February 2013 was supposed to be a very important month for me and the rest of the staff since during this month not one but two very special game titles were scheduled for release, first the Dragonborn DLC add-on for The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim and the long awaited Aliens Colonial Marines which as the title suggests was made after one of the best sci-fi/thriller movies of all time, Aliens. Unfortunately although the Dragonborn DLC proved to be worthy of our enthusiasm i can't really say the same about Aliens Colonial Marines since after having played with it for almost 6 hours straight it left us with a bitter taste (mostly due to gameplay and graphics). Had Sega released the game 3 years ago there's a good chance that we would all be astonished by it and sucked into the storyline, however this is 2013 and releasing a game with 2010 graphics is simply not the way to go, especially when you are releasing a sci-fi game with plenty of visual effects (although we did enjoy the Weyland-Yutani Corporation twist). Still both the Dragonborn DLC and the Aliens Colonial Marines came at just the right moment in time since almost 10 days ago we started testing of the latest F.R.E.Q.5 Red stereo headset by Mad Catz.
Mad Catz is a leading global provider of innovative products for the interactive entertainment industry. Mad Catz develops and markets accessories for videogame systems and PCs under its Mad Catz (casual gaming), Saitek (simulation), Cyborg (pro gaming), Eclipse (home and office) and TRITTON (gaming audio) brands. Mad Catz also operates e-commerce and content websites for videogame and PC products under its GameShark brand, develops, manufactures and markets proprietary earphones under its AirDrives brand and publishes and distributes video/PC games. Mad Catz distributes its products through most of the leading retailers offering interactive entertainment products and has offices in North America, Europe and Asia.
Although stereo headsets are more than enough for casual users and gamers most manufacturers nowadays tend to release surround sound headsets, some using two drivers and a built-in soundcard to output virtual surround sound and the more expensive ones using 5 or more drivers to produce a more "real" surround sound. So naturally when the time comes most hardcore gamers do tend to choose those over stereo ones hoping that will help them when playing games (and in some cases surround headsets actually do). Still virtual surround headsets are not really what I’d recommend to most people, at least not in their majority (there are still some good virtual surround headsets in the market) since many times during our tests normal stereo headsets have produced higher audio clarity with better bass and mids/highs compared to virtual surround ones (and in some rare cases even offered better positioning audio something which shouldn't be the case). Mad Catz decided on a different path than most manufacturers and so they paired the old and proven stereo technology (two 50mm neodymium 20Hz-20KHz frequency drivers) with the highest grade materials to create the F.R.E.Q.5 stereo headset. The addition of a removable noise cancelling microphone and an on the fly equalizer button are just the cherries on the cake.
SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES
PACKAGING AND CONTENTS
Most of the front is made by a clear plastic allowing you to see the headset prior to buying it.
The specifications of the headset are written on a small sticker placed at the lower right side of the box.
Company contact information and web URLs are placed at the bottom.
The features of the unit are written in 5 different languages and showcased via several small pictures at the rear.
The bundle includes the F.R.E.Q.5 red stereo headset, detachable microphone, 2m USB cable, 1m 3.5" mini-jack cable, warranty information booklet, product guide, Damage Inc. promotional paper, several Mad Catz stickers and the user’s manual.
THE F.R.E.Q.5 RED
For the latest model Mad Catz has used red for primary color (there's also a white version available) and black for secondary (the headset is glossy as opposed to the matte black of the original version).
The Mad Catz scratch logo is placed on the outside of both earcups.
By default the microphone socket is covered with a plastic tap which keeps the annoying dust outside.
The microphone may be somewhat large but it's quite flexible but i think i'd like it just a tad more had Mad Catz made it retractable rather than removable (easier that way).
The mute button is placed right above the microphone which when used turns on the red LED placed on the nose of the microphone.
Further up we see the EQ (equalizer) button which allows you to toggle on-the-fly between the 3 pre-configured settings (Gaming, Music and Chat).
Moving to the right earcup we see a volume control knob at the lowest end.
Mad Catz has placed their name over both earcups.
The Pro Audio classification is placed ontop of the right earcup.
Just like the original F.R.E.Q.5 the headband can be extended on both sides up to 20cm via 25 increments.
Both earcups are quite large (could be larger) and are padded with black leather which makes them quite comfortable even after long periods of time.
A feature which should appeal to LAN participants (hardcore gamers) is the 90 degrees inward angle both earcups can have making them completely flat and ready for transport.
The headband comes with nice black leather padding which is equally comfortable as the earpads.
The product name as usual is placed on the exterior of the headband.
Unfortunately nothing has changed on this end since the original and so the new F.R.E.Q.5 Red version still lacks any kind of control software (only the default windows settings are available) and although that was expected from a stereo headset I’d really like to see a bundled control software which would allow the end user to tweak the 3 pre-set EQ settings according to personal preference.
As some of you know we had the original F.R.E.Q.5 stereo headset tested a few months back but when Mad Catz released the colored versions (white/red) we just had to test one of those out (although we didn't expect any differences in the performance of the headset). I was hoping for the addition of control software but that wasn't the case. Still just like the original F.R.E.Q.5 the red edition performed admirably with very good audio levels, great bass and good mids/highs while its small size and light weight metal used allowed me to use it for 4 hours straight while playing Aliens Colonial Marines without issue (and a couple more playing the Dragonborn DLC). The 3 equalizer presets are also very convenient when you wish to watch a movie right after playing a game or vice versa (or even when you want to listen to music) but the lack of configuration software takes away some points. When it comes to quality the original F.R.E.Q.5 indeed featured one of the sturdiest frames i had ever seen in a headset (even though it wasn't entirely made out of metal) and the red version is exactly the same, however the glossy exterior (along with the color choice) may not appeal to everyone. Personally i think that due to the glossy red Toshiba Qosmio owners have finally found the best headset to accompany their laptops (i know i have).
The F.R.E.Q.5 Red stereo gaming headset by Mad Catz currently retails for around USD150 inside the USA and 130Euros inside the EU and just like the black version (and the white) the price is its only real drawback. Certainly you always get what you pay for (or at least most of the times) so naturally Mad Catz had to set a high price since we are talking about a very good gaming headset in both audio clarity and build quality. However as stated before with several surround headsets in the market currently at around the same price point (and with countless virtual ones for even less) it will be hard for gamers to choose a stereo headset regardless of performance and quality (especially since not everyone reads reviews to see how a headset performs). Overall however the F.R.E.Q.5 is very good headset and even if Mad Catz doesn't cut down the price a bit as recommended by us it still comes highly recommended by us and still gets our Golden Award.
- Build Quality (Metal Body)
- Audio Clarity
- 3 EQ Presets
- Detachable Noise Cancelling Microphone
- USB and 3.5" Cables
- Price (For Some)
- No Control Software
- Glossy Exterior And Color May Not Appeal To Everyone