Able Planet may not be as well known to the gaming community as others but they're trying to get into the space with their headphones. They were kind enough to send me an evaluation unit of the PS500MM which offers a mic and great sound. Let's see what makes this a nice buy for gamers looking for a headset.
First and foremost, the PS500MM is an over the head headset with relatively small ear pieces. The headband is thick and feels pretty solid. They are adjustable on both sides and slide up and down so that you can adjust them to fit your head. Each ear piece has a generous amount of cushioning to help ensure a comfort fit when wearing it during prolonged periods of gaming.
For voice communications, there's a noise canceling mic that sits on a flexible boom that can be maneuvered into a position that suits you. Since the entire arm is flexible, you have a lot of options in adjustment here. The one thing I don't like though is that when not in use, you can't really tuck the mic away well enough. Unlike say the Logitech G35 gaming headset where you can rotate the mic, you're pretty much stuck with the mic on the PS500MM being extended out. Well, you can tuck it away and stick it behind the band but it's very awkward and it seems to be put some pressure on the arm which, I don't think would do well in the long run for the headset. There are other gaming headsets that let you remove the mic completely when you don't want to use it but the PS500MM makes it a part of the headset that can get in the way when not in use.
The PS500MM offers up to very nice options for connections. It has the standard 3.5mm plug for both the mic and sound so you can plug it into any standard computer or if you just want to use it to listen to music on a portable media device, you can do that as well. Able Planet was nice enough to also include a USB adapter so if you just want one wire going into the computer, attach the adapter and plug it into an available USB slot. For those of that have USB connections in your monitor or keyboard, it can make for attaching to the computer easier if it's hard to access the rear panel of the computer. That is if the rear panel for connecting audio is your only option. Plugging the headset set into a USB port, Windows 7 had no problems installing the drivers and I was able to listen to music, movies, and games in about a minute after installation. The option to use either standard 3.5mm plugs or a USB port is a nice feature of the PS500MM.
The wire coming from the headset is of a very generous length so you shouldn't have any issues routing it to your computer if it is far away. The end is split into the input and output with the colored plugs giving you easy view of which jack to plug in with each connector. If you have a setup like me with the audio connections really close, you can do what I did and just wrap the cord up with a twist tie so that the long wire wasn't in the way as much. On the wire though is a nice volume and mute controller that comes in real handy at times. You can turn the volume up on your computer while using the controller on the wire to adjust it. Also, there's a switch that can easily mute the mic in case you don't want anyone else to hear what you are saying.
Overall, it's a pretty basic setup compared to some of the ones out there today with buttons and what not. It's no nonsense and for gamers it's nothing fancy to look at. Then again, I'm one of those types that really care about the performance rather than the aesthetics which the PS500MM does excel at which I will get into in a bit.
So how well does it sound? One of the things I've read and heard about from those who have used Able Planet headsets are that the sound quality is really, really good. From the highs to the lows of all the games, music, and movies I listened to, the PS500MM delivered some really impressive sound from the tiny little cups on either side. The audio was clear and loud because of the Linx Audio technology. Linx Audio is something that Able Planet really emphasizes on this setup and it's designed to give you louder sound on quieter sources. It's a very nice feature when you have videos from say YouTube where the audio recorded just isn't up to snuff. Because of that, I didn't have to turn up the volume on my computer very much to get some good sound out of the headset. Voices, action sounds, and music all resonated well and I was quite impressed at the PS500MM's ability to deliver a solid audio experience.
I did have some minor mic sound issues though. My first set seemed to have a weird feedback sound when I was using it. Able Planet was nice enough to send in a replacement set which worked out fine though. Even so, I had to adjust the position of the mic a few inches away to get the optimal talking setup. They said I was clear and rarely heard any ambient noises around me with some adjustments. I also recorded some of my voices with the mic and it did sound pretty good but I don't think it was anything spectacular. I used the setup for a two hour Web Ex conference with ten people and for the most part it worked out OK. At the beginning I was told I was very light sounding until some boosting was applied again. Also, the switch for the mute can be a little sensitive as I found myself accidentally muting myself once or twice while adjusting the volume with the controller. So while my testing had my voice sounded a little soft but for the most part, after some adjustments and some boost applied my friends could hear me pretty well. I still think the voices from my Logitech G35 headset sounded better for voice.
For comfort, I was afraid the smaller cups would hurt my ears in long periods of time. Thankfully, the padding and materials used help make the cups a comfortable fit and I was able to wear it on a few long trips without any issues. The headset is also pretty light so having a lightweight setup helps factor in the comfort-ability as well. For gamers who spend a long stretches of time, the PS500MM didn't make me want to yank the headset off after a few hours of use like some others I've tried before.
Now we come to the price, which for this set is more expensive than you would think. It's going from anywhere between $80 and $100 after a few searching so this isn't a set that's light on the wallet. Considering you do get some wireless solutions that work out well for that price or ones with more features it puts the PS500MM in a tough area to sell in. If Able Planet is trying to push these out to gamers, they are going to add more to the setup to warrant the pricing. The sound quality is pretty great though and the ability to run both a 3.5mm setup or connect via USB is a nice touch. The voice isn't one of the better sounding ones from my experience but it does get the job done. The package even comes with a nice little bag to carry your headset around in. I think it's an OK setup and the Linx Audio does make for some better sounding experience on low volume items. I'm anxious to see more from Able Planet though as I think they have some good quality sound that can be built upon in future iterations aimed at gamers.