The audio environment is critically important for games, movies, music, and communications, yet all too often we make do with poor quality headsets or speakers. One company that’s been at the forefront of audio for decades is Plantronics, which has made headsets for pilots and astronauts, call centers and now gamers. The Plantronics name represents quality, and it’s something you see on the heads of professional eSports players. The company has been making headsets for gamers under the RIG name, and the latest models coming out for the RIG series are a breakthrough in several important areas.

The RIG 500 Series PC gaming headsets are engineered specifically for the intensity of eSports, according to the company, and it shows. The headsets feature interchangeable components so the RIG 500 series can be configured for fit, style, and the performance you need for your particular environment. The RIG 500 Series system includes components such as vented-air and sound-isolating ear cups, several colors of headbands, mobile stereo cables, a digital USB adapter with Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, and 24-bit audio support. RIG 500 Series headsets will be available worldwide beginning in August 2015.

“Plantronics worked closely with competitive gamers to develop the RIG 500 Series of PC gaming headsets, and like any precision equipment designed for competition, details matter,” said Jack Reynolds, Director, Gaming Products, Plantronics. “The RIG 500 Series is a unique family of e-sports audio gear that can give an edge to pros and hopefuls through its ultra-light comfort and reliability, which is essential for long hours of dedicated practice, and our signature Plantronics audio, which is tuned especially for immersive gaming and clear communication.”

The RIG 500 Series will be available this fall at and major retailers in several editions:

  • RIG 500 – Stereo gaming headset with flip-to-mute mic boom — $59 USD (MSRP)
  • RIG 500HD – Surround sound USB gaming headset — $79 USD (MSRP)
  • RIG 500E – E-sports edition surround sound gaming headset with two sets of ear cups (vented and isolating), detachable boom mic, USB adapter and analog stereo cables — $149 USD (MSRP)
  • Plantronics Gaming will be at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Booth 4500 in the West Hall, from June 16-18 showcasing the new RIG 500 Series headsets

The product manager for the RIG 500 series, Matthew Villarreal, along with product marketing manager Jenny Scothorn spoke with [a]listdaily about the headsets and the some of the design and marketing thinking that went into this product line.

Tell us about the thinking that went into the creation of this new RIG product line — what are the key goals you had for these headsets?

Scothorn: What’s really cool about the RIG 500 series are the three key pieces that we wanted this product to be able to do. We wanted to be able to upgrade, we wanted to be able to personalize, and we wanted to be able to adapt.

Villarreal: At lot of other products out there are just something they pulled off the shelf — maybe they changed the frame a little bit, or added a more competitive mike, or slapped a logo on it. This headset we really wanted to build from the ground up, and in order to do that you had to look at everything as an individual component. This headset is 100 percent modular, from the headset frame to the headset sling to the earcups to the mike.

Adapt, upgrade, and personalize. Adapt in the sense that you have multiple different environments. The other part is upgrade — that gamer who wants to buy an entry level headset because they’re not sure of how much of a PC gamer they want to be. What’s great about this is that we have an entry level headset that will just feature the isolating earcups. If you feel you want to upgrade to 7.1 surround sound, you can just buy the adapter online. The last pillar is personalization, and you’re going to be able to select different frames.

How does the personalization help Plantronics in working with publishers?

Scothorn: Think about how it is for us. If we have a new relationship with a game partner or a publisher, we can create other branded pieces whether it’s a headband frame or a headband sling. These are 40mm drivers, maybe we come up with a different size or a different shape earcup. There’s potential to upgrade for us as well.

Villarreal: Because everything is 100 percent modular, if they’re just looking to design a new headband we’ll go ahead and do that. That’s the thing I find a little bit restrictive with the speaker tags I’ve seen out there in the market. We’ll be able to work with a publishing company and say, “Your colors are blue and white… where do you want them ” We’re really excited about that.

How important is the retail environment for selling headsets? This seems like the kind of product where you really want to hear it and feel it, if you can, before you buy it.

Scothorn: We are on display at 80 percent of Best Buys with the Gamecom 7988 headset there. Retailers have seen success in the mobile section with headphones where you try and buy. We’re seeing a lot more retailers wanting to have that destination. That just really helps solidify the sales, being able to see the materials and try the fit. Merchandising plans aren’t final, but we are working with the big retail chains. It’s extremely important to us.

How important is your partnership with ESL, the eSports league, in marketing the RIG 500 series?

Villarreal: Our ESL partnership is a great thing, and we;re hoping we can really leverage that. There’ll be a mention of RIG online, gamers will give us their reviews and really let us know how the sets are performing.

Scothorn: The products are all endorsed by ESL, the RIG 500E has the ESL branding on there. Inside the box is a little bit of information on getting started with online tournaments with ESL. If you haven’t done that and you want to, you can start off small and build from there.