Monday, April 22, 2024

Razer Leviathan V2 Pro review: AI for your ears

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Razer Levithan V2 Pro sitting on a desk.

Razer Leviathan V2 Pro
MSRP $400.00

Score Details

“The Razer Leviathan V2 Pro is the best PC soundbar you can buy, but that assumes you want a PC soundbar in the first place.”

Pros

  • Head tracking works great
  • Balanced subwoofer sound
  • Razer Synapse is excellent
  • Easy to control

Cons

  • Limited to PC and Bluetooth use
  • EQ is off
  • Expensive

I tried Razer’s Leviathan V2 Pro earlier this year, and I was immediately floored. Even after living with it for a few weeks, the AI-powered head tracking never ceases to amaze me.

Contents

  • Razer Leviathan V2 Pro specs
  • A bowl of buzzwords
  • An impressive array
  • Built for one purpose
  • Going inside Synapse
  • Should you buy the Razer Leviathan V2 Pro?Show 1 more item

But when it comes to the soundbar itself, it can be hit or miss. In the right setting, the Leviathan V2 Pro can go toe-to-toe with the best soundbars and PC speakers, occasionally even surpassing them, for a lower price. But it has a narrow scope, and that makes it hard to justify for the average PC gamer.

Razer Leviathan V2 Pro specs

 
Razer Leviathan V2 Pro
Frequency response
40Hz – 20kHz
Driver size
Five 2-inch driver
Subwoofer
Down-firing 5-inch subwoofer
Dimensions
Soundbar: 23.6 x 4.5 x 3.5 inches / Subwoofer: 10.2 x 11.6 x 10.2 inches
Weight
Soundbar: 5 pounds / Subwoofer: 11.2 pounds
Outputs
Bluetooth, USB-C
Inputs
3.5mm
List price
$400

A bowl of buzzwords

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Razer Leviathan V2 Pro is a bowl of buzzwords — AI head tracking, beamforming, 3D audio — but there’s a lot of merit behind Razer’s aggressive marketing. The core of the Leviathan V2 Pro is an infrared (IR) camera that tracks your head and ears. This is the big change over the original Leviathan V2, which is $150 cheaper. Images from the camera are fed into an AI processor, and that data is used to create a virtual array of speakers. And don’t worry; the images aren’t even transferred to your PC, so they’re never stored.

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That’s all well and good, but what’s impressive is that this system works. Razer leverages it for two features in the Leviathan V2 Pro. One is THX virtual surround sound that creates a 7.1 surround sound system, and the other is virtual headphones, which as you can probably guess, emulates the sound of wearing a pair of headphones.

I toggled back and forth between the two modes depending on the game I was playing. Neither works perfectly for every title. In the case of virtual surround sound, it was amazing in a game like The Last of Us Part One with a proper surround sound mix. I heard cars flying by, buildings crashing over my shoulder, everything you’d expect out of a proper surround sound system. It’s not perfect — you can tell this is faux surround sound still — but it’s an impressive emulation considering the price.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are some problems, so it’s a good thing the Leviathan V2 Pro has the virtual headphone setting to fall back on. Even in a game with a surround sound mix like Returnal, the overwhelming lower mids of virtual surround washed out the sound effects to the point where I couldn’t hear my gun.

This problem translated into other games like Destiny 2, but that’s where the virtual headset comes in. It brings the sound much closer to your ears without washing out, and you still get a lot of positional accuracy. It’s only carrying a stereo sound, but you can pick out elements like you can in a headset.

If it were just the virtual surround sound mode, it would be hard to recommend the Leviathan V2 Pro. With the virtual headphone setting available, however, I never ran into a game that forced me to go back to the stereo mode.

An impressive array

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s a lot of focus on the AI head-tracking features of the Leviathan V2 Pro, but that shouldn’t distract from the soundbar itself. It features five 2-inch drivers along with a down-firing five-inch subwoofer. And even in stereo mode, they’re a potent combo.

