We recently took a look at a pair of wireless headsets for use with PC machines, the Logitech ClearChat PC Wireless Headset and the Creative Digital Wireless Gaming Headset. While both performed well in the chat-application department, we felt the sound quality was lacking on both devices. Enter the Able Planet PS500MM, a headset designed to tackle the demands of chat-capable programs, all while attempting to keep audio quality at a maximum. Able Planet puts a lot of emphasis on Linx Audio, a technology that, according to Able Planet, increases the amount of sound you hear even when your source is being played at a lower volume. Originally designed to help the hearing impaired, the system actually does work--whether it's a reason to own the PS500MM is debatable. Even though the company has aimed the device toward the hardcore PC gamer, we found the product performed well in a number of different applications.
The PS500MM has a very conservative design. Most of the headset is outfitted in a black matte plastic with an adjustable headband that exposes its flat steel skeleton. Its ear cups are actually quite small, which resulted in a bit of tweaking until we were satisfied with the comfort of their locations. Each cup is covered in a padded faux-leather that we wished more headsets would come with. A similar, softer material is used as a cushion under the headband that complements the headset's overall comfort. The PS500MM is also the lightest headset we have recently tested, which let us wear them for extended periods of time. When you're done using the headset, you can take advantage of the included drawstring carrying case.
The PS500MM is a wired headset that lets you manually connect it to the headphone and microphone jacks on your system's sound card or you can take advantage of the USB adapter that will consolidate both plugs into one USB port. On the headset's cord, you'll also find a volume slider, microphone mute toggle, and a clip for attachment to clothing. We should note that we experienced a hiccup when using the USB dongle. First, your PC may become "confused" as to how it should output audio once you disconnect the USB adapter. We found that a simple restarting of the affected applications solved the issue. As an experiment, we attempted to use the PS500MM with a Mac, and while we had success with the manual wired connection, the USB dongle did not work.
Even though the ear cups are small, the headset does a good job of sound isolation. We were immersed in sound while testing the PS500MM with games and movie playback. The solid noise isolation performance also helps with the headset's unique Linx Audio technology. Impressively, the headset is able to deliver a full range of sound detail even when played at very low levels. While listening to music, playing a game, or watching a movie, we found we didn't even need to raise the volume above the first notch to hear most of the detail we would have if it were turned up half way. It's quite an experience, something we've never heard before. However, while the actual sound quality is better than other headsets we've tested, the PS500MM suffers from an overall flat resonance. Whether this is a result of the Linx Audio system is unclear, but it is a possibility.
In terms of chat performance, the microphone on the PS500MM performed just as we wanted. The boom mic extends off the left ear cup and is extremely adjustable, allowing for almost any desirable positioning to be achieved. That said, the mic can't be hidden away out-of-sight like the other headsets we tested last year. During our testing, we held a 20-minute Skype session in which our other participating party reported a near-perfect experience. When playing Counter-Strike, our teammates claimed they heard a slight echo; however, simply moving the boom microphone an inch farther away from our mouth eliminated the distraction. We found the sweet spot for mic location to be about 3 inches away from our mouth.
The PS500MM is certainly a solid headset with its better-than-average audio performance and impressive Linx Audio technology. The PS500MM's MSRP is $100, but you can find it online for as cheap as $80. If you have sensitive hearing or you're concerned it may become an issue down the line, we'd recommend the PS500MM for you. However, if the Linx Audio system isn't something you think you can benefit from, and you're looking for a wireless solution, you may want to look elsewhere.