Plantronics RIG 600 Gaming Headset
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve long known Plantronics to be a leader in the headset communications industry, and have watched as they expanded into the wireless Bluetooth arena. But more recently, it’s my first glimpse of seeing them with products in gaming and headphones, which came as a nice surprise. Though it shouldn’t have, I suppose, because if you think about it, they already have many years of audio experience and this is a natural extension of their existing business.
Now enter the RIG 600, the headset specifically engineered for wired gaming – and that includes anything that takes a 3.5mm audio jack, like a PC, laptop, smart phone, tablet, or gaming console like the Xbox One or PS4. Not only that, but they’ve thoughtfully included a normal headset/mic cable so you can hit the streets without a boom mic sticking out of your head. So this in fact, can double duty as your daily music headset as well.
Plastic and faux leather never looked so good together. I’m thinking that the gold trim and stitching helps, because it looks pretty high class from afar. The upper headband and the earcups are perfectly matched with perforated faux leather “filled” with really soft foam. The underside of the headband is a neoprene material that offers relief from the pressures of gravity constantly pulling the headphones downward, and the outside of the earcups, which is what most people will notice first, offers a hint of luxury with a circular piece of faux leather and surrounding gold trim. Other than that, most of what’s visible is plastics, but by that time, everyone’s attention is too focused on the luxurious side of things to bother noticing.
Apart from that and the drivers in the housing, the rest is made of plastic. The only worry I have is if I accidentally drop them – will I hear an awful sound one day that equates to bits of broken plastic? Or does it take more force than a normal drop for anything to happen? You may think I’m paranoid, but I’ve had headphones break on me with just a drop, which is a heartbreaking experience after all the time you spend for the “break-in” period. But to be fair, I’m like this with almost all headphones nowadays, so I keep telling myself “trust in the engineers”.
The two included wires (both boom mic and normal mic) are flat cables with rubber coating and very flexible. The first is a little over 5 feet long, reaching almost two arm lengths while the second is almost 4.5 feet long, reaching to the tip of my fingers, and then back to my elbow. Both have a right angle plug into the headset to prevent accidental unplugging – and to be doubly sure, they made the head a square’ish shape. And in case you have an older laptop that takes two inputs separately for mic in and sound out, Plantronics includes a splitter for this purpose, which you’d do well to save for future use.
These are my kind of headphones – straightforward to use, and no fuss with software – plug it in and you’re ready to go. Whilst some products offer equalizers and software mods to “fix” the audio, these headsets offer clean, balanced sound right out of the box. The adjustable boom mic can be moved towards or away from your face and the built-in volume control and a mute switch is easy to access (though it’s hard to tell if it’s muted or not until you’ve looked at it carefully). The regular mic cable has mute/unmute and call pickup controls, and is placed closer to the headset so you can be heard when you’re chatting.
FEELING / COMFORT
It’s a comfortable headset and feels good on the head. My first gaming session went on for five hours and upon taking the headphones off, I felt a bit of relief from my head being slightly “clamped.” It wasn’t bad because I hadn’t really noticed during gameplay, but to make it better, I’d need to widen the headset a little.
This is possible by crossing both fingers and toes and saying a little prayer to the gaming gods before gently pulling the earcups apart -that’s just a little joke- don’t do the prayer, I’ve already done it for you (it’s what I actually did before I tried it the first time – the headband around the middle seemed thinner, so I was running on hope that it was a metal plate and not plastic. Had I been wrong, a nasty crackle and snap would have resulted.)
In addition to the swiveling earcups that bring pleasure (not pain) to your collarbones, it’s height adjustable on both sides which the folks at Plantronics use to showcase a sense of humor that rarely escape most company design rooms. At minimum length, you’ll notice what looks like a Lego head – and as you extend the earcups, another head with more hair appears until a third and final head is shown with more hair than head, which is hilarious. Got hair? No problem!
