Buy one headphone, get one free. In a time when buying high-quality devices becomes more and more expensive and prohibitive, Plantronics offers an attractive gaming headset with plenty of versatility, the new Rig 500E. This brand new headset allows more demanding players to select the audio configuration that best suits their gaming needs. In fact, compared to more traditional headsets, Plantronics Rig 500E allow players to use two different kind of headphone configurations (open-back headphones or closed-back headphones), switching from one to another with the same ease with which you wear it.
With a very intuitive swap system, you can literally "remove" the headphones from the headset and choose, for example, the closed-back headphones - which are characterised by a more artificial sound, but at the same time it allows you to close yourself off from the outside. Alternatively you can use the open back setup, which offers a decidedly more natural sound, but in this case it allows you to listen to the sounds from beyond your audio bubble.
One of the most attractive aspects that has caught our attention with the Plantronics Rig 500E is its versatility, but nevertheless this interesting headset seems to have much more to offer thanks to a convincing price.
There is an important point that is worth noting, and it's about the "mission" that Plantronics Rig 500E are attempting to fulfill; becoming the new headset of choice in the world of eSports. As the pro players spend several hours wearing this kind of gear while playing games, one of the strengths we noticed during testing was that although we can't call ourselves pro players, these are definitely comfortable to wear.
We were completely at ease with them thanks to their unequaled lightness, which make them perfect for particularly long gaming sessions. We have to admit that going back to our old (but still excellent) Turtle Beach Ear Force PLa was bordering on traumatic, especially since the Rig 500E are defined by excellent ergonomics, with a much more flexible headphone headband, which although made with a rigid plastic, fits perfectly around the shape of our head.
However, those who buy gaming headphones aren't exclusively interested in comfort. One of the things that certainly makes a difference with this headset is the sound quality, which in this case turns out just as good. The new Plantronics supports Dolby 7.1 Surround (virtual) on PC, Stereo on PS4, while stereo support on Xbox One is offered via an adapter (sold separately).
In both configurations (open-back and closed-back), the sound quality is very good. The audio has been very clear and engaging in both setups, although in the case of the open configuration we noticed a greater emphasis on softer frequencies, especially the lower ones. In the case of the closed configuration it operated better in the higher frequencies, with a more aggressive response. We tested these headphones in different situations - listening to music, using vocal chat on Skype, and, of course, when playing video games - and the result was really surprising: in particular, we were impressed by their performance during our play sessions on PC, thanks to the presence of the aforementioned Dolby Surround 7.1 support.
For example, we played the atmospheric horror game developed by Funcom, The Park, with the closed-back configuration. And, as you might expect, this gaming experience was incredible, as it created moments of sheer terror thanks to a perfectly balanced and immersive sound (on top of this it was supported by a good simulation of the rear audio channels).
However, if you're not a fan of Dolby Surround 7.1, we have good news for you: it can be switched off at any time by simply pressing a button. The only sore point, however, is the lack of a volume control on the headset, as you need to either use software, or the volume control on your PC, and it's very annoying, in a particular with a headset which aims for comfort. As for connectivity, there's an interchangeable input, so you can connect it to your PC/console via a USB cable (it's needed to use the Dolby 7.1) or via the 3.5 mm jack (which means you can even use this with smartphones and tablets).
Last but not least, the microphone. Like everything with this headset, the microphone can be easily disassembled. The audio performance is fairly standard, but the device itself was particularly comfortable, which can be closed off if necessary or when not in use.
After all, our experience with Plantronics Rig 500E has been very positive. Thanks to the high quality and versatility on offer, the price is right at around £100 / €120. The fact that it offers two different headphone configurations means that players have more freedom, and that flexibility combined with the excellent audio quality, left us satisfied. The only flaw is the lack of Dolby 7.1 support on PS4, and needing an adapter on Xbox One, but if you're on PC then you'd be buying a high quality pair of headphones.