Fantech sent us the Sonata MH90 for a much needed review. This is a ₱2,000 PHP wired gaming headset, featuring a pair of 53mm dynamic driver in a closed circumaural design.
This is the first Fantech audio solution that we actually received from the company for measurements so I am excited to check it out – especially with its price point considered.
Disclosure: Fantech, in coordination with Gosu Gaming Gears sent this unit as a seeding sample for the purpose of this review. The company did not ask me to say anything particular about it. All thoughts and opinion are of course my own.
- Product Page: Fantech Sonata MH90
- Price: ₱2,000 PHP (Retail)
- Release Date: Q4 2020
|Weight||266g, without cables|
Packaging and Accessories
I expected something really barebones with the Sonata MH90. What we got instead is a rather nice packaging for its designated price point.
The product should come with the following items inside:
- Fantech Sonata MH90
- PC Audio Splitter Cable
- User Manual
- Detachable Microphone
- Carrying Bag
- Warranty card
Design, Build and Connectivity
The Fantech Sonata MH90 is a familiar looking gaming headset, showing similarities with competing products based on proven design elements. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say and it really shows even with the build quality – relative to its price. The headset could really take a beating with those aluminum yolks considered. And no, this is not an open-back headset. The mesh is just there for decoration.
The Sonata MH90 comes with a soft headband and pleather pads. Contrary to the specifications, the pads do not come with memory foam inside due to the viscoelasticity or lack thereof. The pads are of course swappable and replacements are always available via Fantech and their partner retailers.
Connectivity wise, the Fantech Sonata MH90 comes with a braided cable complete with an integrated potentiometer and a toggle switch for the mic. This cable terminates in a 3.5mm TRRS jack with an included adapter for separate 3.5mm mic in and stereo out. That means it is compatible with phones and consoles that supports such termination. Like with many budget oriented braided devices, this one kinks so bad therefor it kinda sucks on a personal level.
Overall build quality is good. Could be better, yes, but I’m not going to complain much. This is a budget oriented gaming headset after all. No squeaks and creaks here neither which is a nice contrast over the last gaming headset I’ve tested.
The Fantech Sonata MH90 is a light headset, weighing in at around 265 grams with the microphone attached. This, together with a relatively light and well distributed ~420 gram clamp force, makes it a comfortable headset to be worn.
Considering that it comes with pleather pads and is not an open-back headset, the Sonata MH90 comes with decent ventilation. Actually nice for longer, sweat inducing gaming sessions.
Test Setup and Methodology
Our test setup relies on the measurements taken from Room EQ Wizard paired with MiniDSP EARS and UMIK-1 as our measurement rigs. Audio chain has been made simple with the Topping DX7 Pro as our DAC and Amplifier combo for balanced and single-ended devices. It is important to note that we are testing the sample after burn-in, with at least 24-hours of uptime. This is done so to negate the FOB state of the unit, yielding better benchmarking consistency.
|Audio Chain||PC > Topping DX7 Pro > Headphone|
|Sampling Rate||24-bit, 48KHz (PCM)|
|Sound Pressure Level||84dB @ 1KHz|
|Software||Room EQ Wizard|
|Measurement Rig||MiniDSP EARS, UMIK-1|
Measurements obtained from a headphone will vary with position, seal and the compensation curve to name a few. In our case, we measure headphones with the HEQ calibration files provided by MiniDSP. The headphone is also calibrated to 84dB SPL @ 1KHz for the entirety of the review process.
Tonality: Frequency Response vs Target
Frequency response dictates the tonal balance of a headphone. Measured below is the average frequency response taken from the left and right channel at different positions. For reference, this response is Harman Target compensated. Dead neutral for this particular measurement should be ruler flat.
The Fantech Sonata MH90 comes with a far from neutral frequency response; featuring prominent shelves, dips, trenches and peaks across the audible range. This to me strikes as an intense kind of a balanced sound signature due to its boosted bass, shouty upper mids and accentuated top-end. It’s not strikingly good tonality speaking, but relative to its designated price point, it is an engaging and still forgiving set – sans the peaks.
Bass: Extends deep with good rumble and sense of punch. A courtesy of the bass shelf that extends into the lower mids. I find this whole region engaging which is undoubtedly its strongest frequency range.
Mids: I thought this would be muddy since the bass extends into the lower mids. The dip here possibly helped to mitigate the issue but at the expense of a less defined vocal weight. Upper mids on the other hand is a bit too bright for my taste. Another issue here is the audible ringing around 700-800Hz. Could be the reason why the frequency response around that area looks wonky – or vice versa.
Treble: Starts with a -13dB trench in the presence area that made percussion instruments sounds like they lack the necessary finesse or definition. The sudden rise between 5-6KHz also made it a sibilant headset and the peak between 8-9KHz is not helping either. This is the worst range for me personally.