You’re not getting room-shaking low-end from the sub as you would with something like SVS SB16 Ultra, but this is still a surprisingly powerful little subwoofer. A big reason why is that Razer has expertly tuned the crossover so the soundbar and subwoofer sound like one cohesive unit. That’s a hard balance to achieve, and Razer nailed it.

My only issue was EQ.

I loved listening to music on the Leviathan V2 Pro, from the scorched licks of Periphery to the bumping beats of bbno$ to the subdued soundtrack of Dead Cells — everything sounded great. Even better, the Leviathan V2 Pro includes a room-fill setting that expands the stereo field. Combined with built-in Bluetooth connectivity, the Levithan V2 Pro can easily entertain a crowd.

My only issue was EQ. I never felt like I needed to EQ the Leviathan V2 Pro, but you can tweak the sound through Razer Synapse. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the soundbar or an issue with Razer’s EQ, but adding a slight bit of top-end would immediately become harsh, and a touch of low-end, overwhelming. I left the EQ flat for almost the whole time I used the Leviathan V2 Pro, only adjusting the volume of the subwoofer to balance the sound.

Built for one purpose

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Make no mistake, the Razer Leviathan V2 Pro is built for your PC and only your PC. It comes with a USB-C output, along with Bluetooth and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but no other outputs. You can’t use it with a TV or console which vastly limits the potential. By comparison, a desktop soundbar like the LG GP9 at least includes an optical output if you want to hook it up to a TV. The LG GP9 also includes a microphone while the Leviathan V2 Pro doesn’t, which introduces some logistical issues when playing games on your PC.

There’s also the head tracking to contend with. It’s a cool experience, but Razer charges a lot for that feature alone. Even the best computer speakers knock around $150 off the price of the Leviathan V2 Pro and offer similar audio quality. My AudioEngine A2+ speakers, for example, stayed hooked up for the entire time I used the Leviathan V2 Pro.

Most people will prefer a more affordable pair of gaming headphones or stereo speakers.

That’s the reality of this soundbar. For the purpose it’s built for, there’s nothing better, but that’s assuming you use the soundbar in a specific way. If you go outside of those bounds, it becomes a lot less practical. I would flip the soundbar on for some games, but more often than not, I was listening on my stereo speakers or playing with my Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro headset while sitting in Discord.

The Leviathan V2 Pro offers an experience worth $400, but there are some serious practical hurdles it has to overcome. Even with the surround sound experience being as good as it is, I imagine most people will settle on a nice pair of gaming headphones or a pair of stereo speakers instead.

Going inside Synapse

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Razer has its software nailed, and that makes using the Leviathan V2 Pro much more enjoyable. You can interface with the soundbar through Razer Synapse, which includes a handful of helpful settings.

As mentioned, you have an EQ and subwoofer volume control inside. In addition, Razer includes a custom EQ curve along with several presets, all of which are stored inside the soundbar. You can toggle between them, along with the four audio modes, through the soundbar itself and Synapse will display a tiny overlay letting you know where which setting you toggled to.

If you don’t have Synapse open, lights next to the camera will show you which setting you’re on. This marriage of hardware and software is tough to find, and Razer has it down. You don’t need Synapse, but it opens up a lot of possibilities if you want to install it.

In addition to practical settings, Synapse includes settings for Razer Chroma. The Leviathan V2 Pro has a soft underglow that looks great, but it’s Chroma that makes the RGB so special. Chroma supports several plug-ins for syncing up your lighting. For example, Wallpaper Engine automatically synced up the soundbar and made the underglow match my desktop wallpaper.

Should you buy the Razer Leviathan V2 Pro?

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If the Leviathan V2 Pro sounds like the audio experience you’ve been waiting for, you’ll be very happy picking one up. Razer expertly delivered on the AI head tracking promise, along with a solid foundation of audio that makes listening to music and watching videos equally as enjoyable.

For those on the fence, however, it’s hard to recommend the Leviathan V2 Pro. There are no problems with the soundbar itself, but it inherently introduces some logistical hurdles that just aren’t present with a pair of headphones.

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