Today we are looking at the GamCom 780 7.1 Surround Sound PC gaming headset from Plantronics. This headset has been on the market for a number of months now, and the general consensus from reviewers tends to be positive.
This headset integrates a noise-cancelling microphone, which allows your voice to be heard clearly during multiplayer games (by cancelling out any background noise). This can make a big difference to your teammates if you do a lot of online gaming. The other major feature is the virtual surround sound (courtesy of Dolby technology). You’ll need to install the GameCom software to utilise this feature, but it aims to create a directional listening experience, rather than standard stereo audio.
We put both of these selling points to the test in this review, so read on to find out what we think…
Features - taken from Plantronics’ website:
- Dolby® Headphone and Pro Logic® IIx technologies transform standard audio into a stunning 7.1 surround sound experience
- 40mm speakers pound out deep bass and immersive stereo sound
- Built-in spin-joints let the earpods lay flat for easy storage when you need to take a break
- Noise-cancelling mic kills background noise so your team or opponents can clearly hear your commands
- Easy-to-reach on-ear volume and mute buttons let you adjust the sound and still keep a hand on the controls
- Superhero-strength cords and joints mean this USB headset will be around for all your battles
- Ultra-comfortable ear cushions and headband make the GameCom 780 perfect for gaming, and great for watching videos, listening to music, and making PC voice calls.
- 7.1 Dolby
- Cable length 2m
- 40mm diameter speakers
- Speaker frequency response 20Hz – 20KHz
- Speaker sensitivity 123 dBSPL/mW
- Speaker impedance 32 ohms
- Microphone frequency response 100Hz-10kHz
- Microphone sensitivity -45 dBV/PA ± 5 dB
- Maximum power input for speakers 10mW
- Box contents – stereo headset, Dolby software, user instructions
- Two year limited warranty
The GameCom 780 supersedes the highly-rated GameCom 777 headset. The overall look of the 780 headset is quite different to the 777 – it is less chunky than its predecessor, less heavy, but the mic doesn’t tuck away completely when not in use like the mic on the 777 did. Additionally the GameCom 780 features a sole USB connector – the 777 had separate headphone and mic connectors which connected to a separate Dolby module, which then connected to the PC via USB. The volume and mic mute controls were also found on the cable of the 777. Overall the GameCom 780 is a lot tidier to look at than the 777.
By comparison, here is the cable for the GameCom 777 headset:
The GameCom 780 features a black plastic headband with a thick velvety cushion on the underside for comfort during use. The earpods are black with more of the same cushioning around the inside of each one, and they are each connected to the headband by two metal bars. The USB connector is found at the end of the 2m long rust-red cable, and there is red detailing on the earpods to match the cable colour. It is possible to move each earpod up and down on these metal bars by a maximum of 20mm, but the earpods do not pivot on the metal bars. Each earpod swivels on the headband so that the headset can be stored more easily. The volume, mic mute and Dolby on/off controls are found on the left earpod, together with the mic itself. The mic rotates up and down by around 140 degrees – it can be stored vertically in line with the headband or lowered down to mouth level when in use. Out of the box the mic is straight, but it is made from wire coated in soft rubber and can be easily bent to the desired position.
The volume control is found on the lower rear corner of the left earpod – it looks like a grooved wheel but is actually a momentary switch. If you slide it upwards and release then you increase the volume by one notch and a high-pitched beep can be heard, or alternatively you can slide and hold it for a bigger increase in volume – just listen to the number of beeps as the volume rises. Turning the volume down works in the same way except that you hear a much lower-pitched beep. Located above the volume control is the mic mute switch – simply slide it downwards to mute the mic. The Dolby button is at the front of the left earpod, and when Dolby is enabled the button glows blue.
Overall the headset feels solid and the build quality seems good. The velvety cushions are very comfortable but they do feel like they could get mucky over time - only time will tell whether this is the case. Spares are available from the Plantronics website but they only appear to ship to customers in the US.
It was very straightforward to install and use the software provided with the headset – all you need to do is plug the headset in to your nearest USB port, insert the CD provided, and follow the on screen instructions.
Once installed a headphone icon appears in the system tray when the headset is connected, which shows at a glance whether Dolby is enabled or not (the headphone icon is in an orange circle when Dolby is on). Furthermore, clicking the icon brings up a small options menu which allows you to turn Dolby on or off and to also change your Dolby listening mode to either ‘Music’ or ‘Gaming / Movie’.
We tested the headset for gaming and listening to music, and overall we were very impressed with the sound quality for both. The surround sound really enhances the gaming experience as you can pin point where sounds are coming from – very useful if you’ve got a baddie coming at you from behind. Likewise, the Dolby makes listening to music on the GameCom 780 far more immersive.
Games tested: Skyrim, Far Cry 3, Left For Dead 2
The sound quality during game play was excellent, and after using the Dolby Surround Sound you’ll never want to go back to plain old stereo again. It really does make that much difference. The mic performance was also very good. Feedback from teammates after playing Left For Dead 2 was very positive – they could hear everything clearly despite some background noise, which shows that the noise cancelling function of the mic is working well.
Music tested: Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring, Red Hot Chili Peppers - I’m With You, Swedish House Mafia – Until One, Melody Gardot – My One And Only Thrill
When listening to music you could hear an immediate difference when switching the Dolby on and off – when it was switched on the music was far more immersive and the sound quality itself was a lot better. The sound was quite flat by comparison when Dolby was turned off – not only did you no longer feel like you were surrounded by sound but the bass didn’t sound as punchy and the higher notes and percussion weren’t as crisp.
There is a beep to let you know Dolby Surround Sound has been turned on and the button glows blue. This can just about be seen out of the corner of your eye which is handy sometimes. As previously mentioned, there is a high beep when turning the volume up and low beep when turning the volume down, however unless the volume is already low it is difficult to hear the low beep. On the other hand the high beep could be heard even when music was quite loud.
In order to get the most from the headset you must make sure you have the right configuration to start with – simply check that the 7.1 box is ticked on the speaker set up menu. This is also a great opportunity to hear for yourself how good the 7.1 function is by clicking on the different speaker ‘locations’.
Overall very little distortion was noted, albeit there was some slight distortion when orchestral violins were playing loudly but this was fairly minor.
The difference between the ‘Music’ and ‘Gaming / Movie’ listening mode (accessed using the on screen control panel) is very difficult to discern – perhaps a hardcore audiophile would be able to tell the difference, but to this reviewer both modes sounded exactly the same.
The main downside of the GameCom 780 headset is that despite all the cushioning it can be uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods. We found that the headphones put pressure on the sides of your head below the ears around the jaw and there was no way to adjust this. It is a sensation that you can become accustomed to after wearing the headset for a while, but never the less it felt like a relief once they were off.
The headset does not feature active noise cancelling, but to be honest the earpods do a good job of blocking out background noise anyway.
Overall we were very impressed with both the superior sound and build quality of the GameCom 780. The Dolby Surround Sound works extremely well and made a noticeable improvement to both the gaming and listening experience. The noise cancelling mic ensures that comments are clearly heard by teammates, and the overall gaming experience is a lot better for just using this headset.
The only real downside that we noted was the fact that they were a little uncomfortable to wear. This could have been remedied by allowing the earpods to pivot on the headband where they meet the metal bars, and we would hope to see this improved in the next offering from Plantronics.
At the time of writing the cheapest available price for the GameCom 780 was £39.99 at dabs.com, which makes these headphones great value for money.