FNG Logo created by Nick Serr

11 December 2012

Plantronics GameCom 380 - Excellent Affordable Gamer Headset

A cool thing happened to me when I went to PAX last September.  I encountered a representative from Plantronics at the ShootMania booth.  He had been looking for an Ubisoft employee to chat with, but since I was a rep during the show, he thought I'd be a good one to talk to.

I explained to him that I'm just a ManiaPlanet community member that has been working with Ubisoft for over a year in regards to ManiaPlanet; and we had a good conversation about ShootMania, TrackMania, Ubisoft, and GEEX, and Team FNG's involvement with all of them.

He was pretty excited, and offered Team FNG some trial GameCom 380 headsets to experience and review.  We received them unfortunately just after our most recent LAN party, which would have been an epic time to give them a go together as a team.

I have distributed a handful of them to other Friday Night Gamers and hope they will chime in with comments on their impressions of the headset.

I have always been a Plantronics fan.  I have used their headsets for business purposes for years on phones.  A few years ago, before I had bluetooth in my car, I used one of their bluetooth sets for my mobile phone.  And most recently before the GameCom's I've used a pair of non-gaming Plantronics headsets for my gaming and have enjoyed them all.

For comparison, the current non-GameCom headset I have fell in the $50 price range; so I didn't expect a whole lot different as far as quality was concerned with the GameCom counterpart.

I am happy to say I was proven otherwise.

The frames on the GameCom 380 are sturdy, yet comfortable to wear.  I was worried they would push too hard against my glasses, making them a problem to wear.  The earpieces are big enough to cover your entire ear and the padding is nice.  The ears also rotate 90-degrees so you can lay the set almost flat in a backpack or suitcase for traveling.  I find that feature useful for fitting on my head as well, because they can turn a little to fit the shape of my head and keep my glasses from squishing against my head.  +1

Next comes the microphone.  It is a boom mic that sits away from your face, and can be lowered to about chin level.  It has limited flexibility, and I'm not sure that it's ability to bend is for "forming" it, as much as it is to prevent breakage from attempts to bend it.

The microphone is very sensitive, and can be adjusted through your sound card settings and/or Windows Recording Devices settings.  The sound quality is as good as any other Plantronics devices I've used.

One thing I really like about this headset is the ability to control the volume and mute with a dial and switch on the back of the left ear.  My other set has a volume/mute control dangling from my cord and I frequently found myself bumping mute, then talking to my crew only to not have them respond.

One drawback for me was the cord and plugs on this headset.  The cord, while thick and durable, is short; I'm guessing 3.5 - 4 feet long.  This is fine if you're playing on a laptop with accessible audio jacks in short distance, or sitting near a desktop with front-panel access, but limits you movement-wise.  The pro is that you won't have a cord so long you're running over it with your chair (which I do often with my other Plantronics headset.)  I was going to give a -1 on the cord length, but not rolling over it with my chair is a +1, so it's a wash.

The final thing I'm not as attracted to are the 3.5mm audio plugs.  I'm not going to ding Plantronics for that, because some people prefer them, and having it this way, you can use your set with other things besides your computer; like  a mobile phone or tablet, mp3 player, etc.  If you prefer USB, look into the 780 model.

Now the important part... the sound.
I was impressed by the GameCom 380 sound.  As I mentioned before, I wasn't expecting much different than the non-GameCom Plantronics headset I already own.  However, these definitely have more bass than my prior set, and it definitely feels like the GameCom headset has much more of an ambient feel.  With games that handle positional audio, I feel I can sense more positioning in this headset than my other.  The sound is good quality, and even better depending on the hardware you are plugging it into.

I would highly recommend this headset for those that are looking for a good headset/mic combo in the $50.00 price range.  I would also recommend taking a look at the next model up, the GameCom 780 which are in the $80.00 price range.  I like the sound on the 380's enough to try the 780.  The 780 adds 7.1 surround sound through drivers that come with the set, and the USB sound card attached to the set.

