I treat sound in games like I treat wine: I know it’s out there, I enjoy taking it in… but I’m not the greatest at telling a top drop from a bagged affair.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not stupid. I get that earbuds from an airplane’s economy class sound super-crap. That being said, I really can’t tell the difference between generic Apple buds and high-end Sennheiser ones. I loved my Bose noise-cancelling earphones until a wire snapped, and I love the Turtle Beach Earforce Sevens that replaced them. For console gaming, I’ve a pair of Razer Chimera cans that I bought after experiencing Battlefield 3 through them at an EA preview event.
In short: if you put on headphones and they sound okay to you, then they’ve done their job. Case closed.
At any rate, my limited sound expertise puts the Plantronics RIG stereo headset right up there with the Bose, Turtle Beach and Razer sets that I so adore. The difference between those headsets at the RIG (apart from the price, of course)? Neat phone functionality. When I figured that out, that is…
I’m not one to read manuals. After spending five minutes hooking up the RIG to my Xbox 360 and confirming sound was coming through the headphones, I almost threw the instructions out altogether.
That was my biggest mistake.
The RIG’ s not hard to use, but it has a lot going on. Its headphones connect to a base station, which then has cables that connect to your mobile phone and your platform of choice (it supports PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PS3). I assumed for some reason that the phone could be used in place of the headset’s microphone for in-game chat, so I decided not to connect it. I also turned down (what I thought were) the microphone options to 0% cause I didn’t plan on using them straight away.
Then I spent ten minutes trying to figure out why the sound wasn’t coming through the headphones anymore. Then,begrudgingly, I read the manual.
Turns out, the microphone controls aren’t solely for microphone sound, but for the ratio of microphone-to-game sound. In my tweaking, I’d turned mic sound all the way up, and game sound all the way down. Innocent mistake.
THEN, I read that the mobile phone hookup wasn’t for in-game microphone purposes, but to stream music from your phone into your game. Or, simply to act as a hands-free set if you want to take a call in-game.
I probably won’t use the RIG’s mobile functionality that often, but it sure is neat. I took a phone call whilst playing Grand Theft Auto V to test it out, and both the game and call audio were clear as a bell. That should have been apparent to me straight away; as I look across my work desk, I can see a Plantronics hands-free set connected to my desk phone that I’ve relied upon for years. Duh.
The RIG’s base station has five buttons apart from volume settings; they control muting options for your mic (THERE we go), a pick-up/hang-up button for incoming calls and an EQ button that switches between “Pure”, “Intense” and “Explosive” profiles. Those profiles are all neat in their various ways, but I’ll be honest: I couldn’t really tell the difference apart from one that seems more bass-y than the others. The final two buttons allow you to toggle between in-game mode — which mixes in-game chat with game sound – and mobile mode, which mixes phone audio with game sound. To match each mode, you can choose to connect a boom mic (below, left) or an inline mic (below, right) depending on your mood. If you want to yell at n00bs, go the boom. If you want to chat to Mum about your day, the inline’s perfect for that.
Overall sound quality is amazing, and the headphones themselves are comfortable through long periods of gaming. The only read downside I see to the headphones is that there are a lot of cables going on when you have everything connected; this isn’t a horrible thing, but compared to my wireless Razers, they’ll take some getting used to.
That being said, I can’t listen to Spotify through those Razers when GTA V‘s radio stations get old, can I?
At a RRP of around $150 AUD, the Plantronics RIG stereo headset is half the price of my lovable Razers, and offers functionality with a greater number of devices. Sure, you’ve got to put up with a bunch of cables, but they’re a great set of headphones for those who like to multitask on the (reasonably) cheap. They come highly recommended.