Plantronics RIG Review
When it comes down to gaming headphones, most people think of brands such as Turtle Beach or even Razer, but those are not the only contenders providing us with good gaming audio support solutions. Other brands such as Plantronics, a company started in by two airline pilots in 1961 with the aim of producing better headsets to be used in the area of commercial aviation, also offer great gaming audio solutions. They are not a new brand, and they are certainly not a stranger to the world of headphones. Today we take a look at their “RIG” Gaming audio system.
Before going into details, it is worth explaining how the RIG differs from other traditional gaming headsets. Whilst offering headphone and a microphone, the RIG system also offers a hub system which allows us to plug in our mobile devices so we can take calls whilst gaming without having to put the headset off our ears. Not only that, but this gaming multitasking audio headset also boasts compatibility with PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4!
Looks and feel
The first thing we take a look at is the aesthetics, and those are certainly not unpleasing. Our RIG headset display a simple mix of black padded sections and white or blacksolid plastic parts (depending on which colour model you go for), complimented by a red padding inside the headphones.This gives it a nice modern, simple and sleek look rather than the urban / graffiti trend supported by some headphone brands. Our RIG sits down well on our computer desk, complementing our furniture with its simple coloured aesthetics.
It is not just the looks, as Plantronics also got the feel right by offering us some good quality solid plastic materials. Not only does the headset design looks sturdy but it also feels that way and this applies to the microphone; which is well attached and made of solid / flexible plastic.This sturdy feeling also apply to the padded sections which feel solidly weaved and provide our ears and head with some much needed padding for those long gaming sessions.
This padding is much needed as our headset do have some weight to them. They are not that heavy but after gaming for a few hours, it does feel good to take them off for a quick break. However, the RIG headset sits down tightly on our head and the microphone is not too intrusive, placed close enough to our mouth but not obstructing the way, perfect for those who enjoy a nibble whilst playing their favourite game. Also it is worth noting that the ear pieces can be twisted around, allowing us to carry the headphones around our neck with great comfort, which is definitely a plus!
As far as the cables, they have a good quality look and feel to them. The cables offer enough length for the user to have the hub near them even if playing at a certain distance from the computer / console. However, the cable between the headphone and the hub is fairly short. It is long enough for the user to play at close proximity to the hub, but will cause issues if the player decides to play further from it.
The RIG is a special kind of headset, offering a hub (also called ‘mixer’) which enables the user toplay games whilst communicating on their mobile devices through the same pair of headphones. With this function, the Plantronics RIG offers us multitasking unlike traditional gaming headsets; and it works great! We tried the setup and we were able to game whist doing our mobile calls perfectly. The levels for both our microphone and our headphones are easy to control via the hub, which allowed us to switch from our PC to our mobile flawlessly.
It took us close to no time to figure out how the hub system works as it is a straight forwards plug-and-play with no extra drivers needed to be installed. Effectively, the hub works as an audio splitter with volume controls, allowing the user to balance what they hear between their different devices, as well as giving them control over how loud their microphone is. Also, the hub has three different equalizer settings, but we will look at those later in the review. Furthermore, the hub allows us to mute the microphone, which comes in very handy when we do not wish for people to hear us cursing at that annoying section of the game.
By offering so much volume control between our different devices, the RIG’s hub really becomes our centre for both in-game and out-of-game communications. It is worth noting that multi-tasking gaming and mobile communications can still become confusing, depending on the nature of both the game and the communication. But by easily being able to adjust all the different volumes, the process becomes more familiar and eventually feels seamless and natural. So when it comes down to multi-tasking gaming with more serious work-related communications, the Plantronics RIG is a great platform made for that exact purpose.
