Turtle Beach Xbox Recon Controller Review: In-Game Audio Mixing Made Easy
RRP $ 60.00
“The Turtle Beach Xbox Recon Controller is packed with inventive and useful on-board features at a shockingly low price.”
Great build quality
Robust audio control
Well placed buttons on the back
Useful pro-aim function
Excellent value for money
Whenever a new video game console drops, third-party manufacturers get to work. There is always a race to see who can make indispensable accessories that trump the console manufacturers themselves. This is particularly evident in controllers, where companies are taking on the impossible task of improving gamepads perfectly designed by giants like Sony and Microsoft.
It takes a lot of creative effort to achieve this lofty goal, but Turtle Beach struck gold with its Recon Xbox controller. Instead of trying to surpass the basic capabilities of a regular Xbox controller, it offers a whole new vision of what a controller can do. Turtle Beach essentially built a sound mixer into a controller that allows players to EQ audio, adjust game volume, and even control voice chat on the fly. It’s exactly the kind of innovation you can expect from a company best known for their headsets.
The Xbox Recon is not just a niche product for the avid audiophile; It’s an excellent console companion that rethinks the usefulness of a controller. Its wired setup and some complicated options keep it from being the ultimate Xbox controller, but a low price point makes it a serious alternative to Microsoft’s baseline X Series controllers.
Reaching the baseline
With every third-party controller, there is always one major hurdle that must be met: It must have all of the basic functions of its first-party counterpart. Companies like PowerA have developed complex controllers for consoles like the Nintendo Switch that add extra functionality at the expense of rumble and amiibo support.
The Recon does not cut off such corners. It has everything you’d expect from an Xbox Series X controller. The button layout is identical, with minor adjustments in some positions. The joysticks don’t feel too different, it rumbles as expected, and it even includes an eight-way D-pad that some other third-party Xbox pads lack. Even with small differences, everything is in its place.
In fact, the Recon even goes a little further in some places. It includes cooling handles and has two mappable buttons on the back, neither of which are found on the standard Xbox wireless controller. Since it doesn’t require batteries, it’s also a bit lighter than Microsoft’s controller.
The Recon does not cut off such corners. It has everything you’d expect from an Xbox Series X controller.
The only downside to this is that the Recon can feel a bit more toy-like than the sophisticated Xbox Wireless Controller. But that’s hardly a blow. Turtle Beach easily passes the first test here by creating a controller that ticks each box and adds some tweaks of its own while maintaining a comparable price range of $ 60.
If the recon just stopped there, it would be a perfectly suitable third-party option. But the fact that I haven’t even talked about its core functionality speaks to how robust this package ultimately is. The Recon is designed for audio and offers several ways to optimize the sound in a mini command center on top of the controller.
With a few carefully placed buttons, players can adjust game and chat audio separately. This allows anyone to essentially mix audio on the fly without delving into menus and making adjustments. Normally you would need external tools to do this, so the fact that it is built right into the Recon is extremely useful. It even has a mute button that players can use to mute their microphone without fumbling for a button on their headset.
I can’t think of a video game controller that ever aimed to do what Turtle Beach achieved here.
I noticed that the chat controls didn’t seem to work properly on the PC games I tested. When playing the Back 4 Blood Beta through in-game chat, turning down the chat volume had no effect. This made it unclear to me exactly where I could use this feature outside of playing on an actual Xbox.
When it comes to audio, the controller goes one step further and offers four equalization presets that players can use to switch between different sound profiles. Turtle Beach’s Signature Sound option lets players boost bass, prioritize game chat, boost treble, or get a smoother mix. There’s also a one-press button that activates Superhuman Hearing, which amplifies soft noises like footsteps (although I’ve found it generally just cranks everything up).
All of this comes together to give players complete control over the game audio. While playing Last Stop, I was able to quickly switch my EQ to prioritize voices on the fly. During a music montage, I might as well turn up the bass to round off the orchestral score. Players will most likely pick their favorite presets and leave it at that, but I just turned the pages for novelty.
I have to emphasize how impressive it is that all of this happens without any software or driver installation whatsoever. All of these options are housed in the controller itself. I can’t think of a video game controller that ever aimed to do what Turtle Beach achieved here. The ability to set mic monitoring or boost the bass like pushing a button to jump is extremely impressive and makes the Recon a truly unique controller.
Perks and quirks
With all of its bells and whistles, the Recon still has a few notable quirks. Most importantly, it is a fully wired controller which is the main sticking point. For those who don’t want to thread chicken wire from their Series X onto the couch, this might be a tough sell. It doesn’t help that players have to use wired headphones here as well, but rather add some cable juggling as well. That makes the Recon more of a focal point for my PC than my Xbox, as tethered gaming is more common in my own PC setup.
It is packed with great features, but they add complexity to the assembly of the device.
The controller also has two mappable back buttons that are completely unobtrusive, although this is not without its problems. The triggers cannot be assigned to the back buttons for some reason, and neither can button combinations. On the plus side, players can set up four different mapping profiles and quickly switch between them. For example, I had A and B assigned to one profile and set the right and left bumpers to a different one.
The back buttons also have some weird interactions with the Recon’s other special feature (yes, there are more): Pro-Aim. When enabled, players can hold down the right backspace button to decrease stick sensitivity. For example, you could squeeze it while aiming down to drastically lower sensitivity in the blink of an eye and allow precise aiming. There are even four different presets for Pro-Aim. The only problem is, you can’t actually map a control to the back button and use Pro-Aim at the same time, or you could jump every time you try to aim. It’s an amazing feature for a controller, but one that bumps into the head with another option.
That is the story of the Recon in general. It is packed with great features, but they add complexity to the assembly of the device. Trying to browse EQ presets or map buttons on the fly can be a bit of a circus, and you may not always be able to use all of the functions at the same time. Compared to the elegance of a regular Xbox controller, the Recon can definitely feel confusing the first time you use it.
But that’s a necessary compromise when you consider how much the controller can do without external software. Turtle Beach loaded up a $ 60 controller with built-in features other companies had to dream of. Considering the price and build quality are perfectly fine with Microsoft, all you really need to do is take advantage of one extra feature to get your money’s worth. Even if you just end up using Pro-Aim or something as small as the mute button, you get more functionality than a regular Xbox controller. It’s shocking that gamers won’t make $ 100 from it, but you won’t hear me complaining about good business.
While third-party controllers can be a risky endeavor, the Xbox Recon reduces the noise by doubling the strengths of Turtle Beach. The audio-first controller offers gamers many practical functions that make it easy to optimize the sound mix in no time at all. Despite some notable quirks, Turtle Beach does something truly unique here, which sets the Recon apart in a field that is only going to get more crowded.
Is there a better alternative?
For a simple wireless controller, the Xbox Series X baseline is still the best choice. The hybrid controller mixer setup is somewhat unique, however.
How long it will take?
It’s always hard to tell when it comes to third-party controllers, but Turtle Beach is known for quality products. It’ll surprise you if you don’t spend a few years on it.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Xbox Recon is a surprisingly useful controller for gamers who use headphones while gaming or anyone looking for some extra button customization.