Plantronics is not normally a name associated with gaming headsets. They have made excellent phone and bluetooth headsets for years. At EGX I had the opportunity to look at their new range and discovered an accessibility gem. The Rig system is a series of headphone mixers that let you use your mobile phone or tablet and another device, like a PC, Mac or PS4, at the same time. It is possible to switch from in-game chat to a phone call or listen to music or an audio book from your phone whilst playing a game without having to pause or switch headsets.
The Rig itself is a small circular device with an external volume control dial and two curved sliders to control sound from each connected device. A toggle switch in the middle switches between individual inputs and outputs or combine the two. There is also a graphics equalizer with three settings for a little extra control. The Rig mixer will work with the headphones included as well as any normal 3.5mm 4 channel headphones, however the mixer cannot be purchased without the headphones.
There are a number of versions available depending on what systems you want to use with it. The Rig has been on the market for about a year and is available on Amazon for £59.99. It is compatible with PC/Mac, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, smartphones and tablets.
The latest versions, RIG Surround and RIG PS4/PS3/PSVita, are launching this weekend. The Rig Surround is a wired USB headset for PC/Mac with Dolby 7.1 surround sound. It also connects your mobile phone or tablet with a 3.5mm jack.
The Rig PS4/PS3/PSVita will also work on the PC/Mac and connects to phones and tablets with a 3.5mm jack. It has 3.1 surround sound and is officially licensed for Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita.
Rig Flex which is a portable PC version that also conntects to phones and tablets and will be available in the Autumn.
All versions of the RIG at quick glance look very accessible. The dials have ridges, are well placed and the buttons have clear edges, all features that make it easier to use with a visual impairment. The mixer has the potential to make gaming easier and more accessible for anyone with a hearing impairment. The sound quality is very good, the mixer adds extra flexibility and two independent volume controls makes it easier to adjust game sounds to allow for easier communication over the phone. It also means no more missed phone calls whilst gaming.
The physical controls felt comfortable and the dials were easy to use with a tremor. The buttons could be difficult to press for anyone with reduced control or grip. The mixer is not integrated with the headset, making it possible for a personal assistant to help with the controls if needed. Switching between two headsets can be a laborious process for someone with limited mobility and using one headset for two devices also solves this problem.
The RIG mixer solves some accessibility problems and combined with the quality of sound Plantronics is known for, it is definitely a product with a lot of potential.