We check out the comfortable new performance-oriented headset from Fnatic.
Fnatic has long been an established name in the esports scene, with Fnatic teams coming out on top in global tournaments for games such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike. Lately, the London-based company has been expanding inside the gaming world, for example by lending its name to a dedicated gaming mode on OnePlus smartphones last year. Additionally, Fnatic has recently launched a number of gaming accessories, one of which is the Fnatic React gaming headset. According to Fnatic, the React is built around three essentials that they consider all that really matters for a gaming headset: directional audio with great clarity, crystal clear communications with the detachable microphone, and earcups that can be worn comfortably for several hours. So how well does the headset perform based on these essentials?
First off, it's important to note that the React is a wired headset. We've been used to playing with a wireless set lately, and one of the obvious disadvantages of wired sets can be discomfort caused by the cable. The React doesn't have this issue though, as its main cord is lengthy enough for plugging into your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller and an extension cord is included in the box for PC users. The extension plugs into your soundcard and gives you enough leeway for any conceivable desk and PC setup. With discomfort gone, wired sets, in general, have the advantage of also being useable on your smartphone and they don't require charging.
Coming to Fnatic's first essential, the audio quality, we were initially having a mixed experience. It's without a doubt that the React's 53mm drivers produce very clear audio: the sound is crisp and altogether well-balanced between high, mid- and lower tones. However, we were used to a bit more punchy bass from slightly more expensive headsets. In some games, such as World of Warships, we appreciate thundering gun sounds with a lot of bass in them, something in which the React isn't a particularly strong performer. There's also no PC software available with the React to tweak the sound output, something competitors like Razer or Corsair do provide. This would have allowed for tweaks to fit a gamer's personal tastes.
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However, as we played more games with the headset, this steadily felt like less of an issue. In games such as Titanfall 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Battlefield V, the React provides excellent and clear directional audio that really helps you as you play. Even though the headset doesn't feature 5.1 surround sound, it sounds remarkably close. Sound is clearly coming from in front of you, to either side or behind. Things like footsteps and gunshots coming out of the drivers give you a very good sense of direction and distance, allowing you to combine your visual and audible senses for a better in-game overview. Compared to playing with a standard €30 headset, the React's clarity and directional audio make a world of difference. Despite the less pronounced bass performance, the Fnatic React clearly ticks the right boxes here.
Communications are another key aspect of a successful match with other players. The React comes with a detachable cardioid microphone with a flexible metal body and a foam cap. When bent close to your face, it reaches almost halfway across your mouth. In our experience, the mic on the React produces pleasant audio, but it lacks in volume. Playing on PlayStation 4, party members remarked our sound was on the soft side using the standard PS4 settings. We then did a comparison with other headsets and we found the mic output volume to be quite low. You'll need to boost your mic gain in order for it to be usable: out of the box, you're barely intelligible.
On the plus side, your voice audio is very easy on the ears, with consistent and balanced tones. There are no sharp sound splurges while you talk as in some other headset mics. We didn't notice any breathing noises, perhaps because of the foam cap. We also used the microphone to record some voiceovers for video. While the audio was clear and our voice sounded true to nature, the recording did pick up on some white noise that was clearly noticeable in the edited video later on. Overall, the microphone delivers during gameplay and could even be used by casual streamers for decent audio, but you'll need to increase the volume manually.
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Coming to Fnatic's final essential for the React, we can attest that this is indeed a very comfortable headset suitable for lengthy play sessions. The soft, faux-leather ear cups have memory foam inside them and are big enough to fit over your entire ear. The headband is extendable and also equipped with memory foam. We liked the soft materials coupled with well-balanced weight distribution, making the React feel light at all times. We took the headset with us on a nine-hour flight that gave us a number of additional insights. Good were the fact that audio was clear enough to be audible over the engine noise without raising the volume too high, and that the headset never felt uncomfortable watching a few movies (plugged into the aircraft entertainment system). Sound isolation is fairly good, too. The only downside is that the headset isn't foldable: it's quite bulky when putting it inside your bag. In all though, we're very pleased with the headset comfort-wise.
Concluding, the Fnatic React provides a great performance-oriented package at a reasonable price of around £75 or euros. The headset provides excellent directional audio, making it a recommended choice if that's your main reason to shop for a new headset. Mic quality is good once you boost the volume a bit and the Fnatic React is a very comfortable headset to wear for longer periods of time. However, if you're looking for a headset that's strong in bass or with sound customisation options on PC, it's better to look elsewhere.