The best RIG yet?
When I?m not teaching you how to write viral self-help articles, I sometimes review audio gear.
Today it?s the RIG 500 Pro?not to be confused with the old RIG 500, or the million other RIG headsets.
Plantronics, following in the footsteps of other modern headset makers, has slapped ?Pro? onto an older brand name, refreshed an old design with new materials, and released it in a variety of colors at a competitive price point.
I think it?s largely wonderful and only let down by a couple of minor things. How big of a deal those are depends on how much you love tiny details.
I bought the ?RIG 500 Pro for PC,? which is $89 and comes in a black and gold color scheme with a metal headband, and one cable. I found it at my local Best Buy. Where by ?found? I mean I made a guy climb through their warehouse to find it for me the second they got the shipment in.
Above that price, there?s also the ?RIG 500 Pro Esports Edition? which has the same metal headband, a silver color scheme, adds metal to the ear cups, comes with two cables, and sells for $149.
The base models of the RIG 500 Pro sell for $79, come with a plastic headband similar to the older RIG models, and have branding and cables that are geared for Xbox or PS4 use.
You can see a full breakdown on the Plantronics site here.
Under all of these little variables, the core headset features are the same.
It?s a closed-back gaming headset with 50mm drivers, a removable cable and boom microphone, and a modular design like most of the other RIG models. Unlike the other RIG models, Plantronics hasn?t published a frequency response graph on either their web site or the box. Also, it doesn?t seem to use the passive bass resonators featured in the RIG 600 or the RIG 800.
The ear pads are similar to those on the RIG 800 but incorporate leatherette into their design for better isolation. A few other RIG headsets have used leatherette, but it?s always been an optional premium feature in the past. And it?s also wonderful that the higher-end models use metal in their design, a first for the modular RIG designs.
The RIG logo on the top of my headband is ever so slightly off-center.
I?m a little disappointed that the RIG 500 Pro doesn?t have a frequency response graph on the box. That?s long been a hallmark of Plantronics headsets, and it?s a bummer to see them move away from it.
Fortunately, these still sound very good.
The RIG 500 Pro has a natural, neutral, pleasant sound to it, with just a hint of extra oomph in the midbass that doesn?t bleed into the rest of the mix. The subbass is less prominent than on the RIG 800 or 600, and the overall sound signature is more in line with the surprisingly- neutral- for- the- price RIG 400.
If you?ve never heard a RIG headset before, from looking at one you?d expect overbloated bass and unimpressive detail.
But like the rest of the lineup, the RIG 500 Pro provides shockingly good sound quality. The RIG series has never fallen into the trap of bloated or artificial tonality, in spite of their edgy appearance.
In fact, I?ve so come to expect quality audio out of the RIG series that the initial sound of the RIG 500 Pro was almost boring. Immediately I was like ?Yup, there?s that same trademark Plantronics sound quality.?
Over a couple days of listening tests, I have no major complaints. The subbass is present but not at all overwhelming. The midbass is just a touch thick for fun rumble in games. The mids are natural, with pleasant tonality for female vocals. And the highs are not at all fatiguing, but still very much present, so footstep hounds amount you will be pleased.
The soundstage is good for a closed-back, with a nice sense of air and openness.
You won?t need a special amp, either. The headset is plenty sensitive enough to run out of a console controller, phone, or laptop headset jack.
Plantronics figured out how to make a gaming headset sound great a long time ago, and they haven?t messed with that here.
Even though they?re now obscuring that a little by not including the audio graph.
The first time I picked up a RIG 400, I thought uh oh, these are made of air.
Fortunately, the light plastic turned out to be robust, but a nagging sense of cheapness always pervaded their construction.
The RIG 500 Pro has no such problems, at least in my metal headband model.
The frame is robust and solid-feeling, and the metal used is a nice strong aluminum that manages to not be much heavier than the original design.
The new headband is part of an overall refresh in the design, which has the RIG 500 Pro looking a bit more slick than its predecessors.
There?s a new exoskeleton design to the ear cups, and it?s the only part of the headset that still has a bit of the weird awkward angular look of the older models. The rest of it is sleek and industrial, and I absolutely love the black and gold color scheme.
Like many other RIG products, the 500 Pro has a modular design where you can pop parts in and out of the frame.
The only way to adjust the size of the headset is to pop the ear cups into and out of three size adjustment slots, and like on the older models, these have a very satisfying snap to them.
Also, these attachment points are the same size as the older ones, so if you wanted to snap your RIG 400 ear cups into this new headband, you totally could.
