For years peripheral maker Razer has been pumping sound directly into our ears via gaming headsets. The Leviathan marks its first attempt at sharing that sound with the rest of the room, and a valiant first attempt at that.
I've seen plenty of premium speaker companies put out headsets, after all they're just tiny speakers (gross oversimplification alert!), but rarely have I seen a company that's built a reputation for headsets make the transition to speakers. Acoustics are easier to master when only a single pair of ears is involved.
So it's daring of Razer, the mouse, keyboard, headset and incredibly skinny laptop maker, to branch out in this direction, especially when the branch is a $200 black bar that makes noise. There are quite a lot of those on the market, in case you hadn't noticed. They're kind of a thing now.
Razer's got its name going for it, having built up a reputation for quality audio devices, but the difference between headsets and full-room speakers is the difference between making a nice dinner for your friends and running a restaurant.
Let's see what's on the menu.
What It Is
The Razer Leviathan is a smallish 5.1 surround sound bar that comes packaged with a keyboard key-shaped downward facing subwoofer. The bar itself is only around four inches high, making it as unobtrusive in front of a PC monitor as it is on a television stand.
Providing surround sound for gaming is one of its primary tasks, with both optical audio standard 3.5" audio jack inputs to handle modern game consoles and PCs. It's also got support for Bluetooth v 4.0 aptX however, making it the perfect companion for a phone packed with tunes or, if you're feeling saucy, filling the room with the sounds of Angry Birds.
(Note: if you buy one of these and it looks like the picture above, you've broken it.)
What I Did With It
When the Leviathan first arrived I was in the living room, so that's where it went first, cruelly condemned to playing through an endless army of Caillou episodes. Every now and then I'd get to play some Titanfall or Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or watch a television show that wasn't annoying to everyone but three-year-olds. Sometimes we'd watch Peg + Cat.
That happy experiment over, I moved the Leviathan into the spot I'd originally envisioned it in: in front of my computer monitor, where it fit quite nicely without obscuring the screen. The unit comes with two pairs of feet to adjust tilt angle, for the PC they recommend the highest, so the sound hits you right in the face.
The picture above is not my desk, but it's a fair approximation of the desk and monitor of an average bearded person. If you want the experience of sitting at my actual desk, blow up this image and obscure your monitor with empty Kickstart cans.
Free from Caillou, the Leviathan helped my PC watch countless horrible YouTube videos in-between bouts of Far Cry 4 and World of Warcraft.
I also connected my iPhone to the unit via Bluetooth and blasted some questionable music, And apparently I was feeling saucy, as I played quite a few iPad games with the Leviathan handling sound duties. Considering the iPad's unfortunate speaker situation, it was an incredibly pleasant change.
What I Liked
Low Profile: I've been looking for a sound bar for my PC for quite some time, ever since I stopped trying to put speakers everywhere and bought a bar for the living room. I was just worried that whatever I wound up with would obscure my desktop, as my AOC monitor is pretty low to the desk.
The Leviathan fits the space perfectly. Here, I'll snap a quick shot of how it lines up with my monitor.
Can you see that? No? See, that's why I don't take pictures of my desk. It's a wreck. Just trust me, it's really nice.
Good Looks: Not only is the Leviathan small (look kids, irony!), it's also quite lovely as black bars go. I was expecting the traditional black-and-green Razer motif, but instead it's a tasteful silver logo facing the general public, as if to say "I'm trying to be tasteful here." Razer's signature style is represented by indents on the top and bottom of the bar's middle, but other than that the product's performance is the loudest thing in the room.
Sharp and Powerful Sound: The Razer Leviathan has more than enough power to fill our ample livingroom (well, 15 feet by 16 feet) with crisp, mildly deafening sound. The clarity of this sound bar at max volume is wondrous, the only rattle I experienced being the various loose things sitting atop my TV stand threatening to wander off.
And if it's that powerful in the living room, imagine it being three feet from your face while you're playing a PC game. I've yet to turn it up all the way while playing PC games because I'm worried about sound complaints from my neighbors. Still, even without setting the volume to "Eardrum Nemesis" the sound is so strong you can almost feel it.
Speaking of which...
The Subwoofer. Oh Lord, the Subwoofer. Where has this downward-facing bass demon been all my life?
The subwoofer included with the Razer Leviathan is a black monolith of full-range fury. When my desk shakes, it's this subwoofer what shakes it. I'm not the sort of person who goes out of his way to ensure he feels his music and game audio, but if I'm going to feel it I want to feel actively abused by it. This nondescript fellow gets the job done. Razer could have called this the Leviathan Subwoofer with sound bar.
What I Didn't Like
Sleepy Time: After 20 minutes idle, the Leviathan shuts itself off. How considerate. How annoying.
It's not a problem when the Leviathan is hooked up to a television, and most game consoles these days have some sort of music playing at the menu level (get with the program, Xbox One) to keep the sound bar alive.
My PC, on the other hand, often goes a good 20 minutes without making a peep, so when I go to watch a video or start up a game, I've got no sound.
If all I had to do in this instance was hit the power button, that wouldn't be too much of a hassle, but the volume lowers automatically as well, so I've got to power it back on and pump up the volume to make all of the sounds work. Annoying.
Surround Sound-ish: The Leviathan uses Dolby Pro Logic II to convert standard audio signals into 5.1 stereo surround sound. It works, certainly enough to offer a player an idea of where shots are coming from or which direction the cougars are attacking from, but it's never quite all there.
It's sort of like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. You know it's there, you can make out what it is, but it never fully coalesces until you turn to face it.
My Final Word
The Razer Leviathan 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Bar is Razer's first attempt at non-personal audio, and it has the power to please a great many ears at once. That said, I feel the best place for this lovely piece of sound engineering is in front of a PC monitor.
The Leviathan's room-filling sound provided exactly the sort of power I was looking for in a speaker that sits only a few feet from my face. Partnered with its subwoofer life-mate, its more sound than any PC gamer needs, which is exactly the sort of thing we want.