I’ve always had a bone to pick with gaming headsets.  I hate the amount of clutter they create, and I’m tired of owning multiple video game systems, and having to own multiple headsets to account for late night or online play.  Quite honestly, I was also tired of having to pay $100+ for each decent sounding headset and I’ve taken to just playing with the volume really low, or living with whatever’s been available out of the console box.  Fortunately, Plantronics was one of those companies that saw me out, and have released the RIG, an all encompassing headset system that allows me to use it on multiple systems with (hopefully) the greatest of ease.

The first thing I noticed about the headset when I took it out of the box was something that made me a bit uneasy – How tightly it was wedged into the plastic tray.  This wasn’t a problem at all for the left ear – It sat on it’s side and slid out easily. The problem was with the right side.  It was positioned with the ear cup facing down, and since it’s being held by a plastic swivel bracket, I was really worried I was accidentally going to break or crack something on the way out.  I had some flashbacks to Disney Infinity last year where basically had to destroy the plastic tray just to get the figures out.  The plastic tray here was a lot stronger here too, and probably game to my bending and twisting if I so desired.  Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed here, and I was able to slide it out with a bit of maneuvering.  Still, something to be careful of here when you take it out of the box.

Next, take all the cords out of the box, and I’ll admit here’s what I like about this device – Everything can be taken apart and put back together.  The microphone isn’t a permanent attachment, and you can simply piece all the other things apart too for easy storage.  Most of the important attachment wiring already comes rolled up together, and if not, the rest are in a bag together that you can open or sealed with a piece of tape.  Accustom yourself to all the secondary wiring, however.  If you’ve had third party gaming headsets, you’ll be pretty familiar with it all.  If not, the directions on the back will tell you how to get started.  The nice thing about non-first party hardware is that it’s not specifically tailor made or exclusive to the system you buy it for.  That’s the beauty of the Plantronics RIG Gaming Headset.  I was able to keep the thing on my head and literally transition between my XBox 360, PS4 and then over to my PC and Steam, which was really helpful considering I’ve been using it to review games on three different platforms this past week and play on four.  

These look and feel like any other set of gaming headphones I’ve ever played with or owned.  It’s a fairly soft headpiece and the ear cups are just as soft.  As I’d mentioned above, the cups are mounted on a swivel and do swivel a certain degree (approx. 90 degrees) in one direction too.  There’s one port off the right ear that allows you to plug in an earphone jack to the accompanying hub, or the microphone to the same.

The little “mixer” hub the headphones plug into is an interesting concept as well since it wants to be all encompassing, and encourage you to plug your gaming device AND your phone into it.  I’ve never seen anything like this before (similar things yes, but this literal execution, no) and I quite like it.  It’s three-tiered for volume.  First, there’s a middle switch in the center.  You select the audio input for your smartphone or the in-game volume by pressing the switch toward your choice.  Slider pots allow you to fine tune that specific portion of the volume to your liking in comparison to the other.  A master volume ring is right above and allows you to control the overall volume of both.  You can also activate and mute the microphone from there if you have it plugged in.  In fact, if you plug your smartphone into the hub with your gaming device, you can technically shut off the audio on your game to take a phone call.  That’s pretty neat.  You can even dial up one of three pre-determined sound equalizers for clean audio enhancement.

Of course, a headset and microphone combination are only as good as they sound.  You can look like a million bucks, and if you sound like ten cents, you’re out the door.  To its credit, the Plantronics RIG device performs very strongly for its price point.  It’s superior to my existing 360 headset, beats the pants off of the Creative World of Warcraft headset my wife has for her MMO gaming, the headset we have for gaming on our downstairs PC, and even beats the headset I use for mixing my audio and video projects.  In fact, it’s actually made me reconsider what I do have and look toward replacing that.  The sound quality is crystal clear throughout, and you can speak to your friends/opponents in-game or via any VOIP lines just as well.

One of the games I tested this on was one that heavily relies on voice and stereo channel separation, and I was surprised at how well it did it.  None of the gaming headsets we have at home do it as well, or as clearly as this one does and with cost in mind, they all were more off the shelf than this one is.  The only thing to keep in mind is that if you’re looking for something that will channel a 3D sound experience, or a more comprehensive 7.1 Surround Sound Experience, this probably won’t do the trick for you.  You’re better off weighing out your options at a higher price point.  This might be all you need if you’re a basic gamer, or aren’t that picky like me.  But if you want to feel like you’re at the movies, or taking advantage of enjoying every possible sound effect known to man that the developers threw in and can afford something in the $200-300 price range, it’s best to explore your options.  For everybody else, these are worth a look.

 

I’ve yet to encounter a perfect gaming headset for my needs, and I admit, even after the amount of praise I’ve laid on it so far, it’s not perfect to me.  This might be my personal problem, but my ears didn’t find these to be very breathable, and the soft cloth-like material of the ear cups retains heat a little too well for my liking, so I found myself wearing them around my neck a bit to cool down at times.  This didn’t affect my gaming that much, but I can see where it could be problematic for FPS gamers, or those constantly playing online.  If you’re a victim of ear overheating like I am, you may just want to spin down to your local Best Buy to see if the material is right for you.  Outside of that, I have no other complaints.  There’s enough padding that you can game endlessly otherwise.  The headset is pretty light and rests on your head well enough that it isn’t a burden at all, or in danger of ever slipping off.

Something I had mentioned previously but wanted to touch down on a little bit more is the fact that it’s optimized for Sony gaming systems, meaning this may be a good consideration for PS4 owners since your options are limited right now in the system’s infancy.  The hub has a built-in Optical Port (wire not included) meaning you can hook up through that too and keep your USB ports free.

I think that this is a great and very comprehensive add-on for your gaming needs.  Given that the microphone is attachable and detachable, you can just revert it to a pair of headphones and use it for just music too, which I did for a while as well.  I give the Plantronics RIG a solid 4.5 / 5, and think you might like everything it brings to the table.  Just be careful taking it out of the box.

The Plantronics RIG Gaming Headset is available now at your neighborhood Best Buy or online at BestBuy.ca