Tech Review: Plantronics RIG 500 Pro Esport Gaming Headphones: Practically perfect

The Plantronics RIG 500 Pro Esport Gaming Headphones, the latest refresh of Plantronics’ longrunning RIG 500 line, are about as close to the perfect gaming headset as any I’ve ever used.

I would like to preface this review with a sole caveat: while the headset I was given by Plantronics with which to conduct this review is compatible with Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC, it did not come with an adapter for the PlayStation 4. There are several models of the new RIG 500 series available, some of which that are built with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC platforms in mind, specifically and individually, and others that are more platform agnostic. This won’t stop you using your Xbox One RIG 500 on your PS4 or your PC any more than it stopped me, but crossing that line does make a difference and that difference colours this entire review. It’s a minor thing and I’ll get to it in a minute, but I wanted to make that clear up  front.

RIG500 PRO E Side

The first thing I noticed about the RIG 500 Pro Esports is how light they are. Plantronics are known for making headsets that are as light as they are robust, but even by their own lofty standards, the RIG 500 Pro’s feel like you’re wearing little on your head at all. This doesn’t mean they’re fragile — far from it, the main structure of the headset is a strong aluminium frame.

The elastic, leather trim headband can be adjusted to one of three positions depending on your overall head size. I found the headset initially clamped down a little hard over my ears, but after dialing the sizing up a notch I found they became instantly and perfectly comfortable.

RIG500 PRO E Extra Earcups

One thing I will recommend for new users of this headset is to try both the leather and cloth ear cup covers provided. My set came with the leather cups already in place and they’re fine, but they did make my ears ache after a little while. Replacing them with the more breathable cloth covers made an instant difference and my overall comfort level went way up. This one change let me go from wearing the headset for an hour or so before having to take a break to being able to wear it all day without a problem. You can customise this headset and I would urge you to do so because it will pay enormous comfort dividends.

Soundwise, the RIG 500 Pro Esport is about as good as it gets in the $200 price range. It features full 7.1 positional audio and is Dolby Atmos ready should you want to use it on an Xbox One or Windows PC device. It actually comes with a code in the box for Dolby Atmos, so you can grab the app on your system of choice, avoid having to cough up for it, and start making the most of your headset right away.

RIG500 PRO E Exploded Earcup

The cans themselves feature isolated acoustic chambers tuned for high res audio, and for keeping distortion to a minimum even at high volume. They sport a pair of 50mm dynamic drivers and will absolutely change your overall audio habits for the better. I could throw audiophile babble and numbers at you all day but all you need to know is that they sound great.

The headset comes with a pair of adapters, specially designed audio jacks moulded to fit the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers just so. My review kit only came with the Xbox One adapter though your retail model should ship with both the Xbox One and PS4 adapters in the box. The adapter is great, it’s very well built and smartly designed. It slots into the 3.5mm port on the bottom of your controller and allows you to adjust volume with your thumb, locking into place with a subtle click. You can discard the jack and plug your RIG 500 Pro directly into the controller, but the adapter gives you just a little more control.

RIG500 PRO Xbox

So what don’t I like about them? Well, there’s really only two things and they both have to do with the cable included in the box. The first issue is that the included audio cable is, at a measly 1.3 metres, just too damn short.  This is why I pointed out that the review unit was built with the Xbox One in mind. If you plan to use this headset solely with your Xbox One, please feel free to disregard the following complaints. If you, like me, tend to jump a single pair of cans between your various systems, read on.

If you are to use this device with a console as intended, 1.3m will be more than enough cable for most. Its when you try to connect it to other devices, like your Windows PC for instance, that it becomes a problem. If you’re on a desktop PC and don’t have a 3.5mm cable extender, you’ll either have to move your computer very close to where you’re sitting or go without. My desktop sits on the floor at the far end of my desk, its audio ports a good 30cm out of reach of the RIG 500 Pro’s cable.

RIG500 PRO E Hero

The second issue with the cable is that it only bears a single 3.5mm audio jack. Again, if you plan to use it as your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 headset, you’ll be fine and can disregard this complaint. You only need the one jack. But if you want to use it on your PC then you’re going to need an audio/mic splitter or you won’t be able to use the microphone. That a splitter isn’t supplied in the box is a little surprising to me, given the headset’s price point. Luckily, I did have an old one lying around the office that came to my rescue. It’s a shame because I love these cans. I want to use them as my new go-to PC headset but the cable issue throws a massive spanner in that plan, at least until I can get an extension cable. Something for PC players to consider, certainly.

I hope that by devoting three entire pars of this review to my problem with a damn cable, you’ll be able to see just how little there is to actually complain about here. The RIG 500 Pro Esport is fine work from a maker that has nailed down blending of great sound with durable, lightweight design better than anyone else. Well worth a look if you’re in the market for a premium tier headset. Just, maybe BYO a cable.

Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Great sound; Great design; Lightweight; Customisable
Lowlights: Cable is maddeningly short for PC users
Manufacturer: Plantronics
Price: $199 AUD
Available: Mid August, date TBC
Website: Plantronics.com

Review conducted with a retail headset provided by the manufacturer.