Choosing a pair of headphones is as an important decision as choosing a car – albeit on a much smaller scale. Regardless of the application you’re likely to be using these things for hours on end so you need to be completely happy with the performance, comfort and value for money. Any glaring limitations or flaws will easily overshadow the positives that can be found in the product.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been putting the Plantronics RIG800HS through its paces and we can confidently say these are the gaming headphones you want to buy.
As is the case with all headsets the first thing worth noticing as you take the RIG800 out of the box is its weight and design. At a specified 290g — or 295g according to my digital scales — they’re only slightly heavier than many wired headsets but are significantly lighter (in some instances by more than 100g) than similarly priced wireless models. To help lighten the load the RIGG800 includes a self-adjusting strap on the crown that magically disperses weight to a point where the unit almost floats atop your head. Feeling as though it weighs half as much as specified, this, with the leather wrapped memory foam of the ear cups caressing the sides of your head makes it feel as though the RIG800 is giving your head a gentle hug even after several hours of game time.
Much like the other headsets in the Plantronics range, the headband is a little skeletal in appearance, seemingly with the intent to reduce the weight. The frame allows for only three possible size positions which we reported as a problem with the RIG400HX when we reviewed it late last year. But the RIG800’s aforementioned self-adjusting strap counters this issue providing further leeway for the broad range of head shapes out there.
Physical setup of the 800 is exceedingly simple. The wireless base connects to your Xbox One or PS4 Pro USB port and Bob’s your uncle. Standard PS4 users will also need to use the included optical cable for voice chat to work. While the headset and base are paired together out of the box, if the need arises re-pairing is as simple as the flick of a switch, the press of a button and then waiting to hear “headset connected” from the small lady that lives inside.
That’s right, the RIG800 has spoken word feedback for all those important things you need to know about including verifying the unit is powered on, connection status and battery level indicated as high, medium or low. While it seems like this would be a minor feature, being aware of your battery power and confirming the connection status without having to remove the device from your head is an excellent design choice and a godsend when it comes to troubleshooting.
The rear of the left ear cup features two volume dials, one of which adjusts the balance between game and chat audio however if not setup correctly it will only work as a useless secondary volume dial. Regretfully the instruction manual for the 800 provides only half of the necessary PS4 settings needed leaving the rest up to you to figure out with trial and error. After an hour of fiddling with different PS4 Audio Device settings and annoying various friends with Party Chat requests, was I finally able to get it this feature working properly. Once it’s set up in the right way the chat/game balance dial works perfectly. The dial also includes the slightest amount of physical feedback so you can easily find the exact middle position between game audio and chat… again making the RIG800 easy to use without needing to remove it from your noggin.
Also on your left ear is the boom microphone which reproduces your friendly and entirely non-sweary game banter with the clarity of crystal and literally no ambient noise from the background. And when you don’t want your team to hear you yelling expletives at your cat as it walks in front of your screen, simply raising the boom will conveniently mute it leaving you free to scream your head off.
The right ear cup features an Equaliser button which cycles through 4 different EQ options. Choose between prioritising high, medium and low frequencies or boost the level of vocal audio. The difference between each of the options is minimal so your EQ choice will be nothing more than a matter of personal preference. For me the low frequency priority is the way to go as it adds a sweet, distortion free rumble and thud without sacrifice to the other frequencies.
Tested against a range of games the RIG800 performed best with multiplayer first person shooters. While it won’t rattle your bones, it offers clarity rarely experienced in gaming headsets and much like the others in the Plantronics range, these are best suited for competitive gaming where spatial awareness is key. Remembering that the RIG800 is a stereo headset, the large soundstage still manages to help you pinpoint the direction from which an enemy is approaching almost as well as a surround capable headset would. The difference here is that a fully capable surround unit will set you back an additional $100.00AUD on top of the RIG800’s $249AUD price tag.
As a completely wireless headset the flagship of the Plantronics range promises up to twenty-four hours of use after a four and a half hour charge. When seeing an advertised battery life of “up to” anything, one cannot help but see this as a red herring suggesting that twenty-four hours is likely the best you’re going to get. To be safe we used several methods of testing this claim.
In standard game applications with the unit being switched on, used for a few hours per day roughly 2.5 metres from the base unit and then switched off after each use the RIG800HS performed above expectations with around twenty-five hours of operation. When left powered on, right next to the base unit and with music playing constantly at high volume it managed to survive for an impressive twenty-eight hours. While four and a half hours is a long time when it comes to charging anything these days, from a completely dead battery a fifteen minute charge gave us close to two and a half hours of run time before the unit shut down completely.
Having exclusively used, and been very pleased with, headphones from a Plantronics competitor for in excess of 5 years, this feature packed, lightweight device is now my go to headset. At $249AUD it may sit just outside the realm of affordability for some, yet with a battery that will see you going grey before it needs charging, audio clear enough to replicate a grasshopper’s fart at long range and a level of comfort akin to having your head hugged by your grandma, you certainly get what you pay for with the RIG800HS.
The Plantronics RIG800HS was reviewed using a promotional unit, as provided by the manufacturer.