Mad Catz E.S. PRO+ Gaming earbuds review: Lightweight mobile gaming audio

Mad Catz has returned with its lightweight E.S. PRO+ Gaming earbuds – but should you give them a chance?

It was only a year ago that iconic third-party peripheral manufacturer, Mad Catz, closed its doors in bankruptcy. The company is now headed for a revival in 2018, backed by a Chinese holding company comprised of its former factory workers. While retaining the brand's past identity, its revived team hopes to bring the Mad Catz name back to the accessories market.

Kicking off its new future, a revised version of Mad Catz's E.S. PRO+ Gaming earbuds is headed to store shelves. These lightweight in-ear earphones aim for increased portability, while still offering features expected by gamers. We received a pair of the new E.S. PRO+, ahead of a public release set for this fall.

What you'll love about Mad Catz E.S. PRO+ earbuds

Mad Catz positions its E.S. PRO+ earbuds as a lightweight solution for gaming, with each earbud weighing just a few grams. It's a PVC and rubber design helps with remaining comfortable for extended periods while avoiding a cheap feel. Ergonomic rubber arms also help keep the unit sit tight, firmly secured into the arches of your inner ear. Paired with three sets of rubber earbuds, the E.S. PRO+ can withstand a firm pull of the wire. This all comes in an angular white design, although a black colorway is also set for launch.

The E.S. PRO+ earbuds leverage 13.5 mm drivers, producing frequently clear audio for the average gaming session. This setup provides the distinction between key frequencies, helping draw attention to nuances in competitive settings. The in-ear design naturally isolates some exterior noise too, filtering out minor interruptions in the background. It's not going to replace a full-fledged surround sound headset but offers a worthwhile comprise in pursuit of portability.

Its 6.6 foot (2 meters) ribbon cable ends with a 3.5mm audio jack, adding compatibility for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gamepads, and mobile devices. For select PC users, the included dual 3.5mm splitter adds further compatibility.

Additional audio features are also tied to the left ear, through an in-line switch. The in-line microphone is ideal for casual communication, alongside quick access to microphone muting and volume control. For further clarity, a detachable, flexible microphone is in the box, offering improved quality closer to the mouth. It's a welcome option that feels distinctly for gamers, further bridging the gap to full-sized headsets.

As indicated by its fabric drawstring carrying bag, the E.S. PRO+ is ultimately best-suited for gamers on the move. Its portable design offers is great for traveling gamers, whether for Fortnite on a laptop or the latest mobile games. And if you want an easy-to-use audio setup at home, there may also be value.

What you'll dislike about Mad Catz E.S. PRO+ earbuds

Beyond sacrificing the obvious luxuries of a full surround sound headset, its in-ear design could do with refinements.

One of these earbuds' signature traits are the rubberized in-ear arms, however, can be removed if unwanted. This has the side effect of arms easily sliding off their designated rails, which can be frustrating to reattach regularly.

Although the sleek design of these earbuds fits the gaming market, the device simply wasn't build for other earbuds uses. The bulky design makes the E.S. PRO+ comically protrude from your ear, that while not affecting comfort, makes them prone to being knocked out.

As with much of the E.S. PRO+ design, this is a great pair of in-ear headphones for traveling gamers, but not practical when on the move. With strong options on the market for music and other media, don't overlook more conventional solutions.

Should you buy the Mad Catz E.S. PRO+ earbuds?

Despite Mad Catz's recent struggles, the E.S. PRO+ earbuds restore memories of the manufacturer from years prior. The product feels distinctly Mad Catz, from its angular plastic design, the overall flexibility. If its less precise audio is a worthy trade for portability, E.S. PRO+ earbuds deserve a place in your mobile setup.

It will be interesting to see how Mad Catz's upcoming line of accessories is received, with its upcoming range mostly consisting of resurrected classics. The previous (and similar) E.S. PRO earbuds are reduced to just $24.99 from a $49.99 retail price on Amazon, so selling the E.S. PRO+ at full price may be a challenge.

Mad Catz hasn't provided firm details on E.S. PRO+ availability or pricing, however, expect more details in the coming months.

See Mad Catz E.S. PRO at Amazon

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.