Razer carved out a niche for itself in the gaming laptop market (check out our favorable Razer Blade 15 Advance review for reference) and has done the same with its popular wireless gaming earbuds. Two years after releasing its first-ever model, the decision was made to update the original creation, giving us the all-new Razer Hammerhead True Wireless (2nd Gen).
So, what’s new on this follow-up? A more traditional in-ear design, active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.2, Google Fast Pair, and RBG lighting. These buds also boast THX Certified sound, which was introduced on the more premium Hammerhead True Wireless Pro, while maintaining series hallmarks like the low-latency Gaming Mode and IPX4 certification.
Not every category (e.g., touch controls, battery life) sees a noticeable improvement, but it’s the audio experience and special features that make the 2021 Hammerhead True Wireless well worth their attainable price.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Availability and price
The second-gen Razer Hammerhead True Wireless is currently sold for $129.99 at Amazon or directly from Razer. Unlike the original, this version is only sold in one color: Black. Included with the purchase are a charging case, USB-A to USB-C cable, user guide, and three different sizes of ear tips.
By comparison, the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless goes for less than other popular wireless ANC earbuds in its price range, such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149) and Beats Studio Buds ($149). It is also priced lower than category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279), as well as its advanced sibling, the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro ($179). If you’re looking for something cheaper and with more features, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro is a solid alternative that can be had for as low as $84.99 at Best Buy, at the time of publishing.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Design
From a design standpoint, the Hammerhead True Wireless shares more in common with the Pro version than the original. The long-stem silhouette and all-black finish stay intact, granted the Pro has a more matte finish and large mic inlet for enhanced ANC. Build quality is legit with sturdy plastic covering each bud, along with IPX4 certification for sweat and water resistance.
What you’re really curious about is the light show, which is powered by Razer’s Chroma RBG System. This feature presents a unique way of personalizing the buds, adding more flair to your appearance by selecting from 16.8 million colors and different effects that are displayed through the snake logo. We’ll touch more on this later.
The charging case looks no different than the Pro’s charging case. It is built entirely from plastic, comes with a matte finish, has the brand etched on the top of the lid, and handsomely displays the buds on the inside. The magnets are also strong, keeping the lid shut tight and storing the buds safely during commutes.
At just 1.86 ounces, you’ll get some pleasant comfort out of the Hammerhead True Wireless, something that should please avid mobile gamers looking to play for several hours daily. The angled sound port slides easily into the canal and rests gently on the concha.
Despite not coming with Comply foam tips, which is exclusive to the Pro, Razer’s silicone tips create a nice seal to minimize slippage.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Controls and digital assistant
A full suite of media controls is at your disposal, including playback, call management, digital assistance, volume, and listening mode activation. Unfortunately, they weren’t as reliable as I would have liked, plus I felt the company got a bit too ambitious with its control scheme.
Most of the input methods are standard, split between multi-tap and hold gestures, but some are odd choices. For example, the Hammerhead True Wireless requires a single press to play/pause instead of a single tap. Meanwhile, other playback controls like skip/previous track only require a double/triple tap. Then there’s the double-tap and hold gesture to manage volume, which seems out of place and is annoying to use. What makes operating the controls even more frustrating is the inaccuracy of the touchpads. Oftentimes, I had to repeat two- and three-tap gestures to enable their assigned functions.
On-ear detection isn’t available to auto-pause when removing the buds from your ears.
At least you can rely on the digital assistant to properly execute tasks for you. These buds are compatible with Siri, Google Assistant, and even Bixby, and work well across the board. Razer’s dual environmental noise canceling (ENC) mics play a pivotal role with speech recognition, increasing vocal clarity for the AI bots to recognize words and verbal inquiries precisely. All my voice commands were met with fast and accurate results.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Audio quality
Audio improved vastly from the original Hammerhead True Wireless to the Pro version, and this model takes advantage of the advancements Razer made to its high-end model. Once again, the company partnered with THX to create a soundstage with lively, warm sound and fantastic channel separation.
Jumping into The Doors’ “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” there were funky drumbeats and steady hi-hats hitting my left eardrum, while guitar strums and the keyboard bass hit my right eardrum. This type of presentation gave the instruments more definition. I also liked how crisp and well-produced singer Jim Morrison’s screaming vocals sounded at the end of the track.
Razer lets you tinker with the audio via Equalizer in the Razer Audio app. You can either create your own sound profile by adjusting the different frequency levels or select from six decently engineered presets: Amplified, Default, Enhanced Bass, Enhanced Clarity, and Vocal. Enhanced Bass is ideal for contemporary music genres like alternative rock, EDM, and Hip-Hop; the boomy bassline and snares on A Tribe Called Quest’s “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” hit hard. Switching over to Amplified increased the serene and soulful presence on SWV’s “Rain” by emphasizing the calm vocals and melodic rain effects.
