PROS – Powerful sound for the size and price. Solid music performance. Wired subwoofer adds plenty of low-end kick. Bluetooth connectivity.
CONS – No remote. Lacks high-end clarity to really make movies stand out as well as games.
BOTTOM LINE – The Razer Leviathan puts out large sound for such a small speaker system, but its lack of a remote makes it better suited for your desk than your home theater.
Razer has had some success in the gaming audio space, but it’s mostly been with headsets. Home theater sound systems are another matter entirely. The Leviathan is Razer’s first soundbar, and it’s not like many soundbars we’ve tested. It’s downright tiny, small enough to work under your monitor as well as your HDTV, and it includes a wired subwoofer and Bluetooth connectivity. Its $199.99 price tag is very appealing when most subwoofer-equipped home theater soundbars are a lot pricier, and it offers solid, though not perfect, performance. Unfortunately, it lacks any remote control, which makes it far better suited as a computer speaker replacement than a soundbar for your HDTV.
The Leviathan$139.99 at Amazon is downright tiny compared with nearly every home theater soundbar on the market, measuring just 19.6 inches wide, 4 inches tall, and 3 inches deep. It thoroughly follows Razer’s dark, high-tech sense of aesthetics, with a black metallic grille slightly pinched in the middle to give it extra contours. The grille hides two 2.5-inch midrange drivers and two 0.75-inch tweeters, and each midrange/tweeter combination handles 15 watts of continuous power. A row of backlit controls sit above the company’s snake-triskelion logo, on the pinched section of the soundbar. Besides volume control and input selection, the controls include dedicated buttons for turning on and off Dolby virtual surround, and for switching between Game, Music, and Movie equalizer presets.
The body of the soundbar is matte black plastic, tapering tapering down toward the back panel. A recess on the bottom edge of the panel holds optical and 3.5mm audio inputs, a power connector, and a port for connecting the included subwoofer. The Leviathan comes with two sets of feet, one flat and one angled, that let it sit at 0, 15, or 18 degree angles depending on its use. You can also use the holes on the back of the soundbar to mount it on a wall.
The subwoofer is similarly small and matte black. It looks a bit like a giant keyboard key, with round corners and tapering toward the top where another Razer logo sits. It sadly isn’t wireless like many subwoofers included with soundbars, but it requires only one cable, which connects to the soundbar; it doesn’t need its own power outlet. The subwoofer features a 30-watt, 5.25-inch downward-firing driver.
Awkward on the Couch
The Leviathan lacks a remote control, which limits its usability with your HDTV. The volume control buttons on top of the soundbar are the only way to directly adjust how loud it gets. For couch-bound use, out of arm’s reach while watching TV, that’s a problem. If the Leviathan had an HDMI connection or an IR sensor, you could adjust it with your own HDTV’s remote through HDMI-CEC or programmed remote commands. Unfortunately, optical audio outputs at a fixed level, so you can’t even adjust the volume through your HDTV; you need to get up and press the buttons on the soundbar itself. Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you use the soundbar on your desk instead of in front of your couch.
Movie and Game Performance
Simulated surround sound can’t produce accurate imaging like a dedicated surround system with multiple satellites can, but if done correctly, can make movies and games sound bigger and more room-filling than a soundbar would seem to allow. With the simulated 5.1-channel surround enabled in Game mode, the Leviathan made the slashes, shots, and Combichrist soundtrack of DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition sound like it encompassed the entire room.
The soundbar doesn’t offer quite as impressive an experience for movies, or at least for movies with less guns and aggrotech industrial music like Jurassic Park. In the T. Rex scene, the small subwoofer produced a satisfying rumble with each thumping step of the dinosaur, but the soundbar lacked high-end crispness to really make the sound of rain falling on the jeep surround me. The dialogue was clear and easy to hear against the stomps, but it was very apparent that this is a much smaller soundbar than one you would often find under a large HDTV. You definitely won’t mistake it for a full 5.1-channel surround system.
For such a small, relatively inexpensive soundbar, the Leviathan handles music admirably. It played our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” at maximum volume with an appreciable amount of force and no distortion, though the kick drum hits sounded a bit poppy. The system can shake walls with the subwoofer, and while it can’t get quite as loud as full-sized soundbars intended for HDTVs, it can certainly come close. If you use it for a desktop soundbar, you won’t want to push it past the halfway point on the volume, and if you use it with your HDTV in a modest living room, you won’t be disappointed by how much sound the Leviathan can put out.
The Leviathan leans a bit more towards bass than treble, but not so much that it hurts less bass-heavy tracks. While the bassline in Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” kept a constant and prominent presence throughout the song, Cave’s vocals retained just enough edge to stand out against the low, rolling notes. Similarly, in MC Lars’ “This Gigantic Robot Kills,” the vocals and twangy guitar notes held their own against the more-powerful-than-ideal bassline. Considering its focus on gaming over music, the Leviathan sounds surprisingly balanced despite its bass-heavy tendencies.
The Razer Leviathan packs a lot of power into a small, relatively inexpensive soundbar, thanks to its wired subwoofer. It makes games sound big and exciting, but it doesn’t offer the subtlety needed to bring out the high-end in movies. Built-in Bluetooth is a great feature, and the soundbar works surprisingly well as a music system, but the complete lack of a remote severely limits its usefulness in any setup where it’s out of arm’s reach. If you want a speaker for your desk, it’s an excellent choice. If you want speakers with your HDTV, though, you might want to track down the one-piece Polk N1 Surroundbar instead. It lacks a subwoofer and doesn’t get quite as booming as the Leviathan, but it offers very good audio performance and its remote makes it much more friendly for couchbound use. If you want a less gaming-focused set of desktop speakers, or simply prefer a conventional stereo satellite setup for your computer, consider the wireless version of the Harman Kardon SoundSticks III $149.95 at Amazon.
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