Plantronics GameCom X30
Plantronics made a splash last year with its GameCom Halo 2 Edition, a futuristic-looking headset that was adapted from a model created for call-center operators. Now, the company's come out with the Plantronics GameCom X30 ($29.99), another impressively stylish headset that works with both the Xbox and the Xbox 360.
The Plantronics GameCom X30 has a swiveling earbudesque earpiece that's coated at the tip with soft rubber. It takes a little fiddling to get the headset on correctly (it can be clipped to either ear), but once it's secured, you can get a pretty snug fit. It's not quite as comfortable as the similarly priced Halo 2 headset, which can also be used with the Xbox 360 (though you sacrifice mute and volume control options), but its under-the-ear design allows the headset to avoid any conflicts with eyewear. The boom microphone is flexible and rotates to position over your mouth--and around the contour of your face--whether you decide to wear the headset on your right or left ear. An in-line volume control is built into the headset's wire and can be clipped to your shirt pocket.
Performance was very good, though this isn't the loudest headset we've tested. The microphone has a noise-canceling feature, which helps reduce background noise from the games themselves. You won't get the tight seal from the earbud as you would from the Halo 2 Edition headset--or even the sound blockage standard Xbox and 360 headsets offer with their over-the-ear designs. However, the sound was clear, and we had no problem hearing teammates in multiplayer games or opponents in head-to-head sports action or vice versa. On another positive note, because the earbud fits more loosely, you don't have to worry about it attracting earwax like the Xbox models; also, the ear wearing the headset won't be subject to muffled sound.
The only big downside to the Plantronics GameCom X30 is that it isn't wireless. Microsoft has announced it will offer a wireless headset in 2006, but if you can't afford that model and don't mind a cord attached to your wireless controller, the X30 is good headset that can also work with cell phones.