Razer’s second generation of its Leviathan gaming soundbar, aptly named the Leviathan V2, gets prettier — and at $249 (£230, AU$410) as opposed to $200, pricier. And while it gains Bluetooth wireless support, it loses some other useful connections; say bye-bye to analog and optical, for example. Still, it’s a compact and solid alternative to headphones or a beefier surround setup that might be overkill or require too much space.
Desktop soundbars are a great option for gaming. I live in an apartment, so a headset is necessary lest my neighbors think I’m razing the building. But I like to give my head a rest in games with ambient rather than essential sound, and in those where I don’t have to worry about something sneaking up behind me. (Think, for example.) And there’s always room underneath my monitor, but not necessarily anywhere else on my desk for individual speakers.
- Bluetooth 5.2 allows for one-button switching between it and a USB connected device
- Sleek design with RGB illumination
- Limited connection choices
- THX Spatial Audio only works when connected to PC
- Sound can get a bit muddy
There’ve unsurprisingly been quite a few changes for V2 given how old the Leviathan is. (The original is about seven years old — it was announced in 2014, but Razer had a brief fling with a Leviathan Mini in 2015.) On the outside, the downfiring subwoofer goes for a more traditional cube over last gen’s more pyramid-like shape. The soundbar comes with extra feet that let you tilt it upwards in addition to the default pair. The default feet point it directly forward — at your stomach, where you probably don’t have ears.
The V2 is more angular and longer than before, at just under 20 inches long, but given that people generally have larger monitors than they did in 2015, it makes sense to stretch it to about the width of a 27-inch display and take advantage of the extra space.
That space allows Razer to bump the V2 up to 65 watts and add passive radiators to the mix of drivers and tweeters. This should boost the response range — it used to go down only as low as 180Hz, but now it goes to 45Hz. It also gains 18-zone Chroma lighting.
One of the biggest updates is Bluetooth 5.2 support in addition to USB-C. This makes it possible for you control the speaker from your phone, as well as hot switch between a connected Bluetooth device — such as a headset — and the PC at the touch of a button on the soundbar.
Razer has dropped the 3.5mm analog connector, unfortunately, which would have made it possible to link the speaker to a console like theor (via the controller). It’s also dropped the optical audio input, which would let it work with older consoles. It didn’t have, and still doesn’t have, HDMI. The traditional thinking is that a console gets hooked up in the living room to a TV with a different sound system, but a growing number of people are interested in connecting their consoles to monitors.
You could hack this by adding a Bluetooth adapter to the consoles, but the Bluetooth latency of the Leviathan is 60ms. Unless you enjoy the disconnect between what you see and what you hear in a fast moving game, that’s kind of a lot.
For virtual surround, Razer has switched to, Well, Razer owns THX, so no surprise there. I prefer to THX Spatial, especially for directionality in the rear left and right. But hey, that may be just my head.
THX only works with Razer’s Synapse utility, since that’s where the processing happens, which means it only works over USB. And Synapse requires you to log in, which annoys some people. You can access the lighting and equalization presets through Synapse, though there’s also app basic support via Android and iOS that let you control those, as well as tying the colors to specific phone notifications.
Sound quality is good, considering the speaker’s size. It can get pretty loud with minor distortion — much louder than you’d want if you’re sitting in front of it. Music has a nice wide soundstage with good separation, and it can work without the sub if you need it to and don’t mind a little loss of bass. On bass-heavy Doom Eternal it sounds a bit muddy, as was the more eclectic audio of Guardians of the Galaxy. You can tweak the equalization settings to taste if it bothers you. This isn’t audiophile quality, but one really shouldn’t expect it to be.
Over Bluetooth it’s nice for casual mobile games, like the Samorost franchise which leans heavily upon musical cues. That’s as long as you’re playing on your phone in the vicinity of your desk, since the soundbar isn’t portable unless you bring along the power adapter, too.
There aren’t a ton of desktop gaming-focused soundbars to compete with the Leviathan. Thecomes to mind, and though I still think it’s too expensive, I like that it’s portable and doubles as a speakerphone; the Leviathan V2 feels a lot more limited, but is still great if you want something good that will give you a break from a headset and takes up a minimum of desktop real estate.