The entry-level hits keep coming from Turtle Beach, a brand commonly associated with premium-like audio for gaming. However, things are changing in order to capitalize on the sensation of “Battle Royale” multiplayer, and this is probably why the Ear Force Recon Spark exists. It’s a “special edition” headset that covers the basics of wired functionality, with an added, almost flamboyant touch of style to sweeten the deal.
Obvious changes among other Ear Force variants is the appearance, with a white and lavender combination that looks unusually dynamic despite the soft colors. Another interesting thing to note are the geometric patterns lightly stamped into the headband and eupcups, it’s all aesthetic peacocking but that’s the point. However, everything else material-wise like the use of hard molded plastics surrounding a metal headband, non-detachable flip-down microphone and leatherette-wrapped memory foam earpads feels strikingly familiar.
The Recon Spark is wired so you shouldn’t be surprised it uses a 3.5mm jack, which means it’s a plug-and-play affair for any headphone/AUX connection. Essentially, whatever device or console you’ve got (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android smartphone) it should work without too much of a fuss. Of course, there are notable standouts such as current iOS devices and the complicated nature of the Switch which works fine depending on certain games, but I’d still consider compatibility as universal.
In terms of audio quality, the Recon Spark should be like the Recon 70 but sounds nearly identical to the Recon 200 or Atlas One. This character manages to portray a slightly deeper soundstage in low-end detail, although you’d have to listen to each side-by-side for an extended period to discern any differences. Depth is a little more spread out but still comes off a little flat when playing Red Dead Redemption 2 or Super Smash Bros Ultimate, this is apparent when volume levels are increased, and mild distortion overwhelm the 40mm drivers and 100Hz-10KHz frequency responses.
Aural transition between the left and right earcups is adequately balanced with separation being distinct and linear, which is exactly what headphone gamers are after during heated free-for-alls in Fortnite or PUBG. Physical comfort is carried over from the Recon 70 as the foam padding is the same and can be worn for roughly 3-4 hours; it won’t be a revelation compared to more expensive options but better than expected.
The flip-directional microphone is also the same and didn’t disappoint either. The voice output is clean and straightforward despite the lack of noise-cancelling, and Turtle Beach is banking on people prioritizing in-game chat over conference calls that go beyond the needs of Skype or LINE. Again, the biggest caveat will be Nintendo Switch and it insistence of its own Switch Online app (Android/iOS), Fortnite doesn’t have this problem, otherwise you better invest in a splitter that separates mic/audio channels between your smartphone/tablet and undocked Switch.
Turtle Beach has been eager to cater every headset budget possible, and the Ear Force Recon Spark is another staple in their broad lineup. That said, I do like the Spark, but I have my suspicions what corners had to be cut for viability. This is obviously a stylish reskin of the Recon 200/Atlas One on the outside, while the internal bits are subtly retooled in order to not upset model hierarchy. What you’re really paying for are the aesthetics that help this headset stand out, and being an initial retail exclusive at Target stores is another factor towards its exclusivity. Either way, the Recon Spark remains a decent performer for the money.