Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Rig 800 is still the most comfortable wireless gaming headset I’ve tried

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In 2018, out of curiosity, I decided to review every wireless gaming headset on the market: 32 pairs to be exact† None of them were anywhere near as comfortable as the Plantronics Rig 800. “The only one so light, so comfortable that sometimes I forgot I was wearing it,” I wrote for CNET

Four years later, I’m happy to say that feeling hasn’t changed.

Plantronics no longer exists, after the merger with Polycom to become “Poly” and then sell themselves to HP† But the Installation 800 is very much alive at the French gaming company Nacon. I’ve been trying the 2022 “Pro” model for the past few weeks and I can’t imagine a more comfortable headset.

It still uses the exact same design with a spring-loaded inner headband that automatically adjusts tension to the size of your skull, rather than squeezing the sides of your head by a fixed amount. That, combined with its unique modular headband that lets you clip the earcups into three different positions for small, medium, and large heads, makes it even more comfortable than SteelSeries’ acclaimed Arctis headsets, at least in my book. (The 10.9 oz weight and super soft ear cups don’t hurt either.)

I wouldn’t call the Rig 800 particularly beautiful, but it’s fine.

Plus, the $150 headset seems to eliminate one of my biggest frustrations with headsets like this: the battery. Not only does the new Rig 800 seem to have an even longer battery life than the original – I measured 38 hours at 50 percent volume this weekend, which is 14 hours more than Nacon quotes! – but it now also comes with a magnetic docking station, so you can charge it just by putting it down. While it sometimes takes a firm push to get the contacts in place, it totally works, and I love having to worry about one less charge.

In some ways, I wish Nacon had gone beyond the original 2016 design, as some of the Rig’s shortcomings haven’t changed. While game audio is clear and direct, the headset’s identical 40mm drivers still sound a bit flat and tinny without much depth or punch for music and movies. (The Rig has bass tubes that kick in when there’s a real, substantial drop, and I enjoy those drops.)

And on the one hand, the Rig 800 is actually even worse: wireless range. While the original Rig 800 had an ugly tail of a USB breakout antenna box, I wrote that it had epic range — enough to keep me running around the house and getting a snack. Today’s Rig 800 has that handy charging dock, but the wireless antenna is limited to a thumb-sized removable USB stick. That could be useful if you’re planning to switch between a console and PC, for example, but I got pops and static and disconnected from just a room and a half.

Jack Reynolds also launched the Rig brand back at Plantronics.

Nacon USA president (and Rig brand director) Jack Reynolds tells me that since the Rig 800 was one of the company’s top-rated and most loved headsets, the company didn’t want to change too much about the “typical” design. The team wanted to address some of its biggest complaints, such as the stiff microphone boom and the annoyance of plugging in a USB cable for charging. I do like that Nacon got rid of the old two-position on/off switch, which could have easily been left on by accident. Now you hold down a button.

But I do think they should have tested the bigger changes a bit more. In addition to the reduced wireless range, I noticed that the new mic tends to pick up a lot of wind noise when I just breathe, and Reynolds says future shipments of the Rig 800 will come with an acoustic cloth for their mics as a result.

But Reynolds also hints that a more premium Rig headset is on the way. The existing design is already much more comfortable and has a much better battery solution than my current favorite, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, for less than half the price. Perhaps the next Rig will give it a shot in terms of audio quality too.

If you decide to give the Rig 800 a try (instead of one of our other top picks for wireless gaming headsets), know that there are three more versions: one for PlayStation and PCone for Xbox and PC that includes the Dolby Atmos software and an upcoming version just for PC. On Xbox there is a game/chat balance button; on PlayStation, that dial controls microphone monitoring. Unfortunately, none of them offer dual audio outputs on PC.

Photography by Sean Hollister / The Verge

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