Turtle Beach is one of the biggest brands in gaming peripherals. You’ve no doubt seen their products if you’re into the esports scenes of games from Call of Duty to Rocket League. However, you don’t have to be a professional to afford the company’s headsets. The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is a straightforward, competent gaming headset claiming competition readiness, despite lacking any of the bells and whistles other headsets on the market offer.
How does it stack up to the competition?
Editor’s note: This review was updated on January 27, 2021 to include a table of contents.
Who is the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas for?
- Gamers looking for something comfortable to use on different platforms.
- At-home workers who want a headset for calls, but need something compatible with a split audio/mic jack.
What’s in the box?
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is a pretty spartan product. In the box there’s just the headset, detachable 3.5mm cord, detachable 3.5mm mic, and the 3.5mm splitter extension cable.
What is the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas like?
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas name has you expecting a top of the line, no expenses spared, fully-featured experience, think again. Regardless of the name, this headset is about as basic as it gets—but that doesn’t mean it’s a disappointment. The Elite Atlas is a 3.5mm gaming headset, so it works basically everywhere. It doesn’t come with software frills like a custom app or surround sound, or really any particular hardware quirks—just plug it in, and it works the same everywhere.
This headset is made of a mix of metal and plastic, and while it’s design doesn’t have a lot of flash, little flourishes make it particularly nice to use.The steel suspension band makes adjusting the headset easy. The thick plastic hinges can rotate to lay flat, which is pretty uncommon for a gaming headset, but always nice to see.
The headphone pads are covered in soft fabric and leatherette, held in by magnets and easily replaceable. There are also decorative plates on the sides of the headphones (also held on with magnets), and Turtle Beach sells different replacements with different designs on them. In fact, everything—from the cord, to mic, to the headphone pads—was clearly designed to be easy to remove and replace (Turtle Beach sells components on its site, even individual left and right ear pads if you just need one).
Of course, all that would be moot if the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas wasn’t also comfortable to wear, and it very much is. In addition to the suspension band and the solid headphone hinges, the ear pads sit on tilting platforms that further contour to the shape of your head. The ear pads themselves feature soft fabric faces and leatherette sides, and combined with everything else make getting a comfortable, secure seal around your ears very easy. Velour would still be better for gamers with glasses, but the soft fabric shouldn’t cause too much trouble.
Actually using the headset was a pretty solid experience. It was a little tight initially, and after my first lengthy session with it (a few hours), I definitely felt some discomfort. However, after just a few adjustments—and time for the headset pads to break in—I stopped running into issues.
After you get the tightness dialed in, there’s really not much else to learn about the Elite Atlas. There’s an in-line control unit with a volume dial and a mic mute switch, and it’s just as easy to find and use while gaming as any other. The detachable microphone sits on a long, flexible wire, I didn’t run into any problems with it on calls over Discord or Zoom. Outside of the context of calling apps, which adjust a lot of your volume automatically, I found the mic was exceptionally quiet, but otherwise pretty clear and easy to use. There’s even a little foam screen built into it, so it won’t struggle with breath sounds as much.
Gaming with the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas
Gaming with the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is just as straightforward as using it for anything else. This is a stereo gaming headset with a 3.5mm connection, so just plug it into your PlayStation 4 controller, Xbox One controller, Nintendo Switch, or PC and you’re good to go. The 3.5mm splitter more than doubles the cable length, so you shouldn’t have any issues reaching your PC tower, no matter how big your desktop setup is.
Obviously, there’s no surround sound here, so the Fortnite or Call of Duty-obsessive will probably want to look elsewhere, but more casual fans shouldn’t mind so much. The headset didn’t struggle with games like Risk of Rain 2 and League of Legends on PC, and Dauntless and Animal Crossing: New Horizons on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch respectively. Whether the audio focused more on a sweeping soundtrack or situational cues, I never had any issues hearing what was happening clearly and comfortably.
How does the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas sound?
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas offers more accurate audio than most gaming headsets. There’s a very slight de-emphasis in the very low end, and a slight de-emphasis in the highs (most likely to avoid natural resonances in the ear), but otherwise everything is right as rain.
In music, this means songs of all genres should come through very clearly, without any significant issues with auditory masking. In American Boy by Estelle and Kanye West, the subtler rhythm guitar strumming that runs under a lot of the song is exactly the kind of thing a gaming headset with over-emphasized bass and under-emphasized highs (read: most gaming headsets) would struggle with—on the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas, it all comes through loud and clear.
In-game, the accurate bass output means the sounds of gunfire and explosions shouldn’t run roughshod over the quieter sounds in a given scene, at least not unless the game developers designed it that way (looking at you, Master Chief Collection). Mid range sounds—like the vocal cues of characters in Overwatch or the sounds of footsteps in battle royale games like Fortnite—should also come through really clearly.
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas has relatively poor isolation for a gaming headset. The fabric on the ear pads makes establishing a decent seal around your ear easy, and it helps with heat buildup, but it’s just not as good a material as leatherette for blocking out sound. This should do fine at home, when things aren’t very noisy. In louder areas, you’ll probably need to increase the volume to compensate, which isn’t great, as it can eventually contribute to noise-induced hearing loss.
How is the microphone?
The Elite Atlas actually offers a considerably more accurate microphone than most gaming headsets. While there is a notable de-emphasis in the bass range, it’s nowhere near as severe as most gaming headsets. This means people with deeper voices won’t sound like they’re talking out of a tin can as often as other headsets.
However, while the audio is accurate, it’s also quite quiet. As I mentioned earlier, calling apps like Zoom and Discord offer tools for easily boosting your output. Outside of that, I needed to boost things by 20-30dB just to get the volume to a normal level. Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas?
If you’re looking for something simple and solid, maybe.
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas may not be the flashiest gaming headset in the world, but it was clearly built with a degree of care that headsets in this price range are often missing. Touches like replaceable parts, sturdy build, and an accurate mic are really great to see. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a slam dunk.
At just under $100, the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is pretty much a direct competitor with perennial favorite the HyperX Cloud Alpha. Both headsets are hardly slouches, but they also have a lot of the same strengths (comfort, audio quality) and weaknesses—the Elite Atlas’ strengths are just a little less… strong. The Fnatic React is also a very viable option, and it offers comparatively fantastic mic quality.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a headset that’s wireless, or maybe offers more features, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. SteelSeries gaming headsets like the Arctis 7 and Arctis 1 Wireless are great alternatives, and very close in price.
If the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas seems like the kind of gaming headset you’re looking for, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with it. If having replaceable parts is important to you, that’s doubly true. However, if you’re on the hunt for a good gaming headset under $100, there a lot of great options other out there, too.