Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD Review

3.7
Expert Rating

Is the Mad Catz Katana the best PS4 headset? Let’s find out below. The Tritton Katana HD headset is one of the first to experiment with wireless HDMI surround sound. The idea is that using HDMI cables to generate wireless sound will lead to higher fidelity and generally a better experience than traditional wireless sound options.

Plus, it allows the Katana HD to be fully wireless gaming headset on Xbox One (at least while not chatting). But is the tech actually discernible, and does it make for a worthy headset? The answer is yes – but with a couple things you should know first.

Read our Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD review to learn more!

Overview

Price: $200 on Amazon
Available: Now
Model: Katana

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Spectacular sound with a unique wireless twist.

What We Liked

  • Excellent surround sound on multiple platforms
  • True wireless for Xbox One (except when chatting)
  • HDMI wireless connectivity

What We Didn’t

  • Clunky plastic design
  • Lengthy setup

Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD Specs

Frequency Range20Hz-20kHz
Driver Size50mm
Size10.9 x 2.8 x 9.2"
WeightUnknown
Wirelessgreen-check-mark
7.1 Surround Soundgreen-check-mark
Noise-Canceling Micred-x-icon
Battery Life15 Hours
Price$200
BuyBuy Now

Design

Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD 1
This headset has some questionable design choices.

After the HDMI connectivity, the design is one of the most unique things about the Katana HD. It’s also one of the most confusing. Mad Catz could have taken so many cues from other successful headsets on the market, but they didn’t (so much so I wonder if there were patent issues at play). Don’t get me wrong, the basics of this headset are fine: The ear cups are a very soft, high-end leathery fabric, and the headset fits well although it sits a little heavy around the ears after a while. But it’s the other design choices leave me scratching me head. Rather than talk about it in one long paragraph, I’ll just list some of the things I noticed.

  • The plastic design: The Katana HD is very plasticky, almost distractingly so. It isn’t a subtle, reinforced plastic either, but rather a shiny plastic coating that feels strangely cheap for a piece of such advanced tech.
  • The ear cups swivel: I don’t know why they swivel – it may be a comfort feature. But it’s entirely unnecessary and makes the gaming headset much more difficult to handle. On the plus side, the ear cups mimic the modular Logitech design, which is comfortable for most ear shapes.
  • The power and mic buttons are on the inside of the headband: Some button placement makes sense, like the EQ button on the outer ear cup. But the connectivity buttons for wireless sound and chat are tiny things located on the inside of the headband, almost under the ear cup fabric. They are hard to see, hard to reach, and generally puzzling, since you have to use at least one of these buttons every time you put the headset on.

The mic design is better, but also puzzling in its own way. It’s a hard-flexible mic, which can be carefully bent into shape but won’t lose its form at the drop of a hat – props to Mad Catz for that one. It’s also detachable, which I appreciate, although the placement is a little strange: the mic juts out right from the side of the headset, and seems to be about twice as big as it needs to be.

Hardware

Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD Base
The HDMI features are a bit more complex than the average wireless headset.

Despite bashing on the gaming headset’s design, trust me when I say things quickly pick up when it comes to hardware and performance. Inside those swiveling ear cups are two powerful 50mm drivers responsible for producing that HDMI-enhanced surround sound, and they are certainly up to the task.

Read: Best PS4 Headsets

Let’s talk about the HDMI aspect for a minute. The unit comes with an HDMI base station that you connect to your console/computer and then links to headset unit via a basic pairing task. The pairing is simple, although you’ll have to do it every time you turn your device back on to get both audio and video, which does get a little old. It also offers fully wireless gameplay for the Xbox One, which is relatively rare thanks to Xbox compatibility issues (you will need a tether to your controller for Xbox chat, but if you aren’t chatting you can swing free).

mad-catz-katana-quote

In summary, the station is easy to use, and is responsible for the amazing sound that the Katana HD produces, so it has a lot going for it. However, connecting HDMI cables also makes the headset installation far more complicated than usual. For most devices, you’ll have to do an HDMI passthrough that involves at least two HDMI cables and a USB power cable. Compared even to other Xbox wireless headphones like Turtle Beach’s Stealth 500x, this is sort of messy. It’s not a headset you can easily unplug at whim, and you will need a spare USB port on your consoles, which may be difficult to find depending on your setup.

