I’m a massive online gamer. I constantly have a set of headphones on my head when at home, and I like to be completely focused on the game while playing. As such, my main point of deliberation when it comes to headsets is whether to go for a noise isolating set or not. I’m a fan of the distraction-free experience, but certain parties within my household have repeatedly told me that it is Very Annoying trying grab my attention while I’m gaming, and would prefer I used an open set. I also often play with my teammates sitting right next to me, so noise-cancelling headphones can be more of a hindrance than help.
Thankfully, the Plantronics Rig 500E provides two interchangeable earcup options, so you can customise your headset depending upon your needs. Now, like Miley Cyrus, you can have the best of both worlds.
What Is It?
The Plantronics Rig 500E E-Sports Edition PC Gaming Headset is a $199 wired headset aimed at esports competitors. Two sets of ear cups, one noise-cancelling and one open and ventilated, are designed to snap in and out of the headband frame so that you can assemble and reconfigure the headset to suit your preferences. There are three positions on each side of the headband that the cups can snap into, to allow for adjustment according to size, and a stretchy mesh headband to help the whole thing sit comfortably.
The headset comes with a small microphone that plugs into the earcups and mutes when lifted, as well as an interchangeable 3.5mm adapter and 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound USB adapter. The on-wire control has one button, which switches the 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound on and off. You can also toggle this feature from your taskbar via the installed driver, as well as switch between ‘Music’ and ‘Movie’ sound and save a few preset configurations.
The Plantronics website says that the headset only connects to your PC, but the box indicates it will also work with your console and mobile (if taking a gaming headset on the road is a thing you want to do). I’d advise using the 500E for PC gaming – I tried it with both my PC and Playstation 4, and while it worked fine on PC, I couldn’t get the audio to work on my Playstation.
What’s It Like?
Assembling the headset is like putting together a jigsaw, as everything can be snapped in and out – the earcups, the microphone and the wires. I was initially apprehensive regarding the snap-together design, particularly considering how lightweight the headset is - I was concerned that it would be flimsy and was a little afraid of breaking something while assembling it. I needn’t have worried. It can withstand a reasonable amount of force while you get the mic to sit flush with the earcup (just don't use it to crack open nuts). The headphones stay together very well, and I had no issues of pieces accidentally falling apart or breaking.
The earcups snap in and out easily, and fit easily over the ear, with enough space that my ears didn’t feel crushed. The padding on the isolating earcups have a leatherette covering, while the open earcups have a cloth covering, and both bear an eye-catching blue and black colour scheme. The open ear cups are ventilated, being touted as reducing heat during long gaming marathons, however this was never an issue I encountered with the noise-isolating cups.
The two sets of earcups are distinct enough that you won’t ever mix them up. You might, however, mix up the right and left cups. The only indication of which cups belong on which side is the socket for the microphone to be plugged in.
What’s It Good At?
The sound is beautifully clear and without static, and in comparison to my former headphones I was in audio heaven. The 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound card contained within the USB connection made the audio noticeably fuller, and I enjoyed watching movies and listening to music as well as playing games. I found it hard to go back to using the headset without that boost, so it was on pretty much all the time.
I expected the headset to be heavy, but it is very lightweight at only 200g. I very easily wore it all day with no issues. In fact, it is one of the more comfortable headsets I have used. It sat nicely around my ears, giving them enough room to breathe without ever overheating. I only really noticed the temperature when the room was otherwise cold. Then it was like having a nice little pair of earmuffs, and I was reluctant to take them off at times.
Though I did not observe any significant difference in temperature after long hours of using the ventilated earcups as opposed to the noise cancelling ones, they are useful for keeping you aware of what was going on in the room around you. This is ideal for less intense gaming sessions, or if you’d prefer to know right away if your home catches fire. I really enjoyed having the option to switch the earphones out, though chances are you’ll pick one pair of earcups that you prefer and stick with them, rather than put together a jigsaw every time you play.
What’s It Not Good At?
Though the sound was beautifully clear, the volume was a bit on the low side, in the earphones as well as through the microphone. Though it was still useable and my teammates were able to hear me, I did feel very conscious of it.
This volume issue might have been offset by on-wire volume controls, however I was disappointed to find the on-wire switch only toggled Dolby on and off. Including a volume control instead would have been much more useful. I didn’t come across any instances where I felt I needed to quickly turn Dolby off, but I did encounter several instances where the ability to quickly adjust volume would have been appreciated. I would have also appreciated an on-wire mute so I could quickly switch my microphone off (if I needed to sneeze, for example). The microphone does mute if you raise it, so the issue is mitigated slightly, but the use of the on-wire control for a Dolby toggle seemed to me a waste. The lack of a volume control was the most glaring design flaw in an otherwise great headset.
I also found that, because it was so lightweight, I sometimes forgot that I was wearing the headset and tried to walk away from my computer, only to be rudely yanked back by the wire. I enjoy being able to just stand up and get a glass of water with my wireless headset, but that’s more a fact of life for wired headsets than a criticism of this individual pair.
Should I Buy It?
The Rig 500E is a very comfortable, lightweight headset that provides excellent audio. At $199 it certainly feels like value for money, and I’m very happy with my pair. If it had inline volume controls I’d say this one was a no-brainer, but even without them, its comfort, quality and versatility make it definitely one to consider.
Plantronics Rig 500E Specs
Connects to: PC
Microphone Mic Freq Response: 100Hz-10kHz Mic Pick Up Pattern: uni-directional Mic Sensitivity: -45dBV/Pa Mic Signal to Noise: >42dB
Connection Type: USB and 3.5mm
Audio HP Coupling: over-ear HP Drivers: dynamic 40mm HP Freq Response: 20Hz-20kHz HP Impedance: 32ohms HP Max input power: 40mW HP Sensitivity: 110dBSPL/V (vented earcups) / 113dBSPL/V (isolating earcups)
In The Box Headset frame, self-adjusting headband, isolating earcups, vented earcups, removable mic boom, USB Dolby adapter
Physical Weight: 200g