Introduction and Specification
The Fnatic Gear Duel TMA-2 Modular Gaming Headset
Being a massively popular e-sports team winning numerous tournaments in games like Counter Strike Global Offensive, Overwatch and Dota 2, Fnatic launched a gaming peripheral division towards the end of 2015 to offer products that their own teams use to their fans. Fnatic didn’t just go for re-branding of another OEM, they acquired FUNC from Sweden. Fnatic has also moved to work with other partners such as AIAIAI from Denmark. This allows them to expand their product range beyond existing technologies available from their own stable.
I have been using the new Duel TMA-2 modular gaming headset for a couple of weeks, giving it time to bed in and the initial wow factor to wear off and I am still excited.
Made for Fnatic by AIAIAI, (I wondered what Alpha from the Power Rangers was up to) the Duel TMA-2 is based on their existing modular headphone range, which is targeted at the higher end of the mid-range market, looking for customers who want portability as well as sound quality. The Fnatic gaming headset has additional features to make them more than just headphones. Supplied with normal 3.5mm jack fittings for various configurations there is no USB sound card included so these will rely on the quality of your existing audio system.
The Fnatic Gear DUEL TMA-2 package includes
- 1x Headband
- 2x On-ear Earpads
- 2x Over-ear Earpads
- 2x S02 Speaker Units
- 1x Inline Microphone cable
- 1x Cable with boom Microphone
- 1x Drawstring carry bag
- 1x Manual/Instruction insert
The technical specifications are
- Driver diameter 40mm
- Impedance 32 Ohm
- Rated Power 30 mW
- Max Power 70 mW
- Magnet Type Neodymium
- Resonance Frequency 75 Hz
- Sound Pressure Level 117 dB
- Diaphragm Material PET & Titanium
It will be interesting to see how good the audio it out of 40mm drivers, but before we get into squishing my eardrums, let’s take a good look at what you get for your money.
A Closer Look
I really like the packaging that Fnatic use for their products, the boxes are simple and to the point and present the product in an elegant fashion. For the DUEL TMA-2, there is a little difference but first let us have a look at some box shots.
Once opened we are presented with a selection of sealed packets, a manual/paperwork pouch and a carrying bag for the headset. These sealed packets are a unique way of presenting product components, going for the ‘freshly wrapped’ approach, it’s almost a shame that you don’t get that vacuum packed hiss on opening them.
Each packet contains the different modular components, let’s break those seals and get a good look at the parts.
First up the speaker units, typical headphone design, with a nice understated look, the Fnatic logo pressed into the rubber style coating which is similar to their mouse coatings. the drivers are very light when I first started to buy above budget level headphones, I always went with the feeling that there should be some weight for quality, luckily as materials technologies advance this is no longer a requirement. The drivers have a speaker grille surrounded by four lug holes to receive the ear-pads and on the top and bottom, there are two 3.5mm Jacks with slightly odd looking fittings which are different at either end.
Next up we have the Over-ear pads, the PU Leather coated foam is nice and squidgy and springs back nicely it could be very soft memory foam, the plastic frame has four lugs that match up with the holes in the speaker units, the driver grille covering is a thin and stretchy material, not unlike stockings and is adorned with a yellow crosshair, supposedly to target the audio into your ears with sniper-like precision.
Opening up the On-ear pads, we get some well presented PU Leather coated frames, with maybe a little less foam than expected at this price level, they are however well proportioned to fitting on the speaker units and we shall see how comfortable they are soon.
The headband comes with cabling pre-installed, curly yellow wiring protruding from between the rubberised headband and the foam cushioning with FNATIC pressed into the foam on the inside. The unusual 3.5mm jack plugs are protected by polystyrene covers.
Here is a closer look at the jack with its mounting system that only fits into the top side of the speaker unit.
The right-hand cable has a red section on the jack whereas the left plug is all black. These plugs have to be pushed in then twisted clockwise to secure the connection, such a custom design is fine for attaching drivers to the headband as there would be no need to purchase a third-party replacement cable, the twisting fitting will of course stop the jacks accidentally disconnecting during use.
The last sealed packets to open are the cables, the headset is supplied with both types of cables for gaming and one the road use, the gaming cable includes a boom microphone along with a splitter cable to enable use on the standard audio connections on a PC or laptop which leaves the option open to use the boom mic cable connected to a combo socket which is available on phones and some laptops. The on the road cable includes an in-line microphone so you can take phone calls with the headset. Each cable features an inline mic switch, I am surprised at the omission of an inline volume control on such a high end gaming headset.
Assembling the headset was fairly straight forward, it is advisable to check out the included assembly instruction on the back of the warranty card, this gives you instructions on connecting the cables, along with a correct ear-pad alignment. Connecting the speaker units to the headband is fairly easy if a little scary, but rest assured the notches for sizing the headband are more sturdy than they initially seem.
Once assembled we are left with an extremely lightweight and attractive headset, much less bulky than a lot of the competition, we shall see if that affects the quality of the audio.
As you can see in the gaming configuration, you get the chunky over ear setup without any excess bulk, this decreases the weight and gives the headset an understated appearance, the yellow wires being the only other colour brought to the theme, there are no leds or other indicators on the headset.
Switching to the on-ear on the road setup, really reduces the bulkiness of the headset, the on-ear pads are much flatter with not much cushioning, on-ear headphones at this price point from competitors often offer more substantial pads, such as the Sol Republic Tracks HD. The in-line mic here giving the headset more portability and of course the aesthetic of not having a boom mic in front of your face while commuting for example. This doesn’t mean that you can’t switch it up, in fact you can choose any configuration you want out of the available parts, the cables connect to the speaker units so if you wanted on-ear with a boom mic there is nothing stopping you, similarly and I can see a possible DJ use, you could have one over ear and one on-ear pad for cueing tracks in a mix, with the on-ear pad still letting external sound in.
