The new generation of consoles has made it so just about every gaming platform now handles more complicated audio features like onboard virtual surround sound—something gaming headsets had previously covered. This has led to consistently simpler devices released in the last six months across a lot of brands, Turtle Beach among them. The Turtle Beach Recon 500 is a great example of this new, simpler approach to gaming headsets.
However, having only a few features means you need to nail all of them to compete. How does this headset stack up?
Who should get the Turtle Beach Recon 500?
- Multi-platform gamers who want something easy and straightforward to use.
- Workers who need something simple with a decent microphone for their Zoom calls.
What is it like to use the Turtle Beach Recon 500?
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 reflects that new, simpler approach to gaming headsets—seriously, there’s just not that much going on here. This wired gaming headset connects to your device of choice via a single 3.5mm TRRS cord. Just plug it into the headphone jack of your computer, or the bottom of your PlayStation or Xbox controller, and you’re off to the races.
The headset itself is largely made of plastic, albeit with a steel strip running through the headband. A simple two-hinge system lets each headphone rotate to lay flat, and offers a decent range of tilt to accommodate different head shapes. There aren’t a lot of the typical design flourishes here that you’ll find with a lot of gaming headsets—no colored LEDs or jagged, angular bits of plastic (for, you know, improved aerodynamics).
The memory foam ear pads are covered in a soft mesh fabric, which is designed to be a little more comfortable for people who wear glasses—the headband cushion is covered in leatherette. I can’t speak to the long-term comfort level bespectacled gamers will have wearing the Turtle Beach Recon 500, but establishing a decent seal is pretty easy, and the mesh fabric manages heat over long sessions very well.
Actually using the Recon 500 is very straightforward. There’s nothing to it—the only on-ear controls the headset sports are a volume dial along the bottom edge of the left headphone, and a mic mute toggle on the side. The microphone is detachable via a 2.5mm connection, which is nice if you’re in the market for a gaming headset that can pass for a regular pair of headphones. When it’s attached, the mic is also very maneuverable, so finding the right position near your mouth is easy.
Is the Turtle Beach Recon 500 good for gaming?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Turtle Beach Recon 500 offers an exceedingly simple gaming experience. As I mentioned above, the headset manages heat well, and it’s lightweight enough to be comfortable for multi-hour gaming sessions. The 3.5mm connection method also means this is compatible with PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and just about every other gaming platform from the last decade—even your smartphone (if it still has a headphone jack).
Playing the Mass Effect Legendary Edition on the PlayStation 5, the Recon 500 handles the layered mix of harried firefights, orchestral scoring, and character dialogue that so much of the game is known for quite well. It also handles the PlayStation 5’s 3D audio features and adequately recreates the bustling soundscape of New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
On PC, the headset doesn’t have a companion app, so you’re stuck with stereo sound (unless you turn on something like Windows Sonic). However, stereo experiences like Apex Legends sound great coming out of the Recon 500.
How does the Turtle Beach Recon 500 sound?
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 offers fairly accurate audio for a gaming headset, though its bass response leaves a little to be desired. After 100Hz, this headset outputs audio that follows our target curve, with a few variations in the mid and high ranges. However, things get a little off track in the bass range, where sound is output around 5dB lower than our target curve.
A frequency response like this can help with vocal clarity, but it’s not great for music that relies on low end sound. While the distorted bass that plays at the beginning of The Regulator by Bad Brains comes through clearly, it starts getting a little lost as the crush of drums, guitar, and vocals come in (0:07).
In game, audio like this isn’t as big a deal. Sure, the rumble of explosions and gunfire will rattle your eardrums a little less, but you won’t have any trouble with things coming through less clearly. A gunshot is almost always the loudest sound in a video game, and even a sound profile like this isn’t going to change that—there just isn’t enough competition in any given moment to drown it out. If anything, frequency response like this could make your friends’ voices come through a little more clearly over Discord.
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 may establish a seal around the ears pretty easily, but it’s hardly a top performer when it comes to isolation. Don’t expect to miss much going on around you when wearing this gaming headset. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even expect sounds to stay in your headset. For whatever reason, it can’t quite keep the louder stuff contained very well—sometimes, people will hear what you’re listening to, whether they’re there in person or just on a call with you.
How is microphone?
Turtle Beach has a habit of putting very accurate microphones in its more affordable gaming headsets, and the Recon 500 is no exception. This headset microphone could use a little volume boost, but it outputs accurate audio across the vocal spectrum. Even people with very deep voices shouldn’t have much issue coming through clearly, and with minimal distortion.
However, as I alluded to above, the mic is sensitive enough to pick up louder sounds playing through the headphones. It’s more the fault of the headset’s isolation performance than its microphone, but still something worth noting—if you’re on a calling app that doesn’t have some sort of noise suppression feature, other people will hear it. Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the Turtle Beach Recon 500?
If you want something really simple, you should consider the Turtle Beach Recon 500, but this is a crowded market segment to just offer the basics.
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 is a pretty good gaming headset—it’s comfortable, it sounds pretty good, and it has a great microphone. It’s easy to set up, and requires very little fiddling to use. At just under $80 USD, it’s also very reasonably priced. However, it isn’t perfect. The isolation is bad enough for your microphone to pick up headphone audio—this is a pretty rare quirk that can make meetings a pain.
You probably won’t be disappointed if you buy this, but it’s worth shopping around. There are a lot of great options out there, and you never know which ones will be on sale at your local store, too.
What should you get instead of the Turtle Beach Recon 500?
For under $100 USD, there are tons of fantastic options—many of which check all the same boxes as the Turtle Beach Recon 500 (and then some). The Razer BlackShark V2 is one of the best wired gaming headsets on the market, with a solid microphone, 3.5mm and USB connection options, fantastic isolation and sound, and a software suite with a decent array of features on PC. The HyperX Cloud Alpha doesn’t have the same level of microphone quality as the Razer option or the Recon 500, but its best-in-class audio and build quality won’t disappoint.
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If you’re looking for something cheaper than the Recon 500, Turtle Beach makes a lot of gaming headsets with basically the same features, for up to half the price. Headsets like the Turtle Beach Recon Spark and Recon 70 are both considerably cheaper-feeling headsets, with flimsier plastic frames and permanently attached microphones, but they sound great and they’re comfortable.