Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Gaming Headset Review
The verdict: This is one of Turtle Beach’s best headset products, and my new favorite $99 gaming headset pick. It does everything right, and keeps all of the key features from their more expensive Elite Pro lineup. In every category, this headset delivers, and my only complaints are so small as to be trivial. If you’re in the market for a gaming headset at this price, the Atlas should be at the top of your list. Run, don’t walk! More details below.
So. Where to begin?
Turtle Beach and I haven’t always been on great terms.
As a kid, I knew they made sound cards, but I never owned any of them. I was a Sound Blaster Guy, Now, their core product is gaming headsets, and thanks to a wide swathe of products across all manner of price ranges, they’ve held the #1 spot in the market for quite a while now.
I haven’t liked many of their gaming headsets, finding fault mainly with their build quality, materials, and designs. In fact, I’ve loved exactly two Turtle Beach items in the past: The Elite 800 and the Elite Pro.
Both of those were top-of-the-line flagship headsets, and both delivered the exact right features, build, and comfort for their premium prices. This frustrated me. It showed that Turtle Beach could totally do it right at a $200-$300 price range, and made their other products seem like afterthoughts in comparison.
Wonderfully, it seems they’ve finally turned a corner, and brought the same design ethos once reserved for their high end product to their mainstream lineup. I couldn’t be more happy about this.
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is the $99 flagship of the new Atlas lineup. The Atlas series is a collection of price-conscious wired headset designs that iterate and improve upon models that have succeeded in the past. They’re targeted at PC gamers, but they’ll work on anything with a headphone jack.
You might be thinking, how much of a flagship could I get for $99? Does the new Elite Atlas really deserve the same branding as headsets that cost $200 in the past?
The Elite Atlas takes most of the features of the older Elite Pro and puts them in a headset that costs half the price.
They cut the cooling gel in the ear cushions, but retained the memory foam. They cut the adjustable tension on the headband, but added a new lighter design still made out of solid metal. They kept the excellent-sounding “Nanoclear” 50mm speaker drivers, the detachable cable, and the removable ear pads with adjustable “ProSpecs” glasses relief notches.
Further, the detachable cable and microphone now use much more standard plug designs, and the ear pads now remove with a simple and awesome magnetic mechanism.
That’s right, this is a slightly improved version of a $200 headset for $100.
THINGS I LOVE
When I reviewed the Elite Pro, I said it had perhaps the most neutral, balanced, “high-quality” sound I’d heard out of a dedicated gaming product, the sort that would please audiophiles. That impressed me, but I was also thankful, because the $200 price meant it was more costly than most other products in the gaming audio market. It needed to sound great to justify the price.
The Elite Atlas retains the exact same sound signature, and getting this for $99 means Turtle Beach just threw a wrench into the whole headset space.
Bass is clear, impactful, punchy, and well extended, but with almost zero midbass bloat or aggressive warmth. It’s not going to please big fans of powerful bass, but it will show you exactly how much bass is in your audio.
Mids are perfectly crisp, clean, and natural. Female vocals are about 10 percent colder/more clinical than I’d like them to be, but still natural enough to not sound hollow or scooped.
Highs are ever-so-gently smoothed off to completely remove fatigue at high volumes, but still more articulate than many other gaming headsets.
It’s a perfect sound signature for gaming, music, and movies. It brings out all the details, and has enough bass to be consistently fun and impressive.
This is a clean sound that lives up to the goofy “Nanoclear” name that Turtle Beach put on these drivers. It’s probably the “Best” sound you can get out of a $99 gaming product…unless you must have a warmer signature.
Comparing it to other top-tier gaming headsets, The HyperX Cloud Alpha, Logitech G Pro, and the Steelseries Arctis Pro all have a touch more warmth to their sound, and the standard Arctis is a little bit more boomy in the midbass. But if you asked me what sounded “best,” the Elite Atlas would take it over all of these by a few hairs.
Soundstage and imaging are both a touch wider than I’d expect from a closed-back headset, probably thanks to the spacious ear cups.
The Elite Atlas hits all the right qualities I’d expect out of a high end audio product. It just sounds darn good. Usually I’m saying “this sounds good…for the price,” or “This sounds good, but not compared to more expensive headphones.” But not this time. I am reminded strongly of the excellent-sounding Audio-Technica MSR7.
The Cloud Alpha and the G Pro both approach this level of sound quality for the price, but both of those bring a stronger bass response and a tiny bit less detail. That’s a totally valid strategy, and not objectively “worse.” It’s going to be down to your personal tastes.
I’d happily listen to any sort of audio on these. They have the level of sound reproduction I’d want out of studio headphones that are double the price.
I’d be impressed enough if the sound were the only phenomenal thing about this headset, but pretty much everything else is great too.
The monster ear pads from the Elite Pro return, minus their cooling gel. They’re covered in a nice spandex material that helps them wick moisture away from your head, and use two layers of leatherette to help maintain good isolation.
(A side note: While isolation is about average for a closed-back, these are a little bit more prone to leaking audio than you might expect from their big thick pads. So if you like to blast audio in a library these might not be the best choice).
Headband adjustments are a little sparse. Each cup has just a couple clicks of adjustment, and just like the Elite Pro, I have to wear these fully extended for the best fit, so if you have a giant head like I do you might want to find a store display of these before buying.
The cups rotate on rubber membranes which makes finding a good seal very easy. The cups also fold flat for very comfy neck-wearing, even under my large head.
The headband is a solid metal band with a soft memory foam pad under it that’s strapped to a suspension mechanism. It has a decent bit of play in it.
On very first wear, the headset feels just a touch heavy. But, give it a few minutes for the memory foam to adapt to your head, and it practically melts away. It isn’t quite as unnoticeable as some of HyperX’s models, or the Arctis lineup, but it’s very very close, which is impressive considering its larger size.
