After reviewing, demoing, and using over a dozen different gaming headsets across the past few years, I’ve discovered a clear-cut few contenders such as the Astro Gaming A40 or the Tritton AX Pro 5.1. Yet, as adept as these two frontrunners are, each device still suffered from a niggling shortcoming or two. From having an undersized connection cable to providing middling Surround Sound fidelity, it seemed like the search for a flawless headset would prove futile. Amazingly, Mad Catz’s release of the F.R.E.Q. 7 is extremely close to faultlessness- providing a premium-priced but painstakingly designed aural accessory.
Shirking the type of plastic clamshell packaging which often leads to a bit of bleeding during unboxing, The F.R.E.Q. 7 is housed in a package which mirrors the headset’s angular aesthetic. Inside the container, owners will find the headphones securely protected in a polyurethane molding, along with the detachable microphone, and a convenient stand. Bundled with the equipment are two cords which connect to the device’s USB mini-connector: one to connect to a USB port and another which fits into a 3.5mm jack. Pleasingly, both cables provide a secure connection which resisted uncoupling during energetic movement.
Plugging the F.R.E.Q. 7 into a Windows XP/7/8 machine allowed the device to be instantly recognized on a variety of test systems. On one of our setups, we did have to navigate to the control panel to set the headset the default device, but otherwise the basic installation was effortless. Naturally, using the peripheral’s analog inputs allowed for listening to audio on an iPhone and Android. Using the F.R.E.Q. 7 to make voice calls on devices powered by Google’s OS proved to be a bit tricky. Although the three-ring connector should permit the peripheral to utilize the microphone, voice was only picked up via internal microphones.
To utilize the F.R.E.Q. 7’s advanced features, owners will need to download a 166MB driver from Mad Catz’ website. Once installed, the application permits software-driven control for both headset and microphone volume, as well as three EQ presets for gaming, chat, and music. With pedants may crave a bit more influence over output quality, the three selections convey a uncomplicated method to boost the appropriate parts of the sonic spectrum. Thanks to the F.R.E.Q. 7’s 50 mm drivers, bass output sounds delightfully rich, endowing explosions and drums with a burly percussive tonality. Higher frequencies are produced just as adeptly, exhibiting crystal-clear, sparkling timbres.
Turning on the headset’s Dolby Pro Logic IIx functionality can either be accomplished from inside the application or manually- by pressing of a button on the left side of the F.R.E.Q. 7. While upscaling 5.1 digital audio into 7.1 channel surround founds like sonic sorcery, in execution the sense of fidelity sounds luxuriously rich, with testers able to pin-point the direction of sound sources during Dolby Digital Pro-powered sound tests. Nicely, even Skype conversations demonstrated additional resonance, demonstrating the F.R.E.Q. 7’s capabilities as a podcasting headset.
Although microphones often fail to match the quality of their accompanying headset, the F.R.E.Q. 7’s input is a cut above the norm. After plugging the bendable mic into the left side of the headset, the component snaps in place with a secure and satisfying click. Voice quality is consistently distinct and vibrant; although the devices sensitivity requires the mic to be placed a few inches from the mouth, lest relaxed breathing can be heard. The purported noise cancelling ability of the microphone is to be commended, barring most background clatter from the mix. The microphone can be muted with a switch on the left side of the headset, which causes an indicator to stop glowing.
Even the most demanding audiophile will have few issues with the F.R.E.Q. 7’s robust build quality. Constructed of sturdy plastic and metal, the headset exhibits a virtuous equilibrium, balancing weight and durability. Beyond opening the aperture of the headset to accommodate different head sizes, the peripheral’s earcups swing open, permitting owners to comfortably wear the headset around their necks. Notably, the faux-leather cups helped reduce outside noise which remaining comfortable during protracted playing/listening sessions.
Flaunting inspired design, faultless performance, and quality components as well as craftmanship, the F.R.E.Q. 7 is one of the best PC gaming headsets to be found. If players are able to tolerate the peripheral’s $200 purchase price, they’re apt to discover a device that supplies exceptional sound quality. While the headset can be pre-ordered now, expect the F.R.E.Q. 7 to hit retail channels this April.