Audio

Plantronics RIG500E's modular concept sounds good, but headset's quality falls short

The Plantronics RIG500E gaming headset is a great idea marred by poor execution.
The Plantronics RIG500E gaming headset is a great idea marred by poor execution.PHOTO: PLANTRONICS

The Plantronics RIG500E gaming headset is a great idea marred by poor execution.

The modular headset can be dismantled into its component cables, headband, frame, ear cups and microphone, which in theory allows for a lot of customisation.

However, there are very limited modification options, and the overall sound quality is forgettable.

When I first heard about the RIG500E, I thought it was a fantastic concept. I love the flexibility of being able to swop out parts in computers, so why not headsets?

But with the RIG500E, Plantronics seems to have got its priorities wrong. Instead of developing a single top-notch set of drivers - the heart of any headset - and building a good ecosystem of customisable parts around it, the drivers here feel run-of-the-mill and flimsy.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $249

    OPERATING PRINCIPLE: Both open and closed options available

    DRIVER: Dynamic 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz to 20kHz

    WEIGHT: 200g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The e-sports edition of the headset I tested comes with two sets of ear cups - one open and the other closed. The closed one has a sealed plastic back and leatherette coverings, while the open one has a blue mesh back and cloth coverings.

They both sound similar - slightly flat and tinny - and lack the agility and dynamic range to really do justice to multi-layered music.

The closed cups fare slightly better, with a more rounded, fuller bass, and they would be my default choice of the two. Such shortcomings are easily forgiven in video games though, especially when one is caught up in the heat of action.

The modular aspect of the headset is not fully explored, which is a great pity. Modular gadgets make sense only if there is a variety of other options to be swopped out or changed. Without that, the product just becomes something that can be easily dismantled.

On the Plantronics website, there are no alternative headbands, frames or cables. I would have liked to see an option for in-line microphone and volume controls (which the default cable does not have) and other headband designs.

That said, the headset is very comfortable. At 200g, it is astonishingly light, and both the cloth and leatherette cups sit very well on the ear.

The flexible headband and frame also means you can stuff it into a bag without worrying about damage, and all the RIG500E component parts snap together well.

• Verdict: RIG500E's modular concept is interesting, but a lack of optional parts and average sound quality make it a mediocre buy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Audio Modular concept sounds good, but headset's quality falls short'. Print Edition | Subscribe