It’s a strange time to be a gamer — in general, but specifically in South Africa. There are more games than ever before, the quality of those games is consistently high (we’re obviously not referring to shovelware, asset flips, and other get-less-poor-quick cash-ins). But games are also more expensive than they’ve ever been, which leaves a little less in the budget for decent peripherals. Happily, you won’t need to smash the piggy-bank for decent in-game audio and chat — the Turtle Beach Recon 200 gaming headset will see to that.
Clocking in at the same price as a (brand-new) console title, Turtle Beach’s versatile over-ear headphones have what you’re looking for in a gaming headset. Unless you’re looking for fully-wireless, in which case you’re going to need a bigger budget. But if you don’t mind being tethered to a controller like a Stuff writer reviewing an RPG, the Recon 200 headset will impress you. For very little money, no less.
Solid as a plastic rock
Turtle Beach’s cans are largely plastic in construction. The ear-cups are big enough to surround most ears (less so if you’re a boxer or if you’re just larger than average). They’re padded with leather-ish covered foam with sufficient depth to keep your side ornamentation un-squished. However, there’s very little breathability involved in the design so using these in warmer weather or for extended sessions will involved a little dampness. Don’t share ’em, is what we’re saying.
Each ear-cup can spin 90° on its vertical axis, handy if you’re the sort who likes to keep an ear out for background noise like pets and kids causing mayhem. There’s also a bit of horizontal play that helps the Recon 200s to conform to the sides of your head. It’s not much but it does lead to a better fit than would be possible otherwise. The left ear-cup plays host to some controls (more on those in a sec), as well as the mic and a charge port. The charge port is more important than you’d think.
The headband is springy metal covered in the same sturdy plastic as the ear-cup and there’s a little padding at the top of the band. That’s not as generous as the foam around your ears but it does its job well enough. So let’s put it on and get started, shall well?
Smarter than average
What makes the Turtle Beach Recon 200 gaming headset more technically proficient than the bare-bones but cheaper PDP Lvl 3? A couple of things. These are aimed at gamers of all stripes, with support for the Switch and mobile devices. It’s really for people who have both an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4, though. There is a toggle switch on the left ear-cup for when you’re playing online with either console. Handy if you own both (and your Xbox One has the newer controller with the 3.5mm jack connector), you don’t need to swap headsets to switch consoles. That time saved can be spent watching your game update, we guess?
More seriously, the Recon 200 has built-in amplification, making the most of audio that is transmitted from console to controller (where the Recon plugs in). It’s for this reason that these cans have to have an internal battery — one that charges via microUSB. And you’re going to have to keep them charged, because they’re basically useless without power. That’s even if you’re plugging into a laptop or smartphone. No power, no sound. Not something you want to find out 30 minutes into a three-hours game. At least they charge relatively fast and you should get a number of hours out of each top-up. Leave the power switch in the On position overnight, though, and you’re looking at flat cans in the morning.
The mic side of these has the toggle, as well as a volume controller and a monitor setting. Want to make sure the neighbours can’t hear you yelling at those clowns who don’t know how to play the objective? The monitor will let your hear your own voice in the headset, so you can regulate your volume without needing an ear exposed. It’s a nice touch.
The mic is… stubby and inflexible, seemingly too short to work correctly but you’d be incorrect about that. We found the mic required a spot of tweaking on the consoles we tested with but once audio pickup levels were adjusted it just… worked. We like it when tech does that. Oh, and if you flip the mic up it’ll mute. Handy.
Yes, but how is the sound? We’ve been over this — features and functions are nothing if the sound sucks. Since it’s taken this long to turn up, you kinda have to know that the sound isn’t terrible. We were never expecting it to be. The Recon 200s are aimed at battle royale players on a budget so what we have is a balance between in-game and chat audio. You want to hear the sound of distant gunfire and incoming footsteps but you also don’t want to miss out on someone boasting over chat while you sneak up on their position. It’s the little things, you know?
There’s a good amount of bass — not overdone but enough for you to properly envision the crunch as your digital hand-grenade takes out that room full of campers. Ah, good times.
There’s also enough detail in sound elsewhere on the register. Mids are solid, delivering in-game effects and music to your brain is almost the same way a more expensive headset will. Almost. Don’t feel bad about that though, you could pay more than the Recon 200’s recommended R1,100 and get a headset that doesn’t match up with the quality on display here. Whether you’re listening for explosions, in-game dialogue, or the score from Kingdom Hearts 3, you’re getting more than you’re paying for.
Turtle Beach Recon 200: Verdict
As budget gaming headphones go, you’re getting a lot of value for money. In-headphone amplification, movement limited only by how far your controller can get from your console, and more-than-reasonable comfort for about a grand is a pretty good deal. The Recon 200s are not without their faults, though. If you’re built to a rugby player’s scale you might experience comfort issues. Playing for ages could also make the sides of your melon damp. And then there’s the whole forgetting-to-charge-it thing. Odds are you’ll make this mistake once or twice.
The sound is more than worth the price of admission, even if the other features are discounted from your mental should-I-buy arithmetic. The flip-to-mute mic, as short as it is, is a neat feature to have as well. If you’re rocking more than one of the main consoles but are on a budget, the Recon 200 is a great way to get online with both. That way you’ll have enough cash to also get the newest multiplayer release at launch, so you’re not chasing levels for the next three months.