Plantronics RIG 400 Gaming Headset Review: Quality Sound on a Budget

Plantronics' RIG 400 produces high-quality audio, but key gaming functions, like mic chat and noise cancellation, could use some work.

Our Verdict

Plantronics' RIG 400 produces high-quality audio, but key gaming functions, like mic chat and noise cancellation, could use some work.

For

  • Great audio quality
  • Lightweight, comfy design
  • Strong, secure headband

Against

  • Ear cups fail to block out noise
  • Headset doesn't handle high volumes very well
  • Microphone picks up background sounds

Plantronics' RIG 400 isn't too shabby for an entry-level gaming headset. It features surprisingly strong audio quality and a deceptively comfy (if aesthetically divisive) design, and even goes so far as to include a removable microphone and complementary 3.5mm headphone jack splitter.

Yet, despite all these positives, the RIG 400's flaws can't be ignored — chiefly, its inability to function well in noisy environments or deliver consistent mic quality.

Design

Plantronics' RIG 400 really emphasizes the "gaming" part of its branding in its design, which is loaded with sharp angles, all sheening in an eye-grabbing black-gloss finish. Couple that with its matte gold highlights, and this is a headset designed to attract attention — though perhaps not in the best way.

For all its superficial luster, it's easy to see that the product's design materials fall well within its $50 MSRP, which makes its outward appearance seem just a tinge too gaudy for its own good. Gamers may find the angular design aesthetically pleasing, but it's not exactly a subtle or fashionable choice for the average user.

The RIG 400's adjustable headband keeps the headset secured snuggly onto your head, and it never feels like it's squeezing you.

While the headset is small and form-fitting and features a removable microphone, it doesn't fold or include a removable 3.5mm cable, making it a bit unwieldy to transport.

Comfort

The RIG 400 is a comfy, well-shaped headset. The ear cups hug the ears without stressing them, and the adjustable headband keeps the headset secured snuggly onto your head without ever making it feel like it's squeezing you.

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And, as a plus, the headset is ultralight, weighing in at just 7.4 ounces, so it never weighs down on you. In that sense, the RIG 400 sports the perfect mix of stability and comfort, making it great for lengthy music and gaming sessions.

Gaming Performance

Plantronics' RIG 400 is designed to detect and deliver all the minutiae of a game's audio without losing emphasis on the key elements.

The headset also does an extraordinary job of delivering characters' voices, meaning the low rumbles of Kylo Ren and sinister growls of Darth Maul sound rich and weighty.

This means, in games like Injustice 2, the headset picks up every instance of background clatter while still distinguishing it from the more prominent foreground noises. In Injustice 2, such foreground sounds include a bevy of laser blasts, meaty punches and fire effects, which the RIG 400 delivers with radiant buzzes, hefty impact and crisp crackles, respectively. You can hear each noise from the very first decibel, meaning the RIG 400 can effectively telegraph moves for adept fighting-game competitors.

In EA's Star Wars Battlefront II (SWBF2), the RIG 400 exhibits capable directional audio, which exposes the direction of footsteps, the origin of laser blasts and, more importantly, where those same laser blasts are headed. And, though less essential to gameplay effectiveness, the headset also does an extraordinary job of delivering characters' voices, meaning the low rumbles of Kylo Ren and sinister growls of Darth Maul sound rich and weighty.

The headset also does a good job of communicating more obscure sound effects, like the wind-gusting, ground-shaking power of a force push. Lightsaber sound effects are, as one would hope, satisfyingly sparkling and electric, two adjectives that aptly define the quality the headphones deliver.

The RIG 400 delivered Injustice 2's bevy of laser blasts, meaty punches and fire effects with radiant buzzes, hefty impact and crisp crackles.

The RIG 400 maintains this quality across platforms, to boot. Though we played Injustice 2 and SWBF2 on an Xbox One X, we also tried out Rocket League on a PC, to test the headphones' titular "universal" label. Thankfully, it delivered. It let rip the roaring engines of Rocket League's combustible cars and delivered that game's punchy, ceaseless suite of sound effects with verve. As far as gaming is concerned, both on the PC and console front, the RIG 400 relays sound with impressive marks.

Music Performance

While the RIG 400 is great for the casual music listener, audio aficionados will quickly detect its limitations. The RIG 400 experiences mild distortion and an amplified echo factor at higher volumes. Rather than scaling up audio with proportionate crispness, the RIG creates a divide between clarity and volume as you go louder. This phenomenon is most noticeable in rock music, wherein vocals can become muddled and lost among rivaling instrumental noises.

Beyond that, however, listening to music is an enjoyable experience with the RIG 400. The bass is deep, the range is impressive and the reverb is satisfying. When we listened to dubstep, the "wubs" smacked and popped with force, and electronic riffs and synthesized instruments sizzled and buzzed. Percussion instruments, across all genres, really thrive on the RIG 400, which excels in amplifying their clinks, chimes and rattles.

On orchestral scores such as the Avengers soundtrack, the RIG 400 did an excellent job of picking up the most minor composition elements, such as faint singing from the choir and other quiet audio effects that can fail to register entirely on other headphones. In that sense, the RIG is ideal for fans of orchestral scores, trailer soundtracks and anything Daft Punk has ever done.

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Plantronics' RIG 400 boasts a trio of fairly standard entry-level gaming headset features: a noise-cancelling microphone, "noise-isolating design" and adaptable cable functionality. To start with the best feature, the RIG 400 sports a versatile cable setup. Beyond its 3.5mm jack, which enables the headset to connect to almost any device, the RIG 400 also includes a cable splitter, so older machines that differentiate between headphone and microphone jacks can still power the headset.

Unfortunately, the RIG 400's other features are lacking, such as the noise-isolating design. This "feature" is just an empty promise, as the memory-foam-imbued cups fail to block out much external noise.

As for the noise-cancelling mic, it also fails to cancel out noise, meaning if there's even the faintest draft in your vicinity while you're on your mic, it'll sound like a wind tunnel to whoever's on the other end. However, the microphone is good at picking up voices, so at least you'll be just as loud as the background noise.

Bottom Line

For the price, Plantronics' Universal RIG 400 is a solid pair of headphones. However, as a gaming headset, it falters. Both its microphone and "noise-cancelling" features drop the ball, so gamers in noisy environments or those hoping to be heard perfectly via the mic will be disappointed. However, for those in relatively quiet environments, the RIG 400 is a great, affordable option for hearing in-game audio and music both crisply and clearly.

Credit: Plantronics