Professional gaming peripherals are an unusual business, and the design of gaming products tends to reflect this. Designers have to accomplish two main goals. No "professional" gaming product can be flimsy, which tends to lead to rather harsh and industrial looking products. At the same time, if you're going to lay down AU$199, you'll want something that'll stand out a bit. This usually equates, in gaming terms, to big, bright shiny labels, flashy LEDs or strange bits of protruding plastic.
What's odd about the Carcharias (leaving the name aside for a second) is that the design, while robust, is actually pretty sedate. The Razer Logo is imprinted in black on the black headband, making it virtually impossible to see from any kind of distance. The full ear coverage headphones are cushioned in black velvet-type fabric, which again doesn't hugely stand out. As such, they're not only gamer suitable — almost anyone who wanted a decent quality set of headphones could do well with the Carcharias.
The drop-down microphone is arguably the only part of the package which doesn't quite live up to the hardcore gamer billing. It's flexible, which is a nice touch, but feels to be made of a much cheaper plastic, and we have our doubts as to its survival in the longer term.
The final design note has to go to the name. For those not in the know, Razer tends to use shark names for its gaming headphone products, and Carcharias is indeed a shark. Most people are scared of sharks, so that's a great name, right?
Well, not exactly, at least in the Australian context. The local Carcharias species that most Aussies would be familiar with would be the Grey Nurse Shark, noted for being relatively slow, placid creatures. We're not sure that's the image that Razer was after, all things considered.
The Carcharias headphones have stereo speakers (naturally enough) with a stated frequency response of 20-20,000Hz and a rated power of 200mW via two 40mm drivers. The microphone, which drops down from a pretty standard plastic boom, has unidirectional pick-up (which could be interesting in a crowded LAN party situation) and a stated frequency response of 50-16,000Hz. So even the most squeal-prone of gamers should be covered there. Volume is controlled via an in-line microphone that sits in the middle of the Carcharias 3m cable. That's long enough for most PC gaming use, but those with home media centres or who fancy a little TV-based headphone gaming might find it a little short. The cable terminates with two standard 3.5mm audio jacks for headphone and microphone respectively.
The Carcharias aren't intended for audiophile usage, but that didn't stop us from assessing them across a variety of audio types to get a real feel for how well they performed. It's pretty clear, having run them past both PC games, console titles, CD audio and some heavily compressed MP3 files that they're best suited in the gaming arena. Audio reproduction from most sources was accurate enough, but there was a tendency to over-exaggerate the bass, which makes sense in most gaming contexts. You want the explosions to have a lot of grunt, after all.
The microphone pick-up was decent across a range of games, and even testing it just recording voice with Audacity revealed a fair, but not exceptional pick-up.
One factor that pretty much every circumaural headset has to deal with are the entirely human physiological reactions that develop over time when large areas of skin are enclosed. Or, in other words, sweat. Despite Razer's claim that the Carcharias can be worn by gamers for "hours on end", in the warm Australian summer, we found they quickly became, shall we say, a little moist. We don't envy whoever has to review this particular set after us, and don't want to think about anyone who reviewed them before us.
Despite the silly name, the Razer Carcharias deliver a solid gaming experience, and they're a decent all-purpose headset for most uses — as long as you like audio that's heavy on the bass and light elsewhere.