Microsoft's iconic mono-piece Xbox headset graces the living rooms of millions of gamers. But if you want more bang for your buck, you need to see Turtle Beach's new Recon Chat headset.

At least that's the idea behind Turtle Beach's Recon Chat, which retails for around $20, roughly the same as Microsoft's Xbox One chat headset. How does it stack up in practice? Here's our full review.

Specs

The Recon Chat headset is a mono-piece configuration that's designed solely for talking to friends over Xbox Live (or PlayStation Network). It doesn't feed in-game sound, and it's designed to work in tandem with your existing sound setup or TV.

For those with expensive home audio solutions or for people who simply prefer to use TV audio, the Recon Chat headset could be a more attractive solution, especially if you use party chat infrequently.

Category Specification
Weight 214g (headset and packaging)
Speaker frequency response 80Hz to 10kHz
Console chat connection 3.5mm
Speakers 40mm speaker with neodymium magnet
Microphone design Omni-directional boom mic
Headband/earpad material Fabric (black) with foam cushioning
Earcup design Over-ear (open)

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Look and design

At $20, it's hard to expect a lot from an Xbox One headset. The Recon Chat headset sports a single headband, adjustable via a connection at the earcup, which gently clings to your head once you position it. It's padded with foam, too, for comfort, and while it feels a little cheap, it does the job.

Unlike the regular Xbox Chat headset, the Recon mono-piece sports an over-the-ear design. The headset comes into contact with the skin around your ear, rather than on top of it, leaving large open channels to feed in outside audio from your existing sound system.

At first, I thought the plastic-coated speaker looked incredibly cheap, but once you wearing it, it makes total sense. The earpiece creates a chamber where sound can enter freely, instead of pressing up against your ear. It's not only a better experience, it's more comfortable. The edges of the cup are coated with foam, and they rest easily against your head. At less than 200g, you simply won't notice this thing on your head once you've put it on.

The microphone is a tad annoying, however. The plastics used are far too flexible, making positioning almost impossible. Thankfully, the positioning doesn't impede the audio, as I'll discuss in the next section, but it would've been nice to have a little more control over this aspect.

Beyond the headset itself, the cabling for the Recon headset works well, though I'm not a huge fan of the right-angle connector used for the 3.5mm jack. It's odd that the company used this connection type, given that the headset is designed to be plugged into your Xbox controller. A straight connector would have been the logical option, like those on virtually every other Turtle Beach Xbox headset I've used, but it's a minor gripe.

The cable also sports some convenient in-line audio controls. I feel that this beats the audio control base seen by the official Xbox Chat headset, because it doesn't add to the controller's footprint. Additionally, the in-line audio controls ensure the Recon Chat headset remains compatible with mobile devices and PlayStation. I also tested this headset on PC, and it seemed to work adequately as an in-line microphone, despite not being advertised as such.

As much as I like the headset's over-the-ear design, no chat headset, $20 or not, is worth buying without decent audio quality. This is one aspect where the Recon Chat headset beat my expectations.

Sound quality and experience

I used the Recon Chat headset for a lengthy Battlefield 1 session while writing this review and found myself enjoying the "classic" TV and mono-piece headset design. There's something casual and a little less anti-social about this setup, versus more isolating headsets designed for solitary, heavy-duty gaming. It's nice being able to hear the outside world.

The chat experience with the Recon headset is remarkably good. It provides crystalline clarity for party chat, on both yours and your friends' sides. While the microphone is overly flexible and simply tends to hang around doing its own thing, it's decent enough to pick up and isolate voice regardless of its position. There's no built-in mic monitoring, but since you can hear your own voice anyway, it's not needed.

My friends reported that they could hear me loud and clear, and utilizing the new Xbox One party overlay feature, I was able to easily determine how well the microphone was isolating my voice. It was spot on, every time. And despite having my TV quite loud, it didn't once feed my television's sound back through the mic, which is pretty important when using a headset combined with outside audio.

Even though it's easy to adjust chat sound levels on the Xbox One's guide these days, the in-line controls on the Recon headset make it even easier. While I adore the power afforded to me by Turtle Beach's Elite Pro Tournament headset, it can be a pain getting the audio levels just right when you're only gunning for a quick session. That's what the Recon Chat headset ultimately represents: cheap and cheerful, easy access, painless setup, no-nonsense chat. And that's a good thing.

Final thoughts

There's not a great deal to complain about or praise the Recon chat headset for. It's a $20 device designed for maximum affordability, with a razor sharp focus on getting the job done on a budget. In that endeavor, it's successful.

It's hard to tell at this point just how long the Recon Chat headset will last, given its low-end materials, but it has managed to withstand three weeks of heavy punishment from yours truly, which makes me optimistic, even if the materials don't.

Pros:

  • Great party chat audio.
  • Great price point.
  • Comfortable to wear.

Cons:

  • Mic arm has a mind of its own.
  • Does little to hide its position on the low-end.

Great

4/5

If you're a fan of the classic Xbox mono-piece party chat headset, the next time you're looking to drop $20 on a replacement Xbox headset, opt for Turtle Beach's Recon Chat instead.

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