Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Turtle Beach Recon 500 Headset

Two-minute review

The Turtle Beach Recon 500 is a moderately priced gaming headset and a solid choice for console gamers. With a price tag of $79.99 (£69.99, AU$129.95), it's not exactly cheap, but it's a bit easier on the wallet than some other headsets. 

The Turtle Beach Recon 500 feels fairly solid; the sturdy-yet-comfortable headband keeps the earcups in place without putting too much pressure on your head, making it great for anyone who wears prescription or blue-light filtering glasses. The ear cups themselves are made with a breathable, woven fabric to keep ear sweat to a minimum and swivel outward for more comfortable wear around the neck when not in use. We do wish they could fold inward for more compact storage, but this headset isn't exactly built for on-the-go-gaming. 

Turtle Beach Recon 500

(Image credit: Future)

It doesn't have any sort of RGB lighting, opting instead for either a matte black or white/grey camo color scheme for a more understated look. For us, this wasn't a big deal, but if you're the kind of gamer that has to have all of your peripherals match or at least fit the same aesthetic, it's a bit of a letdown.  

Turtle Beach Recon 500

(Image credit: Future)

The Recon 500 comes with a boom mic that quickly clicks into the left ear cup for when you want to chat with friends and detaches easily when you want to just listen to music or game dialogue. The mic lacks a windscreen, making it easy to clip audio with hard consonants or laughter. It also isn't as flexible as we'd like, making it somewhat difficult to adjust for optimal positioning and clarity. The mic will stay in place when you make adjustments, though it will take a bit of encouragement to do so. Even with these drawbacks, it's a great mic for the price point, picking up voice chat clearly and cleanly while also managing to not pick up every background noise around you.

The left ear cup sports the volume dial and mic mute button, putting audio controls within easy reach, even during intense gaming sessions. The volume dial gives you plenty of control on-the-fly, though it does feel a bit loose, often turning way down or up when you remove the headset. The sound quality of the headset is great, with clear, crisp mid and high tones and rich lower registers. Even at peak volume, you get really loud audio without any "buzz" or muddiness that can come with lightweight headsets or cheap parts; it also gets plenty loud without blowing out your ear drums, making it great for when you want to turn up your music or game and drown out the neighbors yelling about their flowers or pretend you didn't hear the lawn care salesman ring your doorbell. 

Turtle Beach Recon 500

(Image credit: Future)

The mic mute button has a central depression, making it easy to find-by-feel, though this headset would also have benefitted from a mic mute indicator mic; we tested the Recon 500 with both console team chat and Discord, and there were numerous times we would be talking away, unaware we were muted. As nice as this headset sounds, it does lack a bass boost or 7.1 virtual surround sound module. Compare the Recon 500 to the Corsair HS60 Pro, which retails for about $10 less and comes with a 7.1 CH surround sound module that boosts deep tones and simulates 3D audio for pinpointing enemy gunfire, footsteps, and other sound cues that can be vital in a hectic online match. 

The Turtle Beach Recon 500 is marketed as compatible with the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series X, mobile devices that still have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the PS4/5. Ostensibly, anything that works with a Microsoft console should be compatible with gaming PCs as well; we found this to be partially true. We tested the headset with a PS4 slim and a Nintendo Switch, and with both consoles, the headset did better than expected at  creating an immersive audio and easier chat experience. However, when we tested it with a gaming PC, it was a nightmare and a half to set up. 

The first major flaw is that if your gaming laptop or desktop has separate inputs for a mic and headphones, the headset won't work as-is. You'll have to purchase an additional cable splitter either from Turtle Beach's website for $15 (£4) or on Amazon. Even after getting the required splitter, you'll have to take a deep-dive into your computer's audio settings to make sure the proper drivers were installed correctly, and that your computer recognizes the headset. We had to comb through several layers of sound settings menus before the Recon 500 was even usable. 

On PC, the microphone is a nightmare to use; we had difficulty getting the included microphone to pick up our voice, though it had no trouble registering sounds from the headset being disturbed (buming the mic, flicking the ear cups, tapping on the headband, etc.), and Discord chatters complained of us sounding like we were underwater and cutting in and out. For any headset, this is unacceptable. And for an $80 headset, it's outrageous.

Turtle Beach Recon 500

(Image credit: Future)

If a headset is marketed as being compatible with PCs and laptops, a cable splitter should be automatically included in the packaging for anyone who has separate inputs for mics and headphones, and no one should be expected to be an IT savant to use a simple headset. And having to pay anywhere from $5-15 extra to get a headphone splitter just to use the headset is frustrating at best. Having the headset effectively unusable as-is with desktops and laptops with separate microphone and headphone jacks is a massive, unforgivable oversight. We can imagine the headaches that could crop up when trying to use this headset with a mobile connection adapter for newer iOS devices – though we weren’t able to test that.

This model is a far cry from the flimsy budget offerings from Turtle Beach, but it still looks and works a bit too simply to justify the higher price. Without a bass boost or virtual surround sound option, it's overshadowed and outstripped by similarly priced offerings like the  Corsair Void Pro and SteelSeries Arctis 5. The choice to eschew even limited RGB lighting is an odd one as well, since it's a simple and effective way to add personal flair to a gaming setup, especially where console-only gamers are concerned. 

Console gamers don't have a lot of options for customization aside from plastering stickers and after-market skins all over their hardware or picking up expensive, extra controllers with different color schemes and patterns. The Recon 500 could have offered an option that was less expensive than some controllers, and much less annoying and difficult to change than stickers and skins. However, it does offer great quality audio playback for both music and games, and the mic is decent, if a bit tricky to get into position.

As it stands, if you primarily use a PC to play games, there are better, cheaper options out there that won't make you question the state of your mental health. But if you usually stick to consoles, the Recon 500 is a decent, if a bit basic, choice. If you aren't worried about bass boost or surround sound and are just looking for a solidly-built headset to wear so you don't annoy your roommates with your eighth playthrough of Danganronpa or three hours of the same track in Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better headset for the price.   

Turtle Beach Recon 500

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You primarily play on consoles
This headset did beautifully when we tested it with a Nintendo Switch and PS4 Slim. Friends could hear us loud and clear; music was rich and warm while dialogue was clean and crisp.

You want a detachable mic
The boom mic on this headset easily detaches and reattaches for when you want to use it as just a pair of headphones or switch from work to gaming.

You have a larger head or wear glasses
This headset is super lightweight and doesn't have too much clamping pressure, making it great for anyone with a larger head or who wears blue-light or corrective lens glasses.

Don't buy it if...

You primarily game on your PC
This headset was a hassle and a half to set up with a PC. Between needing to purchase an additional cable splitter and the deep-dive into our sound settings, it just wasn't worth it.

You want a fully adjustable boom mic
The boom mic is flexible, but doesn't really stay where you want it. This could cause some issues with Discord if you have your voice settings on "pick up voice activity."

You want bass boost or surround sound
While everything from music to in-game sounds to dialogue sounded wonderful with this headset, it does lack both bass boost and surround sound options. Compare this to the Corsair HS60 Pro which includes a 7.1 CH surround sound unit and retails for around $10 less than the Turtle Beach Recon 500.


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