Fnatic Gear DUEL Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

Ripping open the bags, we have all the parts included with the Fnatic Gear DUEL. This is the starting block for all users, as the headphones come completely disassembled. Throughout this review, I will start building the headset while taking a look at each component. One thing I have to really credit with Fnatic Gear and AIAIAI is the attention to detail in packing each component separately. Each of the bags included protection inside, whether it was foam wraps to protect the plug from scratching the headset, or fabric bags to prevent any damage to the speaker units, or even individual Silica packs in each of the bags to keep the contents dry. While some of these are just standard practice, and even make shipping the units easier, I think it is also top notch.

As you can tell and we have mentioned many times already, the Fnatic Gear DUEL is a modular headset, and the entire design is very much borrowed from AIAIAI. In fact, you could even call this just a Fnatic Gear branded AIAIAI TMA-2 headset. However, I have to say I really like the small details seen throughout. This includes the subtle engraving of Fnatic Gear logos throughout, and the noticeable orange highlights seen on wires and the earcups. I think people who know Fnatic as an e-sports organization will immediately see these design cues, and know where they originate from. Otherwise, the unit is mostly black, with a rubbery finish I have outspokenly praised in past reviews. This matte finish does not prevent fingerprints, but it is definitely not as bad as compared to a glossy finish.

The first step in assembling the Fnatic Gear DUEL is to attach the two speaker units to the headband portion. This includes sliding them onto each side of the headband. The sliding mechanism is actually quite neat, as it first locks onto the headband then stays attached. The speaker units can then slide up and down to adjust to the size of your head. The speaker units are interchangeable between left and right, but you will probably want the Fnatic logos on the outer shell to be oriented in the correct direction. Afterwards, you can plug the two orange plugs protruding, one from each side of the headset. Be sure to not only plug these in tight, but also twist them to secure the plug. Taking a closer look at the speaker unit, these are specified as the S02, which according to AIAIAI, is a 40mm titanium-coated driver with a clear and punchy middle bass. In addition, it has a gradual dip towards the higher frequencies. Of course, we will see how this actually plays out in our audio tests later on. Otherwise, they have a rated impedance of 32 ohms, and a rated power of 30mW.

Next, you can attach one set of the two earpads provided with the Fnatic Gear DUEL. These two sets make the Fnatic Gear DUEL either an on-ear or an over-ear headset. The smaller ones make for an on-ear experience, and while I do not usually like on-ear headsets, I can appreciate the advantages of the smaller profile. The specific model number for these cups is E02, which mean they have a PU leather cover with a foam cushion inside. The larger pads create an over-ear experience, and is usually my choice in terms of comfort. The padding inside the larger earcups are memory foam with a PU leather cover. According to AIAIAI, these are the E04s. These two cups also affect how close your ears are to the drivers, which in turn will affect the audio performance, though we will see what it is like later on in the performance part of the review. Overall, I would have liked to possibly see the velour cups available with the Fnatic Gear DUEL, though I am already quite happy they have provided both on-ear and over-ear options.

The headband provided with the Fnatic Gear DUEL is the H03, which offers a foam cushion and PU leather band at the top. In addition, you can see the Fnatic lettering engraved at the top. The padding is pretty good at providing a softer cushion, though it definitely is not as plushy as I would have liked. Even so, the lack of extra fabric means it contributes very little to the heft of the headset. The rest of the headband is made of plastic with the same rubbery matte coating. As mentioned previously, adjusting the size of the headset involves adjustment more so of the location of the speaker units rather than adjusting the headband. The notched holes on the side means there are distinct areas for where the speakers will sit. Even so, I think the spacing between each adjustment is fine enough for small changes. As to how large a head the DUEL can sit on, I do not have an actual measurement. Personally, I think I have a big head, but even I never had an issue with fitting the Fnatic Gear DUEL on my head. In addition, the speaker units have a small range where it can tilt about to adjust better to the wearer's head.

As for overall comfort, I used to think Kingston was the only one who could make comfortable headsets. However, when I put on the Fnatic Gear DUEL, my perspective was changed. The DUELs are one of the most comfortable headsets I have ever worn, and without a doubt produce the exact amount of pressure on my head to stay securely in place while not squeezing my brains out. The pressure from the headband in conjunction with the over-ear earcups make for a cloud-like experience on my ears. Combined with the light 295g weight and the relatively low amount of unnecessary plastic, these can easily be worn for hours on end without a problem.

Finally, we come to the cables, which once again, are not one but two sets. The first one on the left is the more common one you see on a computer headset, as it features a boom microphone attached to a cable with a length of approximately 2m. This cable is rubber and is pretty durable despite not being fabric sleeved. The cable can be attached to either the left or right earcup, depending on how you like your microphone positioned. On the other end, we have a four-pole audio and microphone 3.5mm jack. For computer usage, a splitter is provided, which divides the connection into the two three-pole 3.5mm jack. The wires on this splitter is a tad thin, though it does the job fine. As for the microphone, this is a two-directional microphone attached on a very flexible boom arm. The boom arm usually stays in place, though I sometimes had to adjust the microphone from falling down due to gravity. The microphone is also protected with a foam cover to prevent additional noises from being picked up. Down the cable we have a small remote with a switch on it. This remote has Fnatic Gear branding on it, and the switch located there is used for muting the microphone input.

The other cable provided is a simpler cable made more for mobile usage. This means the cable is a shorter 1.2m. However, the cable still has a microphone on the cable, albeit just an inline one. This inline microphone is located on a remote that also has Fnatic Gear branding and a small button on it. The button can be used for multiple functions. On my LG G3, this can be used to Play and Pause music in addition to picking up phone calls. The remote and microphone exists a bit lower down the cord than I would like, but otherwise it is definitely capable to pick up your voice.

As seen above, this configuration is their "On the go" setup, which uses the on-ear E02 earcups and the shorter 1.2m cable. Overall, the installation process takes about five minutes, and the modularity of the components is really quite nice to see. In addition, all of these parts are compatible with the rest of the AIAIAI parts, so you can swap out the different modules as you see fit. I really think this is an excellent implementation of making your headsets into the way you want it. In addition, once put together the Fnatic Gear DUEL is pretty solid, and does not feel like it will fall apart. Even with its weightlessness, the construction of the unit is quite sturdy. However, the real value is if it performs not only in the physical department, but also in the audio reproduction tests. Let us head on over to find out.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion