Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset Review- Dolby Atmos Approved

Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset Review- Dolby Atmos Approved

With the recent release of the Xbox One X, Plantronics has made a powerful play in the gaming headset market by being the first Microsoft approved partner to license Dolby Atmos technology, the next evolutionary step in entertainment audio. While most audiophiles swear that this tech can only be showcased by premium surround sound systems, Plantronics promises they can deliver a similar immersive experience for only $150 USD. Enter the RIG 800LX, Plantronics’ latest flagship wireless headset for Xbox One and PC players.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

Included in the box are three core components, the Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset, a USB powered wireless hub and the included Dolby Atmos product code to activate on your Microsoft account. Normally a $15 USD optional purchase, the included Atmos code doesn’t just make the RIG 800LX come to life, but all of your previous and future gaming headsets as well as a permanent audio choice for any compatible piece of content. The catch to this Atmos tech is that it’s not built into the headphones’ drivers, but rather as an enhancement codec, which is why audiophiles will say a proper sound system is the superior choice.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

Before we tackle performance, let’s look at what’s under the hood of the Plantronics RIG 800LX and its unique design. At the core of this audio experience are two 40mm drivers with built-in bass tubes capable of delivering a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz. The surrounding oval shaped memory foam encapsulates the ears comfortably with cushioned material to isolate audio and relieve pressure from the user’s head during lengthy gaming sessions. The unique flexible frame and self-adjusting headstrap has become a trademark of Plantronics’ headsets and works perfectly in tandem with the memory foam drivers to adjust to the user’s head shape with ease. The headset also features a crisp sounding flip-out chat mic and built-in audio controls to mix your audio on the fly without needing to get out of your chair. The final major sell of the RIG 800LX is its efficient 1500mAh battery capable of delivering a full 24-hour charge of quality latency free wireless audio.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

Unlike my past experience with Plantronics’ budget aimed headset, the 400HS, the RIG 800LX proves that investing in a quality headset makes a major difference in the audio quality. I would compare the performance to one of my favourite headsets in this price range, the SteelSeries Arctis 7’s. The drivers feel punchy during intense cinematic sequences and deliver great quality for the dollar as a Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound headset in a majority of titles. However, with the added bonus of included Atmos compatibility, the value sways in favor of Plantronics.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

What makes Dolby Atmos the next evolution for entertainment audio is that it envelops the user in a 3D audio sphere. Unlike traditional surround sound that works off audio channels, developers can now precisely place sound around the user to deliver a more life-like experience. The most famous demo to showcase this 3D sound is the airplane demo, where users can accurately pinpoint the height of the plane as it flies overhead. Unfortunately, while this tech is being adopted quickly in movies, there’s not a massive library of games developed yet to showcase its power.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

Out of my massive games library filled with hundreds of titles to choose from only Overwatch and Gears of War 4 stood out as Atmos compatible, so they will take their solemn place as proper test subjects for the RIG 800LX. Gears of War 4 didn’t blow me away like I hoped. While I certainly could hear more depth in the gun fights and close up encounters, showcase sequences featuring powerful explosions felt drowned out and weaker than their 7.1 surround sound counterparts. Despite my early disappointment with Gears, Overwatch is where the potential of this technology came through fully. Using Volskaya Industries first chokepoint as my playing ground, I was easily able to pinpoint where my enemies were located, what character they were playing and what their formation was. Reinhardt’s stomps would ring out on the ground, while Hanzo’s quick footsteps on top of the truck could still be heard above me as he swayed from side to side. Dolby states that Overwatch was the first game built from the ground up for Atmos for headphones and that certainly shows here.

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Plantronics RIG 800LX Headset – image credit: CGM Staff

The RIG 800LX is a powerful new competitor in the headset market for users to consider. While it’s Dolby Atmos technology isn’t an exclusive perk, the headset is more than competent enough to handle any type of game thrown at it and deliver a satisfying and immersive experience akin to some of the best competition offered on the market. Atmos may still be in its infancy for gaming, but as developers learn its tools and tricks, all of us players will benefit in the years to come as the library of compatible titles continues to grow and expand into new genres.

