Last year, when we looked at Turtle Beach’s Elite Pro PC Gaming Headset, we walked away impressed. As far as gaming headsets go, it was and is one of the best options on the market. We wanted to take things a step further, though, so we reached out to Turtle Beach to see what we could do. Today, we’re taking a look at the Tactical Audio Controller (T.A.C.): part amp, part mixer, and part soundcard; we ask: is this a device streamers need on their radar? This is our full review.
- MSRP: $149.95
- DTS™ Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound – Pinpoint the exact location of every sound with immersive 7.1 surround sound
- DTS™ Surround Sound Modes – Personalize your audio preferences with a variety of audio presets and sound modes
- Genre Specific Audio Presets – Easily customize your audio preferences with a variety of presets
- Create an Instant Local Chat Network – Enjoy seamless, lag-free chat during LAN events or tournaments
- Stream Output – Broadcast your gameplay and chat streams in real-time.
- Superhuman Hearing™ – Hear every single thing around you from enemy footsteps to distant vehicles to weapon reloads.
- External USB Surround Sound Card – For gamers on PC and Mac, the Elite Pro T.A.C. also serves as a full, external USB sound card offering DTS™ Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound.
The first question to ask is what exactly a “Tactical Audio Controller” actually is. To put it succinctly, it’s a companion piece to your headset aimed at improving the quality of your stream and putting your audio controls at your fingertips. It’s also a sound card capable of delivering high-quality DTS Headphone X surround sound and swapping between EQ and surround sound profiles on the fly. Let’s take a closer look:
On the front, we have a series of four sliders as well as a handful of buttons. Each of the sliders and the volume wheel illuminate to quickly see your current level. The first slider has a set of graduating bars on the left. This is to balance out your chat input and the game volume. Slide it all the way down and you won’t hear any PC audio at all.
The second slide is the Background Noise Limiter, AKA: the noise gate. This wonderful little tool will block any sound from your mic under a certain threshold. Slide it down and everything makes it through. Slide it in the middle and any of the white noise, keyboard clatter, or kids in the other room don’t make it through the “gate.” Only your voice.
The third slider is your Outbound Mic Boost. This one is fairly self explanatory but I find it’s best to test this in a program like Audacity or Adobe Audition first to get a good eye on the waveform as the last slider, Mic Monitor Level, controls how loud your mic is in your ears and may not necessarily match what’s being sent to your stream.
Up above we have our EQ presets button on the left and the Surround Mode preset button on the right. The T.A.C. is storing four EQs and four surround sound modes on the unit but each can be swapped out Turtle Beach’s software. If you don’t like what’s onboard, changing out for another option is quick and easy. DTS Headphone X also has different surround sound settings for Movie, Music, and Game categories, each tailored to that type of content.
Down below, we have a nice scroll wheel to control your volume that also doubles as a mute button. Below that, we have a microphone mute that also changes color when you’re transmitting, which is a nice touch.
Around the back, the T.A.C. features a plethora of connections to ensure you can use it in everything from a home environment to tournament level competitions. You have ethernet and option inputs and outputs, allowing you to daisy chain into another unit. You also have an auxiliary-in for adding a second audio source, as well as a stream-out jack to directly output your mix. Interestingly, the T.A.C. requires two USB connections, one for power and one to transfer EQ and surround profiles. For normal use, only the “main” USB needs to be connected. We also find out platform selector switch, demonstrating how versatile the unit is.
Around the front we have three 3.5mm jacks for your headset, external mic, and connecting to a gamepad for use on a console.
Having spent several weeks with the T.A.C., I’ve really come to enjoy having is stationed beside my keyboard. It’s a convenient little control station, of sorts, keeping all of my audio controlled through such a small box. A unit like this is at least in part competing with a mixer, and at this price point, it’s a tough call if you think you’ll want to expand in the future. As a casual streamer, though, the T.A.C. does everything I need it to.
It also has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve that can be game changers for the quality of your streams. The first is the background noise limiter. For years, I’ve hated the white noise picked up by my microphones. Everything, even $200 dedicated streaming mics, have a hiss to them. All of them struggle to isolate my voice from the clicks of a mechanical keyboard. With the T.A.C., turning the noise gate up to about mid-level completely removes this problem. There are software solutions, of course, so it may not be the sole reason to buy the T.A.C., but it’s definitely a selling point. I’ll also go for a physical slide over a screen-taking virtual slider any day of the week.
The second thing to bear in mind is that the T.A.C. is compatible with any 3.5mm headset, not just the Elite Pro. With the push of a button, you can open your high-end stereo headset into a full blown virtual 7.1 surround sound. DTS Headphone X isn’t my favorite solution, as it adds a bit too much reverb, but it’s a big step up from the software-only solutions I’ve tried in other headsets - including the standalone Elite Pro.
While we’re on the topic of software, I was a bit let down when I discovered the EQ profiles able to be loaded onto the device are locked. There’s no ability to tweak for more bass or treble and no way to make your own EQ either. This is fairly standard in most gaming headsets, so it’s odd and fairly striking that it’s not an option here.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a USB microphone that you use for streaming. I was initially disappointed because it didn’t seem like there was a way to use the T.A.C. with my mic. But, using the mic’s 3.5mm monitoring port, I was able to feed my Seiren Elite directly into the T.A.C. and have the best of both worlds. Without question, a device like this takes a high-end condenser to the next level.
If you’re considering a device like Turtle Beach’s Tactical Audio Controller, there’s a good chance you’re a regular streamer. At this point, you have decisions to make: do you want to expand in the future, maybe with an XLR microphone or more inputs? Then a full mixer and audio interface are right for you. If you’re not looking to reinvent your audio setup, a simpler option like the T.A.C. is going to be a good fit. It’s versatile, compatible with windows or either major console, offers good surround sound, and takes your mic to the next level, all with a much smaller footprint. It’s become a staple of my own setup, which isn’t something I can say for every piece of hardware.
- High quality sliders and volume knob
- Easy to use, no fussy settings
- Excellent cross compatibility
- Can be used with any 3.5mm headset or mic with active monitoring
- Aux-In/Stream Out/Daisy chain functionality
- Quite expensive
- Definite crossover with mixers that allow for greater expansion
- EQs cannot be customized
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.