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If you asked me pre-pandemic whether I would consider a soundbar for my desktop, I would've given you a questioning look. For my TV? Sure. But for the computer that I doom surf and make impulse buying decisions on, probably not. Fast forward to what is now the golden age of working from home (and hybrid), and I'm starting to understand what I've been missing out on.
The Razer Leviathan V2 is the latest soundbar from the California-based gaming company, and it builds on the foundation of its 2015 predecessor with a new and improved feel and finish. Audio performance has taken a major leap, too, of course.
Given the smaller segment of gaming-tailored soundbars, Razer had room to be bold when pricing the Leviathan V2 -- and it certainly was. The soundbar, which comes with a subwoofer, costs $249. So if you're in the market for a system upgrade, should you buy one? After testing the Leviathan V2 over the past month, here are my thoughts.
|Dimensions (soundbar)||19.7x3.6x3.3 in. / 500x91.3x84 mm|
|Dimensions (subwoofer)||8.67x8.67x9.5 in. / 220x220x241.5 mm |
Soundbar: 1.4 kg / 3.08 lbs, subwoofer: 3.0 kg/ 6.61 lbs
95 mm full-range drivers, 20 mm tweeter drivers, 138 mm passive radiator drivers, and 140 mm down-firing subwoofer
45Hz - 20kHz
|Connection ports||USB-C (audio input to PC), power, and subwoofer connector|
iOS, Android, Windows
THX Spatial Audio, 2.1-channel, Razer Chroma, Bluetooth 5.2
Take what you know about soundbar design and throw it out the window, because the Razer Leviathan V2 is certainly a game changer. Okay, that might be overdramatizing things, but what I'm trying to say is that the Razer looks, feels, and is built differently than the standard, cylindrical, Swiss-roll-looking soundbar.
The 19-inch speaker is treated with a frosted, matte black coating from top to bottom, which makes its defining feature, a beam of RGB (with 16 lighting zones) at the base, all the more apparent. Station the Leviathan V2 on any surface and enjoy a radiant light show, bright enough to bring a pinch of character to desk mats and table tops. If you're one of those lights-off gamers, then you'll enjoy it even more.
Portability is one of my lesser worries when it comes to soundbars, but there are some notable specs with the Leviathan V2. It's fairly lightweight at just above 3 pounds and even more compact. The latter is important because you'll likely tuck the unit underneath a monitor or laptop stand. In my case (as seen in the image above), the soundbar sits comfortably, with plenty of room between it and my display.
Knowing that most users will probably have the Leviathan V2 barricaded with keyboards, mice, and other desktop trinkets, Razer includes a pair of angled, rubber feet in the box. Slide them into the base of the soundbar and you get just the right amount of tilt for those drivers and tweeters to deliver audio effectively.
More: The best soundbars you can buy
You have two options to control the soundbar: the built-in button menu and Razer's Audio app (available for iOS and Android). The button menu at the top of the Leviathan V2 is as straightforward as it gets, with keys for source (device switching), Bluetooth, power, and volume up and down.
What's missing here from the previous version are the mute button, mode switcher, and Dolby Digital toggle. While the three are considerably less important, users switching over from the first-gen model will have to adjust to the missing functionality.
Personally, I find the current five keys to be just enough. They could feel a little less stiff and clacky, but that's just me nitpicking. I also would've loved it if Razer included a remote control. For how loud the soundbar gets (more on this later), being able to lower the volume or turn the device off from a distance would be greatly appreciated.
Razer also cut corners with the Leviathan V2's port selection, and it's a move I'm less enthusiastic about. With the new version, you only get one USB-C port for audio input; there's no 3.5mm jack (for headphones), optical audio input (for TVs), or AUX input, etc. For a speaker system, let alone a $249 soundbar, Razer should've been more generous and flexible with the options here.
If you're like me and hooking up the Leviathan V2 to a desktop, then the lack of ports is bearable. But if you plan to connect the soundbar to a TV or a pair of headphones, don't, because you can't.
Lastly, Razer pairs the eclectic Leviathan V2 soundbar with a stale, black box that is the subwoofer. Besides the three-headed snake logo printed at the top, it's just a colorless cube that exists to pump out the lower frequencies of songs, audio, and gameplay. Then again, subwoofers are usually the unsung heroes of speaker systems. That holds true with this one.
