Just last week Mad Catz announced their F.R.E.Q. 7 Dolby Digital 7.1 headset for PC and mobile devices. The unit can be seen as the flagship of the F.R.E.Q line, which includes the newish F.R.E.Q. 5 stereo gaming headset. The major differences is the embedded Dolby Digital ProLogic IIx technology. This tech expands a 5.1 signal to a more immersive 7.1 surround sound experience. The F.R.E.Q. 7 also ships with a cool plastic stand to park and display your new set of cans.
It’s evident Mad Catz has taken some care and pride in the construction of the F.R.E.Q. 7 headset. The unit is forged using a good deal of lightweight metals, which make the device more rugged looking and durable. The earpieces fold in for a relaxing fit when one wants to hang the unit around the neck in between gaming and chatting sessions. We have the glossy black version on the deck. But the F.R.E.Q. 7 comes in matte black and glossy red as well. The red looks particularly striking. This can be said for the unit as a whole. I love the way the earpieces are shaped with stylish contours in this original form factor, which doesn’t depart from traditional Mad Catz flare.
The F.R.E.Q. 7 connects to PC via USB. But it also supports tablets, smartphones and MP3 players via an included 3.5mm standard stereo cable. The boom mic is detachable with a nice elegant plastic plug that can be used to cover the open space left when the mic is not plugged in. The mic has a red LED that illuminates when muted. However the mic cannot be rotated up and does not retract into the set.
Setup is a simple affair. But it’s not quite plug and play. You will need to navigate to the company’s website to download drivers and a software utility. Once you have this installed you can select three different EQ preset; Gaming, Music and Chat. I found Game and Music to be the most readily used. Chat seems to perform best in Skype, Google Chat or the like, when no other games or music are playing. You can also toggle the Dolby Headphone mode on or off from within the software. But this feature is on the headphones themselves as well.
The software is helpful albeit a bit skeletal. We’re also looking at Creative’s wireless 7.1 Recon3D headset for coverage later this week. To draw a comparison, its software suite is extensive and robust with tons of options, settings to tweak and a fully working equalizer. The F.R.E.Q. 7 is a powerful headset that performs with a surprising degree of audio clarity with solid high and midranges. It also provides adequate punch along the low range. But I feel these cans could yield even more deep bass. Plus I know many users would appreciate a fully working and customizable EQ.
The three EQ presets can only be toggled within the software. This is unlike the Astro Gaming A50 wireless 7.1 Dolby headset we tested last year. With the A50 users can toggle through the three presets right there on the headset. With the F.R.E.Q. 7, the only functions on the headset are the aforementioned Dolby headphone toggle switch found on the front of the left earpiece, a microphone mute button located just below the Dolby toggle and the volume dial positioned at the bottom of the right earpiece. I found the volume dial to be overly loose. Plus it requires unnecessary turning before any increase or reduction in volume is audibly noticeable.
All these are niggling gripes next to the general audio performance and lasting comfort. I really like the F.R.E.Q. 7. They look great with a stylistic shape. The sounds is awesome. A more robust software suite would be nice. But what we have is pretty darn solid and the cost of the F.R.E.Q. 7 headset falls in line with similar offerings.
Bottom Line: The Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 7 PC Gaming Headset is a super solid 7.1 sound solution that will enhance your games and movies. But it also supports mobile devices for audio playback and voice chat and voice calls.
· Dolby Digital Prologic IIx 7.1 surround
· Supports mobile devices
· Included display stand
· Lasting Comfort
· Minimalist software suite
· Overly loose volume dial