Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Greg0
Gear For The PC Gamer: Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 7 Headset
PC gamers- it’s your season again. Most of the best upcoming and recent titles are either exclusively on the PC right now (SimCity 5) or are much better played with a mouse and keyboard (Bioshock Infinite, which is a bit wonky and graphically outdated on consoles but sharp and fun on the computer). We’ve got a pair of PC gaming accessories ready to help you make the best use of your rig. After all, you’ve spent some money on a video card and plenty of RAM- now it’s time to level up your peripherals.
The Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 7 continues the lengthy Mad Catz tradition of adding extra punctuation to names, from the R.A.T., S.T.R.I.K.E., to the M.M.O. line. It’s thankfully though not nearly as much of a mouthful as the other product in this pairing, the A4TMCGGMV5 that we just reviewed. We’ve seen lots of gaming headsets, and were excited to try the latest from one of the best manufacturers out there- their lineup includes the TRITTON brand now, and we recently checked out others from Plantronics and Thrustmaster. This one, though, is aimed at PC lovers who want 7.1 surround sound but don’t want to break the bank. Competitors typically cost over $200 for this sort of inclusion, even with just 5.1 audio.
There are some compromises made to get to that price point, and the style might not be for everyone though. The FREQ takes design cues from the rest of the family line-up: sharp angles like an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter jet, with odd-shaped ear cups that just barely made the grade for comfort. Those with larger ears might not be so lucky, as they fit nicely for everyone on staff. The volume button, too, is reminiscent of other MadCatz gear, but we liked the detail and it makes more sense than a spinning dial in many ways. The headband is decently padded, with interesting joints that are pretty adjustable, and the microphone is one of the best we’ve seen. It’s not only detachable, but quite wide, and offers noise canceling. Plus, there’s a cute little light that switches between red and white to indicate whether you’ve muted it or whether you’re “doing it live”. This is a great feature, since it’s all too easy to get caught up in game chat and not realize if you’re coughing and hacking and yelling over your teammates accidentally.
As with most good headsets, it’s got a USB connector for easy use with a PC (we tested under Windows 7, but it works with other Windows OS versions as well). At a bit over 6-feet long, it’s plenty of room to maneuver. You can also use a regular 3.5mm minijack headphone plug instead, and it’s a little shorter- good for use with smartphones and tablets or other devices. Build quality is good- both aluminum and plastic, with visible cloth-wrapped cords that add a bit of color and flair, and the key joints being metal means more durability and less worry about bending. These aren’t super-portable- they don’t fold easily- but are sturdy enough to travel with and not worry about.
In terms of sound quality, we have good news to report. They aren’t the best we’ve seen- noise isolation was a bit of an issue- but the 50mm drivers ensured plenty of boom. The Dolby 7.1 surround sound did help us pinpoint snipers and identify targets, but the up-mixing isn’t perfect and we found it a bit distracting for movies and music. The spatial dynamics were useful while gaming, and audio was crystal clear for voice chat- explosions and gunfire roared and vehicles purred nicely. All in all, it’s not an audiophile headphone, but an excellent option for multi-player gaming. The mic is superb, and we hope to see the lighting feature trickle into other models, though the earcups could be a bit more cozy. The Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 7 is available now, in four nice color options- a matte or glossy black, shiny red, or white like ours- and runs just under $200, though MadCatz themselves has it listed for $150 at press time.