There's something to be said for choosing your style and sticking to it. Mad Catz has done just that with its PC gaming range of capitalised peripherals and is rolling out that now familiar angular aesthetic to its FREQ range of gaming headsets.
While the Mad Catz designs polarise opinion, you generally can't argue with the quality of components used, and the FREQ 5 headset boasts a decent technical specification.
I have to be honest and admit that I'm not entirely au fait with what difference neodymium magnets make in terms of sound, but the 50mm drivers give you excellent sound levels. The clarity is impressive at this price and the headset's USB sound chips are likewise effective in the PC environment.
The FREQ 5 comes with three different preset equaliser levels, one of which is the necessary gaming mode. The problem is that because it's accessed via a simple toggle switch, I'm not entirely sure which is which. The other two presets are for music and chat, and while the talk mode is pretty obvious (and fairly effective) I'm not sure how useful they are.
Either way the bassy game mode is clear and allows you to pinpoint noise direction relatively accurately, while still giving you that ear-shaking boom you want in the middle of a BlOps battle zone. The secondary mode is perfect for music, stopping it getting unnecessarily fuzzy with excessive bass, and promoting vocals without them getting too spiky or too harsh.
Sound as a pound
Sadly sound quality is not the only feature to judge a headset on. Though the build quality of the FREQ 5 cans is excellent I'm less convinced about the actual design.
While there's a decent 45º rotation on the ear pads the actual frame is incredibly rigid, making it a struggle to jam onto your head comfortably. They fit perfectly snugly over my little ears, which meant they kept out much of the general PC Format office noise, but after a few hours the headset became a little oppressive.
I'm not a big fan of the controls either. The mic mute and equaliser buttons are functional and easily accessible, but the rolling volume control is stiff and totally unresponsive. It doesn't react to small, incremental changes and when you do finally get it to register, it generally overdoes things, making the volume either too loud or too quiet.
And it doesn't work at all if you use the FREQ 5 in MP3/ smartphone mode via the 3.5mm jack. You can still use the detachable mic over the single jack when it's plugged into a phone, but I would be willing to bet I will never, ever see a single human being walking around using their FREQ 5 cans while chatting on their phone.
So the FREQ 5 is a bit of a mixed bag, then. The sound quality is the standout feature of these cans - and that came as a bit of a surprise after the initial disappointment over the actual design of the headset. After playing with the cheaper RoG Orion Pro headphones last month, the Mad Catz cans were always going to struggle… and so it comes to pass.