PAX Prime 2011: Plantronics’ GameCom Headphones
If you take your gaming seriously, you know the importance of sound. It’s the make or break between game-saving heroics and game-ending disappointment. It’s also an integral part of communication in game because usually by the time you finish typing a message of “enemy to your left” to a teammate, he is dead and has his killer lowering his characters crotch above your teammate’s corpse.
While there are plenty of expensive options that have hit the market over the past few years with custom skins and game tie-ins, Plantronics has started to push their way into the thick of things with a clean, quality product at an affordable price. They are looking to provide an option for the hardcore guys who require crisp audio and convenient communication as well as an affordable entry level product that any gamer could find use for.
If you’re looking at the resume of headphone manufacturers, Plantronics has a lengthy one. The company is celebrating its fiftieth year of operation this year, and boasts a client list of CISCO, Microsoft, and IBM. Oh, and NASA. Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was broadcast through a Plantronics microphone. What was left off that famous clip were his following words, “Dang, this is a quality headset.”
I got my heads (and ears) on two sets of headphones from Plantronics at PAX: the GameCom X40 for the Xbox 360 and the GameCom 777 for the PC. The X40 also has a wireless counterpart but I wasn’t able to test those out because of the sheer amount of wireless signals flying around in the venue.
The GameCom X40 provided a comfortable fit and while I only wore them for a few matches of Marvel Vs. Capcom, it didn’t feel like there would be any sort of long term fatigue from extended gameplay time. The sound was crystal clear and even a little overwhelming once a lot of action started to take place. Luckily the headphones have an on-ear control for both game and voice volume. The microphone sat tucked away on the side panel of the headset, never interrupting or falling out of place. I didn’t have a chance to test the clarity of the microphone at PAX but, you know, that whole “made microphones for NASA” thing. This model of the GameCom Xbox headphones is wired, both to the system and for the microphone plugin. The wireless variation does still require a wired connection to the Xbox controller for the microphone to function. Some may view this as an inconvenience, but for many it shouldn’t cause issue. The X40 is available for $59.99 and the wireless counterpart, the X95, is $99.99.
On the PC side of the coin, I threw on the GameCom 777’s, a headset that features a Dolby 7.1 surround sound experience built into the headphones. You won’t find yourself too overcome by the gunfire and explosions that you’re sure to hear while gaming, as the open-ear style design allows you to still keep in contact with the outside world so you’ll know when dinner is ready. I had the sound up pretty loud while in the middle of a war and was in a convention center full of 70,000 people and could still faintly make out what Lars and Marie, my demonstration presenters, were saying. It’s tough to demo sound in a situation like that, but these headphones did appear to do what they were said to do. They were an extremely comfortable wear and I could definitely see using them outside of gaming for other media purposes. The wires are also tough so you won’t cut off your communication midgame because you wheeled over your cords with your chair. The microphone on this set also tucks away nicely and is easily accessible if need be while out of the way when not needed. Again, I didn’t have a chance to test the audio quality of voice chat over the microphone nor hear communication from teammates in an in-game setting, so the jury may be out on that. If the quality is anything like how well the game sounded as it was piped into my ears though, there’s not a whole lot to worry about; I’m sure you’ll be able to hear all the thirteen year olds on the internet curse you out in crystal clear quality. The GameCom 777 is available for $99.99.
If you’re after a pair of headphones as you look to delve further into the world of online gaming, Plantronics is a good place to start looking. Affordable, user-friendly, and professional quality, these should serve the hardest of the hardcore or the casualist of the casual without breaking the bank for either. For more of Plantronics’ gaming options, click here.