What do you do when you’ve got a winning headset formula in the gaming headset space? Some companies like to throw everything out each year and start again – just check out ROG’s lineup over the years, or Logitech’s – while others companies like Astro and Lucidsound will refine, re-evaluate and relaunch, building on what’s gone before while locking in on a particular visual design. RIG is doing the same, and the RIG 500 Pro HC Gen2 is amongst the first wave of this year’s revamped gaming headsets. Just like its predecessor, it’s an easy headset to recommend.
RIG, like Steelseries and a steadily increasing number of others, know that floating headbands are the best for comfort. They don’t necessarily always look the most sensible when they’re on your head, but when they’re this comfortable, that’s hardly your biggest concern. You’re going to be staring at a screen and not a mirror.
Putting the RIG 500 Pro HC Gen 2 on your head for the first time you’ll genuinely be amazed at how light and comfortable they feel. Its metal frame is ultra-sturdy and survived a worrying level of twisting and pulling with no visible or audible signs that it had been mistreated. The voluminous earpads are lined with soft fabric against your skin, with leatherette outers that are designed to keep unwanted noises from getting in or out.
Despite this attempt at limiting noise, the passive noise cancellation isn’t particularly strong. If you crank them up you’ll definitely drown out anything external, but there’s probably a good chance that anyone around you will hear it too. It’s something of a shame when considering that the 3.5mm connection would let you take them out of the confines of your home.
Whether you’d truly want to go outside with the design of the 500 Pro HC Gen2 is another matter. Fundamentally, the industrial alien honeycomb look has defined RIG headsets from day one. It’s certainly eye-catching, but it’s also the kind of design people will either love or hate. Personally, I think they’re stylish and well-made, and will suit a truly gamer-centric setup. Those after something more conventional or restrained should look elsewhere.
Unless your phone maker ditched it over the last few years, that 3.5mm connection means the RIG 500 Pro HC Gen2 is truly universal. When looking at games consoles, it’ll play well with your PS5, PC and Xbox Series X, and it’s also more than happy to take a holiday with your Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck. There’s an inline volume control, and it’s large enough to find when you’re mid-game without fiddling around too much. It also locks out at maximum so you can’t accidentally slip and knock it out of place.
Other than that, this is one straightforward headset, with a mic boom arm that mutes when you push it up and out of the way. You can remove this for when you don’t want a mic hanging around in your periphery, but it leaves an ugly visible socket that’ll probably keep the 500 Pro HC firmly at home if you weren’t sure before.
How do they sound? Well, like the previous version of the RIG 500, this headset is equipped with 50mm drivers which do a great job of moving sound around and helping it into your ears. They are fairly bass-heavy, producing warm and enveloping audio which can really make bombastic games, movies and music a pleasure to experience.
Listening to Bad Life by Sigrid and Bring Me The Horizon, Sigrid’s opening vocals sound clear and full-bodied, though perhaps they lack a final degree of top-end detail. When the dual vocals kick in at the chorus the wide soundstage does a great job of making you feel like part of the performance, but the mid-range is a bit too unfocussed and broad at times.
Placebo’s cover of Running Up That Hill fares better, with the thumping grind of the drums and bass sounding fantastic via those 50mm drivers. The distorted guitar in the middle eight was particularly clear and defined, letting you catch every stroke of the pick, while the main piano riff rang out with clarity.
Stepping into the game world of Valkyrie Elysium the symphonic soundtrack was given a truly epic treatment, while all of the sword-based swoops and swishes of combat came through cleanly above it. It’s clear that the 500 Pro HC Gen2 has been tuned to provide the best gaming experience possible, though it relies on what the console is capable of pumping out.
The RIG 500 Pro HC Gen2 comes with a two-year activation for Dolby Atmos, and as far as virtual surround sound goes Atmos remains my top choice. You’ll need to have a PC or an Xbox console in order to make the most of this though – well, to make any use of it. If you don’t already have an Atmos-equipped device then it’s a great addition. PS5 players can of course opt for 3D Audio as a great-sounding alternative, and there’s also Windows Sonic and DTS:X on certain systems, but I generally think Atmos has the edge.
The 500 Pro HC Gen2 offers a noise-cancelling mic at the end of its adjustable boom arm, and unlike other manufacturers’ attempts –particularly Steelseries – this boom arm will stay exactly where you put it. It does come with an ugly and cheap foam pop shield as standard, which diminishes the design, but will help with all those plosives you shout when you die in Modern Warfare II.
It’s a decent-sounding microphone though, with its noise-cancelling properties helping to convey just the right amount of noise – ie. your voice – to the friends/enemies/followers you hope are listening. It sounds fine too, and though it won’t challenge the best headset mics out there, like those offered by EPOS, it does the job required of it.
At an RRP of £69.99 the RIG 500 Pro HC Gen2 offers very good value for money, and its comfort, simplicity and universality will doubtless be attractive to an array of different consumers. There aren’t many headsets out there that will match the build quality at this price, though the EPOS H3 beats it out for audio quality.