Published on November 28th, 2012 | by Greg
Plantronics GameCom Commander: Rough And Tumble Headset PC Headset
Black Ops II. Assassin's Creed 3. Dishonored. X-Com: Enemy Unknown. Dozens of other titles as well, all leaving gamers to juggle priorities and choose between many AAA titles and plenty that are in our hearts (Torchlight II, for instance). We've been switching between the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, while looking occasionally at the lonely Wii and it's not-yet-here companion, the Wii U. But our most serious gaming is reserved for a custom-built PC, running some serious hardware (EVGA graphics cards, several GB of RAM, and of course the super-fast SSD from Monster that we recently reviewed).
Former competitive gamers, like those on on staff, know that details count. Mice are measured in DPI, and your performance is often only as good as your ping. And whether you're LAN gaming or just playing at home, audio is every bit as crucial. Engineers have spent so much work designing the audio environments these days, creating custom sound and music and making it all reactive and atmospheric- why would you want to play with a crappy headset? We've seen dozens over the years, in all shapes and sizes, and they generally fall into a couple of groups. The higher-priced models offer better isolation and noise-canceling mics, far more comfortable padding, and often feature included optional USB soundcards that can provide 5.1 or higher-caliber audio. Others lower on the totem pole fall by the wayside pretty quickly, being great for limited use or offering decent value. Much like other audio gear- once you've heard the upper-end of the spectrum, it's hard to go back.
The Plantronics GameCom Commander is in this upper echelon, taking it's place next to some of the storied headsets we still use today, like those from Astro and Tritton (now part of MadCatz. We checked out the smaller, sister model a couple of years ago, the X95s- and these are a step up in every way.
Plantronics makes some of the better consumer audio microphones, finding their way into the wide lineup of mobile Bluetooth headsets and office speakerphones (we'll be looking at some of their other gear shortly). So it's no surprise that the mic on the GameCom Commander was stellar, easily adjustable and with great baffling and materials that held up to some serious marathon sessions. Unlike many, it would stay in place nicely, and pick up your voice without also picking up the sounds of the gaming around you.
The packaging deserves a nod too- they put some real effort into a durable case with nifty carabiner, and a box that would make any gamer burst with joy should they find it wrapped up beneath the tree. Dolby 7.1 surround sound was top-notch as well, with great spatial dynamics and precise staging- sound is boosted and felt particularly close, perfect for gaming but not quite as neutral or natural (or really intended) for music. These aren't the pair to wear on the subway- thanks to 40mm drivers, they're pretty hefty and definitely heavy, but enclose your ears fully. And they shut out external sound like a trap, with better noise isolation than any other gaming headset we've tried, period.
However, we should point one downside- they aren't quite as comfortable as we would've liked. It's hard to adjust the tension and placement of the ear cups, and that led to most everyone feeling a bit squeezed. Towards the end of testing, they did seem to have broken in somewhat.
These look and feel like serious gear, and also boast one interesting feature- a detachable and interchangeable cable for use with tablets and smartphones, as well as the two-prong microphone/headphone type for use with your computer. It's pretty unique, and worked well in practice- it'd be nice to see this become more common! Of course, it's only handy if you are serious about gaming on your mobile device; as we mentioned, the GameCom Commander is more of a stationary artillery piece than a wear-around lightweight platform.
Sound you can reach out and touch, with solid acoustics, and among the best mic and sound isolation we've seen in a gaming headset- the GameCom Commander is a great new high-end audio contender this season. The comfort level could be better, but some small tweaks and break-in time make this less of stumbling block. Pricing is competitive in the class, though you are paying partially for style and some extras you may not need. Available now, online and in stores, for just under $300.