Quality and Performance
My daily drivers that this unit is up against are not too far off the price range, considering the Duel TMA-2 is a 2-in-1 solution. My daily gaming headset is the Steelseries Siberia Elite, a fantastic unit which has been serving me well since late 2014. My on the road headphones are the marvellous Sol Republic Tracks V10 which have a similar modular design idea, in that the speaker units, headband and cables are interchangeable, just not to the extent of the Fnatic Duel TMA-2.
First impressions of the build quality of the Fnatic Duel TMA-2 headset were mixed, I was a little worried about the plastic custom connections but these turned out to be nice and sturdy. The notched adjustment system felt a little loose and I was worried it would slide while wearing, I was of course very wrong, the give, allows for the ear-pads to tilt to more snugly fit the user’s head, while the clamping pressure stops the speaker units moving on the headband, even when not worn, you have to purposefully move the speaker units on the notches to adjust it. I found this to be some very efficient engineering which assists in increasing the comfort of the headset.
This brings me to the comfort of the Duel TMA-2, the headband clamping is just about perfect for me, it feels light and the extra movement offered by the way the speaker units connect to the headband reduce the overall pressure sensation. I much prefer the over-ear pads and feel the on-ear pads are a little too flat for my taste. Thinking about the price point of this headset, I would have liked to see thicker foam used in the on-ear pads, as it would feel much better on the ears.
I started out my testing by listening to some of my favourite tunes playing without any artificial sound shaping and at a minimum bitrate of 320kbps. I have a fairly wide ranging taste so I went for some Ghetto Funk, this combines Breakbeat,Funk and old fashioned Jazz with a little Glitch-Hop thrown in for good measure. Phibes’ Bust That Rhythm uses a wide spectrum of lows to highs, Sub bass to top trumpets, this is where I got really excited, the sound reproduction easily matched my Sol Republic V10 drivers, this is a wow moment for me, generally gaming headsets offer fairly good reproduction but this one is next level, you can tell that AIAIAI are primarily focused on audio reproduction the Duel TMA-2 producing rich clear bass, no nasty boom or other distortions, the mids are solid and not drowned out, the highs are precise and not nails on a blackboard screechy.
So we have a great audio reproduction, this works across the board too, it’s not biased to any particular genre, I am surprised at the performance from 40mm drivers.
Moving onto gaming, I have been using the headset with some of my usual favourite games along with using Discord for chat.
Starting with Discord, my friends noticed immediately that they were hardly getting any background noise over the boom mic, I am currently located in the kitchen until February next year so plenty of sounds are around to distract from my lovely voice over the mic, the Siberia Elites did a pretty good job, with noise cancellation configured in the software, but the louder sounds were easily picked up. The microphone the Fnatic Duel TMA-2’s has a fixed capture location identified by an orange line on the stalk, this non-omni-directional configuration is perfect for gaming and does a fantastic job without any artificial software configuration. Voice quality over the mic is great as long as it is positioned well, due to its isolated nature you have to twist the orange line around to your mouth for the clearest pickup.
Playing Overwatch the audio was perfectly acceptable, with a wide soundstage enabling location awareness even though these are not a surround sound headset, in fact even watching a video of someone playing Titanfall 2 I could hear enemies coming up behind them. Very impressive.
Onto Rocket League, and the frantic gameplay along with a great soundtrack were reproduced with detail and clarity, the Duel TMA-2’s did not improve my scoring ability alas.
Finally, into Counter Strike Global Offensive, the Duel TMA-2 doesn’t disappoint, high-quality audio ensuring clear callouts being heard from teammates and those footsteps that make you all jittery.
If the headset lacked anything for gaming it would be a volume control on the cable to go with the microphone mute switch, this is a feature normally supplied at this price level.
Conclusion and Scoring
So here we have two headsets in one, a gaming headset configuration with amazing sound quality and comfort, with an on the road headphone configuration that is easily a match for many of the most popular brands out there.
The modular nature of the Fnatic Duel TMA-2 allows for not only the two configurations but future proofing and longevity. As the Duel TMA-2 is manufactured by AIAIAI and is a version of their very own TMA-2 headphones, there are already many replacement headbands, cables and earpads available to buy, you can get different cushioning styles, including memory foam, which I alluded to earlier.
The design and build are very impressive and I have no issues with the lack of lighting or other gaming add-ons that have appeared on many headsets lately as I can’t see any of that while wearing the Duel TMA-2 and keeps the headset looking more professional while out and about. I won’t score against the lack of in-line volume control as this is not a deal breaker for me.
The price might be considered quite high at around £190, but remember you could easily pay £70 plus for a gaming headset and well over £80 for some decent headphones for commuting, so I cannot argue with the pricing.
Available at various outlets including Fnatic Gear’s Webstore I also recommend searching for AIAIAI spares to fit the TMA-2 for upgrades/replacement bits.
So yes I am excited about this headset and want to add the design award to the Platinum award. Well done Fnatic.
- Incredible Sound Quality
- Totally Comfortable
- Handsome understated Design
- Modular, so parts are upgradeable and Replaceable
- Two Headsets in One
Nice to have
- In-line volume control on the gaming cable
- Thicker on-ear pads (available as separate items from AIAIAI)