Astro A50 Gaming Headset Review
Astro Gaming is not exactly new to the headset gaming scene. However, if you’ve only been basing your purchasing decision of a gaming headset by what you see on the shelves at your local electronics store, you could’ve missed them completely. The online outlet has been the go-to spot for professional gamers and those in-the-know, looking for a quality headset that was going to be worth the high price tag.
Outside of your game console, computer, or displays, there’s not a better a way to enhance your gaming experience than with a top of the line headset. In recent years, there’s been a large push by companies like Astro to provide gamers with an alternative to traditional speaker sets for the best surround sound quality and to enhance the gaming experience for many different types of games, movies, or other media. We started with hardwired variations, and have quickly moved into wireless territory. This is where the Astro A50 picks up. It’s a wireless solution that’s compatible across the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC or Mac that offers a digitally mixed simulated 7.1 surround sound experience.
Astro Gaming isn’t the first company to offer this type of wireless experience for headsets, but it is the first truly wireless experience that fans of Astro products have been asking for. In fact, most features that are incorporated in the Astro A50 are replicated by other headsets made by other companies. What sets the A50 apart from this crowded group of competitors is a dedication to quality and their ability to pay attention to what matters most, and that’s sound quality.Superior sound quality are the A50’s edge
The Astro A50 produces the best sounding gameplay experience we’ve had with a gaming headset. It manages to offer the perfect combination of rich deep bass, and clear crisp highs which has been a problem for many headsets as they’ve transitioned to wireless technology. Where others sound canned or restrained, the Astro A50 belts out the biggest explosions or the most subtle footsteps in your games in a rich and enveloping manner. This will be of no surprise to those that have used Astro products in the past. The company has always been dedicated to sound, and the Astro A50 has cut no corners when it comes to the most important part of any gaming headset. The sound in the Astro A50s are controlled by three pre-determined settings on the headset itself which is detailed below.
To get to this level of sound quality, there is definitely a ton of tech packed into A50 cans. It makes this headset one of the bigger and heavier on the market today, but Astro has added comfort features that’ll have you barely recognizing that you’re wearing it, even in the longest of gaming marathons. Soft cloth and foam padding is the only thing that your person comes into contact with on the A50s. While the bridge of the headset provides ample support, negating much of the weight of the unit. The Astro A50 rests on the head loosely, but is snug where it where it matters most, around the ears. The swiveling ear pieces and adjustable height play a large part in getting the perfect fit when wearing this device. Once that fit is found, the A50 does an excellent job of blocking out noise even when powered off, let alone when on. While the A50 is certainly bigger than most headsets, it’s also more comfortable. It’s actually a strange relationship that usually works the other way around.
One of the new features for the A50 is the ability to control the voice and game volume split from the headset itself. Instead of using a mix amp like in the past, the A50 has a simple touch interface on the right can that allows you to strike the perfect balance while gaming online. You can find the perfect range between 100% voice and 100% game sound fairly quickly, with audio queues to tell you that you’ve reached the end of the spectrum. A jog dial controls master volume and is flush on the rounded edge of the right can. The placement of these controls are intuitive because it makes quick changes to volume/voice tweaks a breeze. This is even more important in the heat of an online match, that’s for sure. The Astro A50 comes with three predetermined EQ settings and are controlled by the EQ slider which is also located just under the outer shell of the right can. Now this might be the only design flaw that Astro overlooked in engineering the A50 that could have been avoided. While the placement of the EQ gives the headset a streamlined and sleeker look, it’s a bit hard to reach some times being slightly under the shell. Furthermore, the slider is small and nestled right next to the power button. It’s very easy to accidentally power off the device when navigating with a thumb or finger to EQ.
