Turtle Beach Atlas Three Gaming Headset Review With Mic Tests
I liked the flagship of Turtle Beach’s new Atlas lineup so much that I decided to get the midrange one.
But its bad microphone, boomy default sound profile, attached cable, and angular design feel like they fell out of 2010.
Turtle Beach’s Atlas Three is an $80 gaming headset that works with anything using a 3.5mm connection. It includes a PC splitter/extension and a USB cable in the box. That USB cable charges the battery, which powers the embedded amplifier.
The headset doesn’t work if the amp’s turned off…but you can expect around 40 hours of battery life.
If you miss the old days of gaming headsets and want some of that “magic” back, this isn’t a bad buy if you find it on sale. I understand that the $80 price point comes from its included electronics, but with the wireless Stealth 600 just $20 more, and many other great $80-$100 wired options out there, this probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
THINGS I LIKE
The default “Signature Sound” profile has a whiff of bad old gaming headset to it…but in a fun way? That means it has some boomy oomph in its midbass region, and this bleeds into the midrange, darkening up the sound and detail. The treble is also much calmer than I’d expect from a modern gaming product, exacerbating the warmth.
Out of the box then, the Atlas Three sounds like it’s halfway between the hyper-detailed audio of the HyperX Cloud and Elite Atlas, and the awful thumpy mud that was the original Razer Kraken. I actually didn’t mind this. It’s been a really long time since a gaming headset pounded me in the face with bass response, and getting 50 percent of that is fun in a throwback way.
But since I own a couple other headsets that sound “objectively better,” I’d only reach for the Atlas Three if I want to relive the weird nightmare of gaming past, but without hating it.
If you use the built-in EQ to turn on the “Treble Boost” mode, the treble suddenly gets some life back and this approaches something a little more in line with modern standards…but it still has the same bass response and midbass bloom. The Treble Boost just bumps the high side of the curve back up into a range most people probably want, and reduces the warmth and thickness a bit.
I totally get that it’s weird to be nostalgic for an era of gaming audio that most users decided kind of sucked, but back when the choices were more limited, it was easier to enjoy that type of sound signature. This isn’t as bad as early Turtle Beach and Razer stuff was, but it’s got just enough of that energy in it that it’s probably going to frustrate most audiophiles and even modern gamers that have used other competing products.
But I still had fun with the sound. I’d wager you’ll think it sounds a bit muddy.
The Atlas Three includes a battery-driven amplifier, and it must be powered on for the headset to work at all. On the plus side, the amp makes the controller jack on a PS4 a more useable experience volume and dynamics-wise, and the volume wheel on the back of the ear cup is nice and smooth.
The amp has three EQ settings:
*Signature Sound, which has a warm, bloomy, almost-muddy feel to it.
*Treble Boost, which makes Signature Sound more usable for people that expect more highs.
*Vocal Boost, which hollows out your sound in a desperate attempt to make typical voice chat frequencies more audible, in case you’re using online voice chat. Don’t use this mode unless you’re in a chat conversation, and even then, its utility is…debatable.
Another perk of the amp is a second wheel that provides real-time mic monitoring. This is a great touch, actually, and something I wish more headsets would do.
The Atlas Three is built better than I was expecting from its recycled Stealth 600 design. The plastic posts that adjust the height of the cups have very sturdy clicking mechanisms, and metal posts inside reinforcing the plastic. The plastics used feel decently solid. The left hinge on my pair makes a slight creaking noise if I push it just the right way, but otherwise it’s good so far.
That could change of course. But it feels better in the hands than I thought it would just looking at it.
The cups are solid and the matte finish won’t attract fingerprints or easily scratch from being in a bag.
The attached cord is a bummer, and it’s a bit rubbery, but the length is good and the inclusion of a PC extension is a nice touch.
If you want the best build quality in this lineup, the Elite Atlas’s extensive use of metal is much better. HyperX’s Cloud lineup also feels better. But…this doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart if you sneeze on it, which is better than I was expecting.
I wish every headset had this much padding on the headband. The padding on the top of the Atlas Three is massive, dense, and cushy, and it perfectly carries this light headset. It’s probably way too much padding for how light the headset is, and it’s weird that this isn’t the standard headband pad across all Turtle Beach products.
The ear pads use decent foam, and have a “ProSpecs” glasses relief area where softer foam is used, so glasses won’t negatively impact the seal.
There’s one small flaw in the comfort department, and that’s cup depth. It’s a bit shallower inside the cups than most other headsets. The drivers aren’t angled, either. The foam is just dense enough to keep my ears from ramming into the plastic inside the cups, but if this is something you’re sensitive to, it’s time to find a different headset to purchase!
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
This has a bad microphone. I mean, it’s not completely awful. It functions and it captures the sound of your voice.
But it fails to live up to the standards of the current market in just about every way, save for the monitoring feature.
The microphone is omni-directional. This is a bad and stupid decision. Nearly every other gaming headset on the market today uses a uni-directional or bi-directional microphone, to focus its capsule on your voice and exclude background noises.
An omni-directional pickup pattern picks up sound coming from every direction, and has no ability to acoustically favor your voice unless you put it right inside your mouth. They’re great for recording ambient environments, town hall meetings, and certain types of live concerts, but absolutely terrible for capturing a single voice.
This microphone has zero noise isolation, and a very low overall sensitivity and pickup level. They’re no doubt hoping you’ll use some kind of gain boost on your PC, since this is mainly targeted at PC players. On consoles, this will be just barely loud enough to be usable compared to other microphones.
It’s hard to say this microphone is outright bad in a total vacuum. But compared to everything else out there, you could almost do better by closing your eyes and pointing in the store.
Here’s a quiet room mic test and a loud room mic test. It’s unusable in a loud room.
Whoever made the decision to go with an omni-directional mic shouldn’t have done that.
These don’t isolate much for a closed-back headphone. They have some isolation, thanks to their foam and non-ported design, but it’s dramatically less than other headsets in the price range.
The cloth covered ear pads don’t heat up, and their bass response is admirable, but between the non-isolating mic and the non-isolating ear pads…this isn’t your first choice for a gaming tournament, coffee shop, or any place with other people in it. Or fans. Or a loud cat.
Although the throwback nature of the sound signature somehow worked for me, the design…doesn’t at all. The vertical posts that allow the cups to go up and down are an interesting concept, but they have to kind of bend out against the headband once you actually put the thing on. The more I use it, the more the posts are torquing against the sides of the headband.
The result is a headset that sticks out a fair bit from your head, and everyone will know you’re using a gaming product. That’s not always a bad thing, but there’s nothing that beautiful about the way the Atlas Three looks. The headband pad, adjustment posts, and angular ear cups all scream function over form.
The color scheme is less intense than other Turtle Beach products, using the black and gunmetal design common to the whole Atlas range. I don’t dislike that part. But the non-detachable mic and cord, angular look, and giant headband all scream GAMER in a way that’s not really in vogue right now.
That might be okay with you, and that’s fine! But I think these pads could be repurposed onto a much better-looking frame.
The Turtle Beach Atlas Three is a decently-built headset with a solidly-performing amplifier, let down by a terrible microphone decision, a sound signature that’s a throwback in a love-it-or-hate-it way, and a design that’s up against more sleek products that cost the same or less.
It’s still not terrible. But you might as well spend the extra 20 bucks for the Elite Atlas once you’ve decided 80 is okay. Its improvements to sound quality and mic quality are worth the entirety of its price over the Atlas Three, let alone the 20 dollar difference. Even when the Three is on sale, unless you really want the amplifier, I’d go for the Elite.