Some of the older models had a separate rubber channel to hold the cable connecting the ear cups together, but this new one combines that channel into the suspension head strap. It looks nice, and helps unclutter the headset a little.
The RIG 500 Pro for PC is probably my favorite-looking RIG headset I?ve tried so far, and it feels more robust than the others too.
The lower-priced models use the older headband, so they aren?t going to have quite the same robustness or modern look.
Comfort on the RIG 500 Pro is top tier in spite of the added weight of the metal headband.
The biggest strength of the old RIG series was how the headset would just slowly melt away on your head, and the 500 Pro has that same quality?
Assuming it fits you.
You?re limited to three points of size adjustment for the earcups, plus the stretchiness of the headband. I have to wear it with the cups on the largest setting, and I have a little bit of extra wiggle room on the headband?so it should fit most heads, but if you?re the sort of person that likes to endlessly tweak the fit, this might not be for you.
The ear pads are the best I?ve encountered on a RIG product.
They?re nice and big, oval shaped, and filled with a good high-density memory foam. The outer edge and inside edge are both covered in leatherette, and the side that hits your head is covered with an athletic fabric that is hilariously similar to the fabric used on the Steelseries Arctis series.
The result is that the ear pads are light and comfy and don?t get super sweaty?while also providing way more isolation than any other RIG model I?ve tried. They aren?t quite as isolating as fully leatherette models, or studio pairs like the Beyerdynamic DT770, but isolation is now very good.
Isolation has consistently been my only major caveat with the RIG series, and now Plantronics has dealt with that issue in a very smart way.
And fortunately, you get these new ear pads on every price tier of the 500 Pro, unlike past models that would charge you a premium just to get a leatherette upgrade. Excellent.
The mic on the RIG 500 Pro is very good. Click here to go to my personal site, and hear my loud room and quiet room mic tests.
You can detach the mic, and the attachment point is almost comically strong and secure, with an extra little locking post that helps keep the mic in the rotating mute mechanism.
Acoustic background cancellation is exceptional, so you?ll be fine if you?re in a loud place or have a loud mechanical keyboard like me. The audio quality is also wonderful, and good enough that I?d use this for regular recording tasks.
The only caveat is that there?s no pop filter or windscreen included, so you?ll have to be a little careful with positioning.
You might hear some breathy sounds in my mic tests. It?s possible to position the mic such that you avoid this, but be aware of this minor problem.
It?s here where the RIG 500 Pro falls a bit short of the competition.
On the plus side, most of the models come with a free Dolby Atmos unlock code in the box, excellent for those of you on Windows PC?s or Xbox One.
Unfortunately?the cable isn?t amazing.
It is flat, which I like, and which helps prevent tangles. It?s four feet long or so, which is a decent length?though it?ll be a little short if you need to wire it around the back of your PC case.
But the inline control box is comically chunky, and made of very light plastic (although the control itself works quite well). The strain reliefs on either side of it are overly-thick rubber, and mine are slightly bent from the cable being coiled in the box. The plug is the same thick angular plug that?s on all the other rig headsets.
It?s the only part of the package that doesn?t feel very premium.
Fortunately, the cable is not proprietary at all, and it?s a 4-pole 3.5mm jack on both sides. So you shouldn?t have too much trouble finding a replacement if you want?though you?ll want the headset end to be angled.
The other versions of this headset come with a console-focused cable that has a little circular volume dial on the source end, and rubber sleeves to help it hug properly to your console controller of choice. That seems like a neat option, and hopefully that cable has a more premium feel to it.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE?
The RIG 500 Pro has a lot of competition at the circa $89 price point. The Arctis 5 and the Logitech G Pro are both very good. I think I slightly prefer the build and mic quality of the G Pro?but the RIG 500 Pro edges it out in the comfort department.
Comfort is the biggest strength here, for this price bracket, followed by neutral, pleasing audio. If you?re an audio purist, and you absolutely need the lightest-feeling headset above all other things, the RIG 500 should be towards the top of your list.
I was bored by this headset at first because it was exactly what I was expecting.
I was hoping for something with the trademark Plantronics sound and slightly better build quality?and that?s just what I got.
The improved isolation is wonderful, and hopefully these ear pads become the standard for all RIG models moving forward.
Before you ask me a question about whether this headset is THE BEST in the comments below, please consider reading this first.
If you have personal experience with the RIG series, I?d love to hear your story.
If you need a fast answer, twitter is your best bet, because I only check my Medium notifications once a week.
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Thanks for reading!