Xbox Recon controller review: easy game audio mixing
Turtle Beach Xbox Recon controller review: in-game audio mixing made easy
MSRP $ 60.00
“The Turtle Beach Xbox Recon Controller is packed with inventive and useful in-car features at an incredibly low price. ”
Great build quality
Robust audio control
Well placed rear buttons
Useful Pro-Aim functionality
Whenever a new video game console drops, third-party manufacturers get to work. There is always a race to see who can create must-have accessories that outperform console makers themselves. This is especially evident with controllers, where companies take on the impossible task of improving perfectly designed gamepads by giants like Sony and Microsoft.
It takes a lot of creative effort to achieve this lofty goal, but Turtle Beach landed gold with their Recon Xbox controller. Rather than trying to outperform the basic functionality of a regular Xbox controller, it offers a whole new take on what a controller can do. Turtle Beach basically built a sound mixer into a controller, giving gamers a way to equalize audio, adjust game volume, and even control voice chat on the fly. This is exactly the kind of innovation one would expect from a company known for its helmets.
The Xbox Recon isn’t just a niche product for dedicated audiophiles; it’s a great console companion that rethinks the usefulness of a controller. Its wired setup and a few complicated options keep it from being the ultimate Xbox controller, but its low price makes it a serious alternative to Microsoft’s base X-series controller.
Reach the baseline
With any third-party controller, there is always a critical bar to overcome: it must have all of the basic functionality of its proprietary counterpart. Companies like PowerA have created complex controllers for consoles like the Nintendo Switch with additional features at the expense of Rumble and Amiibo support.
The Recon does not cut such corners. It has everything you would expect from an Xbox Series X controller. The button layout is the same, with minor adjustments in some positions. The gamepads don’t feel too different, they rumble as expected, and they even include an eight-way D-pad, which is lacking on other third-party Xbox controllers. Even with a few slight differences, everything is in its place.
In fact, the Recon even goes a step further in some places. It includes cooling handles and has two mappable buttons on the back, neither of which are included on the standard Xbox Wireless Controller. Due to the fact that it doesn’t use batteries, it’s also a bit lighter than Microsoft’s controller.
The Recon does not cut such corners. It has everything one would expect from an Xbox Series X controller.
The only downside here is that the Recon may look a bit more like a toy than the fancy Xbox Wireless Controller. It’s hardly a hit, though. Turtle Beach easily passes the first test here by creating a controller that ticks every box and adds a few tweaks, while still sticking to a comparable price range of $ 60.
If the Recon ended there, it would be a perfectly suitable third-party option. But the fact that I haven’t even talked about its main function yet shows how robust this package is. The Recon is designed for audio and includes several ways to modify the sound in a mini command center located at the top of the controller.
With a few neatly placed buttons, players can individually adjust game and chat audio separately. This allows anyone to mix audio on the fly without delving into menus and making adjustments. Usually, it would take some external tools to do this, so having it built right into the Recon is extremely helpful. It even has a mute button that allows gamers to mute their microphone without touching a button on their headphones.
I can’t think of a video game controller that has ever set out to do what Turtle Beach has accomplished here.
I noticed that the chat control didn’t seem to work properly on the PC games I tested. Playing Back 4 Bloodthe beta of using in-game chat, reducing chat volume had no effect. It didn’t let me know exactly where I could use this feature other than playing on an actual Xbox.
Taking audio a step further, the controller has four EQ presets that allow gamers to switch between different sound profiles. Players can crank up the bass, prioritize gaming chat, crank up the treble, or opt for a more even mix via Turtle Beach’s Signature Sound option. There’s also a one-touch button that activates Superhuman Hearing, which amplifies quiet sounds like footsteps (although I’ve found that to change everything in general).
All of this comes together to give gamers full control over in-game audio. Last stop, I was able to quickly change my EQ to prioritize vocals on the fly. During a musical montage, I could just as easily turn on the bass to complete the orchestral score. Players will most likely select their favorite presets and leave it at that, but I found myself going back and forth just for the sheer novelty of it all.
I have to stress how impressive it is that this is all happening without any kind of software or driver installation. All of these options are housed in the controller itself. I can’t think of a video game controller that has ever set out to do what Turtle Beach has accomplished here. Being able to adjust microphone monitoring or boost bass like you would press a button to jump is extremely impressive and makes the Recon truly one of a kind.
Advantages and quirks
With all of its bells and whistles, the Recon still has a few notable quirks. Most importantly, it’s a fully wired controller, which is its main sticking point. For those who don’t want to thread a mesh yarn from their X Series to the sofa, this could be a tough sell. It doesn’t help that gamers need to use wired headphones here too, adding a bit of cable juggling. This made Recon more of a must have for my PC than my Xbox, as playing tethered is more common in my own PC setup.
It’s packed with cool features, though each one adds mounting complexity to the device.
The controller also has two mappable rear buttons, which are perfectly unobtrusive, although not without a few issues. Triggers can’t be mapped to back buttons for some reason, and neither can button combinations. On the bright side, players can set up four different mapping profiles and quickly switch between them. I had A and B mapped to one profile and the right and left bumpers to another, for example.
The back buttons also have some weird interactions with the Recon’s other special feature (yes, there is more): Pro-Aim. When the option is on, players can hold down the right rear button to reduce stick sensitivity. For example, you could press it down while aiming down to dramatically reduce sensitivity in an instant and allow precise aiming. There are even four different presets for Pro-Aim. The only problem is that you can’t really map a control to the back button and use Pro-Aim at the same time, or you might jump every time you try to aim. This is an amazing feature for a controller, but it comes up against another option.
This is the story of Recon in general. It’s packed with cool features, though each one adds mounting complexity to the device. Trying to browse EQ presets or map buttons on the fly can be a bit of a circus, and you can’t always use all of the features at once. Compared to the elegance of a normal Xbox controller, the Recon can certainly seem confusing the first few times you use it.
But that’s a necessary compromise considering what the controller can do without external software. Turtle Beach loaded up a $ 60 controller with onboard features other companies hadn’t yet imagined. Since the price and build quality are perfectly on par with Microsoft, you really only need to enjoy one extra feature to get your money’s worth. Even if you only use Pro-Aim or something as small as the mute button, you get more functionality than a normal Xbox controller. It’s shocking that it doesn’t make players $ 100, but you won’t hear me complain about a good deal.
While third-party controllers can be a risky proposition, the Xbox Recon cuts the noise by doubling down on Turtle Beach’s highlights. The audio-first controller offers gamers many convenient features that make it easy to adjust the sound mix on the fly. Even with a few notable quirks, Turtle Beach does something truly unique here, which makes the Recon stand out in an area that will only get more crowded.
Is there a better alternative?
For a basic wireless controller, the basic Xbox Series X is still your best bet. The hybrid controller-mixer configuration, however, is somewhat the first of its kind.
How long will it last?
It’s always hard to tell with third-party controllers, but Turtle Beach is known for its quality products. It will be surprising if you don’t get a few years out of it.
Should we buy it?
Yes. The Xbox Recon is a surprisingly useful controller for gamers who use headphones while gaming, or for anyone looking for additional button customization.