Fortunately, the Katana HD comes with the necessary extra cables, and provides some clear directions in how to set everything up.

Performance

Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD 3
Fortunately, sound performance is off the charts.

The question is, “Does that HDMI stuff make a difference to my sound?” Here’s the answer: Even without the HDMI connectivity, the Tritton Katana HD produces top-notch surround sound. With the HDMI working, the sound is some of the best I’ve ever heard. It’s so good that it made me forgot about the strange plastic design and oddly placed buttons once I actually started playing.

Both environmental and accurate, the surround sound on these headphones is suitable for nearly every type of game, and excellent at enhancing your experience for everything from shooters to RPGs. The sound fidelity is remarkably high and the balance is nearly perfect: Multiple times when playing I thought, “Oh, that’s what that noise is supposed to sound like.” (The noise itself varied from crackling flames to distant mortar rounds.) It’s a remarkable feat, considering how hard other gaming headsets aim at this kind of sound experience. But the formula Mad Catz found works, and it works superbly well.

Of course, there are some limits. The sound quality is far more noticeable on newer games than old games. On the Xbox 360 and on Mac computers the gaming headset runs into compatibility issues, so the sound bumps down to stereo. The mic quality is also not quite a match to the headphone sound, although I never ran into distortion or communication problems.

The one downside here is that, aside from a basic EQ option, there’s not really any audio customization to be found. Of course, I personally never felt the need for it, but no doubt some of you like to tweak your headsets a bit.

Battery

Mad Catz Katana HD battery life
Battery life is nothing to complain about.

The Katana HD is rated for 15 hours. However, the HDMI pass-through makes this a bit more complicated: The gaming headset – partly because of the odd power button placement – spent a lot of time in search mode or ended up turning on even when I wasn’t using it. As a result the battery drained a bit more quickly than expected. On the other hand, when well-managed that 15 hours is reasonably accurate.

Mad Catz Tritton Katana HD Review: Wrap-Up

I won’t pretend to know what product design decisions that Mad Catz made here. Using wireless HDMI is a relatively new technology for the best gaming headsets, and no doubt has its own quirky requirements. What it led to in this case was a headset with a fumbling design but phenomenal sound. More than anything, that makes me excited to see where Mad Catz is headed with future Tritton gaming headsets. For now, if you don’t mind appearance or several questionable design decisions, the Katana HD offers some of the best gaming sound on the market. Just make sure you have enough open ports for installation!

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Tyler Lacoma

When he isn't enjoying the beautiful Northwest outdoors, you can find Tyler on business and tech sites, writing about the latest news, analyzing trends, and generally making the Internet a more interesting place.

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4 Comments

  1. 4.3
    Love this headset...

    Anyone know where I can get a mic for my Katanas? Love this headset but my dog got a hold of them.

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  2. They’re great headsets but one issue for me and a lot of others after stating it in my Amazon review is it doesn’t support HDMI switch boxes.

    Most people who want this device will have multiple devices so they use a HDMI Switcher to reduce cables and remove the need to keep changing cables. After getting a black screen with my switcher, I took to customer support thinking it might just be my switcher. The rep said that the device was not designed to work with HDMI switchers which is really disappointing.

    Not sure if this a hardware limitation or software, if software then I hope a firmware update can fix this. I’m currently using the AUX port for other devices but that removes the surround sound for those devices.

      1. Funnily enough my switch box packed up the other day so I went with a normal splitter instead, still get no signal when using the splitter with my headset.

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