The soft and reassuring feel of a good quality pair of headphones can’t be underestimated. Like popping on your earmuffs to head out into the snow, these particular ear accoutrements are virtually a necessity to experience modern games in comfort, while bringing the audio to you with immediacy, and with a reduced chance of frostbite. No, wait. Maybe that last one is just earmuffs.
Fnatic are one of, if not the, premiere esports brand of the moment, and they have some key knowledge about what it is that competitive gamers need to hear. Their latest offering, the React+ hones the original React headset’s already fine audio edge.
It’s fair to say that the gaming headset market is becoming incredibly competitive, with each year further removing the idea that gaming headsets are a poor imitation of actual headphones. The quality of drivers, materials and design has got to the point now where gaming headsets are capable of giving audiophile sets a genuine run for their money, while adding in a variety of extras like surround sound, RGB and removable microphone boom arms.
The React+ is a fairly versatile piece of tech, with a wired 3.5mm connection heading into a USB-A connected external controller. You’re getting the best of both wired worlds here, and the near-universal 3.5mm connector will see you hop from PlayStation to Xboox as happily as onto your desktop via USB.
One of the first oddities I found with the React+ was the fit. It’s been designed to cover a variety of head sizes, and its lowest setting is particularly small. I’m not used to having to extend the arms of a headset out quite so much from the headband to fit by head, but there’s plenty of space to get a larger brain box in there if you’ve got something serious at the top of your neck.
No matter how you have it set, it is a somewhat looser fit than you might be accustomed to with the pads never quite feeling as though they were completely flush with my head. If you’re the kind to get seriously animated when you lose a round of Warzone, you will feel it shifting around a bit. The benefit is that your ears probably won’t feel the pressure, or the temperature rise, during a long play session. There’s a choice between soft and supple premium protein leather earpads or more breathable velour ones too, so you can tailor their comfort levels to suit you.
The gentler clamp and largely plastic build of the earcups does mean that you’re going to hear more of what’s going on around you. I’ve got them on my head while typing this review, and without any audio coming through them I can hear every key stroke, every nearby shuffle, and every word from the TV on the other side of the room. With some volume and a spot of audio pumped through them that issue does mostly go away, but if noise cancellation is important to you, the React+ isn’t going to fit the bill.
Fnatic have gone for a lightweight build here, with then yet strong metal arms pulling the headband and the earcups together. They’ve followed the current gaming headset trend in terms of colours and design, opting for a subdued and largely black aesthetic, with white highlights around the earcups and the Fnatic logo similarly coloured in their midst. Though the headband also has the word FNATIC embossed across it, this is still tonally a decidedly laid-back and unassuming piece of tech. It’s smart enough to take out with you if you’ve got something capable of taking a 3.5mm jack too, so this isn’t a headset that’s confined to wherever you do your home-bound gaming.
That’s enhanced by the fact you can remove the mic arm. This feature is genuinely my number one request from headset manufacturers, even if it’s one that occasionally sends you on a frantic search for whichever safe place you’ve forgotten about. Fnatic peg it as a ‘Streamer Mic’ and it’s certainly capable of an impressively sharp delivery of whatever you’re saying. It’s not going to be able to replace a dedicated microphone on a boom arm, but if you prefer to go for the true gamer look, then the React+ has you covered.
It’s almost a given at this point that a product like the React+ is going to sound good, but there’s still the mild chance that their driver designer was having a bad day at the office. That’s not the case for the React+, with audio skewing towards a tight, crisp and chunky delivery that feels as taut as your nerves hanging at the edge of the final zone in PUBG. There’s a precision to the React+’s output that feels utterly matched to the company’s competitive roots; it’s controlled rather than chaotic, restrained rather than riotous, and it particularly makes for a brilliant companion when playing competitive shooters.
There’s some further advantage to be offered there as well, with the React+ USB audio control box giving you direct access to built-in 7.1 virtual surround sound. As far as virtual 7.1 setups go, Fnatic have done a good job, assisted by the slightly more expansive 53mm custom drivers in delivering audio from a range of directions. You certainly wouldn’t want to listen to music in this mode, but a few rounds of PUBG and Warzone presented a solid proving ground to gauge whether the React+ could genuinely help you identify the direction that gunfire and footsteps were coming from. To make a long story short, they did. Of course, you don’t need the USB controller for spatial audio options that are available across PlayStation, Xbox and PC.
The React+’s precision lends itself well elsewhere as well, with music sounding gloriously detailed. If you feed it a lossless or HD track there’s every chance you’ll feel like the snare drums are going to pound through your eardrums, while kick drums and bass tones don’t suffer any wobbly or flabby bottom end. It’s tighter than New Look’s entire skinny jeans aisle. That may of course not suit everybody – if you want that big bass underbelly these aren’t the cans for you.
With an RRP of £84.99, the React+ is an undeniable bargain that can readily go head to head with other big hitters at this price point like the Logitech Pro X and the HyperX Cloud Alpha. If you’re a keen competitive gamer you should pop these right at the top of your list if you’re looking for something wired and versatile in the sub-£100 bracket.