Plantronics GameCom 780 7.1 surround sound gaming headset -- hands onSee all photos
The 780 is a rugged looking piece of kit with a high-end retro style. The headset's cans invoke the design of classic aviation muffs, exposing cables and wires that lead into its headband. A button on the left cup's front toggles the set's Dolby enhancements, while a microphone mute switch and a volume rocker occupy the cup's rear. The rig is well built, too -- we comfortably stretched, pulled and bent the headset every which way, and didn't hear so much as a single stress creak. At the end of the headset's 6.5 foot (2 meter) wire you'll find a USB plug, offering 7.1 virtual surround sound on PCs, and standard stereo on Macs.
The GameCom 780 sounds almost as good as it feels -- Dolby Headphone and Pro Logic IIx make the most out of the set's twin 40mm drivers, handily mimicking 7.1 surround sound. We were able to blindly find a waterfall while wandering the hills of Skyrim, guided only by our ears. Explosions, gunfire and screams of death were directionally viable in Team Fortress 2, as well -- effects and voice chat came through with pleasing clarity. We weren't surprised to find the headset packing a crystal clear microphone, either -- as expected, Plantronics made us sound great. In general, the 780 pumps out full, well balanced sound -- although the key word is "balanced." Yes, the GameCom sounds good, but fans of earth-shaking bass might find it a little too even to rock their world. The trade off, however, is a joyous lack of ear-splitting highs and ugly, blown-out lows. We can live with that.
Plantronics told us the GameCom 780 will hit prime time on January 10th, and will set you back $80; its stereo-only sibling can be had for $30 less. The outfit didn't have a pair of the GameCom 380s on hand for us to test out, but we're told that it'll offer a very similar, albeit more analog experience. The line's new low-end cans trade out the 780's USB connectivity for a standard 3.5mm audio jack, and skips out on its brother's Dolby technologies. Plantronics told us we could scope out the low-end stereo cans at CES -- we'll let you know if they're as comfortable their companion when we get there.