Razer built its reputation on products that gave a technological edge to gamers: Their faster, smoother, higher-rez mice, packaged with Apple-like flair were designed to bring higher performance to the otherwise generic world of PC gaming. The newest addition to the lineup, the "Battlefield 3 Collector's edition Razer Blackshark Expert 2.0 Gaming Headset" (that's a mouthful!) is high on bling, but how about performance.
I'll let the pictures largely speak for themselves. The headsets are designed to look like a chopper pilots, with bright orange cables on the outside, rather than hidden below the skin. The mike boom is articulated metal, not plastic. Depending on your preconceptions and fantasies it looks like something from a cockpit or an orthodontist’s office. Regardless, you're going to make sure that you swing it out of the way before swigging down your favorite drink in the heat of a game or you're going to get it and you wet, as it is much more prominent, front and center than on competitive products. Overall, the clamshell style headsets are a well-finished, with almost seductively soft ear pads, gloss plastic exteriors, and shiny metal and orange trim threading.
An innovative feature of the headsets is that the boom mike can be removed easily and replaced with a metal plug (more bling) when you don't need the mike. I don't know how organized you are, but the chances of me being able to find that little silver plug when I need it are somewhere between slim and none. You can use the Blacksharks without the mike as a music headset...if you feel comfortable running around town with large clamshell headphones emblazoned with "Battlefield 3" and orange thread. I didn't try it out, but I'm pretty sure wearing these to high-school could get you beaten up really fast. One drawback I did notice, however, was that the rubber grip on the plug is so smooth and tapered that it is difficult to unplug unless you tug on the cord, something that will ultimately break the unit.
The Blacksharks are high on role-play. Put them on and you're wearing a costume that will help some desktop warriors immerse themselves in the game. This is their strong suit.
But, a headset should be about more than "looks". Comfort and sound quality are more important.
Rather than trying for a neutral sound, the Blacksharks sport "enhanced bass". Though not the tubby sound that sometimes plagues "tuned" speakers, I had a sense of a dark cloud being cast on music played through the headsets, and a certain compressed quality to the output. On the other hand, in gaming the tuning made bullet and explosion sounds powerful.
Although Razer refers to the design as sound isolating, they do not really block out all exterior sound. However, they do largely block out sound coming from the game into the living room. I was able to play at moderate volume in the living room without my wife complaining about the explosive sounds. This meant I could play longer, a plus.
On the other hand, after about fifteen minutes I had to take them off. The earpads got hot and sweaty. While less heavy than some hardshell headsets, they did feel overly confining and took a toll on my concentration.
Bottom line, these are a sweet looking object d'combat art. You can find better sounding headphones and more comfortable microphone equiped headsets, but you knew that already. If you're the kind of guy that likes to wear a Call of Duty Bullet Beltbuckle and force feedback vest while you play first-person-shooters, this headset is actually a fashion upgrade for you. Otherwise, you might look elsewhere.