The specifications for the 380 are as follows:

  • 40mm speakers
  • 3.5mm headset output + microphone input plugs
  • Spin joints for the earpods to allow for semi-flat storage
  • Rear-left-ear volume dial and mute switch for easy control of your sound.
  • Sturdy frame
  • Study cord (albeit somewhat short.) 
  • Comfortable ear cushions
Team FNG wishes to thank Plantronics for generously donating these trial headsets to our crew, and we hope you'll try them out if you're in the market for a great $50 gamer headset.


Anonymous said...

Great write up! You covered a lot of the concerns we had, comfort and audio quality. Hearing that they're comfortable with glasses (amazing how quickly that kills a gaming session when it pinches your head) and audio quality, both Mic and reproduction shouldn't have surprised us. It is Plantronics and I can't remember a time I was disappointed by the audio of a Plantronics product.

Thanks for taking the time to put it through its paces.

That One Guy said...

Thanks for the compliment, anonymous poster! Yeah, Plantronics has been a solid name for years and it's nice to know there is another product to add the quality check to.

I look forward to using it until I can try out the 780.

Ender said...

I have been using the headset for about two weeks now. I'm comparing this to a $15 headset, and of course the Plantronics wins hands down.

The comfort is much better on the Plantronics. I like the padding around the ears - I can wear these for much longer than my other headset because it is not compressing my ears. However, my ears do get tired at the top of my ears from holding up the headset. Maybe I have the top of the headset situated incorrectly and the ears are bearing most of the weight.

I wish the plugs were colored instead of both being black. I always have to turn on a light to see the markings on the plugs because they look identical. Making one pink and one green would have been soooo much nicer.

I also wish the cord was about 2 feet longer.

Sound quality is excellent. I can hear positioning audio very well with the Plantronics set. The microphone is very sensitive. I like how sturdy the microphone is and it's limited range of mobility.

These are a definite keeper!

That One Guy said...

I think what Ender means is the part of the plugs where your hand holds to plug/unplug them from your device.

We looked at the headset together and the rings on the actual plug are colored, but the part your hand holds is all black, with a symbol for mic or headphones on each.

The problem is, the symbol is black as well, so it's hard to see, especially if you're in the dark trying to plug them in.

Maybe if the symbols were painted white, or the entire part your hand holds was colored pink for mic and green for headphones, that would be more ideal.

Great thoughts Ender, thanks!

SpeedMonger said...

I have been quite pleased with these headphones. For the price they are very nice. Sound quality is good through the speakers and the mic. Haven't had them long enough to know how they will last but they seem well built and sturdy. The volume control and mic switch on the earpiece is nice and easy to adjust. I also would like some more cord. I usually have my comptuers under my desk so it is nice to have a little more length on the cord. I have a more expensive set I stil prefer, but for the price a good product.

Josh said...

Previously I owned a Plantronics Audio 70 Behind-the-Head Stereo PC Headset and a Plantronics Audio 90 Multimedia Stereo PC Headset. Neither of which could be considered a real gamer's piece of equipment.

It was like going from having my head in a bucket to emerging in a THX Certified Cinema. Nadeo's Shootmania Storm came to life. My ears tickled as rockets went flying by my head. I did a double take!

I second the comments about comfort with glasses. I don't even notice they are there because they feel so good. The cushions are great for a long Friday night of gaming.

I appreciate being able to turn the earpieces and slip the headset in my laptop case.

The bendable mic boom lets me put it exactly where I want it. I don't even notice it is there. My old set's mic used to rest against my cheek.

The volume, knob and mute switch are easily useable by touch alone. I can quickly mute without even thinking about it.

At first I was disappointed the cord was too short but I learned to appreciate it. My old pair's cord was so long that I would find my chair wheel rolling over the cord once in a while. The GameCom 380's cord and jacks seems to be of much better quality than my previous headsets.

Before trying the GameCom 380's I would have been hard pressed to spend more than US$20 on a PC headset. I have definitely learned the value of a good gaming quality pair.

Maybe I'm easily impressed but I love the GameCom 380's! I will for sure upgrade to the 780's some day - hopefully sooner rather than later.