Gaming Mode returns to a lower latency connection of 60ms or less when gaming on your smartphone, tablet, PC, or console. The audio synchronization on certain games was spot-on, though there didn’t seem to be any major lag when listening in Normal mode. More importantly, sound effects like the footsteps and gunfire on FPS (First-Person Shooter) titles like Call of Duty Mobile and Critical Ops created a more immersive gaming experience.
Something else Gaming Mode fixes is the lip synchronization on videos. There is terrible latency when watching YouTube clips in Normal mode, so I strongly advise enabling the feature. In addition, turn on the Vocal EQ to hear dialogue clearer and crisper.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Active noise cancellation
Razer’s advanced hybrid ANC won’t block out all ambient noise, but enough to keep you focused on your Fortnite quests. The feature kept most common household distractions silent, from humming vents to loud TVs to rowdy siblings. Even walking into the laundry room with both the dryer and washing machine running simultaneously didn’t break my concentration. Specific sounds like a rattle and water from a faucet were audible when the volume was below 70%.
ANC performance takes a dip outside with high-frequency sounds and wind making their presence felt. Ambulance sirens and my infant boy crying for his toy immediately caught my attention. Wind effects, while not harsh, also affected clarity during Spotify sessions. On the plus side, the buds kept disruptions to a minimum, such as barge work taking place right across from our house and a jogging couple who passed by talking loudly with AirPods in their ears.
The Ambient mode is fine for paying attention to specific environmental noises like cars or the bell signal to get off the bus. Don’t expect to eavesdrop on people’s conversations or engage in one with a co-worker up close because the mics don’t pick up vocals well to hear people clearly.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: App and special features
It turns out you need to download two apps – Razer Audio and Chroma RGB – to get the most out of these buds. This is impractical, especially since Razer could have just transferred RGB functionality over to the main audio app. Nonetheless, let’s dig into each one.
Razer Audio is where you’ll customize audio (EQ and presets), map out the controls, enable auto shutoff, and toggle ANC/Ambient and Game Mode (Smart Link). That’s about it. The home page will show you the battery levels for each bud, but not the charging case. Firmware updates are available too, which we’re hoping to see sooner than later because we’d like to see the Hammerhead True Wireless support more features.
The audio app has a shortcut to access the Chroma RBG app. Upon entry, you’re presented with a color wheel with what looks like a drop symbol to navigate and select your preferential colorway. Four different RGB effects can also be selected: Audio Meter is programmed to respond to what you’re listening to, Breathing has a pulsating effect, Spectrum cycles through all colors, and Static remains on your color preference.
Overall, Razer gives you plenty of ways to make these buds your own, through sound or color customization.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Battery life and charging case
Breaking down the battery life of these buds can be a bit complicated since there are several determinants. For now, let’s focus on what playtimes look like with ANC on and off, which is 4.5 hours and 6.5 hours, respectively. This is the same as the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and slightly more than the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro (4 hours), but has shorter ANC playtimes than heavyweights like the WF-1000XM4 (8 hours) and Master & Dynamic MW08 (10 hours).
Enabling RGB lighting worsens battery life. According to Razer, the Hammerhead True Wireless can do 4 hours with lighting and ANC on, while offering 5.5 hours with lighting on and ANC off. These numbers were calculated by Razer when performing testing on an iOS device at 50% volume. Blasting music and using other special features will only decrease these playtimes.
Luckily, you have a charging case that holds between 20 to 32.5 hours, depending on how you use the buds. This equates to about 4 additional charges. Not the best, nor the worst. Wireless charging was left off the spec sheet, again.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Call quality and connectivity
As a calling headset, the Hammerhead True Wireless is disappointing. I took several calls outside and was met with harsh criticisms; the missus claimed my voice sounded muffled and that ambient noises created a buzzing effect. The ENC mics don’t do the best job of increasing clarity or silencing background interference. Indoors is where the buds performed slightly better. My wife could hear what I was saying, though there was still some muffling.
Video chats were 50/50. None of my clients had anything bad to say, but I noticed their vocals were lower than what I’m accustomed to getting out of the AirPods Pro.
Razer also updated the wireless protocol on this version of the Hammerhead True Wireless, employing Bluetooth 5.2, which produces steady and fast results. Pairing to devices is automatic, especially on Android devices via Google Fast Pair. The range is dependable at 50 feet.
Multipoint technology to pair these buds with two devices simultaneously didn’t make the cut.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless review: Verdict
The 2021 Razer Hammerhead True Wireless feels like a complete representation of the brand, blending signature features (e.g., RBG Chroma, Gaming Mode) into a familiar design that sticks to the brand’s sleek and minimalist design pedigree. These buds deliver impressive sound with great stereo imaging and useful EQs that complement specific music genres and content. Razer’s noise-canceling technology won’t outperform what Bose, Sony or even Apple bring to the category, but it’s effective to block out most external sounds when gaming.
Keep in mind that this sequel isn’t perfect. ANC playtime is low and gets even lower when enabling RBG Chroma. Call quality isn’t anything special and the touch controls can be finicky at times.
However, it’s all about the value you get for the price, and for $130, the Hammerhead True Wireless (Gen. 2) proves its worth in multiple ways.