I’ve never really understood chat headsets.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully onboard with a set of cans and rarely even consider gaming without something like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset or EPOS H6PRO on my bonce. But chat headsets, where all you’re hearing is the party chat of others, in mono? What’s the point?
I’m really not sure, but there’s obviously a market for a single-eared chat headset, particularly since as the pandemic pushed home working to the fore. PDP have provided options in the past with their LvL30, as have LucidSound with the LS10X and the mighty Razer with their Tetra.
Now it’s the turn of Turtle Beach to provide gamers with new opportunities, but this is different, removing all the wires and providing pure wireless chat action via their Recon Air. If Turtle Beach, one of the leading of all gaming accessory manufacturers, can find a space, surely we should sit up and listen. Pun intended.
We’ll, there’s good news and bad news. I certainly wouldn’t make a personal decision to go out and buy a Recon Air, but if you think there’s a place for a chat headset in your life, this is probably about as good as you’re going to get. It certainly looks the business at least.
The Turtle Beach Recon Air Wireless Chat Communicator (to give the full name) is a rather simple, yet neat bit of kit. There’s not a single wire in sight, for starters, and that means it’s easy to grab, simple to throw on and provides an ease of use scenario that cannot be faulted. That doesn’t mean it’s something you should 100% be spending money on though.
A one-piece design, the Recon Air will fit in and over either your right or left ear, with a simple amendment to set-up allowing the chance for you to switch ears in a matter of seconds. Fitting is easy, sitting in place via an earbud system (various sizes of eartips come included in the box), held there with a fairly flexible over-ear hook.
It’s of a decent size but extremely light, so much so that thanks to the measly 15 gram weight you’ll rarely remember it’s in place. You’ll certainly have no issues in wearing the Recon Air for hours at a time; at least, should you so wish.
The Recon Air couldn’t be less trouble to get working either. A well placed triangular Turtle Beach logo acts as a power button, a rear-mounted USB-C port enables easy charge (you’re looking at 15 mins of charge for the best part of three hours of use time), whilst a volume rocker and mute button both act exactly as you’d expect.
That is pretty much it when you consider the Recon Air itself, but to get it working nicely with Xbox, you then need to combine it with the included Xbox Wireless Transmitter for any form of usage. This transmitter is very much like the old-school Xbox Headset adapters that used to power our audio back in the day, connecting into the bottom of your Xbox controller via a combination of proprietary connector, pins and a 3.5mm jack. With that connected to your controller, immediate connectivity is made with the Recon Air itself. You’ll find that connection totally solid too.
The transmitter has the same basic controls as found on the headset – a mic mute and volume rocker. There’s also another triangular Turtle Beach logo with led to help signify connection status: a variety of states of blue covering the pairing angles, whilst a breathing red light pops up once the mic is muted.
Aside from that, you are also able to connect the Turtle Beach Recon Air to your mobile device in order to answer calls via Bluetooth, where the multifunction Turtle Beach triangles double up to work there. From there, that’s pretty much it for what Turtle Beach have created. It’s certainly a simple, well designed, yet rather basic feeling chat headset.
And that brings us on to how it sounds.
It’s here where those chat capabilities will either come into their own, or ensure that you rip the Recon Air from your ear, never to be used again.
We’ve got problems with the audio levels – it’s too quiet for one. We’ve turned up every volume setting we can think of, both on the headset and through the console settings themselves, but have consistently been left wanting to hear our teammates with more ease. It’s not like they aren’t clear, it’s just that you will really need to hone in on their audio, when you could be using that effort to keep yourself alive on the battlefield. If you consider that this is to be used in conjunction with your home audio set up, possibly with soundbars, speakers and the like, it makes it extremely tricky to be able to keep those comms easily open.
The Recon Air also isn’t particularly consistent in terms of the uni-directional mic that you use. Granted, at times party members have been able to hear my commands with no fuss, but at others, it’s all been a struggle. ‘Head in a cloth bag, muffled’ has been my favourite response to date and it seems strange why sometimes the Turtle Beach Recon Air is happy to deliver, but at others wishes to give up the ghost. That muffle does seem to be more apparent when the Recon Air is lower on battery, so it’s not particularly ideal. Talking battery power, ten hours of life is promised, charged through USB-C.
Using the Turtle Beach Recon Air also throws up another issue; something that comes about thanks to a relatively new feature found on Xbox Series X|S in which you can have all audio muted from your TV the second a headset is detected. This is a godsend of a feature and one that we’ve had switched on from the day it appeared in our Xbox settings. But in order to get the most from a chat headset, you really need to be able to hear your game audio coming through your TV or audio set-up. Switching stuff on and off, ticking boxes depending on the headset you are using, is just a pain.
I’m also not a fan of how, by their very nature, the earbud of the Recon Air will disrupt that TV audio from being hammered into both ears. In all, it’s a strange experience and not one that is conducive to enjoyable gaming.
There are a few reasons why I’m not a fan of chat headsets and the Turtle Beach Recon Air Wireless Chat Communicator hasn’t been able to let me ignore them. There’s no debate that it’s a neat little headset and probably one of the better chat options on the market, but there’s a reason that a proper set of decent audio cans will always win over the day.
Perhaps those cans are more expensive, and maybe they are overkill for some, but you really do get what you pay for in the audio world. That is no more true than with the £29.99 Turtle Beach Recon Air Wireless Chat Communicator.
Huge thanks go out to Turtle Beach for providing us access to the Recon Air for review. Pick one up from Turtle Beach direct if you want to give it a try.