Turtle Beach has been making gamer-geared headphones since 2005, when their X51 headphones first entered the scene. Fast forward 14 years, and the sub-$50 headphone category has become fiercely competitive. Turtle Beach has decided to stand out with the eye-catching design of their latest budget-conscious headset, the Recon Spark. But has audio quality been pushed to the side in the name of good looks at a cheap price? Find out in our Turtle Beach Recon Spark review.
Bright and Bold
The most obvious thing about the Recon Spark is its bright and loud design. This won’t be for everybody, but then that seems to be the point. The colorway (the accent color, i.e. not the main color on the unit) is an almost pastel-like lavender. It’s not everywhere on the headset, but can be found on both sides of the base of the headband, around the side of each earcup, stamped or dyed onto the fabric inside each cup (this fabric protects the driver from collecting gunk such as ear wax), and the entire audio cord is this bright lavender, save for the nickel-colored TRS 3.5mm tip. The rest of the headset is white, and there are subtle triangle indentations, some of which are glossy, which almost form the shape of a bio-hazard symbol, though not quite. Finally, the name TURTLE BEACH is debossed along the top.
The Recon Spark has a metal frame with plastic surrounding it. The metal core should give the headset durability and longevity, though the plastic can creak slightly while taking them on or off. The earcups can be rotated 90 degrees inward, to rest comfortably around your neck when not in use. The left earcup also sports a volume control knob, which is easy to find by feel alone. There is no mic volume knob, however. Some memory foam can be found inside the upper center third of the headband, where the majority of the weight of any headphones is usually felt. The amount of foam feels like it might be too little at first glance, but then wearing these for any amount of time reveals that they are incredibly light. Wearing the Recon Spark for hours at a time won’t cause much discomfort, if any.
In contrast to the light weight of the Recon Spark are the earcup pads. They are deep, at around an inch in height. When you consider the total depth of the earcups is approximately 1.5 inches, this indicates a good chance that your ears will be close to the drivers, and completely enclosed in the cup. A quite firm foam is encased by synthetic leather, with some mesh cloth along the inside. This more breathable material is not found along the outside of the earcups, however, so there is little to no ventilation. This unfortunately may mean some gamers will sweat a bit after several hours or in especially warm weather. This isn’t by any means a deal-breaker, and at any rate, if you’re playing for such a long time that a headset as light as this is getting you to sweat, it might be time to take a breather.
Standard Hardware, Smaller Response
The look and feel of headphones aren’t everything, of course. Indubitably, the most important aspect of a pair of headphones is how they sound. The Recon Spark headphones feature 40 mm neodymium magnets, which is par for the course and really about as small as a decent set of cans can get before audio quality drops. The rated frequency response is limited from 100Hz–10 KHz. This is a noticeably smaller response range than other headphones, as a typical response is 20Hz–20KHz. In practice, this means bass lacks low-end punch, while particularly complex audio can play with some distortion at higher volumes.
Without an amp, however, you shouldn’t expect to play many games at a high volume, as the Recon Spark didn’t seem to achieve powerfully loud volume even when all audio levels were maxed out in whatever game or application was being used. They’ll get loud enough to drown out most background noise, and the aforementioned deep cups help to ensure that. But don’t expect to feel the action unless you’ve got the Recon Spark hooked up to a compatible amp (we would also like to take this time to remind you that most consumer-grade headphones at this price point are not designed with amplified audio in mind, and we would expect that the Recon Spark features a low impedance rating. Amp at your own discretion!).
Having said all that, for a hair under $50, the audio quality is acceptable. Whether chilling out to some tunes or streaming a movie, the Recon Spark proved themselves as a capable every day driver during our time with them. Hooking them up to a DualShock 4 was effortless as well, and games sounded accurate with a wide enough sound stage to tell where noises were coming from with a good amount of confidence. With a standard 3.5mm plug on the end of its roughly four-foot long cord, the Recon Spark will work with almost every device you might want to plug them into, as well. Since they are wired and completely passive, this isn’t yet another thing you have to charge at night, so you can really take them anywhere you please.
Turtle Beach Recon Spark Review - A Spark of Color | PSLS
No Questioning If You’re Muted
Finally, the Recon Spark also features a flip-up microphone. The quality is just fine, and should be well-suited for calling out enemies in whatever game you’re playing. The Recon Spark microphone would even do well enough for a podcast, in a pinch. Naturally, this won’t match a dedicated desktop mic, but for most gamers it will suffice. The novel utility of muting by simply flipping the mic up is so incredibly useful, it makes going back to headsets that don’t have this feature such as the HyperX Cloud Revolver or Razer Thresher Ultimate slightly disappointing in that regard. Note: those headsets were nearly three and five times pricier than the Recon Spark at launch!
The Turtle Beach Recon Spark headset is a refreshing splash of design sensibility in a sea of black headphones. There are certainly better-sounding options at this price point (the excellent Astro A10s come to mind and are now actually cheaper than the Recon Spark), but most of those all look the same. The $49.95 MSRP feels just about right for the given sound and build quality, and while you’d be hard-pressed to point out audio differences between the Recon Spark and competitors at this level, you’ll easily spot these headphones from across the room. In an industry space this packed, that might make all the difference.
Turtle Beach Recon Spark review unit was provided to PlayStation LifeStyle by Turtle Beach. For more information, please see our Review Policy.