A Closer Look
One of the first things you're likely to notice when you handle the F.R.E.Q 5 (which we'll now on refer to as the FREQ5 to save my pinky a few million extra key strikes) is that the earcups swivel so they lay flat. This works great for packing neatly into your bag when you're bringing them with you out into the world or on your way to the next LAN, and also for letting them rest comfortably on your shoulders in between rounds.
The swivel mechanism is assembled with metal components that are absolutely rock-solid, perfectly smooth, and well-fitted. If there's one failing in many of the headsets I've owned over the years, it's shoddy / cheap design of any hinges / swivels which will inevitably break the first time you take them off your head without the utmost care you can muster. We've seen positive trends across the market for robust swivel design and Mad Catz (or their sister company, Tritton) hasn't given us reason to think they'd skimp on this make-or-break detail.
The bottom of the right earcup houses the volume rocker which is very easy to reach and large enough where it's easy to find it quickly. The volume rocker rolls smoothly but there's little feedback of just how much the volume is being adjusted if you don't have continued audio output. The microphone mute button is likewise very easy to find and reach on the left earcup. Also on the left earcup, sitting farther back (and a bit harder to reach, yet used far less frequency), is the EQ mode switcher. Each press cycles to the next EQ mode, but a downside here again is that the only feedback is the sound you hear, so you sort of press-listen-press-listen until you find the mode that suits you at that moment (say gaming, music, movies, etc).
The headband, encased in hard plastic, is padded with a formed and contoured pad that's semi-firm but very comfortable. Each eacrup slides inside the headband with firm, definite clicks to dial in the size that fits you best. The cord extends from the left earcup through the headband to the right earcup and is mounted securely at hardpoints on the headband and earcups, again a durable detail we're happy to see. The cord is free-floating at the joints so any slack or movement from the slider or swivel mechanisms is picked up by the extra cable length.
The relatively large microphone head, which rests on the end of a flexible mcirophone boom, has large hexagonal cutouts and built-in noise cancelling to keep background noise from getting in the way of your critical communications. The end of the microphone has a lighted ring which illuminates when the microphone is muted. The mute LED looks relatively pinkish, and while this is a really picky nit, I'd prefer if it was a deeper, truer hue of red for aesthetic purposes. This is one of my favorite parts of the FREQ5, and we'll get into why in a bit.
The large 50mm drivers are the heart and soul of the FREQ5, and now we'll tell you what you really wanted to know, how do they sound?