The most rugged and robust headset we have ever tested.
Cyborg, if you're not familiar with the name, belongs to a premium range of PC-oriented devices made by the (probably very familiar) peripheral manufacturer Mad Catz. The most notable Cyborg product is probably the R.A.T. 7 Mouse (as previously reviewed), however the company has recently added a new headset (the F.R.E.Q. 5) to the line.
Priced at around $300 (RRP), the F.R.E.Q. 5 is clearly a premium product. Is it worth that kind of cash? Having reviewed numerous headsets in the past, I feel I'm in a pretty good position to determine the answer to that question.
The moment you open the box, any doubt that the F.R.E.Q. 5 is a quality instrument is immediately dismissed. Its metal construction and innovative design, similar to the R.A.T. 7 mouse
, instantly impresses.
In addition to the headset itself, there are two cords in the box: USB for use with a computer, and standard 3.5mm, so you can use the device on your favorite music player or smartphone.
The unit sports a detachable microphone jack (including a little grommet to cover up the hole when not in use), while the ear cups conceal 50mm speakers that are capable of 20hz to 20Khz, resulting in crisp and clear sounds - both in the bass and the higher pitches.
The basic frame is built with lightweight metal, while the whole unit is generously padded for comfort. The braided cord extends a short distance from the unit before ending in a breakaway connector, which can receive either the two-meter USB cable or the shorter 3.5mm cable.
The soft padding and wide headband help distribute the unit's 333 grams effectively, and - despite their odd shape - the ear cups also help to ensure that the F.R.E.Q. 5 is comfortable to wear during even extended gaming sessions.
There is considerable scope for adjustment in the headband, with positive graduations as you slide it back and forth. The ear pieces lay flat when you rest the device on your shoulders or put it on your desk. Unfortunately, the design of the unit is such that it only allows you to wear it one way around. The microphone has to be on the left, and the volume control on the right hand side.
This is where the unit comes into its own. Some previously-tested headsets have proven themselves to be reasonably robust, but the F.R.E.Q. 5 outshines them all. Its metal construction means that it can take a hammering, while the breakaway cord design means that you won’t get the dreaded gamer's whiplash if you get up from your desk in a hurry and forget to take them off.
I applaud the use of braided cable wherever it's used, especially with headsets. While other cables become brittle, crack, or split I have yet to have a braided cord fail for any reason. I put this cord through the stretch test and, unsurprisingly, it passed with flying colours.
Amazingly, the cabling to each of the earpieces is also braided. This is usually one of the key weak spots of a headset, and this extra detailing will assuredly add a lot to the unit's lifespan. The grommets connecting cable to components are also of the flexible variety.
There is no doubt that a lot effort has gone into designing a unit that will last a long time.
OK, there are no complex sound schemes or bevy of controls to tweak the sound. If you prefer to have to micromanage your headset, then this is not the unit for you. Rather, this device has been designed with simplicity in mind. The headset drivers are built into the unit itself, so it is plug and play as far as setup is concerned.
The controls are in the ear pieces. I'm not usually a fan of this arrangement, however on this particular design I think they've cracked it. On the right-hand side there is a metal scroll wheel that is fat and wide. You can’t miss it. On the left, there is a mute button for the microphone. The tip of the microphone glows red when it’s on.
The only other control is an equally generously sized equalizer button, used to optimize the sound quality based on what you are doing.
Sound Quality (Subjective)
The sounds are sharp and clear, with no distortion. There's a good range of volume available, and overall we felt the quality of the sound was good.
High-end PC peripherals shouldn't necessarily be delicate; unfortunately, this often the case. Mad Catz have bucked that particular trend, however, delivering a simple but very robust headset that I believe will serve you well for a very long time. Highly recommended.