A versatile headset, usable on many platforms in wireless and wired, all at a low price: here is the attractive concept pushed by Razer with its Barracuda X... which is not done without some concessions.
Like many other gaming manufacturers, Razer is trying a new approach to diversify its headset catalog with its Barracuda X. This model is indeed positioned as a "hybrid", designed as both a gaming headset and a nomad, usable both at home and on the move to enjoy its games and any content on PC/Playstation/Switch and Android smartphones, all wireless. To make sure no one is left behind, the Barracuda X can also be used as a wired headset thanks to the included mini-jack cable.
Such versatility seems particularly appealing to gamers who want to invest in a single headset. This is especially true at the low price the headset is offered at (€100 at launch, but regularly offered at around €80 at the time of writing). So we'll see if the execution is up to scratch...
The "hybrid" approach of the Barracuda X is noticeable from the outset by its sleek and discreet appearance: no flashy colors, no massive earpieces, no double headband or RGB backlighting. The design here is closer to that of a nomadic headset than a "traditional" gaming headset.
Although we appreciate the great lightness of the helmet (267 g), we would have preferred a little more flexibility in the design of its headband - we quickly feel a resistance when putting the helmet on the head - and especially the possibility of folding the earpieces towards the latter to facilitate the transport.
The quality of the finishes is not extraordinary. If the design of the Barracuda X showed no real weaknesses during its test, we still have a reservation about the durability of the whole given the constitution of the plastic parts. They sound particularly "hollow" when tapped and are extremely sensitive to scratches. In addition, many assembly marks, sometimes not very graceful, are visible everywhere on the helmet. It would have been a good idea for the manufacturer to offer at least a carrying pouch to protect the helmet a little, and to easily gather the numerous accessories that come with it.
The experience of wearing the Barracuda X is satisfactory. The light weight and design of the headset, the generous pivot of the earcup hinges, and the coating used on the earcups all contribute to a comfortable fit. The headset sits easily and naturally on the head, the contact is relatively soft and the pressure points are suitably distributed on the top of the head and around the auricle.
It is still important to note that the comfort of this helmet is not perfectly universal, either at the level of the head or the ears. The somewhat limited deployment of the headband may cause discomfort on the top of the head after a good hour of use, while the rather limited space at the level of the earpieces (in depth and height) will cause, depending on the case, another discomfort, this time either at the level of the helix, the lobe, or the concha of the auricle.
The Barracuda X is not the first "hybrid" gaming headset, but the connectivity it offers is still quite new on this market. No connection via Bluetooth here, the wireless connection is done exclusively via a USB-C dongle for a more robust communication and especially with negligible latency - what we could verify during our test, especially since the range is very correct (about 10 to 15 m).
The headset can therefore be used on a very wide variety of devices (desktop and laptop computers, Playstation PS4 and PS5 consoles, Nintendo Switch and Android smartphones), with the possible help of the USB-C to USB-A adapter. This connection method obviously leaves Xbox console users and Apple smartphone users out in the cold. These, like those using other devices with a mini-jack connector, can fortunately turn to the wired analog connection (passive use, so headphones off).
Such versatility is therefore extremely appreciable. Having said that, we would have appreciated the possibility of using the headset in a wired USB connection, if only to avoid having to occupy two USB ports, or to use a double USB + mini-jack connection, when you want to use the headset while charging.
Controls & application
The Barracuda X's approach to operation is very simple, perhaps even too simple.
There is absolutely nothing complex about setting up the headset: just plug the wireless adapter into a device, turn on the headset, and you're done. Unfortunately, only a few beeps and an LED confirm the success of the operation, but you'll never know the battery level or the remaining usage time, except when you're approaching the critical limit, or if the microphone has been switched off/on, for example. No companion application is offered on mobile or PC, so don't expect any customization options or advanced features (sound/chat volume balance, headset rendering equalization, microphone, microphone feedback in the headset...).
