Turtle Beach Recon Spark Review - Sleek Beats On A Shoestring Budget

A decent sounding pair of headphones, with some caveats in between.
8.5
  • Headset
2019-07-26
Recon Spark
It's surprisingly good on the ears, especially when you consider the price. Turtle Beach

There’s a very fine line to tread between getting premium sound quality and the amount you pay for it that really makes or breaks a headset. Sure, there are a ton of high-end gaming headsets out there with prices for those who can afford it, but to players who want a piece of premium-quality audio on a decent budget, more often that not there’s very few that are worth it.

Among those select few is the Turtle Beach Recon Spark, a wired gaming headset. I’ve been using the Recon Spark for about four days now, providing me audio for gaming on a PC, a Nintendo Switch, and even on a mobile phone – in between, listening to music of course - and I can honestly say that the overall experience has been pleasant, especially when compared to my own headset, the Razer Kraken, which is more expensive than the Recon Spark.

There are a few hiccups here and there, but for the most part the Recon Spark has shown how much potential a manufacturer can fit into a fifty dollar-price tag. The Recon Spark surprised me on a lot of things, given that I am very wary of cheaper headsets and the fact that they often sacrifice a lot to meet a certain price point. Here, you get a streamlined deal for an inexpensive product, while still keeping true to what a good headset should have: sound quality.

Appearance and build quality

Turtle Beach Recon Spark
The white and lavander color scheme may be off-putting for some people. Photo: Turtle Beach

The Recon Spark comes in a mostly white color scheme with lavender trimmings, such as at the base of the head bands, the logo and the wires. It’s not as obnoxious as I thought it would be, since I’m pretty averse to purple overall, and I was pleasantly surprised due to how muted and clean it looks. It’s going to blend really well with white-schemed PC systems or consoles, as well as those going for that minimalistic look. Unfortunately, since it only comes in this color, there will be some players who won’t want to get it. I really hope Turtle Beach recognizes this and puts more color choices out in the future, especially seeing as this is supposed to be compatible across all platforms.

The Recon Spark is an over-ear headset, with the cushions granting a tight fit for your ears. It’s not uncomfortable, but I feel like the design factored in to make the cushions smaller to act as a noise-cancelling feature. It’s pretty smart, and also cuts down on costs, but it can make your head a bit hot due to how snug it is.

The cushions can be rotated 90 degrees to face in your direction, which is pretty useful if you want to hang it by the side of your tower/console while not in use. The headband is made mostly out of plastic, with a metal frame revealed once you extend it. There’s a small cushion lining at the top to provide comfort for the top of your head, but expect the rest of the Recon Spark to feel like hard plastic.

Recon Spark Close-Up
The ear cups form around your ears for quite the snug fit. Photo: Turtle Beach

While the cushions are quite snug on the ears, the materials used are comfortable. It’s synthetic leather, which should mean that it runs a bit cooler than other materials. The foam cushioning is soft, and retains its shape after putting pressure on. There are some vents on the insides to provide some air flow for your ears, but again, since the fit is a bit snug, it can run warm after a while.

The cups are made out of very hard plastic, and over by the left you’ll find the microphone, a volume rocker and the connection for the wire. I like that it’s all conveniently located in one place, and even at a glance you’ll know which side is which since all of the controls are on the left side. I like the microphone design a lot as well, made up of this solid piece of plastic that’s very stable on the cup. It’s shorter and unobtrusive, even when it’s positioned to pick up sound. The volume rocker is also well-placed near the back of your ear. You’re guaranteed to feel it on the first few tries for an intuitive experience.

Build quality is decent, but not the best. The Recon Spark feels a bit flimsy, especially when you rotate the cups. I feel like most of the diverted costs came from here, but that’s not to say that it feels cheap. There’s a bit of weight to it, and the plastic material feels thick and almost premium.

The connected wire runs for about a meter, which is one of my few gripes with the Recon Spark. It’s short, even for someone who uses his PC really close to the desk. The 3.5mm connection is helpful in this regard, as you can connect it at either the front or the back, but I feel like it could’ve been longer just to have a little more wiggle room when you’re moving. The Recon Spark also comes with a PC splitter cable, which you can connect to the back of your PC’s pink and green connections. It serves to both elongate the connections by a fair bit (the splitter also runs for a meter) and allows you to use the microphone with your built-in PC drivers. It’s not exactly a must, but for the best results I recommend using the splitter with the PC.

The Recon Spark mostly works out of the box, with little tinkering needed. The 3.5mm connects easily, and lo and behold – there’s the audio. I tried this for both the PC and mobile phone and it worked flawlessly. For PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you need to tinker a bit with the settings once you plug it into the controller, after which you’ll have full sound up and running.

Sound quality

Recon Spark Sound
The Recon Spark is pretty good when it comes to audio, and even has some surprises in it for 7.1. Photo: Turtle Beach

The Recon Spark boasts 40mm Neodymium magnet-powered speakers, which are pretty large, especially given that the cups are smaller than what I’ve come to expect. The result is stellar sound reproduction that’s fairly generous when it comes to bass, and exceptional to highs at certain volume thresholds.

