be changed be in increments of 50. Things like polling rate can be changed too.

Buttons can be remapped to do various functions. If you want to remap the side buttons to have different functions you have the option to do so. There are a total of 8 buttons and all remapabble.

You can set all your settings to various profiles. These changes will save to your system as well as the onboard memory of the mouse. If you make a synapse account, your profiles get saved to it so if you log in on another computer they will transfer. This is very useful if you use your mouse on multiple devices.

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Onboard Memory

The Razer Viper has onboard profiles that will allow you to save specific settings like lighting, sensitivity, and button mappings to the mouse.

The onboard memory is helpful if you use your device with multiple devices or take your mouse to different places. It also enables you to keep all of your settings without Synapse running.

If you don’t like to use software this is nice because you can quickly save your profiles and then uninstall or not run it in the background.

Conclusion: Is It Good For Gaming?

Front view of the Razer Viper

The Razer Viper is one of the mice for gaming, especially if you are interested in FPS games, requiring high precision. Its accurate sensor and responsive switches paired with its low weight and comfortable shape make this mouse solid in all kinds of gaming.

Even though the mouse may not be wireless, the cable is very light and flexible making it not have issues. The Viper also features things like RGB lighting, onboard memory, and Razer’s powerful synapse software.

The only issue that I faced was that the buttons are a bit small and are on both sides so that takes some time to get used to. Aside from that, the original price was a bit high but it has been on sale for quite some time, anywhere from 25 to 50% off.

If you think the Razer Viper suits what you want and the games you play, check it out for a great price on Amazon.

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Sennheiser GSX 1000 Review: The Best Gaming DAC?

The Sennheiser GSX 1000 is a great DAC for gamers and those who can benefit from its many features.

With support for a mic input, virtual surround sound, a screen interface, and more, Sennheiser’s GSX 1000 is a great option for those who game often. It delivers plenty of features with only one drawback, the price.

Let’s take a look at the GSX and see if it is right for you.

Sennheiser GSX 1000 DAC

The Verdict

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you game often but want an improved audio experience the Sennheiser GSX 1000 is a great option for you. It will improve the audio quality for both your headphones and microphone.

Those who have been looking for more adjustment to their mic and sound setting or are looking for more clarity. If you are a fan of virtual surround sound, the GSX 1000 has the best surround sound processing in any DAC in terms of accuracy and sound clarity. As a result, the GSX 1000 can further your immersion in games.

Features such as a touch screen, dial, profiles, and more allow you to have more customization. This allows you to change the settings to suit your preferences.

The GSX 1000 won’t be able to drive power-hungry, premium headphones but that is also not what it was designed to do. It is a great way to improve a gaming headset or make a regular pair of headphones have features such as virtual surround sound.

If you need to power premium headphones or you don’t need things like the input or virtual surround sound then this option is not the best for you. Getting a non-gaming DAC and amp will probably suit your needs best.

It is worth mentioning that we tested the GSX 1200 Pro but it is exactly the same as the GSX 1000 with the addition of a couple minor features. We will high highlight the additional features of the GSX 1200 Pro in this review too.

You can find the Sennheiser GSX 1000 and GSX 1200 Pro, for a bit more, on amazon for their best prices.


In The Box

Sennheiser GSX 1000 Unboxing

When you open up the box you will find everything you need to get started. In the box you will find:

  • The DAC: The GSX comes surrounded with foam presented to you quite nicely.
  • Micro USB Cable: To power the device and send information to the DAC, Sennheiser gives you a red USB A to Micro USB cable. It is best to use this cables as you may have issues with other cables.
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm Cable: This cable only comes with the GSX 1200 Pro so you can connect it to other GSX 1200s for latency-free LAN parties.
  • Quick Start Guide: This guide tells you how to get the device up and running and provides links to their website so you can learn how to use the device.
  • Manual: This tells you anything you would need to know that is not the basic stuff on the quick start guide.

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The Build

The build of the GSX is pretty good. The materials aren’t necessarily high end but like most Sennheiser products it is built well and does not give the impression that it can be broken easily or it won’t break quickly.

The construction is mostly plastic with some rubber, aluminum, and glass. The body is all plastic and it doesn’t feel cheap. Rubber is used for some long pads on the bottom so the DAC doesn’t move when doing things like adjusting the volume. The scroll wheel is made of aluminum with glass for the screen.

Sennheiser’s GSX 1000 weighs in at about 10.6 ounces or 0.66 pounds.

Looks And Interface

The GSX 1000 has a black build with silver and white accents on the scroll wheel and logo on the flip-out leg. There are also red accents as the wire is red and there is red LED lighting around the scroll wheel to go with the screen. Although the LEDs can’t change color it is nothing too intrusive and would not ruin a desktop theme.

The GSX 1000 is quite small being 5.63 inches long by 5.47 inches wide with a height of 2.76 inches. It is quite portable if you want to take it to move it to a different setup or go to LAN parties.

