Review: Plugable Performance HS53 Gaming Headset (Hardware)
Plugable are a company I had honestly not heard of before. Whether they have just flown completely under my radar or are a fresh new independent with some slamming gear, I had no idea. I Googled them to find out that they were about and to my surprise, I immediately liked what I read. Upon finding their site I understood their ethos. They don't like gimmicks, they don't beat around the bush and won't gas you with bloated descriptions of their products; they tell it how it is. Although Plugable as a brand has been around since September 2009 according to their some 44 pages of articles of tech-related solutions, their specialty seems to be docking stations. I get the feeling they are a relatively new player in the console peripherals market with this item, in particular, sporting a date of April 2nd 2018 on the accompanying packaging.
- Model: TRRS-HS53
- Connection Type: 3.5mm TRRS Combo Plug or dual 3.5mm TRS
- Dimensions: 185mm x 102mm x 207mm
- Weight: 408g
- Cable Length: Headset (Attached) 80cm/In-line Remote 30cm/TRRS-to-TRS Y-Cable 250cm/Total 250cm
- Speaker Driver: 53mm large surface area dynamic @ 32Ω (±15%)
- Frequency response range: 20Hz-20KHz
- Power handling: 15mW (min) to 100mW (max)
- Sensitivity: 101±3dB at 1KHz
- Microphone: Dynamic with Unidirectional Polarization, -56±3dB & 3V (standard) to 10V (max) at 0.3±0.1mA
Getting the headset out of the box genuinely felt like a Crystal Maze puzzle. You first have the outer box, then the inner box, and finally the cardboard construction packaging that held it in suspended animation within its confines. Once I was in, I found it came with a 30cm extension adaptor with inline remote for console use, a plentiful 250cm extension PC adaptor, and an unintentionally (I'm sure) crumpled up piece of paper as a quick start guide. I have to say first impressions were good, the headset is burly and solid to the touch with brushed metal sliders, Chucky memory foam cups, and a sturdy braided cord. The slight but obvious sound cancellation provided by the memory foam cups was also immediately noticeable which I thought was pretty nice considering that noise cancellation of any kind is not a feature of the headset, it was purely a welcome side effect of the materials. Adjustment via the metal sliders was fast and simple to adapt the headset to the size of my head; the premium plastics it's composed of are tough but lightweight, and the memory foam in the band also made it very comfortable to wear.
The HS53 headset features a retractable mic with protrudes a good 12cm from the left side, with a smooth coiling and uncoiling action where you can feel the microphone satisfyingly wind back into the cup. The omnidirectional nature of the microphone, while being coated in a layer of transparent smoke black plastic, is easy to precisely position wherever you need it in relation to your mouth. The overall construction of the mic makes me feel secure that it won't get damaged or bent out of shape easily—it feels great.
I fired up some tried and tested Prodigy tunes on my laptop to give this unit a high-level music production sound test and immediately I had a dirty connection. While the sound just about came out of the left side, only a garbled bit-crushed mess came out of the right-hand side, so I removed the 3.5mm jack from my laptop, quickly polished it up with a microfiber cloth and gave it a look over. It seemed fine, perhaps a little mottled on the connector coating which was concerning, but I reinserted it and bingo! We had proper stereo sound flowing through at last. Throughout my various tests, I tried the HS53 on my Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC, all of which worked just fine. I did however find that the in-line volume remote is ludicrously cheap-feeling and plasticky in comparison to the rest of the headset's frankly fantastic build quality, and it was just horrible to use. Overall speaker quality and mic quality is acceptable, it did the job and there were no crackling or hiccups to speak of along the way, and online my squad could hear me perfectly and I could hear them just fine. Doing test recordings of my voice the end results sounded fine, but that's the issue here: everything is just "fine".
Let's dig a little deeper into the honesty pile and really get to the crux of it: the overall sound quality can, at best, only be described as mediocre with the HS53. Nothing is particularly warm, everything sounds decidedly flat, and nothing notably pops or shines; I'm a bit underwhelmed with these and I feel that the tonal range is exceptionally dull considering the claims of "True 2.0 stereo" through its 53mm driver. To be honest the 2.0 stereo effect itself is great, it spatially defines left and right audio within the environment of the games well, and does a relatively good job of conveying the direction of sound as you would expect any stereo headset to. Granted this is not a premium product, and that the RRP is just shy of $64.99 (£50), you could be forgiven for thinking that the sound quality would be more bright and vibrant, warmer and more exciting, instead I felt that what I was hearing was devoid of energy. There was a reasonable overall bass response but the mid and treble feels muddy and muted. Nothing is glaringly terrible sound-wise, but nothing is particularly stand-out. I wish I could elaborate more on this, and I know you can't hear it for yourself to back what I'm saying, and in all honesty it could just be that I have spoiled myself with the comparatively incredibly clarity and quality of the Beyerdynamic MMX330s. Build quality-wise and with their burliness and heft I actually prefer these to the Venom Nighthawks I reviewed back in April, but again they're in a different class of headsets. The Venom is super cheap, the Beyerdynamics are expensive, these Plugables sit in the £50 grouping, and I think that within its price bracket, and against its closest peers and competitors this headset is a no-brainer to purchase for quality and style with a decent sound for a decent price, but unfortunately they won't blow you away.
Product link: Here
+ Memory foam ear cups are very comfortable
+ Astonishing price and build quality
- Underwhelmingly muddy sound range quality
- Left side only microphone
out of 10
Value for money is aplenty here, with a solidly built, lightweight headset producing acceptable sound in a very stylish way. For day-to-day use without busting a huge budget, these are highly recommended as an upgrade to any standard-issue headphones you may get with your consoles or mobile phones.