Games with stereo support are probably where the Recon Spark shines the best, thanks to the large speakers that give off full-bodied sound. On PC I played it mostly with DOOM and Monster Hunter World, and it provided amazing stereo sound that levels off really well. I found it to be most tolerable at around eighty percent volume on the rocker, while using your PC’s volume controls to do the rest. There’s a certain tinny quality at higher levels on the rocker, but the bass is pretty clean and deep at all levels.

Games with 7.1 support are sometimes better, sometimes worse. I played Alan Wake, which is one of the few games where 7.1 is actually very well implemented, and the Recon Spark really shines here. You can tell where sounds are coming from quite clearly, which helps the game feel even more atmospheric. Then I tried it with Quantum Break, and the Recon Spark felt very poor compared to regular stereo surround. It’s to be expected of course, since the headset doesn’t really have support for 7.1. I’d consider it a big positive that with some tinkering using Windows Mixer, you can get better sound quality in some titles.

I also tried it out with competitive games like Apex Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and it performed very decently. You have to again adjust the volume settings a fair bit in CS: GO, especially if you want decent sound mixing, but the results are amazing if you do. Gunfire is not tinny, and you can distinctly make out other sounds in the cacophony of chaos. Apex Legends did pretty good as well, with sound prompts and other noise being distinguishable from one another.

The Recon Spark is amazing for listening to music as well. I’ve found that the headset’s mix of full-bodied bass and decent highs translates really well when listening to artists with a great backing band, or even synthwave.

Microphone

The Recon Spark’s microphone dishes out good voice clarity, but you do have to make some adjustments with it a fair bit due to its somewhat lower volume. I tried using it in-game for Apex Legends and had a friend record the audio from my end. My voice came out clear, if a bit soft, which I managed to fix after some time in the volume settings. I also did the same for the Discord app, a Skype video call and a regular call on my mobile phone, and the microphone worked out as well as you’d expect from a headset in this price range – not too shabby, but certainly not the best. At least the mute mechanism works perfectly though, and there’s no feedback of any kind if you touch the mic accidentally.

Long-term use and noise cancellation

Recon Spark Micro
The Recon Spark is pretty comfy, but after a certain point your ears may warm up more than you'd like. Photo: Turtle Beach

Despite the snugness of the cups and cushions, the Recon Spark is decent for long-term use. I found that I managed to play for up to six hours with sound constantly playing before I got strain from using it, which was mostly caused by the tight fit of the cups. It’s when the warmth will eventually get to you, but to be clear I live in a tropical country, so mileage across other climates may vary.

I don’t really wear glasses, but I did want to try out one of the Recon Spark’s features, which is the ProSpecs Glasses Relief System. It allows bespectacled gamers to play with the Recon Spark without adjusting their glasses, thanks to the softer foam material that does not push the glasses into your head. I tried using the headset with both a wire frame and a thick, plastic frame, and the results were really good. Besides feeling weird because the cups are floating near the top of your ear, the system does a pretty good job at keeping your face free from strain due to smushed frames from glasses.

There’s no innate noise cancellation feature with the Recon Spark, but the cushions themselves provide some form of it due to their snugness. It doesn’t work as well as some people might want, and I still heard some outside sounds like my dog barking while using it. However, for some purposes that might be enough, and even a trivial form of noise cancellation at this price point is a great sub-feature.

Overall

The Recon Spark is as inexpensive as they come, but I highly consider this best-in-class among that price range. What really helped me steer towards this conclusion was its incredibly decent sound quality, and the fact that it can run on any platform. The build quality may be a bit of a mixed bag, and if you abhor plastic construction you might want to stay away, but for fifty bucks it’s probably one of the better investments you’ll make in a decently-priced headset with solid audio reproduction.

There are some very obvious sacrifices to keep its cost lower, but for what it’s worth none of that went into the things that matter most, and still it ended up just middling on things that did get downgraded. The sound quality is excellent thanks to the large speakers, and the comfort and aesthetics features are commendable, to say the least. The Recon Spark is by no means the best headset available on the market, but the effort put into squeezing the most you can get for the price it’s offered at is one of the best I’ve seen.

REVIEW SUMMARY
Turtle Beach Recon Spark
8.5
Turtle Beach Recon Spark Review - Sleek Beats On A Shoestring Budget
For decent sound quality across all platforms on an inexpensive price tag, the Recon Spark by Turtle Beach is one of the best choices out there. Despite some obvious cost-cutting in some areas, it still manages to wow when it comes audio reproduction, and the price you pay is easily worth the package you get. If you can forgive the availability of only one color, then the Recon Spark won't disappoint, and will more than likely one-up other headsets on the same price range.
  • Great sound reproduction and volume leveling.
  • Responsive to different equalizer mixes.
  • Innate noise cancelling due to ear cup design.
  • Minimalist look.
  • Glasses-friendly cushions.
  • Comfortable up to a certain degree.
  • Flimsy build quality - not exactly bad, but not exactly premium either.
  • A bit tinny on the highs at higher volume levels.
  • Comes in only white color, and the color may put off some people.
  • Short wires.
  • Runs a bit warm after a while due to tight fit of ear cups.
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