Plantronics RIG 400 Gaming Headset Review

A bunch of sound quality for almost no money.

Plantronics has a long history of making quality communications headsets for business applications, but over the last few years they’ve been quietly churning out several different gaming products.

Today I’m looking at their excellent budget offering, the RIG 400!

Overview

The RIG 400 headset comes in a stupid number of different varieties. The base models go for $49. I got the one labeled for PCs, shown above. They also offer models branded for Xbox One and PS4. The core audio parts are the same across all three, but the console versions come with a standard headband pad instead of the suspension-style band included with my unit.

Plantronics also offers more expensive step-up bundles that include things like an extra controller adapter for Xbox One and free Dolby Atmos activation codes, and also different colors/paint jobs.

The RIG 400 is a fully modular headset, which means that you can pop parts off of one headset and snap them into another. The parts from the 500 series will work back and forth with the 400 series, so that’s cool.

The mic is removable, and the PC version includes a splitter/extension cable for use with a dual-jack audio configuration.

Build/Design

I want to get this category out of the way first because it contains my only real complaints, which are minimal!

The RIG 400 is a garish-looking thing…probably due in part to its modular nature. The closed-back ear cups and suspension pad snap right out of the headband, and they’re actually really easy to remove. I don’t love the angular look of the base headband, but it’ll probably appeal to some gamers. And you can paint the headband yourself, if you want to.

Everything here is built out of plastic. Plastic, plastic, and more plastic! If you’re the sort of person who is really rough on your gear, or demands metal reinforcement in your headbands…you probably won’t like this.

However! It doesn’t quite feel cheap. It comes pretty darn close, but doesn’t cross that line. The backs of the ear cups feel a bit hollow and the headband doesn’t seem like you could bend it flat a bunch or throw it against walls every day.

But after my initial impression of “uh oh,” I came to appreciate how they feel.

This sort of build has one big advantage (aside from costing less for Plantronics to make), and that’s weight. It helps this headset to be exceptionally comfy, which I’ll get to in the comfort section below.

The cable is nicer than I expected, with a right-angled plug and a really nice in-line controller that’s at a great height for easy accessibility. Unfortunately, because of the modular design…you have to deal with a wire going into each ear cup. I don’t remember the last time that I wore a headset or pair of headphones with two wires going into it…and this annoyed me much less than I was expecting.

In this same price range, the Astro A10 is much more solid-feeling and has a removable cable…but it doesn’t have the same modular nature or removable mic. It’s also more noticeable on the head. But I’d trust it more if I were rougher on my things.

The Cloud Stinger has a similar build, and more adjustment range for different head sizes, but again, isn’t modular like the RIG and doesn’t have a removable microphone.

So then. Your $50 of cash are clearly not subsidizing any sort of massively amazing build quality.

What are you paying for then?

SOUND.

Oh my goodness, the sound performance of this headset is great!

Plantronics trusts the tuning of their drivers enough to not cover them up with a bunch of foam, which is great! You can also see here how nicely pliable the ear pad holes are, in spite of being circular.

SOUND QUALITY

Plantronics is one of the only audio companies that actually publishes a frequency response graph for their headsets on the side of the box.

Everyone should do this. This is information consumers should have so that they can, you know…actually tell how a headphone is going to sound before buying it.

It would put an end to the days of people like me having to awkwardly describe how headphones sound before pointing you to measurements done by other web sites.

Here’s a grainy cell phone picture of my real box, and an image I borrowed from the Plantronics web site.

RIG 400 Frequency Graph

From this graph, you’d expect the RIG 400 to have a warm, slightly bass-emphasized sound. And you’d be right.

But non-compensated graphs are one thing, and actual sound to the ears is another…and let me tell you:

This headset sounds pretty darn neutral, with just a gentle, pleasant push in the lower bass.

Lows, mids, and highs come through the way I would expect from a more expensive “Audiophile-style” pair of headphones. It performed exceptionally on all of my standard music test tracks, and also in a few hours of Destiny play.

The bass is not overwhelming at all which really surprised me. It’s just nice and well-rendered. Before opening them, I was expecting things to be a little boomy and the mids to be a bit recessed as is the custom for cheap headsets… but instead I got a balanced, detailed sound.

This has a better and more accurate sound than either the HyperX Cloud Stinger or the Astro A10. The RIG 400 is not as “fun” to listen to… but it presents audio more or less how it was originally designed to sound.

I’m kind of shocked, to be honest.

Is it as flat, as spacious, or as detailed as something more expensive like a Sennheiser HD600? Or even an HD 598?

No. Come on. Don’t be crazy.

But the RIG 400 is the most balanced gaming headset I’ve used so far. And one of the cheapest. It’s a little less strident than the Arctis, and doesn’t have the big overdone bass thump that other gaming products love to employ.

