updated 07:10 pm EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Rig Surround shines with 7.1 Dolby surround sound, makes small tweaks from previous Rig
Plantronics brought its new gaming headsets to Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, giving gamers a chance to put the system through its paces. Electronista was on hand to talk to Plantronics about the Dolby-certified 7.1 surround sound headset Rig Surround, and the lightweight Rig Flex that were announced earlier in the year at GamesCom.
The new Rig Surround headset was built to supersede the fan-favorite GameCom 780 headset, but the team had some minor challenges to overcome, as it wanted to do things a little differently. With the inclusion of Dolby, the way that audio was handled needed to be tweaked from the previous versiong.
Audio drivers for PCs also had to be considered, but it wasn't a major issue for the company. Since the Rig Surround is being built for PCs rather than console gaming, new considerations had to be made when it came to the design. For instance, the flat cord was shortened from 12 feet to about five feet in length. Plantronics also removed the optical port and Xbox Live microphone port from the mixer.
Surround sound really comes through in the Rig when the Dolby mode is triggered on the mixer. While the Rig Surround does a decent job of simulating sound without it enabled, it shines brightly with it on. During the demo of the headset, a direction audio test was booted up to give a clear sense of the depth that Dolby adds to the headset. Where some headphones with surround sound are weaker in directional audio, especially in the back, the Rig Surround pulled it off without any issue on the show floor. Panning audio was a specific highlight of the unit.
Plantronics envisions the Rig Surround as a better option for PC users looking for the best experience out of their headphones. Previously, there was a universal Rig model that would work with PCs and game consoles, but with the new model the company will offer a dedicated PC SKU.
The mixer remains largely the same as the previous version bundled with the Rig. It still retains the easy twisting for volume levels, ports to plug in a smartphone, a large toggle switch, and sliders for game and voice balance. Users will need to download a specific driver to be able to take advantage of the 7.1 surround sound. Pricing for the Rig Surround will be $100, with Plantronics eyeing a mid-October release. NewEgg, Amazon and the Plantronics website will all have the Surround available when it launches.
The Rig Flex was also on display, which comes without a few bells and whistles when compared to the Rig Surround. While similar in design, the Flex model doesn't come with the audio mixer or options for 7.1 Dolby surround sound. It's a wired headset that is aimed for use with PC, Mac, tablets and smartphones.
The Flex still gives users options as it comes with a boom mic and inline microphones. However, it doesn't come in USB, so people that pick up the Flex will have the Y-splitter for audio output and microphone input. Plantronics has the Nvidia Shield-certified Rig Flex available now through its website for $80.
Plantronics engaged the community when it came to building the new surround headsets, using feedback on some key points like the cord length for PC users. Other features, like the breakaway cable and flexible band with soft padding, also give consumers some reassurance that the headphones can survive some typical accidents.