A few months ago, Mad Catz unveiled a host of new gaming accessories and peripherals. The collection includes headphones, computer mice, and controllers.
We’ve had the good fortune to take a look at the company’s F.R.E.Q. 5 headset designed specifically for computers, though it will work on a phone or MP3 player as well.
We’re not really the type to judge a product based on its looks when the function of that product is clearly something contrary to it. By that, we mean that headphones aren’t really meant to be looked at, though others might judge you if the cans you wear are too out there. Of course, Mad Catz has a very distinct sense of style, and whether you agree with it or not, you can’t fault them for sticking to their guns.
The F.R.E.Q. 5 that we got our hands on is a beautiful candy-apple red. The cans are also available in black or white, but we happen to love this Eggplante-inspired colour, even if it wasn’t actually inspired by Eggplante.
The design is a very hard-edged, geometric design that doesn’t inspire any sort of soft movement or delicate curves. This is a gaming headset first, however, so that’s not a bad thing. While the areas around each speaker and the headband are plastic, they’re all held together with a very sturdy matte-finished black metal that feels excellent.
The microphone, as with most, if not all, of Mad Catz’s other products, is removable in addition to being of the light-up variety as an indicator as to when it’s actually on.
Two cabling choices also provide a couple of options as to how to connect the headset to your devices. There’s a two-metre USB cable for connecting it to your computer and getting audio feedback as you talk or sing as well as a one-metre 3.5mm plug that can be used on your other audio devices. The cables are also braided, as are the cables within the headset itself, for strength and durability.
Unfortunately, the praises for this headset stop there. The biggest thing we judge a headset on is audio quality, and frankly, we’ve heard much better. We’d say the audio in the F.R.E.Q. 5 headset is comparable, if not slightly better, than the audio you would get out from an iPod or iPhone with the included headphones. By no means is that poor audio, as Apple products tend to have some of the best audio processing in their devices, but by the same token, we expected much more from a stereo headset that has a price tag of $150.
With that said, there are a few options for audio equalizing that might make the audio more pleasing to your ears. A dedicated button lets you cycle between three EQ settings that adjust the level of treble and bass in the output. We did prefer the full sound of the bass-heavy setting, though it still sounded a bit washed out to us.
We’re happy to say there is actually little to no distortion on the headset at extremely high volumes, so if you’re used to listening to abnormally bass-heavy tracks, you should be set with these cans.
Really, our problems from the audio stem less from the fact that they produce good sound – because in the end, the audio they pump out is pretty decent – but more because a lot of sound can leak in from around you. Mad Catz doesn’t bill these as a noise cancelling headset, nor should it since they don’t block out any external sound, but we’ve got a feeling that’s making the audio sound less full than it should.
At the end of the day, it seems like Mad Catz set out to create a very high-build quality headset with some neat features like EQ settings and different input options. We should also mention the on-board volume dial and excellent 45-degree swivel of the earpieces. With that said, perhaps they should have put just a bit more effort into making the audio sound better.
We’ve heard glowing reviews of Razer’s Tiamat 7.1 headset which offers fiver drivers per ear, has a dedicated base to adjust volume and sound settings. It also rings in at just $30 more than the F.R.E.Q. 5 cans.
Mad Catz also makes a F.R.E.Q. 7 surround headset that features Dolby 7.1 surround for $199, and it comes with a software interface to adjust audio settings. A set like this might be more in your range if you’re looking for a higher end audio experience.
If you’re looking for a stereo gaming headset for your computer, we can recommend the Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 5 on the fact that it is a good-looking, well-built piece of kit. If you’re looking for pristine audio, however, you might be disappointed with the sound the cans pump out and will probably want to look at alternatives before plunking down the cash on these.