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Best Tech Of E3 – A Strong and Diverse Showcase

Best Tech Of E3 - A Strong and Diverse Showcase

While all of the new games and exciting announcements from our favourite studios continue to be the best headliners of E3, tech manufacturers are also a key component in the gaming industry and deserve some attention. Here are a few of our nominees and our winner for Best Tech of the show.

Nominee: Logitech

Logitech is known for their high-quality wireless mice and accurate sensors, but their new lineup didn’t pique my interest like I expected.The new mice, including the G703 and G903, are mostly new versions of popular fan favourites with small tweaks, so I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. What did surprise me, however, was the mousepads the mice were working on.

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One of Logitech’s new products set to come out this year is called the Powerplay charging mousepad and it’s compatible with all of their latest wireless mice. The technology is pretty ingenious; by plugging in the new weighted power coin included in the system into your favourite Logitech mouse, the pad will actually charge it while you game. The demo I was shown also showcased that the pad was charging the mouse faster than the mouse was draining, meaning this Powerplay pad could be the perfect solution for all those users who forget to charge their gear. The Powerplay system will retail for $100 USD, but unlike recent RGB mousepads that only light up, this pad has technology users will actually want to take advantage of.

Nominee: Alienware

If you wanted to see the beefiest systems on the show floor running some insane demos, then Alienware was the booth to go to. The big headliner of their show was their new Area 51 PCs, which had both AMD’s Threadripper and Intel’s new Core i7 X-Series enthusiast level CPUs on full display. The Threadripper demo was particularly impressive, showing that the system was capable of running a game at 1080p 60FPS while rendering video and running two different benchmarks on a second monitor without breaking a sweat.

Best Tech Of E3- A Strong and Diverse Showcase

The case of the Area 51 PC is also a beauty to behold with its unique design and wealth of customization options to satisfy users with different budgets. The system itself starts as low as $2300 USD, but that price can quickly ramp up to over $4000 if users want to purchase the highest-grade components and additional add-ons like wireless adapters and software packages. After the user’s system arrives, they are free to open the case and add any of their personal components as well thanks to Alienware’s pro-consumer warranty.

Nominee: Plantronics

Plantronics is one of the most recognizable brands when it comes to headsets in eSports and their technology continues to improve through new intimate partnerships with companies like Microsoft. If you’re a reader interested in picking up the Xbox One X, one feature you won’t immediately be able to take advantage of is the Dolby Atmos technology built within. A standard license to even use the feature costs $15 USD, but through Plantronics’ exclusive partnership with Microsoft, users who purchase one of the manufactures new RIG 800LX, 600LX or 400LX headsets will get a license for free.

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The RIG 800LX is set to release this Fall for a competitive price tag of $150 USD and has a large catalogue of features built within. First, the set is wireless and can handle 24-hours of lag-free use on Xbox One before the battery fully drains. The 40mm drivers showcase the amplified sound that only Dolby Atmos can offer and the drivers themselves fit nicely to the user’s head with comfortable cushioning. To ensure that the user doesn’t have a hard time fiddling with audio controls in the back-end of the console, the 800LX also has built-in dials on the sides of the drivers for both in-game audio and chat.

Winner: Razer

If there was one tech manufacturer that stood out to me it was Razer with their impressive lineup of headsets for consoles, PC peripherals and the breathtaking winner of the show, the Razer Blade Stealth 2017. The new Razer Blade Stealth is the most impressive looking notebook on the market to date, setting a new standard for enthusiast notebooks by delivering powerful performance and a stunning professional design.

Best Tech Of E3 - A Strong and Diverse Showcase

While the Blade hasn’t undergone a huge transformation with its chassis design, it’s shocking how a new gunmetal finish can make this notebook stand out from the crowd. Spec wise, however, the Razer Blade Stealth has gone through many improvements since its last iteration. The most noticeable difference was the new 13.3” QHD+ display with an impressive resolution of 3200×1800 and 50% reduction in display bezel. The colours come to life thanks to the 100 percent sRGB colour range and users can take further advantage of the display with convenient touchscreen controls. Even the trackpad has undergone new innovations with a much more accurate sensor and improved sensitivity controls.