We tried our RIG with our PS3 / PS4, Xbox 360 as well as with our office gaming laptop. By following the instructions which are clear and simple to follow, we were able to get most working, all but the Xbox One. We just couldn’t get the hub system to function with Microsoft’s latest console so we had to do with just using the headphones for the Xbox One. This is a bit of a nag and shouldn’t outshine the fact that the Plantronics RIG worked on all other gaming systems flawlessly, offering us many satisfying hours of multitasking between our favourite games whilst talking to our favourite people on our mobiles. It is also worth mentioning that the RIG uses and audio headphone jack to communicate with the mobile devices, meaning that any mobile phone with an audio-out headphone jack will work with this device!
Of course, we wouldn’t have enjoyed using our headset so much if the audio quality was not there to match the other aspects of our RIG. And when it comes to sound quality, the RIG’s headphones do not disappoint. Plantronics’s headphones offer us a clean sound which covers most of the full spectrum, maybe slightly over-emphasizing on the lower frequencies (a little bit like BEATS headphones tend to do). So whilst this doesn’t give us a sonic reproduction which is 100% accurate (rarely found in any gaming headphones anyway, better off looking at professional studio headphones if that is your aim), the emphasis on those lower ends adds a lot of boom to the audio, making all those action sequences and explosions more vivid and enjoyable. This really helps with immersion as we tend to feel those low-end sounds rather than just hearing them.
But beyond the low end, Plantronics’s headphones do a good job at reproducing the mid-range frequencies. However, the higher mid-range shines out better than the lower mid-range, as the headphone’s over-emphasis on lower sub-frequencies can sometimes muffle the lower mid-range. What this means is that sounds such as reloading a gun shine out well but gun shots themselves sometimes contain too much lower end. However, this will not be an issue with most people, only audiophiles and sound-purists are likely to be bothered by this, most of us enjoy that extra boom.
The high ends of the audio spectrum are well represented, they sound clear and crisp and are quite soft on the hearing, so the high end does not tend to saturate unless the volume is raised really high. And this is another good aspect of the RIG’s headphones: they can go louder without noticeably distorting the audio. But because the headphones over great ear-protection and noise cancellation by covering the ears from the outside noise, you probably won’t need to go too loud to enjoy immersing yourself into your favourite game.
It is also worth noting that the audio quality remains consistent when multitasking gaming with communications. In fact, the hub’s volume controls help to obtain a great balance between the gaming volume and our communication’s volume, offering crisp voice communications over great gaming sound. Depending on reception and what mobile you are using, the communications sound great, the voices sound crisp, clear and have great presence. This really make the mobile communications pleasant, allowing us to hear the intonations of whoever we are speaking to.
Finally, the RIG’s hub offer three different equalizer settings, so that you can choose to have a bit less emphasis on the lower ends and opt for a crisper sound. This extra function is great as it helps the user to tune their headphones to a setting they prefer, as certain games will sound better on different equalizer settings. We could have done with real equalizer settings, allowing us to adjust all frequencies rather than just three pre-sets, but this would be difficult to implement on a simple looking hub without adding a lot of different buttons. If anything, we are happy that Plantronics added those equalizer settings and that they are so easy to switch from one setting to the other.
So there you have it, this is a great package! Plantronics’s RIG really offers great value for money and in our opinion the £90.00 pricing tag is well worth it. For this, you not only get a good quality built and good sounding pair of headphones but also a great and unique system for multitasking between gaming and work communication. It will be great to see a few little improvements in the future such as the headphone cable length and the Xbox One compatibility but if those two aspects do not bother you then Plantronics’s RIG might just be the right headset system for you. So to resume, here are the pros and cons:
- Great solid headphone build
- Good quality plastics and great solid comfortable padding
- Multitasking hub easy to use and works very well
- Easy to set up
- Compatible with many gamingplatforms
- Compatible with most mobile phones
- Good audio quality
- Headphone to hub cable too short
- Headphone can get a bit heavy after a long gaming session
- Xbox One compatibility issues
- Limited equalizer settings
For more information about the tech specs of Plantronics’s RIG, check the product page on their website at: http://www.plantronics.com/uk/product/rig?skuId=sku6650012