For too long, I used Apple's wired earbuds as the primary way to listen to my PlayStation 4. Now I know what I was missing.
When it comes to listening to the games I play on my Sony PlayStation 4, I haven't exactly been an audiophile.
Until lately, I simply used a pair of Apple earbuds that came with my iPhone, plugging them into the headphone jack on the PS4. They were available, easy to use, and good enough.
I probably would have kept on using them, except their microphone didn't work with the voice chat feature in some of the games I was playing. Wanting to chat with my fellow players, I decided to check out some other options. I used that search as an excuse to explore wireless headphones and to see what I was missing while wearing my earbuds.
Sony makes two excellent pairs of wireless headphones for the PlayStation 4 — the $99 Gold and $199 Platinum wireless headsets. I recently got review units of both and look forward to testing them. But for several months now, I've found my own personal sweet spot: Plantronics' RIG800HS headphones.
The RIG800HS are wireless, cost $150 — right between Sony's two offerings — and are made by the same 56-year-old audio communications company that became famous for providing headsets for NASA. Oh, and they're awesome.
Take a look:
Purely on a comfort level, the RIG800HS headphones are the best I've ever worn — not just while playing video games, but for everything else too. They're incredibly lightweight and feel just right when you wear them — not too snug and not too loose. You can shake your head around, and they'll stay put.
Most importantly, they're durable. Despite wearing them for hours on end while playing games, my ears didn't get sweaty, and I never felt the pressure you sometimes feel when you wear a pair of over-ear headphones for too long. The headphones' design is perfect.
If you want to be truly immersed in a video game or a movie, you need good sound. After more than four weeks of testing the RIG800HS headphones, I can say they offer one of the best audio experiences I've ever had.
When watching movies, the sound was excellent and well-balanced. But the headphones truly excelled when I was playing games, most notably "Destiny 2."
Thanks to the RIG800HS, I could really appreciate the audio design of the game, from the sound of snow crunching underneath my character's feet to the subtle glass-shattering sound when one of my bullets hit the perfect spot in an enemy robot.
And best of all, the headphones helped me perform better. In competitive multiplayer matches, I could hear action happening all around me or off in the distance. That helped me navigate the battlefield and make smarter moves.
The RIG800HS headphones include a microphone, which you can use in games to chat with other players. The microphone sounds great to those you're chatting with. And it's got a cool design. You turn it on by simply flipping it down; you mute it by flipping it back up.
Unfortunately, one of the key features related to the microphone didn't work in my tests. The headphones have a dial that is supposed to allow you to adjust the relative volume of the game you're playing and your voice chats with other players. As you decrease the game volume, chat volume is supposed to go up and vice versa.
But when I turned down the game volume, the chat volume went down also. It could be this problem had to do with the game I was playing; I only tested the feature with "Destiny 2."
I love the idea of the feature, but because it didn't work, I ended up having to turn off the game's audio completely so I could hear the chat room clearly.
I'm a big believer in wireless headphones — as long as the trade-offs inherent in wireless devices aren't too big. Battery life and connection quality have to both be good. In the case of the RIG800HS headphones, they were both very good.
The headphones' battery lasted for about 24 hours of use. They do take about 3 to 4 hours to recharge, but you can do that overnight or when you're not playing.
I was also impressed with the headphones' range. During some long cut scenes in certain games, I wore the headphones while grabbing water or a snack from the kitchen and while taking bathroom breaks. I never noticed any audio interruptions.
Granted, I live in a one-bedroom apartment, so maybe that's not a fair test of how far they can go while still getting a signal. But that aside, I enjoyed the freedom of being truly wireless.
The RIG800HS headphones won't connect to the PS4 just by themselves. Instead, like other wireless headphones that are compatible with the system — including Sony's own — they rely on a separate dongle to communicate with the game machine. (The PS4 doesn't support Bluetooth headphones by themselves.) You'll have to plug that dongle into one of your PS4's USB ports to get it to communicate with the headphones.
The connector is relatively easy to set up. After you plug it in, you go to the PS4's audio settings and choose the RIG800HS headphones as your output device.
Still, I wish you didn't need to use one of the two PS4 ports for wireless audio to work. I use those ports to recharge controllers and to hook up external hard drives to play more games and multimedia.
But for now, the dongle is the price you pay for wireless audio on the PS4. Hopefully this isn't the case if there's ever a PlayStation 5.
You may not be in the market for wireless headphones for your PS4. They do have their downsides, after all, like needing to be recharged every so often and requiring that you use up one of your USB ports for their dongle.
But the RIG800HS are worth considering even so. I've never worn a more comfortable pair of wireless headphones, period, and their audio quality is top-notch. And Plantronics has Xbox One fans covered too; it makes a version of the headphones — the RIG800LX — for that device.
If you love video games or you want a great gift for someone who does, you can't go wrong with these headphones.