Clear, vibrant audio
Microphone isn’t adjustable enough
No dual-channel volume control
Hard to tell mute button is activated
Through nearly a week of testing the Recon 500 by playing through the story mode in Red Dead Redemption 2 and playing a few rounds of Overwatch, the headset continued to impress in both comfort and audio quality. Even during longer sessions it never got uncomfortable, and the audio quality stays the same regardless of the volume setting. In party chat, the headset plays chat audio alongside game audio without muffling anything, and its microphone delivers crisp audio to other players without any artifacts or background noise.
That said, there are a few shortcomings that may give some headset enthusiasts pause. Its removable microphone has a limited range of motion, there’s only one volume control for both chat and game audio, and it’s difficult to tell when the mute button is activated given its shallow depth. For a few extra bucks, you can get some of those features from the competition.
About the Turtle Beach Recon 500
- Cost: $80
- Style: Over-ear
- Colors: Black, White/Camo
- Drivers: 60mm (neodymium magnets)
- Connection: Wired, 3.5mm
- Microphone: Removable, uni-directional
- Weight: 1.42 lbs
- Virtual Surround Sound: Not supported
What we like
Above all else, a good headset needs to deliver on sound quality to leave an impression. Luckily, Turtle Beach’s Recon 500 headphones provide loud, clear audio that’s as well-suited for in-game action and dialogue as it is for strategizing with friends in an online game. Throughout nearly half of Red Dead Redemption 2’s story mode, the headset produced dialogue, environment sounds, and background music with plenty of detail, though some sounds may get a little muddled in complex scenes with a lot of noise bouncing around.
During cutscenes with heavy dialogue, the Recon 500 produced faint background noises like a river flowing or animals passing by, and action scenes felt loud and energetic without being overbearing. While this headset doesn't have full surround-sound, it did make noticing the smaller details in the environment easier, allowing you to hear things you wouldn’t pick up if your audio came through your TV’s speakers.
In multiplayer sessions of Overwatch, the Turtle Beach Recon 500 produced in-game sounds like footsteps, gunshots, and other actions without drowning out chat from other players in your party or on your team. You might miss a few details here or there, as there aren’t separate controls for the chat and game audio, but the overall sound quality is impressive for the price. Its microphone produces great sound, too. In our testing, we sounded crisp and clear to teammates, and the microphone didn’t pick up any background noises that might interfere with gameplay.
You’re not tied to one console
While wired headsets don’t offer as much mobility as wireless headsets, a well-done wired headset can be just as convenient. The Recon 500 uses a 3.5mm cable to connect to your console, and it’s compatible with every platform from PlayStation and Xbox to PC and Switch—simply plug your cable into the jack and get to playing.
While the inclusion of a cable does limit your range of motion a bit, the one included with the Recon 500 is 4 feet long, which is plenty of wiggle room. In our testing, the cable never felt too restricting, even when the controller was placed on a nearby coffee table for a break. The braided cord never got tangled, either, which made it easy to toss on a shelf after a gaming for a long time.
A headset’s no good if it makes your head feel like it's in a Vise-Grip. The Recon 500’s cushions are super comfy and thick enough to not wear down too much over time. Once you’ve got them on your head, the Recon 500 rests snuggly without gripping the sides of your head too tightly. Over the course of several hours, the headset never got in the way, nor did it begin to feel unwieldy or taxing to wear. For intense gaming sessions—or when you just lose track of time—the lightweight body of the Recon 500 went mostly unnoticed while providing excellent sound to button mash along with.
What we don’t like
Microphone has limited range of motion
Although we liked the Recon 500’s microphone for its ability to deliver great audio to other chat recipients, we wish its mobility were that good too. It attaches to the headset on the left ear-cup and stays securely from there, but once the microphone is in place you can’t wiggle it around much if you need to move it away from your mouth.
Instead, it bends at two points towards the center of the microphone, and those bends don’t stick particularly well. It’s not entirely stiff, which may be fine for some, but a bit more articulation would have been nice—something like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro, which has a fully articulated mic arm.
No dual-channel audio controls
While the Turtle Beach Recon 500 delivers excellent audio for both chat and gameplay, we wish the company had included a bit more control over the volume for both channels. Unfortunately, the headset only includes one volume dial to control the level of all sound coming through your console, rather than separate ones for each source.
Chat and game audio sound just fine alongside each other on the Recons, but the ability to control each separately would allow for more precise control for players whose ears may not be able to hear everything among a mishmash of different sounds. Many headsets that offer dual-channel controls cost significantly more than the Recon 500, but our value pick for best gaming headsets, the HyperX Cloud II, has and only costs a bit more than the Recon. That said, the Cloud II’s can get loud, loud enough to possibly damage your ear drums if you're not careful. (And the Turtle Beach headset looks a bit nicer, too.)
Is this thing on?
Though its microphone can’t be moved much, you can still avoid unwanted sounds from making it to the mic via the mute button on the left side of the headset. It works as any mute button should: simply press down, and it’ll block any sound from making it to the other end of the conversation.
Although it works well, the mute button isn’t as easy to toggle as it should be. The button itself is shallow, making it difficult to tell what state it’s in. Pair that with a button that doesn’t create much noise when pressed—especially if you’re trying to hear your friend talking in-game—and you’re left with a button that could easily be a bit more intuitive.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you like a no-frills headset
Good headsets aren’t hard to come by, but for a device you’ll spend a good chunk of time with, even the smallest differences matter. What the Turtle Beach Recon 500’s ditches in fancy dressings and top-notch audio quality, they pick up in affordability and convenience. It hits a relatively affordable price point while still delivering impressive sound and comfort, and it’ll work with all your consoles. From short rounds of multiplayer games to multiple attempts at a bank robbery gone wrong in Red Dead’s story mode, the Recon 500’s deliver colorful audio that hits the high notes without leaving many of the finer details behind. Its microphone, despite a limited range of motion, made sure others in the chat were able to understand us without background noise mucking things up.
At just under $100, Turtle Beach packs all the essentials of a gaming headset into a sleek and cozy package. It may not hit the same marks as our value pick, the HyperX Cloud II, but it looks nicer and its sound is a bit more refined. Even compared to more expensive headsets like the Sennhesier GSP 600, the Recon 500’s held their ground. Its sound didn’t match the high-quality of the Sennheiser, but any additional details afforded by the higher price tag were merely nice perks, not essentials.
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 headset may lack some fancier features like surround sound and wireless connectivity, but its price point and impressive audio quality make up for those missing features. If you’re not dead set on having the best headset available, and you’re willing to compromise with a cable, the Recon 500 is an excellent choice for beginners and casual players alike.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Electronics
Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.
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