In terms of the number of headsets manufactured and sold, Plantronics must be right up there in the list of largest audio manufacturers. Their office based products are used across the world and are known to offer a quality, reliable experience. In more recent times Plantronics have also ventured into the gaming audio marketplace and with some decent success too. Their Commander headset for example was an impressive unit in terms of audio quality, though the design and pricing maybe meant it wasn't for everyone.
Recently Plantronics released the RIG, a multi-platform gaming headset, which looks to offer a wide range of console, PC and mobile functionality in an aggressively priced product. Today we find out how it performs.
Plantronics package the RIG in a stylish box which gives us a nice clear image of the product on the front. That front surface opens up to reveal the headset inside along with some nice clear information on the product features. As we unbox the headset we also find a quick start guide, warranty info and various extra cables. The first is our 3.5mm to RCA for older consoles. The second is our Xbox 360 chat cable and the third a 3.5mm audio cable which includes in-line mic and controls for mobile devices... this is an alternate cable to the main mic which we will look at later.
The RIG is available in two colours, one all black and one with white cups as shown above. This is an over the ear headset and it features a padded headband which extends by around an inch on each side. Plantronics have built the headset so that the cups have a little flex on the vertical axis while also turning completely flat on the horizontal via the joint at the end of the headband arms.
The earcups on the RIG use a very soft fabric coating on the foam surrounds and as with the little accents on the headband, the inside is lined in orange fabric, covering the 40mm drivers (20Hz-20kHz). On the outside of the cup we can also see the use of the black mesh fabric and on the base of the left cup is our 3.5mm connector.
Shown above we have the main headset mic for the RIG which is a 100Hz-10kHz device. This is bendable, entirely removable and can be replaced with the in-line microphone shown earlier in the review. This allows for a more discrete, compact product when out and about. Like many of the cables provided by Plantronics with the RIG, this mic uses a flat cable with rubberised coating.
Key to the RIG and its functionality is the control pod. It is a hockey puck sized device which has a main on-volume/off dial around the outside and rubber feet on the base to hold it still on our desk. Around the top rim we find three controls, one for smartphone functions, one for mic mute and one for EQ. There are three EQ settings on the RIG which start with PURE and then add more bass/treble as we cycle. Just inside the control rim are two LED illuminated sections with a slider on each. These control the balance of our audio between game and device. For example we can have music playing from our phone through the RIG at the same time as the game/chat audio from our PC/console. A tweak of the sliders balances them and the centre section switches between mic inputs. Right side on for game mic, left side on to talk if a phone call comes in on our mobile.
Finally, in terms of cables, the main cables for most users will be the large hardwired USB/3.5mm cable and the smartphone cable which has its own cable tidy attached. All of the cables are rubber coated for durability and we do have the option to add in an optical cable ourselves for PS4 as the back of the RIG control pod has an optical connector.
User Experience and Conclusion
Starting with the design of the RIG we have a device which on first glance could be a little small but after some time with the headset it is pretty much perfectly proportioned. Especially for those who are going to use it on the move. If we could change one aspect of the size it would be just a touch extra depth to the inside of the earcups as our "normal" sized ears hit the internal orange fabric, so anyone with larger ears may feel a little cramped. Interestingly the headband, while padded, really doesn't feel particularly soft but in our time with the headset it was perfectly comfortable, so likely a nice balance between padding and durability and there is plenty of length on the arms as well as rotation/tilt on the cups. Our only other design note for the headset portion of the product is that the option to switch to leatherette cup surrounds would be a nice addition.
We love the finish on the white version of the cups though the puck does feel a touch cheaper. It is certainly sturdy enough but doesn't quite have the same premium finish as the headset itself. In terms of controls, the unit offers more than most with that key functionality of being able to mix our game communications and sound with the feed from our phone/tablet. Could the pod be improved? Maybe have an EQ button for each of the settings so that we have a visual cue on which is active (as things stand pressing the button gives us beeps which indicate the profile).
So that brings us to the performance of the headset. Let's get the less great items out of the way first. Those are the inline mic, which like many, is just ok. It does what it needs to do. Then, as with so many gaming headsets, the music playback experience isn't great. That said, this is a headset which does better with music than most gaming orientated devices. We get plenty of bass, some nice clarity too but it lacks any real character to take it to same quality levels as a few other headsets. That all changes though when we move to gaming and movies. In those tasks the RIG is exceptionally good. The additional EQ settings boost the likes of explosions for those who prefer that but on default/pure the headset sounds fantastic. Playing the likes of Wolfenstein: The New Order gives us crystal clear voices, some powerful explosions and gunfire which has a nice crisp sound. Movies have nice clear voices again and scores sit nicely in the background. Fire on a blockbuster and the headset really takes off though. With the added bonus that it does a very good job of keeping our audio in, so those nearby don't get bothered by what we have going on.
Finally in terms of performance we have the main microphone and you can hear a sample recorded from it above. As headset mics go, our opinion is that this is one of the better choices and certainly should be clear enough for any gaming/phone purposes. It just needs to be a bit more flexible in terms of positioning.
With a price of £69/$99 the RIG is hugely flexible in terms of features with a great price/performance ratio. The varied cable types allow us to use the headset in different environments and the mixer/pod allow us to be as connected as possible when gaming. Backed up by some great movie/gaming audio quality we very much recommend the Plantronics RIG.