There’s always a question mark over where the next technological advance will come in gaming. Arguably, one of the biggest steps forward for immersive gaming has come with the haptic feedback of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con and PlayStation 5 Dualsense controllers, the latter also ramping things up with its adaptive triggers. Turtle Beach are out here trying to give your ears their own new-generation upgrade, with the all-new Recon 500 boasting 60mm Eclipse Dual Drivers that aim to separate high and low frequencies in the interest of keeping those frequencies as clean and clear as possible. It’s an admirable shot at a new way of doing things, but they’re a few steps short of championship material.
The Recon 500 certainly look the part. The black and silver design is unfussy and modern, leaning more towards the Turtle Beach that created the smart looking Elite series, as opposed to the company that came up with some of its uglier brethren. They’re still largely plastic, though that has helped to keep the weight down to a meaningful degree, and with their patented glasses-friendly ear cushions the Recon 500 does a great job of allowing you to forget you’re wearing them.
The single piece headband has a rigid plastic shell with Turtle Beach embossed across it, while stainless steel sliders let you adjust the fit. I found they sat perfectly well on my head for a couple of hours with only the mildest bit of pressure thanks to the memory foam padding. I would have liked to see (and feel) a millimetre or two more of the soft stuff, but as a follicly-challenged member of society I can feel these things a little more than most.
Wired for 3.5mm connection, the Recon 500 works with the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch and PC. This isn’t an exhaustive list – they’ll function with an iPod Shuffle or a 1980’s Walkman too, if you like. There’s a fabric cable here, and though you can make out a tiny amount of noise from it if you’re a bit too active during near-silent moments, it won’t cause you any real problems.
The Recon 500 is a simple beast. You’ve got an old-school volume dial and a chunky mic-mute button on the left earcup. That’s about as much as you can mess with, other than the removable microphone arm which does a relatively good job of staying put once you’ve angled it towards or away from your mouth. In terms of the build quality and looks at this end of the headset spectrum, there’s a lot to like about the Recon 500.
It’s a shame then that the Recon 500’s fancy new dual drivers don’t amount to quite the sonic upgrade that they promise. Don’t get me wrong, they sound very good, particularly in this price range, and they’re a clear step up from Turtle Beach’s Stealth 600 which we reviewed recently, but I was expecting something truly outstanding to warrant the fuss being made about them.
There’s plenty of room in this headset’s soundscape, and they do a great job when you’re playing something open-world like The Witcher III, or running and gunning through the increasingly challenging Returnal, particularly if you’re playing on PS5 with 3D Audio, or Xbox or PC with Dolby Atmos enabled. Despite those large dual drivers, I was slightly surprised that they’re not all that bass-heavy. In fact, they skew more towards the details of footsteps and gun-fire in PUBG than the thumping bass of Blackway & Black Caviar. Bass is controlled and present, but no matter what I was pumping into them, I wanted a touch more.
They definitely go loud enough. Typing away on my Macbook Pro for this review with a rock and metal playlist chucking out Bring Me The Horizon and Sevendust, the volume barely had to go a third of the way before causing worries about early-onset deafness. They retain a remarkable amount of clarity, even at higher volumes, and perhaps that’s where you can actually hear those new drivers doing the trick.
You might want to keep them cranked if you’re looking to block out external sound, as they’re pretty weak on the passive noise cancellation front. That plastic build means that even the light tapping of laptop keyboard keys will sneak through regularly without a good bit of volume to block it out. That’s not that big a deal for me, but I can see it being an issue for those with annoyingly loud family members or if you live next to a train line.
If you’re planning to chat on the mic though, that introduces a different problem, with the mic picking up some of the game audio you’ve got cranking out thanks to the Recon 500’s poor noise isolation. The microphone is nice and clear – you can chat away happy in the knowledge that your teammates will hear even the lightest of whimpers as you die for the umpteenth time – but they’re probably going to pick things up around you.
That’s not where the majority of players will feel the benefit though. The Recon 500 is a perfectly decent wired gaming headset, and there’s certainly elements to its design that I hope Turtle Beach stick with. However, it is merely good, while there are headsets out there like the Fnatic React+ or EPOS H3 that offer better audio from their regular drivers.