Transient Response: Group Delay and CSD
Transient response is the measurement of the transducer’s ability to vibrate back and forth which attributes to the sense of speed, transparency and separation of the device. Added here is the Group Delay. It essentially measures the time it takes the amplitude of each frequency to reach their maximum. Group Delay basically measures the attack across the frequency range.
Cumulative spectral decay (CSD) or waterfall plots on the other hand measures the energy content over time across the frequency range. This allows us to measures the decay and driver resonance.
Group Delay looks fair around the bass region, contributing to its punchiness. We got a weird result around the 700-800Hz mark though which is where the audible ringing or resonance could be found. Don’t confuse another weird result between the 4-5KHz range here though since it’s a known issue on my measurement rig. The headset also took a considerable amount of time to reach maximum amplitude at the treble extension.
Now as for the waterfall plot, we could actually see here the ringing or resonance around 700-800Hz. The headset took more than 10ms to decay the signal here which is well above my threshold at the mids proper. What troubles me is the slow decay at the treble extension. This does not bode well with the already slow attack at the said region. The Fantech Sonata MH90 could really do better in the transients.
Spatial Quality: Phase Response and Channel Balance
Frequency response, transient response and a lot of stuff plays a major part into creating a headphone with a good spatial performance. I.e., what could be described as sound stage and imaging. Added here is the Phase Response. What we want to see here are matched channels.
Driver matching or channel balance is also measured to check out the quality of the drivers and the acceptable tolerance from the manufacturer’s stand point. What we want to see here are matched frequency response amplitudes from both channels.
Phase response is not exactly the greatest but we got a somewhat agreeable channel balance sans the difference in amplitude between the sub bass, the midrange dip and the left channel’s more piercing highs. Subjectively, I find the gaming headset capable. It’s actually better than the signature 3-blob effect of pricier Sennheiser models as far as in-game imaging goes. Staging on the other hand is definitely not the widest. Just decent width wise but it’s a bit taller compared to other closed-backs at its league.
Total Harmonic Distortion
Total Harmonic Distortion is the difference between the fundamental signal and the harmonic distortions it produced in the audible range. What we want to see here is the THD below the fundamental at 84dB SPL @ 1KHz.
THD at 1KHz is below my headroom for distortion but damn, look at the distortion around the lower midranges especially the right channel driver. You do not want to add more volume here nor add more gain for correction. If you want to EQ this headset, you have to attenuate.
Isolation and Leakage
Noise isolation and noise cancellation (if applicable) are also tested. For this measurement, we use the MiniDSP EARS to measure the attenuation from a sine sweep generated by a nearfield speaker calibrated to output an SPL of 74dB @ 1KHz.
Leakage is measured with a different setup. This time, we use the headphone as the output with an SPL of 84dB @ 1KHz. The MiniDSP UMIK-1 is then used to measure the amplitude provided by the headphone.
Isolation, like many closed backs is pretty decent – with the exception of the bass region where it’s actually hard to attenuate. Leakage on the other hand is audible but entirely acceptable.
Software, Lighting and Special Features
Yay! No bloatware here so it is perfectly fine to use your preferred software for sound effects and equalization without worrying about software conflicts. No brainer here since it comes with analog jacks. Now as far as microphone performance goes, this is one of the best I’ve heard in its price bracket. Zero noise cancellation here as opposed to what’s pitched by the marketing but man, you have to hear it to believe it. Attached is the frequency response for your reference.
A part of its feature set is its innate compatibility with devices that supports 3.5mm TRRS jacks. Tried this on my phone and it works just fine. It’s an analog interface so no surprises there.
The Fantech Sonata MH90 is a fine gaming headset at its price bracket of 2,000 Pesos. It is not a top performer, but it presents a rather acceptable sound signature (relative to its price) combined with excellent ergonomics and a capable microphone truly ideal for the budding gamer.
Many things could be improved though so if Fantech is reading this review, I hope they could fix the weird midrange resonance and possibly flatten out the peaks and dips for the next revision’s tuning. Getting rid of the kink-prone braided cable is also something they have to consider. I kept on experiencing this issue with higher end wired devices so if they could step up here, it’s definitely a huge plus – personally.
Overall, I’ll give the Sonata MH90 a proper passing grade. Its decent build quality, acceptable spatial performance, ergonomics and good microphone just strikes an opportunity for many value oriented gamers to check out.
Fantech Sonata MH90 Gaming Headset
The Fantech Sonata MH90 is no way near perfect but it is a totally fine gaming headset especially with its microphone performance considered. Combine that with its build quality, comfort and acceptable sound signature, it is truly hard to pass.