I’ve saved the best part for last, because this is where the quality was hidden all along – The money you pay for these headphones have gone to where it counts – most of it to the high quality housing design and 40mm drivers that deliver great clarity and frequency response. The useful numbers will be the following:
Impedence: 32 ohms
Sensitivity: 111 dBSPL/V
Max input power: 40 mW
Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 kHz
In a nutshell, the impedence and sensitivity allows for use with portable devices, gaming consoles, tablets and laptops while the rated frequency response is basically all the sounds that humans can hear from the lowest lows to the highest highs.
What these numbers don’t tell us is the quality of the sound, which can only be measured by a person’s own ears in most cases. These 40mm drivers are very good overall; they’ve got great clarity in the highs, and their housing design with their passive resonators are quite good in bringing out the lows. So unless you’re blasting the volume to beyond concert noise levels, you should be hearing everything from your comrade’s footsteps as they follow your lead in an FPS game, to the location of enemy fire, for which you’re either going to avoid totally or attack head on. And not only is it good for gaming, but the music play is great too. I fell back to anime nostalgia and listened to some Ranma 1/2 soundtracks where the female and male singers for Ranma kept switching roles (Ranma is a guy that turns into a girl in cold water and reverts back in hot water.) In one particular song called “Love Letter from China”, his “frenemies” keep throwing water at him and I could hear all levels of reactions as he/she attempts to just get through this one song, though at the end, he just sort of gives up and you can even hear the defeat in his voice.
The clarity is further solidified on track four of the “Weathering Continent”. Imagine if you will, sitting next to a harp player and hearing the actual plucking of the harp strings as drops of water trickle into puddles in an empty cavern. You can feel the fullness and vibration of the cello that just started playing and feel the thump of the bass drum as it kicks in unison with the water droplets.
This is a very good indication of the RIG 600’s abilities in soundstage and dynamic range. Sure it’s got the frequency range that other headsets have got, but the importance is in how well that sound is represented.
All the listening was done in a mostly quiet place, but the box says there is noise isolation. So I opened my windows to see what’s what, and indeed it does isolation certain kinds of noise, mainly lower frequencies. So with these headphones, you’re more apt to hear birds chirping and less deep noises such as rumbling of traffic.
Noise cancelling boom mic 100 Hz-10 kHz
Sensitivity -45 dBV/Pa
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 42dB
Pickup pattern: uni-directional
It’s unidirectional, and therefore masks out noise coming from most other directions, and the noise cancelling feature accepts the sound of human voices and ignores everything lower than 100 Hz and higher than 10 kHz.
To test the quality of the mic, I plugged in the headset to my smartphone and recorded a bit of my own chatter. Using automatic gain and CD quality settings (to hear the best of what this mic can offer), I’ve provided the results for you to hear for yourself, from both the boom mic and the regular mic. Plug in a pair of headphones and have a listen.
Audio Test: Boom mic
Audio Test: Inline mic
Any moving part is more likely to break than something solid, which I refer to as “break points”. There are several to consider:
- The vertical headset adjustment slider
- Earcup swivel
- Earcup tilt
- 3.5mm plug
- Volume adjustment and mute switch
If we consider possible breakage/malfunction over time, there are two to keep your eyes on – the volume adjustment and the earcup tilts. From my experience, slider type volume adjustors start losing contact the more you use it, resulting in crackling sounds. The earcup tilt on the RIG 600, upon investigation, reveals an interesting design decision – it’s supported from what seems to be a piece of foam. It won’t break, but when the foam starts to decay, you’ll start hearing plastic impact noise from lack of cushioning. The question is, how long before this piece of foam decays or wears out?
Overall, the Plantronics RIG 600 is a great sounding headset with accessories that allow you to use them both at home when you’re gaming or on the go without the boom mic. You’ve got 1 year for warranty in case something goes wrong, and at a cost of under US$100, you’re getting excellent value for money. When you buy it, you’ll see a claim of “High Fidelity” right on the box – and who am I to argue when they’re right?