As it stands, the Astro A50 only has three predetermined EQ settings which get their respective jobs done nicely. Their competition does offer customizable EQ settings out of the box, and its something that Astro has said they plan on incorporating with the A50s in the future. Whether or not this will come to fruition, is yet to be seen. Using the A50’s for the first time will give you three options; one which flattens sound, one which boosts bass, and “Astro” which seems to be my clear cut go-to favorite in nearly every situation as it just sounds the best. Even though I own a headset with this downloadable functionality, I’ve never once really wanted something more than what the “Astro” setting was dishing out to my ear holes.
The Astro A50 is definitely a more simplified version of the A40. You lose some functionality that was given by the Mix Amp, and some connectivity features. But this device certainly plays well with others, and more easily than ever before. Hooking up the A50s to an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PC is a simple task. Better yet, swapping them from one device to the next is equally easily done. This generation of headset by Astro seems to be squarely targeted at console gamers, or just people who have multiple platforms that need to have voice connectivity on each. Here is where Astro and the A50 hits their target. Powered by USB, the A50 receiver has a optical out, an optical in, and analog connections. Hooking up to either the Xbox 360 or PS3 is as easy as plugging the optical cable from the console into the device considering that its got power running to it via the USB. This makes for quick switches between two consoles quick and painless. The receiver could also fit in your pocket, so travelling with the A50 is also a possibility, but more practically, using the device in multiple rooms is just a matter of unplugging it and walking to the next room with little effort. PC set-up is even easier and doesn’t require the optical cable. Just plug in the reciever via USB and adjust your sound settings and you’re up and running.
The receiver also doubles as a power station for A50 headset unit, which is powered by an internal battery. This internal battery has mileage that will vary but its always best to keep the unit charged up via USB when not in use. The bad part about the out-of-the-box functionality on the A50 battery is that once it’s gone, you have to charge it. The charging cord that comes stock with the A50 is only a few feet long, and not nearly long enough to use in any practical sense while playing. Astro does sell a secondary charging cable which is longer and acts as a play-and-charge feature for the headset. Being wireless is the main selling point for the A50, this isn’t a practice you’ll likely want to utilize often, but the headset is capable of use while charging. There have only been a couple of times where the headset ran out of juice on me in the two months I have been using it. You could expect somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to ten hours on a full charge (could be more or less).
Wireless chat on the headset works as advertised. Voices are clear across all platforms, and with the mix amp built in to the headset, volume mixture is at your discretion. One major spot that the Astro A50s are a bit of a let down is with voice chat on the Xbox 360. Chatting on the Xbox 360 requires that a wire be connected from the headset to the controller because of Microsoft’s proprietary wireless functionality. The microphone on A50s functions like other headsets, however Astro has added some unique functionality to it. Sliding it to the up position will allow you to quickly mute yourself. Pulling it down will turn it back on, without any button presses. As we described above, the Astro A50 unit is a stylish headset, and it is easily wearable outside of your gaming dojo. That is if Astro would have had the sensibility to allow you to remove the microphone from the headset. Unfortunately you cannot.Comfort and sound quality beat out bells and whistles
Most headsets of this quality and lesser are coming in at around the same price of Astro A50s these days. That said, the $300 price tag is a tough pill to swallow if you are on a budget. In the case of the A50s the quality is certainly there to justify the hefty price tag. Serious gamers who love immersion or just don’t want to trouble their friends, loved ones, or neighbors will fall in love with the A50s at first listen. Stacking them up against the competition, it’s hard to put any gaming headset in front of the A50s when it comes to sound quality. The feature set might not be as robust as others in their class, but in our book, comfort and sound quality always beat out bells and whistles.
The Astro A50 Wireless System is currently available on the Astro Gaming Storefront
Astro A50 Headset
- Available On: NA
- Published By: NA
- Developed By: Astro Gaming
- Genre: NA
- US Release Date: August 2012
- Reviewed On: NA
- Quote: "If you're already in the market for a gaming headset and are prepared for the price of a wireless unit, Astro should definitely be in your sights if sound quality and comfort are major factors for your purchase. "