Plantronics Gamecom 780 Review
Plantronics Gamecom 780 / Price: $80 / http://gamecom.plantronics.com/
I’m spending more time than ever in World of Warcraft and StarCraft II — sessions that are often cut short because my ears would start to ache thanks to the poor fit of my previous headset. The Plantronics Gamecom 780 came along at just the right time, and winds up being an excellent jack-of-all-trades gaming headset.
There’s a lot to like about the form factor and design of the 780. First, all of the controls are directly on the earpieces — the mute switch, digital volume rocker, and surround toggle are all on the rim of the left earpiece. This is immensely better than the more common alternative of placing all controls on a bulky inline dongle which not only weighs the cord down but also makes the headset harder to coil and store. The mic is not retractable, but is flexible and can be bent into just about any shape. Typically I find non-retractable or non-detachable mics end up adding a lot of bulk to a headset, but with a few weeks of use I never once had a problem with the mic catching or snagging. Overall, I love the compact and efficient hardware design of the 780. The only drawback is the digital volume rocker. It’s difficult to get the volume right in the sweet spot, and if an application locks down your software volume levels, the rocker is as useless as those volume function keys you never use on your keyboard.
Installation and setup is trivial, and I love that this headset opts for USB over optical. Typically I prefer analog headsets simply because I don’t like extra drivers or the bulk of using an optical preamp, but the 780 sets new standards for ease of installation when it comes to digital equipment.
In my experience, proprietary drivers are agents of Satan — poorly made, unstable, and impossible to use. Plantronics’ drivers are completely the opposite. All you have is a tray icon, a dolby switch, and a gaming or music toggle while in dolby. No terrible MP3 player, no gaudy full-skinned windows made to look like an alien spaceship — just pure usability.
Perhaps it’s the handful of surround-sound headsets that I’ve used that have disappointing audio quality, but I really wasn’t expecting much from the 780s. However, with some equalizer tweaking, I was able to get damn good sound out of it. This headset puts out a solid sound across the whole audio range. While the bass won’t rattle your teeth, it’s entirely sufficient for gaming or music. I am disappointed in the noise cancellation capabilities of the headset though. Any sound put out by the headset is strong enough to cover external noise while there’s something playing, but I could hear a TV on in the same room pretty clearly though the headphones with no audio through the headset.
One of the Gamecom 780’s standout features is completely wasted on me though. I am not a fan of surround sound, even in a headset. While the surround produced by the 780s is definitely noticeable (which is markedly different from most surround headsets), I still dislike the washed-out nature that the sound takes while in surround. It may just be an issue of taste, but I left the 780s in stereo the majority of the time. If you’re not a huge proponent of surround, the Gamecom 780s won’t change your mind.
While the Gamecom 780s perform solidly in every aspect, the comfort of wear absolutely blows me away. I can tell they shaved off weight in a number of areas — the cord isn’t abnormally thick and the wire framing holding the ear pieces removes a lot of material from the headset. My scalp can definitely tell the difference. I’m used to ripping off my headset two hours into a raid to rub my scalp or ears, but I didn’t feel a thing wearing the Gamecom 780s. Given that this was my largest complaint with headsets I’ve used before, I couldn’t be happier.
The Plantronics Gamecom 780 is a solid headset, performing admirably in just about every situation I can think of. If you don’t require beefy noise cancellation or absurd bass, I can’t think of a better hobbyist set, especially if you’ve felt that two-hour ache in your gaming sessions.