Plantronics RIG Surround Gaming Headset Review
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
What we liked the most about the original Plantronics RIG was its mixer. The ability to answer calls at the press of a switch was a situationally neat feature that was easy to use and convenient. The period of time since we looked at the RIG just over a year ago in August 2013, weve reviewed two headsets from one company that took the idea of connecting a headset simultaneously to a smartphone and PC. Those headsets, the Turtle Beach i60 and Turtle Beach Z SEVEN, unfortunately were massively hampered by the difficult operation of their inline controllers. The RIG and updated RIG Surround continue to be the only headsets that take this simple idea of uniting smartphone and PC audio under a single headset and create an intuitive product.
In retrospect, the original 2013 RIG was also one of the best sounding headsets weve ever reviewed. When plugged directly into a source or with the RIG mixer bypassing audio from a dedicated sound card, the headset delivered crisp audio with strong bass and bright trebles good qualities considering how much it cost. The headset plugged into the 2013 mixer had distortion problems with excess bass which has been resolved with the 2014 RIG Surround mixer. Unfortunately, the new Surround mixer overall doesnt sound as good. The unit is now an external sound card and it has with no 3.5 mm bypass intended for PC which means the mixer is limited entirely to the capabilities of its audio processing components. The audio processed and produced doesnt even sound as crisp as that coming from Realtek on-board audio thats common to many motherboards. This was tested and compared with the old RIG mixer and a bypass with the new RIG Surround Mixer using its 4-pole 3.5mm smartphone cable plugged into the motherboard, the latter which is not recommended for optimal use because feedback from the microphone pole will add noise to the audio. Seemingly, the tradeoff for audio quality is to make use of Dolby virtual surround technologies which work to some extent, but wont accurately place positional audio for competitive gaming.
The headset by itself performs at the $99.99 price the whole package commands. Its so good, the limitations of the new Surround mixer werent obvious until it was compared with the original 2013 RIG mixer. It was disappointing to find out that RIG headset in the RIG Surround wont always be pushed to its fullest though music coming from an attached smartphone is quite close. Knowing this does give high expectations for the RIG Flex which is also a new and upcoming 2014 Plantronics RIG product costing $79.99. The RIG Flex does away with the mixer and instead contains the headset, two microphone options, and a 4-pole 3.5mm adapter to dual 3-pole 3.5mm adapter which makes it purely compatible with dedicated sound cards. From a perspective that favors audio quality, the RIG Surround is somewhat of a letdown knowing that the mixer doesnt produce as crisp a sound as the older version. However, just about every other facet of the product is fantastic. The headset sounds great and its very comfortable to wear thanks to its lightweight construction and cloth covered padding. The RIG mixer is a neat and intuitive accessory that brings smartphones and PCs under one headset. Though the RIG Surround update strips down on features and accessory cables to add Dolby Surround technologies, the whole package remains solid and well worth considering.
Legit Bottom Line: Though the Plantronics RIG Surround headset component is stellar and the concept of the mode switching mixer is still the best of its kind, the sound quality coming out of the updated RIG Surround mixer component is a downgrade from the previous years model.