The same applies to the controls: a button for power on/off/pairing, a knob for volume control (which remains independent of the source device volume), a switch for activating/deactivating the microphone, and... that's it! A multi-function button for mobile use, at least, would have been welcome.
The Barracuda X promises a battery life of 20 hours. We were able to verify this on several occasions during our test period (between 19 h and 20 h 30 min depending on the session). An honorable score, far from impressive, but sufficient for everyday use.
Overall, the Barracuda X offers a very decent listening experience, but it could have been much more convincing if the precision had been there.
The sound restitution lacks indeed of detail. The sound message always remains a little blurred, as if altered by a slight veil. The identification of certain elements, in particular those placed on more remote planes of the scene, is not very instinctive. On rich pieces, and therefore more demanding in terms of reproduction, the behavior of the headphones can give rise to a certain confusion and a crushing of the dynamics. This lack of precision also and mainly concerns the restitution of the bass and treble. The former can take on a slightly fluffy aspect, or even a bushy appearance in certain actions in games (sounds of explosions, landslides, etc.) and in musical content that is naturally generous and rich in bass (especially when there are many elements that mainly operate in this zone). The highs, as for them, would have gained to be more defined, "fluid" and thus natural, even if we do not deplore any real problem of sibilance.
This is all the more frustrating since the Barracuda X shows a beautiful richness and a very good sound balance in wireless use: the timbres are preserved, the intelligibility of voices is always ensured, no frequency zone really takes precedence over the others - even if the headset favors the extreme lows -, the lowest as well as the highest frequencies are well represented. What's more, the headset has the good taste to not place too much in the background the famous presence zone, a component common to the vast majority of gaming headsets. The sound rendition thus retains a fairly sharp and clear sound, without being aggressive or tiring during long listening sessions. The distortion remains extremely wise on all the reproduced spectrum. As for the soundstage, the observation is again in half-tone: it is generously spread out on the horizontal plane, but still lacks depth to make us enjoy a real immersion.
Although the Barracuda X is primarily designed to be used wirelessly, it is very important to note that its performance deteriorates significantly when switched to an analog wired connection. The well-balanced sound, although not very precise as we said above, gives way to a very uneven, cottony and bassy reproduction... and it must be admitted that it is very unpleasant. It is thus advisable to privilege the wireless connection when it is possible.
The Barracuda X comes with a detachable gooseneck microphone, whose flexible structure allows it to be easily positioned in front of the mouth. A small windscreen, also detachable, is provided to limit sensitivity to plosives and sibilants. It should be noted that the microphone remains functional in wired use.
The Barracuda X's pickup quality isn't the most amazing we've ever encountered on a gaming headset, but it's still satisfactory. In wireless, the signal is clean enough and the voice timbre is well preserved, even if it sounds a bit too narrow and nasal. The microphone is not specifically sensitive to surrounding noise and the voice always manages to stand out well and remains perfectly intelligible. However, if your source device allows you to do so, a small volume boost will not be too much to ask for, in order to ensure that you are perfectly understood by your interlocutors or teammates, as the signal coming from the microphone is a little weak. In wired use, the proposed pickup does not change radically (the nasal side mentioned above remains quite present), but still gains in cleanliness, precision and naturalness.
The Barracuda X does not have a microphone directly integrated into the headset for calls. However, it is possible to use the supplied gooseneck to make calls on compatible devices, and in a very respectable quality compared to that usually offered by Bluetooth nomadic headsets (even if some models of the kind prove to be more skilful at suppressing surrounding noises).
The Barracuda X brings to the market an atypical and rather attractive concept, which could interest music lovers and gamers looking for a unique product to accompany them everywhere; we are thinking in particular of Nintendo Switch addicts, who will find there one of the only solutions of the moment to play and communicate without latency and without wire. It's a shame that this headset doesn't go a little further on certain criteria to position itself as a sure thing and a must-have, but its very contained price forced Razer to make some concessions.