Turtle Beach’s first gamepad pairs its audio expertise with great ergonomics

Your hands will love the Recon Controller.

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Each gaming accessory company has one thing they do well, like Corsair and its keyboards or Razer’s line of mice. Turtle Beach is known as a premium headset manufacturer, but that hasn’t stopped it from expanding its offerings, starting with its very first gamepad, the $60 Recon Controller. And it happily still incorporates the company’s audio expertise.

It’s a wired controller compatible with Xbox Series X|S and One as well as Windows 10. As a couch gamer I’m never really thrilled by the need to be tethered, but it makes up for it with a great hand feel. The grips are covered in a tactile gray material, with a grid of triangles that help channel heat and sweat away from your palms. But what I really like are the textured buttons — the shoulder, trigger and back buttons are studded with bumps that do a good job of keeping your fingers from slipping. They also feel great, so much so that I often find myself playing with the Recon Controller even when I’m not gaming.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller in white with purple cord plugged in
Kris Naudus / Engadget

The marquee features of the Recon Controller are its audio controls, located in a small panel at the top of the gamepad. One of my editors said it looks like a modern interpretation of a Mad Catz unit and, well, he isn’t wrong. It’s not exactly attractive, with so many buttons it looks over-engineered.

What all those fiddly buttons offer is an array of options for the sound coming from the headset you’ve plugged into the controller. The bottom has the usual 3.5mm port, so it’ll work with pretty much any headset, provided you have the right cable for it. I tried it with the Recon Spark, a solid and inexpensive set of cans that’s served as my daily driver at the office for a few years now.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller in white
Kris Naudus / Engadget

At each end of the trapezoidal control panel are two toggles, the one on the left adjusts the volume and the right one handles the balance between game audio and chat. They’re far up enough on the controller such that you don’t accidentally hit the X and Y buttons. However, the buttons on the panel itself are packed in so tightly that if you overshoot you’re likely to hit one of the controls in the middle instead.

Which is less than ideal, given that the two big buttons are the mute function (not something you want to accidentally hit while communicating with your teammates) and the “superhuman hearing” button. The latter is a new feature, boosting smaller sounds like footsteps so you won’t miss a thing. The effect wasn’t as pronounced as it promises, as I didn’t notice huge changes while I played a few rounds of Among Us. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it, and the effect may vary depending on the game you’re playing and the headset you have connected.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller
Kris Naudus / Engadget

Between those two buttons is another toggle, one that serves a variety of functions. You can adjust your EQ presets between the default, bass, bass/treble and vocal settings. You can also adjust the power of the gamepad’s vibrations, as well as the sensitivity of the thumb sticks. It’s nice to be able to adjust these things on the fly, rather than having to fiddle around in a settings program. The big drawback is that it’s not immediately clear what the icons represent, and I had to consult the instructions and experiment with them before I really understood.

Overall I was happy with the controller’s performance, and I’m enamored of the ergonomics of it more than anything. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth dealing with a wired controller and headset when you’re used to going wireless.

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