I’ve used a lot of headsets in my time, and for the most part each one was only marginally better, or worse, than the next. There are obviously a few exceptions such as upgrading from stereo to surround sound, but major breakthroughs and important enhancements are few and far between. What the Plantronics RIG Surround does is take a solid stereo headset, give it Dolby 7.1 Surround, and add in a ton of optional features. Instead of connecting directly to the PC, the RIG Surround first connects to an amp/audio mixer, which allows for an extreme amount of control over the listening experience. This version of the RIG is currently only launching for the PC, so console owners will have to wait for a 7.1 surround sound upgrade.
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Unlike most other headsets, the RIG Surround isn’t simply plug and play. The headset, audio mixer and microphone are all separate pieces, which allows for more customizability and is probably safer for shipping or storing. The headset hooks up to the amp via a 3.5mm connection, which is then connected to a PC with a USB cable. An additional media or mobile device can be connected to the amp via the additional 3.5mm cable. The last step in the installation process is to download the Dolby 7.1 surround sound drivers from the Plantronics website.
So there are a lot of things that need to be hooked up, but what advantage does this provide? Well first off this means that the audio quality is going to be better than a straight headset USB connection and there are more audio options. Additionally, an MP3 player, phone or other device can be connected to the amp to listen to music or answer phone calls. The audio mixer comes with three settings: Pure, Intensify, and Seismic. Pure is for improved voice quality, Seismic increases the bass while minimizing distortion, and Intensify is a balance of the two.
NEVER MISS RAID INFORMATION AGAIN
There are all kinds of headsets on the market with surround sound and audio mixers, so what makes this one any different? First off, it has the option to manage two devices and multiple audio inputs simultaneously. MMO gamers will definitely appreciate setting their VoIP to one input and their in game audio to another. The audio controls on the mixer can be set to turn down one input while increasing the other; so when important raid information is being announced the VoIP volume can be turned up while game volume is simultaneously turned down without requiring any complex user inputs.
Additionally, phone calls can be answered while using the RIG Surround and with a flip of a button the headset goes from gaming to mobile mode. This allows the user to talk on the phone, hear any game or VoIP audio and be able to control the volume for everything through the mixer. When switching between modes it mutes the user for the mode that’s currently disabled, so your guildmates won’t hear your phone conversation, but you can still hear them.
SOUND AND COMFORT
Despite all the bells and whistles a company might put into their product, sound and comfort are still two of the most important aspects of any headset. The RIG Surround manages to deliver stellar sound quality at a $99.99 price point. The output is crisp and clean while the microphone input has almost no distortion whatsoever. Music also sounds great and the audio mixer seems to handle the bass balance quite well, but the difference between equalizer settings isn’t huge. This is, however, a mid-range gaming headset, so there still better options, with a much higher price point, out there for picky audiophiles.
Hands-down, the RIG Surround is the most comfortable headset I’ve ever used. After multiple five-hour raiding sessions I never once had any discomfort or soreness from extended use. The fabric and plastic composition of the RIG Surround provide both comfort and support, but this does reduce the overall durability. The lightweight, soft earcups also allow quite a bit of sound to bleed through, so the isolation isn’t amazing.
GOOD BUT NOT PERFECT
There are a lot of solid aspects to the RIG Surround, but it still has a number of issues. The first major issue is that the Dolby 7.1 surround sound drivers are still rather buggy. There were multiple cases where one audio input would work perfect and another would completely cutout. I also had a few cases where VoIP programs would experience high levels of distortion, which could be fixed after resetting my playback devices. Since I was able to troubleshoot this almost instantly, it leads me to believe this is a software and not a hardware issue. If there were more consistent and reproducible problems I would be worried about the overall quality, but most of these were few and far between.
While the additional 3.5mm connection is a good idea, I don’t feel that it was implemented in the best way possible. First off, if it’s not in use it’s just another cable hanging in the way. With as large as the audio mixer is, I feel like this could have been made retractable or secured out of the way. The other problem is that it’s only a little longer than a foot, which makes it difficult to find a perfect place to keep the mixer cords out of the way while still having my phone in reach to answer it. Trying to keep the mixer and my phone in a convenient distance without having cords in the way or being obstructed by other peripherals is a difficult task.
The RIG Surround is a solid headset, especially with a $99.99 price tag, and has a lot of bells and whistles that are great if you can make use of them. The audio mixer options are incredibly useful for both casual and hardcore MMO gamers, while most issues can be overlooked. I give the RIG Surround an 8.5/10.
- Great sound quality
- Reasonable price tag
- Limited sound isolation
- Questionable durability
- Driver issues