Fatal1ty by Monster's FXM 200 gaming headset reviewed


Classy cans with a gaming bent
— 12:04 PM on December 6, 2016

The name Fatal1ty may evoke a sense of nostalgia in older gamers, dredging up memories of the arena FPS days, LAN parties, and QuakeCons. While the arena FPS craze and Fatal1ty's tournament days may be over, his legacy lives on in a wide range of gaming gear and other hardware bearing his name. Prominent audio brand Monster recently teamed up with Fatal1ty to create the Fatal1ty by Monster FXM 100 and 200 headsets. Today, we'll be taking an extensive look at the FXM 200 to see whether it lives up to that storied name.

The most immediately noticeable aspect of the FXM 200 is its classy silver, dark gray, and maroon aesthetic, devoid of the swaths of black, neon accents, and RGB LEDs that are so common on gaming headsets these days. The headband is made of light-yet-sturdy plastic and can be extended to fit the wearer's head. Attached to this band are the plastic and brushed-aluminum enclosures housing the drivers. These cups can swivel side-to-side and in-and-out. Overall, the FXM 200 is both flexible and durable, two important aspects of a quality pair of cans.

The entire headset weighs in at only half a pound (227 g), which is extremely lightweight for a gaming headset. Even so, after wearing the FXM 200 for extended gaming sessions I experienced a slight amount of pressure on my head. It isn't enough pressure to be annoying, though, just a slight reminder that it's resting on your head. A little more padding on the headband would probably eliminate this issue.

The headset connects to PCs and other audio sources with an unusual, four-foot-long flat cable. This length works just fine with a phone, but it falls a bit short for use with a PC. That short length can be overcome somewhat through the use of a y-adapter, something you'll need to use this headset with a PC anyway. Somewhat bemusingly, however, Monster doesn't include a y-adapter in the box. Only a single, four-pole, 3.5-mm connector resides at the end of the cable. So if you intend to buy the FXM 200, know that you'll need to buy a y-adapter on your own for full PC compatibility right now. Monster says it'll introduce a version of this headset more suited to PC gaming later on, and that version will include the splitter.

A dongle halfway down the cable holds a mic, a volume wheel, a shirt clip, and a mute switch and button. The volume wheel is a nice touch, as it's much easier to use than the volume buttons on some gaming headsets. The mute switch is a standard on-off mic switch, whereas the mute button temporarily mutes the microphone while held down. Having a separate mute button is great for easily muting sneezes and coughs without having to fumble with a switch. While the inline mic doesn't replace the boom mic on the headset itself, it's a thoughtful touch for those who might want to use this headset with their phones without looking weird.

Enveloped by the Monster
According to press information, the FXM 200 offers "exclusive fHex720 Sound Chamber Technology" and "Game-tuned Pure Monster Sound." I'm not sure what the "exclusive technology" actually does, but I can confirm that the audio profile of this headset is tuned towards gaming. In my time with the FXM 200, I played a variety of games, including Planetside 2, Star Wars Battlefront, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, and—in the spirit of Fatal1ty—Toxikk.

As soon as I first put this headset on and jumped in game, I was immediately impressed by its output. Every explosion and volley of gunfire sounded incredibly real and packed a deep punch. Not only did the FXM 200 heighten my sense of immersion, it made me acutely aware of the position of every little footstep and gunshot in relation to my character, giving me what felt like an advantage over my opponents. For in-game audio, the FXM 200 certainly provides the best  gaming experience I've ever had.

Unfortunately, the FXM 200's aptitude for gaming doesn't translate to music reproduction. My favorite tracks sounded hollow and muted, while percussion instruments and electronic pops and squeaks have too much emphasis. I even noticed the relatively poor music quality in the Overwatch main menu. I got used to the FXM 200's audio profile after extended listening sessions, but as soon as I switched back to my main speakers, I was reminded of what I was missing.

If the FXM 200 isn't great for music listening, its designers make up for it somewhat with the solid boom mic. The headset's inline mic doesn't have much to offer, but the detachable microphone is fantastic. Many gaming headsets are equipped with microphones just good enough to effectively communicate in Teamspeak or in-game chat. This isn't the case with the FXM 200. While its detachable unit certainly isn't a studio mic, it's definitely one of the better headset microphones I've heard. Other than an almost unnoticeable bit of background static, it sounds quite crisp and clear. It definitely sounds good enough to be used by Twitch streamers and especially YouTubers who could edit the tiny bit of static out with a noise removal tool. I've included audio samples from both the detachable mic and the inline mic, as well as a sample from a cheap, off-brand headset mic for comparison below.

Conclusion

The Fatal1ty brand is targeted at gamers first and foremost, and the FXM 200 absolutely stays true to that mission. Unfortunately, that emphasis on crisp positional audio in-game leads to a middling experience for music lovers.

It's unfortunate that the "Game-tuned Sound" is actually detrimental to music listening, as it sounds phenomenal for gaming. While these are passive cans, Monster might consider making a version with a dongle or headset switch that switches between a "game mode" and a "music mode." While I'm making wishes, it'd be nice if a y-adapter was included with the headset, too, something that should come along later on when Monster releases a PC-specific version of this headset.

The takeaway here is that the FXM 200 is a headset designed for the best possible reproduction of in-game sound, which isn't a terrible philosophy if you don't mind having have two different pairs of headphones. For discerning listeners, that may already be a regular practice, but most people will want to make do with one does-it-all pair. Also, as classy as the FXM 200 looks, wearing it out and about won't do much good if you're listening to music with a phone.

Even with its shortcomings, the audio profile of the FXM 200 makes for an exceptionally immersive gaming experience. Explosions, gunfire, and footsteps sound forceful and positional, leading to heightened awareness at critical moments. The headset is also quite sturdy, lightweight, and tasteful, and Monster's boom mic is among the very best I've used. All of this goodness currently goes for $100. If you're looking for a solid headset for gaming and gaming only, I absolutely recommend the FXM 200, but folks who want a headset that does it all will want to look elsewhere.

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Tags: Multimedia Gaming