The Plantronics GameCom Commander is a premium headset, aimed at those with a massive coin purse. But does it have the features that the premium price tag demands? Let’s find out.
Speaker driver size: 40mm
Speaker frequency response: 20Hz–18kHz
Microphone frequency response: 100Hz–10kHz
Noise reduction: up to 18dB
Cable length: 6.5 feet (2 meters) with coil cord
USB connection: 3.5mm dual connection and 3.5mm single connection
2-year limited warranty
The Commander comes in a stylish but simple blue-grey box with the Plantronics branding. It sets the tone for the whole product – stylish and simple. Inside the box is a black ruggedised trapezoid container with a carabiner attached. This is the carry case, and it certainly looks and feels like it can take a beating while looking snazzy. Inside the carry case is the product itself, requisite cables, quick start guide, and warranty information.
The headset has a militaristic aesthetic, borrowing its look from aviator headsets. The hard plastic matte cups splay out wide. There is simple GameCom branding on the left and right cups, with the left cup also containing the laser etched limited edition serial number. The cups are connected to the headband via a pair of thin but firm wires, with the insulated cabling going into the cups by the headband separately. The headband itself is soft, with the Plantronics GameCom branding on top. Initially attached to the band is a removable fabric strap, held on by velcro wraparounds, with a removable velcro GameCom patch on the top. It comes on and off very simply, and the GameCom velcro patch can be replaced by something more personal, for those so inclined.
The left cup has the microphone boom, which extends out from the lower middle. It’s very flexible, yet feels sturdy. Foam tips the mic boom. Coming out of the bottom of the left cup is the cable to the various connection options.
Permanently attached in a strangely awkward position on the cup, the cable terminates at a proprietary quick release connector 30cm from the cup. From here, you can choose to connect one of the two cable options that come with the headphones. Most of the time you’ll be using the three metre coiled stereo connector. This contains the mic and stereo jack for a standard 3.5mm audio connector. It also has the inline volume and mic controls. The other choice for your connecter is the one metre phone cable, which makes the headset compatible with your mobile device.
Another included gadget is the USB soundcard. Plug it in to a USB jack and it takes over your audio needs. It’s a very simple piece of hardware, with two 3.5mm mic and stereo in jacks. Basically, you plug your two plugs from the curly cable in to the soundcard and you have the instant option of simulated 7.1 surround at the flick of a switch on the side of the card. A blue LED will light up if 7.1 is activated.
Everything is matte black, and incredibly sleek. It looks gorgeous and solid, reflecting the high quality build. Plantronics have worked hard to produce a product that looks worth the money. While you would never deliberately treat it roughly, the headset looks sturdy enough to survive a beating – especially when the wonderful carry case is taken in to account. The only two weak points in the construction are the quick release connectors and the inline controller, whose thin plastic cases seem out of kilter with the rest of the headset’s rugged design philosophy.
It sits perhaps a little tight, clamping firmly on to the ears. Strangely, the size adjustment for the headband is very loose, meaning the cups are largely held in place through that clamping force rather than the headband. That, coupled with the small diameter of the cup pads, can make the headset a little uncomfortable to use for long periods. It’s not terribly uncomfortable, especially considering how tight the fit is, but there is eventual discomfort.
A side effect of the tight fit – the Commander has exceptional noise isolation. With the cans on and the sound going, it’s almost impossible to hear anything other than what’s going on in your cans. I have two examples of the extraordinary isolation of the Commanders. Firstly, I was playing some Blops 2 (to test directionality! Honest!), when I received a phone call. Except, I didn’t realise that I was receiving said phone call, even with my phone’s volume setting on its loudest. Oh, and the phone was SITTING ON MY LAP. Second example: I was mowing the lawn, using these headphones in conjunction with my iPod. With the volume up, I could barely hear the roar of the petrol motor, which usually drowns out the loudest of music. In a noisy setting, when you want crystal clear audio with no leakage – in, or out – the Commander really performs.
As an audio experience, I was blown away by the Commanders. The headset offers great sound quality, which is not always the focus of “gaming” headsets. The 40mm drivers pipe pure notes directly into your brain. The bass is solid and thumping, but not unbalanced. The midrange is perhaps a little muddy, but still exceptionally good. Highs are clear and pleasant. Overall, the sound is slightly on the warm side, imparting a delightful tonal quality to your listening experience.
The microphone is also exceptional. Vocals have a beautiful clarity to them, with no muffling or interference. The amount of background noise picked up is also minimal, ensuring your voice comes through loud and clear.
I do have a bit of a gripe with the simulated 7.1. It’s functional. It definitely increases the sound stage. It does add some sense of directionality. But it comes at the cost of sound fidelity. Muddiness markedly increases, and some sounds get drowned out. It’s to be expected when simulating surround sound, but I definitely preferred the quality of regular stereo for music and most movies.
I suppose the key question is, is this headset worth the $300 price tag? With the superior build quality, gorgeous look, sturdy carry case, option for mobile use, provided USB soundcard, functional 7.1 surround, and outstanding sound from both the cans and the mic, Plantronics have done a lot to justify the price. It’s perhaps a little too pricy for what you get, but it definitely has the chops to make it in its premium price bracket. If you have the cash to burn, you will not regret buying the Plantronics GameCom Commander.
Review sample provided by Plantronics. Thank you.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Build Quality – 9.5/10
Design – 9/10
Useability – 9/10
Performance – 9.5/10
Price – 7/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)