Looks like things are getting serious…
After spending some time with Plantronics’ jack-of-all-trades RIG Stereo Headset, which is an admirable headset that fulfills multiple audio requirements, it was time to take a look at their flagship offering, the intimidating GameCom Commander Gaming Headset.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start – The GameCom Commander Headset is unabashedly targeted at the PC gaming market. While the broader market may well find plenty to love about the GameCom Commander, there are better, and far cheaper, options out there to get the most from your music listening, movie watching and console playing. If you are a PC gamer however, welcome to audio nirvana.
The headset arrives in an unassumingly plain box, revealing nothing about its contents. This is off to a good start for such an expensive headset (more on the price later) as the outer packaging oozes a quality that can be compared to that of certain high-end electronics. Opening the box, it may come as a surprise to find a military-looking hard travel case with a chunky carbiner attached to complete the rugged style. The case and carbiner may not really have anything to do with the effectiveness of this headset, but they build on the suggestion that the GameCom Commander is all about business.
Within the case, proud owners will find the headset itself, a USB adapter which provides Dolby 7.1 surround sound, two cables and a rather handy illustrated connection guide. It may seem like a no brainer, but headsets and their variety of different connection options can be really complicated. The illustrated guide is a breath of fresh air, showing the user exactly what their options are and how to achieve them.
The two cables included come in a shorter 90cm variety with a single 3.5mm jack for connecting to anything with a headphone socket, and a longer main cable. The main cable is coiled in the middle for convenience and can stretch to around 2 metres, with two 3.5mm jacks for connecting to a PC or the USB adapter. The long cable also includes an inline control for both the volume and mic muting. Each of these cables comes with a Quick Disconnect adapter, allowing the user to quickly switch between devices without removing the headset.
But let’s take a look at the meat of this bundle – the headset itself. This is a big, solid headset, finished almost entirely in black, which wouldn’t look out of place on a SWAT team member as they go in for the killshot. Designed for the tournament gamer, there is a velcro attached identity band fixed to the headband that is branded with the GameCom logo, but can be removed and replaced with any other velcro patch for that sense of individuality at the next tournie. Removing the identity band completely reveals more branding, which is big and bold, but in no way gaudy. The other branding on the headset consists of some small, understated logos on the ear cups.
The ear cups themselves are closed and have a solid construction. Again, the GameCom Commander won’t win any prizes for looks, but they may very well last forever. Being closed ear cups, the headset does an admirable job of reducing outside noise without the need for any technical wizardry. The downside of this is the lack of airflow around the ear, resulting in fairly substantial ear sweat. There is some hefty padding on the ear cups for added comfort which, it turns out, is something that the GameCom Commander sorely needs.
The headband too has solid padding which is covered in leather, and is attached to the swiveling ear cups via metal bars. All very solid construction, but perhaps a little too solid. There is not enough give in the metal bars to make the wearing experience completely comfortable, even with all of the padding. Wearing the headset for an extended period can result in discomfort which is made far worse if you happen to have ears that don’t quite fit snugly into the cups. Add to this that the headset comes in at a whopping 350g, or there abouts, and you can see they are not of the “forget they are there” style headsets. This is not a headset that you could spend all day wearing.
The mic swings up and down, giving a good range of positioning, and is flexible enough that the user can find the sweet spot when it comes to communication. It has to be said that the quality of the mic is impressive. Using it for voice chat both in and out of games was an uncomplicated experience and it was commented by others just how clear my voice was.
Using the GameCom Commander to listen to music or a movie, or the latest game on a home console, is enjoyable and difficult to fault. Audiophiles may well complain that the bass is not deep enough, but then it is all a matter of preference. However, this headset was designed with PC gaming in mind, and here it excels. Communication is crisp and understandable, and the various in game sounds can easily be distinguished.
Plug in the Dolby 7.1 surround sound adapter and things move on to a whole other level. Not many games will take advantage of surround sound, but when you find one it really is a game changing experience. Perhaps the most impressive use of surround sound will come from playing a first-person shooter, where you will actually be able to hear someone sneaking up behind you, or hear where they are coming from and lie in wait. Being able to judge directions is a real advantage and works beautifully. But even when it is not all about killing, the GameCom Commander’s surround sound amplifies the experience.
When originally launched, this mighty headset came with an equally mighty price – an eye-watering £249.99! If you are serious about your gaming, you may not have battered an eyelid at this price. But for many this would be way out of reach. However, time moves on and prices come down. The GameCom Commander headset can now be picked up for around £125, or even cheaper if you are willing to hunt, making this a very attractive solution for the PC gaming masses. They are still expensive, but more than worth the price considering the quality of the headset and the results it achieves.
The Plantronics GameCom Commander Gaming Headset is certainly a beast that demands not just respect, but also dedication. The quality of both the build and the gaming audio are without flaw. There may be a few comfort issues, and the headset is certainly not pretty. But when you put these on, everyone else will know you mean business. For all round use, there are plenty of other options within this price range that will perform equally well, if not better. But when it comes to dedicated PC gaming headsets, the GameCom Commander sits on top of the pile and laughs derisively at those below.