One of the most unique features of the GSX 1000 is its interface and the way you interact with it. On the top of the device, there is a screen. On the screen not only does it display the volume but it is a touch screen. On the screen, you can change the output, add sidetone, switch between stereo and surround sound, add reverb to the sound, change the direction of where the sound is focused, and choose from preset EQs.

In addition to the screen, there are also four touch-capacitive buttons or sensors on the four edges of the device to select profiles. Just slide your finger over the LED and you will switch to that profile. The only issue is that profiles will not work when HD audio is enabled. Having four profiles is nice if you want one profile for regular stereo audio and then different profiles for the different games that you play.

On the GSX 1200 Pro variant, you can hold the top left and bottom right sensors for 10 seconds and then your device will go into “Tournament Mode” meaning the settings cannot be changed. This is to make sure you don’t accidentally press something when quickly changing volume or anything else.

Gaming DACs and amps have a dial to change the volume but they are usually oriented on the front rather than on the top of the device with the GSX. Depending on your preference the dial of GSX 1000 may be more comfortable to use for you.

In addition to the main volume wheel, you have a scroll wheel on the right side to control your mic input volume and with the GSX 1200 Pro, you will also have another scroll wheel on the left side to control the amount of volume coming in from people talking to you. This scroll wheel is only needed if you are using the feature of zero latency talking via connecting this DAC to other GSX 1200s.

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Inputs and Outputs

Sennheiser GSX 1000 Inputs and outputs

As for inputs and outputs, the selection is sufficient for most people, especially the market that the GSX 1000 applies to. The GSX is not recommended for those who want a ton of outputs for a speaker setup but for gamers who it is for it will have everything that you need.

To send all the information to the DAC and power there is a micro USB cable. On the GSX 1200 model only you can have latency-free conversations with others who have the DAC next to you which is what the 2.5mm ports are for. The last three ports are 3.5mm for the speaker and headphone outputs and the mic input.

The fact that the ports for a headphone and mic connection are on the back is one of the biggest cons for me as it can make cable management harder and it can put the cable in an awkward position.

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The Sound

Sennheiser GSX 1000 screen

Although modern motherboards have pretty decent sound, the GSX 1000 is a step up and a good improvement if you have an older computer or a laptop.

You will notice an improvement an increase in the clarity of the sound and separation between different elements of music like instruments.

After using this DAC it will feel as if a veil has been lifted away from the sound and the detail of each note will be more noticeable. Sounds that may have sounded more recessed and in the background like vocals will be more forward.

Overall this benefit in sound won’t be necessarily noticeable while gaming but you will notice it when listening to music.

If you are listening to music for a longer period of time it is recommended that you enable HD audio. When you do enable this mode the sound clarity will be even clearer than before but you will be locked with stereo sound and will not be able to change the EQ, use profiles, or control Sidetone.

This mode is only really good while listening to music but while gaming you will want to go back to the regular mode or you won’t have access to most of the settings.

To enable HD audio you must go to your “Sound Settings” then go to the “Sound Control Panel”. Then you will find the GSX 1000. In the settings of the device, you will go to the “Advanced” tab and then put the quality to the highest quality.

Depending on what you are doing you will want to select a different option. If you are listening to music putting the DAC’s quality to the highest setting will put it into HD audio mode but otherwise putting it to the second-highest setting will enable all the features while retaining most of the audio quality.

It is unfortunate that you have to choose between having HD quality sound and having access to the features of this device but the option of HD audio is nice and there is definitely an improvement in clarity.

Even though the GSX 1000 will improve sound quality if you don’t need the features of this device, a dedicated amp and DAC will improve your setup the most.

7.1 Surround Surround Sound

Sennheiser GSX 1000 DAC with virtual surround sound enabled.

One of the most unique features that the GSX delivers is virtual surround sound. Headphones are a stereo device meaning they create sound using two speakers or drivers but the GSX1000 makes it possible to simulate an experience where there are more speakers for an overall more immersive sound.

The GSX 1000 is known for its virtual surround because of how accurate and immersive it is. Most gaming headsets support virtual surround sound but the directionality of the sound is often not that accurate and the sound may actually be more distorted because of how bad the surround sound method is for the headset.

Sennheiser developed this device to have much better surround sound than gaming headsets. The difference is night and day. The implementation is probably the best out of any gaming DAC or gaming headset out there in accuracy and the customization that you can have on the sound to make it more immersive. A GSX 1000 can make most stereo headphones perform better in the surround sound experience than even dedicated gaming headsets.

The virtual surround sound implementation from Sennheiser helps position sounds better than headsets from Logitech, Corsair, and other companies. These other companies create a surround experience by making all of the sounds seem to surround you rather than correctly positioning where each gunshot, engine sound, or plane is coming from.

With the GSX 1000 you can hear the exact floor and room someone may be in while gaming headsets often have more distortion and less accuracy in the sound.

I found that while testing the GSX in various titles, it was great for simulators, open-world titles, and some competitive shooters. In contrast, you will see no benefit in 2D games or titles where locations of sound are not as important.