While this baby may not have a GPU under the hood, the Razer Blade Stealth’s Core i7 processor will be more than enough to handle most eSports while the user is on-the-go. Lastly, to power this whole experience is a stronger battery with upwards of 9 hours of underload battery life from a single charge. It’s due to this great level of craftsmanship that Razer takes home the CGM Best Tech of Show Award.

Plantronics RIG 500E (Hardware) Review

Plantronics RIG 500E (Hardware) Review

I never fully realized the importance of quality headphones until I purchased my first flat-screen TV (a modest little 22”). Smaller LCD TVs usually come equipped with a headphone jack, which at the time I loved simply because it meant I could competently game into the late hours of the night after everyone had gone to sleep.

Read morePlantronics RIG 500E (Hardware) Review

Plantronics RIG 7.1 Headset Review

Plantronics RIG 7.1 Headset Review

It’s Finally In Surround

Plantronics released a RIG headset previously that did some things well and some things not so well. It sported decent build quality, had good—but not outstanding—audio quality, and threw in a small USB powered mixer into the fray for some added richness in sound. It even hooked up to phones to allow people to take calls while playing, an exotic function to say the least, but one that had its uses for hardcore gamers. The one thing it was lacking was full surround sound functionality, but that’s finally been addressed in this latest version. If you own a PC, that is.


A Small Step Forwards, A Big Step Backwards

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The physical characteristics of the RIG 7.1 are the same as the original review for the earlier RIG model. At $100 there`s a surprising amount of quality put into this headset, the plastic frame and fabric head phones are firm but flexible, and the over-the-ear design ensures that the headset can be worn for hours with little discomfort. This also means that the RIG 7.1 is prone to same design foibles as the original RIG. It’s a strictly wired headset, and the wire used is either the boom microphone, or an inline microphone. Whichever choice you go with, the microphone is required to pipe in audio, making it quite clear that this headset was never intended for strictly listening pleasure; it’s a communication device for gamers. Also, the sound isolation is not great, even at medium volumes the sound bleeds through to people around you.

Sound is still an important aspect of any headset, and it’s here that the RIG delivers some quality audio, especially at the $100 price point. It’s not the loudest headset, and certainly not the most bass heavy, but it presents some clean, balanced audio is competitive or slightly ahead of other headphones and headsets in this price range. For $100 you can’t expect a sterling audio experience, but clean highs and decent mid-range sounds accompany adequate, undistorted bass for an accurate—but not amazing—audio experience. There’s good sound here, equal to the money you’re paying. A USB powered mixer acts like a micro-amplifier, and is largely responsible for the robust sound the RIG presents. There are settings to boost bass and mid-range sounds, but the differences, while noticeable if you’re concentrating, are minimal overall. Thanks to the ability to connect a phone to the RIG, players even have the option of listening to music from the phone while playing a game, so there’s an unexpected bonus to having your smartphone connected to your headset.

“Sound is still an important aspect of any headset, and it’s here that the RIG delivers some quality audio, especially at the $100 price point”

The other half of this equation is the communication aspect, and the RIG 7.1 is, once again, identical to its predecessor. The quality of chat is decent—especially considering the price range—with the added convenience of taking phone calls as well. Thanks to the mixer, the volume levels can be manually adjusted so that the volume of chat versus the volume of the game being played are balanced to personal preference. This also carries over to being able to adjust the volume of the game versus the volume of the music you’re listening to from your phone or other audio source, such as a laptop or tablet.

Where the RIG 7.1 really comes into its own is an entry level surround sound headset. At $100, this is an impressive bargain, and while the RIG doesn’t really impress as dedicated headphones for listening to music or movies, it manages to deliver as a gaming headset with positional audio. FPS games and even fantasy RPGs like The Witcher 2 and Diablo 3 manage to take advantage of the positional audio of RIG to varying degrees, although there are few “true” surround sound games in the same sense as dedicated console games such as The Last of Us, which are designed to take advantage of home theater systems.

The real lost opportunity here comes with the fact that the RIG 7.1 is only surround sound for the PC. It’s an incredibly baffling design decision when both the Xbox One and PS4 can easily handle surround sound, and the previous RIG headset already had the appropriate output built into its USB mixer. Bafflingly, the optical audio output that was pointlessly included on a stereo only headset was removed from a surround sound headset that would have actually put that output to good use on current generation consoles. As it is, the RIG will work as a decent stereo headset and microphone by plugging into a DualShock 4 on the PS4 and will only work as a pair of headphones on the Xbox One, significantly crippling its usefulness on other platforms.