I like the sound quite a bit. If you’re an audiophile, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and if you’re a basshead…you’ll be a little bit let down.

Also, the drivers aren’t angled, so the soundstage isn’t the widest ever…but it’s not claustrophobic. It took me a little while to adjust to where the image was placed in my head because I’m so used to angled drivers, but once I did it no longer sounded strange.

Soundstage is helped by the cloth ear cups included with my model, but isolation is a good bit below average. Some RIG models do come with leatherette cups, but I believe you have to step up to the 500 series for that. The 500 models also feature an extra chamber with “Bass Resonators,” so I imagine they might be a bit more thumpy and “Gaming headset”-like, but I’ll have to test them myself some day to be sure.

Oh wait, I can just look at the frequency response graph that Plantronics put out for the world to see.

RIG 500 Frequency Response Graph

See why everyone should do this?

This actually looks like it’d be a more balanced headset than the 400, with a bit more strident energy in the highs and less of a warm tone. Interesting!

This is as small as this headset gets, unless you decide to rip all the bits apart for storage. Which would be excessive. Also, it doesn’t stick off of my head as much as I expected from looking at the severe curve of the headband.

COMFORT

The RIG 400 has that awesome barely-there feeling that many headsets strive for, but few achieve, thanks to its light weight and soft padding.

Plantronics claims that the ear pads use memory foam…but it’s not as squishy and moldable as other memory foams I’ve worn. It is very light and soft however, and in spite of the circular pads, I had no trouble wearing these on my ears for hours. The cups mold very gently around the ears and don’t exert any unnecessary pressure.

Impressively, the fabric on the ear pads feels almost as nice as the special “Sportsweave” fabric Steelseries uses on the more expensive Arctis headsets.

The suspension headband is quite soft too, and evenly spreads pressure across my head.

I have to use the ear cups in their bottommost position on the headband, and you only get three positions to choose from. This might cause some problems if you’re looking to dial in a more exact fit, but the suspension headband helps out with that.

I’m curious to try the standard headband model to see if that pad is up to the same task.

I normally hate circular ear pads but these are the exception to the rule. They’re quite comfy. And they disappear on my head almost immediately. My ears don’t warm up too much, and I don’t get any unpleasant hotspots or pinching feelings.

Exceptional comfort in every way!

I honestly thought these would stick off my head a lot more than they actually do.

MIC QUALITY

In addition to its wonderful audio performance, the RIG 400 has a good removable mic, complete with basic hardware noise cancellation.

Click here to go to my other site and hear an MP3 sample!

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised at the mic quality since Plantronics has a background in communications equipment…but so many cheap headsets have awful mics.

No such problems here! This will more than suffice for voice chat, streaming, or anything else you might want a mic for. It’s just a nasally and tinny, with a bit of an artifical “Mic sound” to it. Otherwise, it has a very natural and pleasant tone with minimal background noise pickup. The flexible boom is very easy to adjust into a position that doesn’t pick up breathing, too. I didn’t have to fiddle with it much at all.

The Astro A10 mic sounds a little better, but it isn’t removable or as easy to position. Compared to the HyperX Cloud Stinger, the RIG 400 easily wins!

The end of the mic has the RIG logo etched into it. It’s better than it has any right to be at this price.

FEATURES/EXTRAS

The RIG 400 includes a PC splitter/extension in the box. The plugs on the splitter are not color-coded, so you’ll have to look at little icons on the sides to plug them in, which is a little annoying.

As mentioned above, the mic is detachable…which is both amazing for a headset at this price, and means you can wear these as headphones in your favorite coffee shop without looking totally doofy.

You can’t remove the cable, but the in-line controller is great! It has both a volume control and a mic mute switch. The volume slider is perfectly smooth without any noticeable channel imbalances, and has a notch at the top if you just want to leave it maxed out and control volume on your device. The mic mute switch is big and satisfying. It puts most other in-line controls to shame.

That’s it for features/extras. Plantronics sells a carrying bag and replacement parts through their site, and if you ever end up picking up a second RIG headset, you can swap the pieces around. It’s nice to know that this relatively cheap $49 headset has a variety of fully replaceable parts, in a world where Apple glues the ear pads down on their $300 Beats headphones.

Ahem.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For $49, the Plantronics RIG 400 is an exceptional-sounding, comfy headset, with a great mic and okay build quality for this bracket. The modular design is nice, and reassuring to me should anything break down the road.

I had no expectations for this product, honestly, and it surprised me at every turn.

It’s the sort of headset that keeps me going down this rabbit hole, and I’m delighted to have discovered it. It has earned a permanent place on my shelf o’ gaming headsets, and has me really excited to try out more Plantronics stuff in the future!

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