This is a soundbar, after all, so let's talk about the drivers and tweeters that make the Leviathan V2 what it is. On the front side you'll find two 20mm tweeters and two 95mm full-range drivers. While the former is the same configuration as the original Leviathan, the new full-range drivers are bigger and deliver a more powerful response. Likewise, there are now two 138mm passive radiator drivers at the back for added bass. The subwoofer houses a down-firing 140mm driver.
Altogether, the Razer soundbar produces an unsurprising amount of bass, while keeping the mid and high tones crisp and clear. Right out of the box, I was shocked by how loud and booming the soundbar was, especially for its compact size. Listening to tracks like Guns N' Roses' Sweet Child O' Mine (all the Thor movie trailers get it stuck in my head), I was blown away by how discernible the drums and Axl Rose's voice were from the underlying bass chords. Yet, the subwoofer and passive radiator driver combo made solid work of catching the lower frequencies of the song, and therefore, setting the musical tone throughout.
I've found 25%-30% volume to be the Leviathan V2's sweet spot in terms of loudness and clarity. And trust me, even at that range, the decibels are higher than standard speakers at 50%. Push the soundbar any more and you'll start to hear a bit of distortion, though not enough to disrupt the bass-heavy and roomy feel of its output.
Before you start gaming with the Leviathan V2, you'll want to pair it to Razer's companion software, Synapse 3, and toggle on THX Spatial Audio. The 7.1 surround sound feature helps to create a more immersive listening experience, reproducing the direction of instruments, sound effects, and voices in the way that game designers and artists intended. Again, the added bass from the subwoofer gives explosions and shots depth and a rumbling sensation, typically absent with flatter-sounding speakers. While the soundbar's output was not as absorbing as that from gaming headphones, which literally surround your ears, I was still able to make out the direction of footsteps and other moving objects in-game.
More: Sony INZONE H9 review: Spatial sound at its finest
It's a bummer that you have to pair the soundbar to Razer Synapse to take advantage of features like THX Spatial Audio and the equalizer. Fortunately, the setup process is not as tedious as other audio software that I've tested. Besides the audio settings, you also can customize the brightness, direction, and effects of the down-firing RGB LED. That includes preset and game-based animations via Razer Chroma and custom-made patterns via Chroma Studio.
Note: Synapse only is compatible with Windows 10 and up, which means Mac users should look elsewhere for a full-fledged desktop soundbar.
Overall, the Razer Leviathan V2 is a fantastic soundbar that delivers a complex (yet harmonious) sound stage, while looking good, too. The biggest problem that I have with the speaker, beyond the limited ports and compatibility, is inventory. Right now, the soundbar is out of stock at virtually every retailer. I asked a representative from Razer about restocking, and here's what was shared:
Our inventory sold out so quickly upon launch, and we have all been anxiously awaiting a restock. We expect units to be available in the later part of August at this point in time.
If you can wait until the end of summer, then the Leviathan V2 is worth a look. The best part is that the soundbar is just as applicable for office dwellers like me, who could use the added oomph after an hour or two of sitting.
If you need a gaming soundbar today, these are the best Leviathan V2 alternatives that you should consider:
The Sound BlasterX Katana is as one-to-one with the Razer as two soundbars can get. Paired with its own subwoofer, the Katana delivers a multi-channel audio experience with a price ($299) and down-facing RGB light to match Razer. It also supports Mac and has an AUX-in, headset out, mic-in, and optical-in ports.
Perhaps you want a compact soundbar for your setup but not necessarily for gaming. The Sonos Ray is the latest and most compact soundbar from the audio brand. It's considerably cheaper than the rest of Sonos' portfolio, making the Ray an excellent starting point for users who seek clean and crisp sound.
Though the Nommo Chroma is not a soundbar, it's made with Razer's edgy and RGB-lit design language and delivers a full range of sound. The two speakers have 3-inch glass fiber drivers that amplify higher frequencies, and rear-facing bass ports to cover the lower spectrum. The Nommo Chroma pairs via 3.5mm jack or USB.