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Plantronics has a new line of gaming headsets that are endowed with the Rig 500 label. This new collection of gaming headsets have quite a range in terms of price and features, and I’m reviewing the flagship model, the Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition (See it at Best Buy), which is a wired 7.1 headset for cross-platform gaming. This version has more metal and less plastic in its design compared to the other models, and includes two audio cables for compatibility with both PCs and consoles, and there’s even a second set of ear cushions. All the Rig 500 models except the PS4-centric Rig 500 Pro HS come with a code to unlock Dolby Atmos sound.
These extras, while appreciated, add significantly to the price tag. At $149.99 it’s almost twice as expensive as the model below it in the product stack. We put it through its paces to find out if it is worth the extra dough.
Plantronics Rig 500 – Design and Features
The Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition threads the design needle of adding a bit of attitude and flair to the look of the headset without making it garish. Its black-and-dark-gray color scheme and sleek metal, “exoskeleton” ear cups give it a stylish, industrial look. The metal pieces are dark gray and the plastic parts and dual-material earcups are black.
There aren’t any needlessly showy accents, just a number of subtly clever design touches. For example, the headset features a thin metal headband with a separate padded headband piece underneath that stretches on an elastic cord for a supremely comfortable fit. The stretchy headband allows for minor size adjustment to create a snug-but-not-too-tight fit on your head.
For larger adjustments, Plantronics has maintained its unique mechanism of using three cutouts on each end of the headband for the earcups. I wasn’t wild about this arrangement on the budget Rig 400 HX model because it allowed for only three sizing options instead of a continuum, but it’s less annoying here because of the elastic headband stretches to fill in the gaps between the three sizing choices. It’s also one of those things you only really need to futz with once to find the right fit.
The dual-material earcushions offer the best of both worlds.
The dual-material ear cushions offer the best of both worlds. The outside and inside edges are leatherette, and the side of the cushion that rests against your head is a soft, microfiber cloth. The leatherette sides help isolate the sound, and the microfiber cloth breathes more than leatherette to help you keep your eyes cool while gaming.
The ear cushions are oval and use memory-foam padding for a comfortable fit. The extra set of ear cushions that comes with the Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition are all-cloth. Be careful when swapping out the earcups; I snapped off one of the plastic tabs that hold them in place when prying off one of the earcups.
One other slight issue with the earcups: they don’t rotate at all so that you can lay them on your chest when you take them off. Coupled with the elastic band of the headband, the Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition is uncomfortable to rest around your neck.
Inside the earcups, large 50mm drivers power the audio output. The Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition includes two 3.5mm audio cables, one designed for PCs and the other for gaming console controllers. The PC cable features a large, inline volume controller and a flat, linguini-like cable to prevent tangling.
The console cable is a bit shorter, round instead of flat, and has a clever design for the 3.5mm jack. It comes with two rubberized pieces that allow it to sit flush against the rounded edge of a PS4 or Xbox controller. And then on the other side, it has a round volume dial for easy access to adjusting the audio of your game.
Like the ear cushions, the microphone offers a clever and useful design. It’s both detachable and it can be rotated out of your field of vision and muted. Usually, you get one or the other — a microphone that can be detached, or a fixed mic that you flip up and out of sight. The microphone also has a flexible boom arm that stays in place so you can position it just so.
Plantronics Rig 500 Pro – Gaming
The Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition delivered crisp, dynamic sound.
To test the Plantronics Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition, I played some games on a PC and Xbox One. First, I fired up CS:GO and Fortnite on PC. The Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition delivered crisp, dynamic sound. Gunfire sound snappy, grenades exploding could be felt, and dialog sounded natural and clear. Low frequencies had weight and power to them but not to the point where the mids and highs suffered as a result. The mix was balanced to create an immersive audio experience.
On an Xbox One, I played Star Wars Battlefront II and NBA 2K18. On Battlefront II, space combat’s soundscape felt huge and expansive, and battles inside sounded intimate and intense. On NBA 2K18, the organ inside the arena boomed, the announcers’ voices sounded natural, and the squeak of the players’ sneakers sounded squeaky clean: low, mid, and high frequencies all came through convincingly.
After enjoying stereo sound, I used the included code to unlock Dolby Atmos and enabled the feature in Overwatch. The effect had a greater impact than I had anticipated. The sound field grew wider, and I was able to hear gunfire both above and below me. It made the game more fun, and it made it easier to track or avoid enemies. Overwatch sounded great in stereo, but it sounds incredible with Dolby Atmos. I would enable it in any game that supports it, and it’s an excellent add-on feature.
I tested the mic by making a voice recording. My voice on the Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition’s recording sounded natural but a bit breathy at first. I got better results when I simply positioned the mic farther away from my mouth. Overall, I have no complaints about the microphone.
Plantronics Rig 500 Pro Purchasing Guide
The Plantronics Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition has an MSRP of $149.99 and since it’s new that’s the price you’ll see online. It’s available direct from Plantronics or at Best Buy.