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Still, for the PC faithful, there’s a lot of value in the RIG 7.1, as most human beings will never buy a 7.1 home theater system for $100 unless it’s from the back of a van in a dark alley, for cash only and no questions asked. Had the 7.1 functionality been extended to the current generation consoles, this would be one of the best headset purchases on the market today in terms of value for money. As it is, it’s still highly recommended for PC users. It might not be the greatest audio experience for your ears, but a 7.1 audio experience at $100 is hard to come by, and the quality of the sound here is quite reasonable for that price, when all the other features are rolled into it.

 

Plantronics Gamecom 788 Headset Review

Plantronics Gamecom 788 Headset Review

This is a product review. This is also a story. A story about success. A story about triumph in the face of adversity. A story about excellent use of resources, and a product that is brilliantly attuned to its target market. This is a review of the Plantronics Gamecom 788 Digital 7.1 USB headset.

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I approached this review with a concern for my own personal bias. A product deserves to be objectively reviewed, but sound is such a subjective experience, and a 7.1 headset with a price tag of only $80 doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. I’ve never been so pleased to make a poor first judgement.

It should be noted that the 788 is a strictly PC headset requiring a free USB port to connect and power it, but setup was a breeze. Remove the giant sticker from the USB connector telling you where to download your resource program, plug it in, switch your current headset to the new one, the same with the microphone and you’re ready to start tracking enemies through walls in your favourite FPS.

The headset makes a nice point of mounting things you’ll be using a lot, like volume controls, microphone mute, and a toggle between 2.0 and 7.1 operation mode directly on the left cup, which is certainly better than having a dangling dongle that you’re constantly trying to find while playing.

The downloaded Dolby controller program even allows you to switch between “Music” mode and “Movies/ Gaming” mode. Though, to be honest, I haven’t the slightest clue what this does; after much toggling in movies, music and games, it seems to make no appreciable difference, but it also uses almost no background resources, so I’m not bothered by it.

If I have to nitpick, the cord from headset to computer is frustratingly short. Six feet just isn’t enough for a headset that’s going to be moving with you as you fish for stuff around your desk.  If you’re like me and have right-side tower, you’ll quickly discover that your headset needs to be plugged into the front USB ports. This leaves a thin, unbraided cable slung in front of you at all times. This all leads me to feel that the 788 is better suited for use on a laptop where these concerns don’t exist, and that saddens me..

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The pads on the cups are also quite firm, and the cloth cover on them bleeds an awful lot of ambient noise and do a pretty poor job of focusing bass. Your friends might tell you, as mine have, that your microphone makes you sound like an AM radio talk show host if it’s not in just the right spot.  Chewing with the microphone up also causes it to rattle in your left ear, and the cups themselves are clearly too small for human ears, causing them to become uncomfortable during extended use. They also, for whatever reason, rotate to face backwards, so instead of becoming comfortable around-the-neck speakers, they become awkward on-the-shoulder armour.

You’ll almost certainly notice these things over time, as I have, but I’m not worried about any of them. I couldn’t be bothered less by them because I adore the 788. I wouldn’t care if the cable was two feet long with exposed wires that shocked me every five seconds. I wouldn’t care if the cup pads had spikes in them. I wouldn’t even be all that bothered if the inside of the box was laced with Anthrax, because the audio experience is simply excellent. Not just excellent for an $80 headset. It’s excellent full stop. Sure, it lacks perfect clarity on account of being digital, causing the high-end to wash out a bit under the constant bass, and the low-end doesn’t have the hit I would like, but the positional sound is brilliant. It may not have the ability to manipulate each driver in it independently, or crank bass levels while listening to music, but all of that is explained by the same reasoning for not having memory foam filled leatherette pads and expensive braided cables, or fancy external docks. The 788 fights up in price brackets. WAY up. And it comes out swinging.

