Brick and mortar retail stores generally carry only a select number of headsets. Store shelves and endcap pegs are usually packed with a few brands, most of the time those being Turtle Beach and, more recently, Razer. Even the HyperX brand started to seep its way onto store shelves before disappearing. You wouldn’t normally have seen something like the RIG 700HD hanging around. All of them, though, offered options for people searching for a new gaming headset. And in some cases, you could even try them on before buying.
Among the other headsets, the Plantronics RIG brand started to become more prominent, providing solutions for those looking to expand their gaming headset experience. Before long, it too was sharing shelf space and becoming more visible at retail locations. This presence is what led me to sample and review headsets like the RIG 800LX, RIG 600, RIG 400, and various others in the ever-expanding line for review. Each iteration brought new features, materials, and technology.
The latest headset from the Plantronics camp comes in the form of the RIG 700 line, announced during Gamescom 2019. Unlike the RIG 800LX, the headset has separate SKUs for the PC and Xbox One. This is a slight change from the RIG 800LX model, as the 800 had a switch for when it was plugged into a console or a PC, allowing it to be utilized for both.
The 700 line comes with some slight downsizes. The reveal also came with the opportunity to speak with the Plantronics team to talk more about the line. The RIG 700 differs from the 800 line in a few ways. For starters, the headset weighs in at 8.5 ounces, somewhere around an ounce difference from the 800 model. Another change is the use of Windows Sonic instead of Dolby Atmos. This is Microsoft’s answer to spatial sound, and users can enact it on both the PC and Xbox One. One standout feature, though, is the live mic-monitoring. In this case, there is no drop-down mic. Instead, it’s plugged in and can be muted with a button. You can also monitor your chat, providing real-time feedback on your chewing smacks, your breathing, or your surroundings (if they are just too loud).
A few other things that should be noted come in the form of headset design. The earcups on the 700 model aren’t massive cushions over your ears. They instead cover your outer ear, but they’re honestly no less comfortable. One last tweak is the change in the headset strap. The flexible band has been removed, opting for a foam band on top and adjustable slots in the band (see above) for comfort.
What’s in the box
Being that the 700HD is a wireless set, the contents of the box get right to the point. You’ve got the headset, USB dongle for pairing, USB cord for charging (God knows you don’t have like 25 of these laying around your house already), and an optical cord. This is also a nice perk, particularly now that Windows Sonic has entered the picture. The USB dongle has an optical port, something that isn’t present on the 800LX model.
Entry-level with an edge
At first glance, you might think the 700HD is nothing more than an entry-level wireless gaming set. This is especially the case when you weigh other headsets on the market. But, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
The first thing that I wondered was if the change in Dolby Atmos to Windows Sonic would provide a noticeable change in not only sound quality, but specifically in how it handles spatial sound. Although it doesn’t directly compete on the level of Atmos, it does provide enough for someone delving into their first run-in with the feature.
To put things to the test, the games that I played with the RIG 700HD were Blair Witch and Apex Legends. This was mostly due to the fact that I play Apex Legends on a nightly basis. Blair Witch boots with a note that indicates it utilizes binaural sound. This translated well with both Windows Sonic turned on and off. I could distinctly hear rock pops and dings in many locations where it was just me and the forest. I was utterly surprised to hear the clarity and cleanliness of the snaps of twig breaks, not to mention the ominous sounds that floated around me. In the context of Apex Legends, things were just as good.
The thing I liked most about playing with the RIG 800LX in Apex Legends is the fact that you can generally tell where an opponent is running in from. You can clearly identify the direction from which they are running, whether they are above or below you, and the distance away. I was just as keen as to where someone was with the RIG 700HD’s. I found myself still calling out incoming foot traffic and/or gun clicks off in the distance.
Overall, the sound quality is impressively robust. You won’t be getting intensely deep bass, but the mid and high tones are crisp and clean. That’s not to say the bass isn’t deep, though. There were many music tracks where the bass didn’t distort when cranked to the max, a problem in earlier models.
Battery is life
I will say that the biggest disappointment for the RIG 700HD comes in the form of its battery life. Although it does boast a 12-hour expected life, which it seems close to, I did find myself recharging a few times simply based on their design.
Instead of a manual off switch in the down position, the 700 series has a single button to be held for power on, off, and sync. This was something that led me to leave the headset on out of pure laziness. This differs from sliding the button down to the “off” position in the other model. There were a few times where the set was still connected while my computer was on, thus draining the battery. If you plan to purchase it, you should most definitely remember to power it down.
Other tunes and tones
As a side note, I often crank up the movies and music for additional tests. Because, let’s be real, you’ll likely use your headphones/headset for more than just gaming. I rewatched Alita: Battle Angel to see if there were any noticeable sound differences. In one of the beginning scenes, a bystander in the city is playing guitar as Alita walks by. I was surprised to hear the wood grain slapping the metal strings with such precision. The same goes for a later scene when a character’s metal blades scratch the asphalt, along with other sounds that weren’t noticeable when watching with my soundbar.
It would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised when it came to the Plantronics RIG 700HD. After watching the various lines progress throughout the years and various tiers of product, it’s impressive to see how far they’ve come in their approach to that entry-level price. Coming from the 800LX, the 700HD is a nice change in slimming down the design with very little sacrifice. Although I found myself recharging due to my own admitted, personal laziness, it did provide for lengthy game times, like that of Blair Witch.
If you’re considering something without the tethers and aren’t ready to invest the big bucks for your audio experience, the 700HD is an easy recommendation, especially at the US$129.99 price point. And if you’re looking for more, the 800LX ain’t too shabby, either.
Please visit Plantronics’ official website for more information on the RIG 700HD.