The ProSpecs relief areas are adjustable cutouts built into the magnetically-attaching pads. It’s wonderfully easy to pop off an ear pad, adjust the cutout with its little strap, and pop the pad back on. The indents mean that this is one of maybe 3 headphones I’ve reviewed this year where my glasses don’t negatively impact the seal.
I don’t mention this often, but usually, I have to test headphones both with and without my glasses. In many cases, my glasses will every so slightly reduce the bass response and extension of the headphones. I only ever mention this if it’s a big issue.
With the Elite Atlas, it’s delightfully the opposite. Thanks to the design of these ear pads, they sound exactly the same with or without my glasses on. It’s such a relief to be able to type this, as I’m so rarely able to.
The only possible comfort hiccup here is the diameter of the ear pads. They’re ovals, thank goodness, but they’re only just over 50mm in diameter. They’re slightly smaller openings than many competing products use. However, thanks to the extreme depth and malleability of the padding, I have no trouble fitting my slightly-larger-than-average ears inside the space here with plenty of room to spare.
As I spent a week with these, I kept waiting for the record-scratch, obvious corner-cutting moment to show up, but it never came.
The Elite Atlas is built out of metal and hard composite plastic. Everything has a stiff, hefty feel to it, and there’s no creaking or squeaking in the joints.
You might see the glossy ear cup backs and think “there’s a problem!” I can understand where you’re coming from. Glossy plastic is a fingerprint magnet and it scratches if you breathe on it.
Fortunately, the ear cup backs are magnetic plates that pop off just as easily as the ear cups. You can swap them out for other designs that Turtle Beach sells separately, or you can just rock these without the glossy plastic at all if you want to.
Gone are all the orange accents from the Elite Pro, replaced with a more industry-standard gunmetal design with white accents. These look much less silly than the previous pair when worn in public, and much less silly than several pairs I’ve worn in the coffee shop where I test isolation and microphones.
The headset cable uses a 3.5mm plug on both ends…though the headset end is a 5-pole design that I’ve only ever seen on Astro headsets. That plug design means that finding a replacement cable that doesn’t come from Turtle Beach could be tough. The microphone uses a standard 2.5mm plug, and it’s nice and flexible.
It also sounds really good.
I was convinced that this would be where the corners were finally cut, that the mic would take a big hit in the quest to lower the price from $200 to $100.
The mic sounds really good. It has exceptional clarity, solid bass pickup, and solid background noise performance. It’s got everything you need in a headset mic, and then some. It’s one of the better headset mics I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. The Astro A10 offers close performance for less money, and the G Pro mic is in the same ballpark.
But this is still exceptional. Really, all mics at $99 should sound this good.
Here’s a loud room test and a short quiet test test, both raw unaltered audio compressed to high bitrate MP3’s made with my MacBook and Audacity.
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
This is the only thing I don’t like about this headset, and it’s hardly a deal-breaker: The included cable is too short.
Laughing in the face of the 4 foot length that is standard in the industry for portable/game controller use, the Elite Atlas’s default cable is…3 feet long. For no readily discernible reason. Also, the control box resides in the dead-center of the cable, making it a touch more awkward than necessary to access the volume and mic mute controls.
To be fair, Turtle Beach does include a PC splitter cable in the box that greatly extends the length. But if you want to use this with a 4-pole jack that’s further than 3 feet away, you’re out of luck.
I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for everyone. Maybe they focus tested this. I hardly ever sit more than 3 feet from my laptop or my console controller, so maybe this isn’t even really a problem.
I just miss that extra slack. And it makes plugging into your phone in a pocket less ideal.
That’s it though. That’s the only thing wrong with this headset. Everything else is so, so right.
This is probably the “best” $99 gaming headset on the market today. I put best in quotes because it’s such a loaded word, and everyone has different tastes. But this is my new personal benchmark for the price, just edging out the G Pro and Cloud Alpha.
It has balanced, high-detail audio reproduction. It has exceptional comfort with the cool ProSpecs feature and incredible ear pads. It has a solid build that rivals some of the best.
And it has a weirdly short cable.
If you’re way into bass, you might prefer the Cloud Alpha at this price. It manages to sound almost as detailed as the Elite Atlas, but is a good bit warmer and boomier. But if you need incredible sound, a wonderful mic, a good fit for those with or without glasses, and a build and feature set that’s punching above its price point…I don’t think you can do better than the Elite Atlas right now.
It’s the best audio product I’ve ever used from Turtle Beach. I honestly never thought Turtle Beach would get it so right, and I’m really happy they did. I can’t wait to see where the Atlas line goes in the coming years.
If they only make more colors and eventually a wireless model honestly…that’d be more than great!
HEY WAIT what about the Elite Pro 2?
The Elite Pro 2 features a similar base headset and also includes Turtle Beach’s new SuperAmp. The RGB and Bluetooth features of the SuperAmp look fun, and I’m planning to buy one sometime in the future to review it. The one perk you get back on the headset itself is the cooling gel from the original Elite Pro.
I loved the cooling gel…even though it warmed up after about 15 minutes of use. I hoped that other companies would copy the idea, but so far I’ve only seen it in Razer’s newest models. Oh, and HP made that weird $200 headset that electrically cools your ears.
If you don’t mind missing the cooling gel and don’t need a new DAC/Amp, you can buy the Elite Atlas safely. I won’t deny that I enjoyed the gel in the Elite Pro and I wouldn’t blame you if you felt called to it…but the Atlas’s ear pads are 95 percent as comfy and identical otherwise.
I liked the Elite Atlas so much that I bought an Atlas Three to check out the midrange option. I’ll have a review of that in a few days. It’s not as good…but still better than most Turtle Beach headsets I’ve used in the past!