Every single bit of the headset feels like it was meant to be that way. Every design choice, good or bad, was made in the pursuit of delivering a simply fantastic positional audio experience to a gaming audience and price bracket that couldn’t previously dream of it.

Everything but that weird shoulder armour mode.

Plantronics RIG Headset + Mixer Review

Plantronics RIG Headset + Mixer Review

Getting a device that does everything you want at a price that is affordable can be next to impossible without compromise. Plantronics hopes to buck this trend with their RIG headset by promising rich sound, modular design and the ability to take calls while gaming, all for just $129. This sounds like a fantastic deal! If only deals like this are as good as they seem.

The build quality on the Plantronics RIG is hands-down my favorite aspect. It has a sleek simple design, with the choice of either black or white models. The ear cups are made of a soft fabric that sits snugly over the ears and can be adjusted to fit most head sizes. The band, covered with a thin cloth coating works well at allowing the headphones to rest comfortably on the head without putting too much tension that would get painful over time. The overall design makes the Plantronics RIG one of the least flashy headsets available on the market.

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The two interchangeable mics share the same design elements with slight variations: one, a simple inline design, and the other a boom style mic. Both give enough length to work and game comfortably without getting tangled thanks to the flat cored design. All this being said, the real seller with the RIG, is the small puck shaped acts as an audio mixer/amplifier. This little device can be connected via optical audio or standard 3.5 mm audio jack.

The major selling point of the RIG is how it connects to your phone so that you can answer calls with a simple click of a button while gaming. Overall this works. I was able to effortlessly take a call, talk to the person on the other end and go quickly back to the game audio easily. If I wanted to, I could lower the game audio and still listen to it during the call, but that’s really not my thing. Yet, with more and more people using mobile phones for everything, this is a very nice touch.

Don’t let this complicated set up fool you. The Plantronics RIG comes with a simple guide that shows the optimal way to set it up based on your currently gaming configuration. Overall there was little trouble getting the system up and running. We tested it on a variety of consoles. Overall the sound and mic worked without effort on most systems. The Xbox One currently will not work with the RIG for chat, but it did work for sound when using optical audio.

But, as with any headset, it all comes down to the audio quality. In this area, the Plantronics RIG fared well, although not as good as we had hoped. Since the headphones can be used with or without the base station we did tests with both configurations. Using just the headsets and cable, the headset worked with mobile devices, PC and PS4 with little to no trouble.

The overall audio quality was on par with mid-range headsets. The sound was clear, the bass was present all be it a tad overpowering, and the midrange felt good. The volume on the headphones was much more quiet then we would have liked. The volume had to be set near to the maximum level to get any kind of clarity when using the VITA or mobile. The issue that upset me the most was the poor treble performance. When you spend over $100, you hope to have a full range of sound through the earphone, yet Plantronics dropped the ball with the RIG. Although most sound felt crisp, the treble and mid tones were drowned out on most music we used during the test. In games it was less noticeable, although it was still lacking much of the richness that would be present through a surround sound system.

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Using the RIG base station alleviated some of the problems we experienced using the headset on its own. The addition of three audio equalizer presets meant the sound did feel a bit more robust. Sound came through at an acceptable volume, and mids and bass felt more powerful. The issue with treble, although slightly better, was still a problem.

My biggest issue with the RIG Base Station is that since there is no dedicated power adapter for the device, it needs to be plugged into a USB port at all times for it to work. For this reason, using the RIG’s full set up with anything beyond a console or PC, was impractical.

It’s also important to note that the RIG, at this time, is only stereo. That means that even though it can take an optical signal, it is only capable of outputting a stereo signal. This is a non-issue for music or mobile. When comparing it to the competition, however, who do offer 5.1 options, it is good to keep this in mind when making your decision.

Now the real question is, is the Plantronics RIG a good investment at $129 even with the deficiencies in some areas? It all depends on what you plan to be doing with your headset. If you are okay with an all in one modular solution for your mobile phone and at home gaming, then the RIG is a great choice. The build quality and sound are fantastic. On the other hand, if you want a headset that gives uncompromising performance and you are okay paying the price tag, then picking up a 5.1 gaming headset may be a better investment. It all comes down to your needs, but all in all, the Plantronics RIG is a great choice for the casual gamer on the go.