Plantronics RIG Review: Smartphone and Gaming Chat Together At Last

Gaming headphones are a dime a dozen and very few stand out from the crowd. The Plantronics RIG Gaming Headset is one of those rare products that challenges the status quo. Can a puck-shaped control mixer really make juggling gaming time and mobile time seamless? Read on for our full review.

What’s in the Box

  • RIG headphones
  • Mixer control unit
  • Boom microphone cable
  • In-line microphone cable
  • Xbox Live chat cable
  • 3.5mm to RCA piggyback cable

Design / Comfort

You can’t tell it from just looking at the box, but the RIG is very plasticky — the seams on the headphones aren’t sealed and are somewhat sharp on the edges, at least on our review unit. And the headband, while wrapped in soft texturized cloth does give offer a premium look, they don’t feel very durable.

Budget construction aside, the RIG is actually very comfortable for hours and hours of gaming. The 40mm diameter speakers with orange lining are snug, especially if you’ve got smaller ears, like we do.

Control Mixer

Of course, the RIG’s raison d’être is the bundled puck-shaped mixer. With it, you can plug either a PC, Xbox 360 or PS3 into one socket and a smartphone into the other. Its purpose is simple: to allow quick switching between smartphone and gaming system.

Basically, the mixer allows you to mix two audio channels simultaneously. For instance, you can listen to your game and your own personal music from your smartphone at the same time, adjusting the volume intensities on the fly. Or you can take incoming calls with the press of a button and continue to hear your game simultaneously. Obviously, the person calling won’t be able to hear your gaming, which is quite cool. Jumping between gaming chat and making phone calls is what makes the RIG mixer worth the $129 price alone.

Right in the middle of the mixer is a flipper to switch between smartphone and gaming system. Each half has its own volume slider. There’s just one complaint we had with the individual volume sliders. To increase the volume when it’s turned to smartphone mode, you move the slider down, but on the gaming system half, you move the slider up to increase the volume. It makes more sense for you to move both sliders up to increase the volume and down to decrease the volume. It’s an inconsistent design that often made us lower the volume when taking incoming calls, instead of increasing it. And on the outermost ring is the master volume control, which pumps up both sound sources. The only three real press-able buttons are a call button, mute button and an equalizer selector that switches between three preset audio settings: pure, intensify and seismic.

Messing around with the control mixer is a lot of fun, and after using the RIG and headphones for around two weeks day in and day out with a PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, it’s become such a convenient little feature, we’ve started to wonder how we ever lived without it.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re using the RIG control mixer for work or gaming, because it works well in both scenarios. We’ve been happily using the control mixer during work hours to field calls and listen to throbbing Tron soundtracks.

Audio Quality

If you know the Plantronics brand, you’ll know it takes chat audio quality very seriously. Chatting with both the noise-canceling boom mic and inline mic cable was never an issue and incoming calls over our iPhone 5 always came in crisp and audible.

The RIG headphones output in stereo sound, so don’t expect them to blow you away. It would have been nice if these cans were able to output in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, but maybe that’s something Plantronics will save for version 2.0. That, and wireless would be appreciated next time around.

We were surprised to hear solid mids and highs with plenty of boomy bass without any of the “tinniness” that usually plagues many gaming headphones. There is some distortion when increasing the overall volume from both audio inputs via the master volume control, but that’s something that’s fading as the headphones burn in, and the sound balances itself out.

While the mics do a great job of reducing background noise for clear chatting, we really wished the headphones themselves were noise-canceling ones that could block out all external sound. After all, when you’re gaming, you want to be fully immersed, not just in the visuals, but through the sound too.

The Verdict

For $129, the RIG is worth it if you frequently talk to friends over the phone while gaming or appreciate listening to your own music while listening to the game. It may not have the audio fidelity as, say, a pair of Astros or Turtle Beach gaming headphones, but the RIG packs enough punch for the average gamer. The plastic design leaves something to be desired, but at least it’s super comfy. And messing with the control mixer is tons of fun. Plantronics RIG gaming headset is currently available for preorder and will go on sale on October 7th.

Buy it!

The Good: The RIG produces decent sound for its price point and the control mixer adds a new level of smartphone control when gaming. The headphones are light and comfortable for long-term wear, chat quality is top notch and the flat cables really help keep tangles at bay.

The Bad: Construction is kind of on the cheap and flimsy side. The volume sliders for switching between smartphone and gaming mode could be consistent. Audible distortion at higher volumes with the master volume ring.