It is also worth mentioning that surround sound is often not all competitive shooters will benefit from surround sound. You may like using it with games like CSGO or Rainbow Six Siege but surround sound won’t necessarily make you a better player.

Overall what matters are the games that you play and your preferences.

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Mic input

Another great feature about the GSX 1000 is the option for a mic input. If you have a headset with both a microphone and headphone jack then you can plug them into the GSX 1000 for more control and better sound.

With the GSX 1000, the sound of your mic should be cleaner and you can adjust the gain easily. The option to change the mic volume so quickly is great as some applications take in more or less sound than others. This can also make it easier than having to go into settings to change the volume of your mic.

Sidetone

If you have closed-back headphones, like a gaming headset or noise-canceling headphones, it can be annoying or weird to not be able to hear yourself.

Sidetone fixes this by taking your mic input and putting some of that back into what you hear. The quality of it is also quite good. It sounds as good as your mic would sound raw and you could potentially not even notice a difference.

It is similar to the transparency mode of Apple’s noise cancellation products or any other noise cancelling product with that option.

On the screen you can also change if you don’t want Sidetone or the amount of volume that you want to hear of yourself.

Zero Latency Communication

Unfortunately this feature only works with the GSX 1200 Pro but in theory what it allows you to do is quite interesting.

Typically when using apps like Discord, Zoom, or Teams there is a little bit of delay between when people talk and the other person hears it. Typically this ok when you’re not in the same room but if you are calling other people while in the same room this slight delay can be quite annoying.

If you are at a tournament or LAN party and the rest of your team or friends have the GSX 1200 Pro then you can connect up to eight devices together. Doing so will allow you to have communication with each other with no latency or lag between the sound.

You can also change the volume of how much you hear your teammates with the scroll wheel on the left hand side.

Although this is quite a cool concept in theory, in practice it probably isn’t worth it for everyone in a team to get one for just this feature.

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Alternatives

Sound Blaster G6

The biggest competitor to the GSX 1000 is the Sound Blaster G6. They share features like a mic input and virtual surround sound.

When comparing the GSX to the G6 the GSX has the step up in the interface, the mic input, and virtual surround sound.

While both have a dial for the device volume, the GSX has a screen to control the interface and a scroll wheel control for your mic volume. The G6 has neither but it does have software support and a few buttons to enable things like virtual surround sound. The software gives you the same functionality as the GSX’s screen like EQ editing.

The mic input is the same but the GSX has more features like Sidetone so you can hear yourself and control your mic volume.

Although both options have virtual surround the GSX 1000 has slightly more accurate virtual surround sound and the option to add reverb to the sound and change where the direction of sound is coming from.

There are two areas where the G6 has a step up over the GSX 1000. It provides more power and it is usually a lower price. If you want to use something that is more power-hungry than a gaming headset or efficient headphones then the G6 will fair better. The price difference is not very big but is notable because it brings up the idea of value. If you won’t need the mic input, don’t care for the screen, and are willing to sacrifice on slightly worse virtual surround then the G6 is a better option.

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Schiit Fulla 3

The Schiit Fulla 3 does not have all the features of the GSX 1000 like Sidetone, virtual surround sound, or a screen but it still packs as much power as the G6, is the most compact option here, and is the cheapest option.

If you don’t care for exciting features like virtual surround sound then this is one of the best options you can get if you need a mic input. You can find the Fulla 3 for about $100 on Schiit’s for most of the year.

The sound quality is quite good and it can power power-hungry headphones at the $300 price range. If you want to use a Sennheiser HD6XX with this then it can drive the pair really well.

Schiit Hel

Schiit’s Hel is the most expensive alternative to the GSX 1000/1200 Pro but also provides the most power. It delivers the same features as the younger brother, the Fulla 3, but significantly more power. If you have premium headphones but still want to use a mic input then this your best option.

The Hel can power premium headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT990, HiFiMan HE400i, HiFiMan Sundara, and Sennheiser HD6XX.


Conclusion

Top view of Sennheiser GSX 1000 DAC

In the category of gaming DACs and amps, the GSX 1000 delivers the most features to the consumer, albeit at a higher cost.

You may not be able to power $300+ headphones but, the GSX is a step over motherboard audio so you will get cleaner sound in your headphones or speakers with more separation between sounds and less distortion. The GSX 1000 will also improve your mic sound so you can sound better not just in discord but if you are recording something like a voice-over.

In addition to better sound, the interface, virtual surround sound, and other customization make the GSX 1000 and great DAC. The screen that always displays the volume is very useful to see volume instantly along with an easy to use touch screen and dials. The virtual surround sound implementation is accurate and probably the best out. Finally the customization to things like the mic with Sidetone is a really nice addition and gives the GSX 1000 a step over the competition.

Although the GSX 1200 Pro has a couple additional features, the sound and core features are the same. It is not worth it to pay more for the GSX 1200 Pro unless you need the additional features so for most people it is recommended to buy whatever is the cheapest option.

If you think that either suits your needs, check out the GSX 1000 and GSX 1200 Pro on Amazon for a good price.

Happy listening!

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