Astro Gaming A50 wireless headset review
A few days ago, we talked with Stan Press of Astro Gaming, who explained how the company’s new A50 headset really set the standard for gamers today, with three quality settings depending on what you wanted to listen to and a comfortable set-up that involved less wires than you had to mess with through the previous A40 model. Now, we finally got our hands on a set, and after doing some thorough testing, we did find some flaws, but also found plenty of top-quality features that potential buyers will enjoy…if they don’t mind the somewhat steep price.
Like the A40’s, the A50 headphones are built with comfort in mind. They fit over the ears and can be adjusted with ease. But Astro went a step further and decided to put everything in reach for the user, rather than having them fiddle with some attachment that comes plugged into it. Stuff like the master volume knob, the voice chat/game volume settings, the EQ switch and the USB/Xbox Live cable plug-ins are all located on the headset themselves, and while those of you used to the previous A40’s will need some getting used to with this, it really is quite better.
For instance, with game and chat volume adjustment, you merely need to tap on one of the speaker pads and choose which level you’re comfortable with. A beeping noise will indicate whether you’ve reached the very end or not, though that’ll take a few taps to do. Also, it’s worth noting that the battery within the A50’s will last a good 10-12 hours on a charge, and also provides a helpful beep when it’s running low on juice.
This set comes with a useful headstand that you can put together with ease, where you can hang the headphones overhead while sitting the separate MixAmp (included in the $300 package) in the tray below. Connectivity with the MixAmp is very easy, as you simply need to hold down the power button on each unit to align them, as you would Xbox 360 accessories.
Now, we’ve talked about the product itself, which is sturdily built and, again, stores easy after use. But what about the quality? Well, the A50’s support Dolby Digital 7.1, and on two of the three sound settings we used, it was nothing short of awesome. We could hear every bullet whizzing past us in Call of Duty and even the smaller effects in Deadlight with perfect ease, even with small volume adjustments.
Now, there’s a trick with the EQ settings. Like I said, two out of three aren’t bad, but it almost feels like the third one wasn’t quite balanced right. That’s not to say it’s useless, but you’re likely to use the other two more. The main one is “flat”, which you’ll activate when it comes to undistorted, straight up game or entertainment audio. The second, “Astro”, is more aligned for the hardcore gamer in mind, worth cranking up the volume with when it comes to action stuff like Mass Effect 3, or, even better, survival horror like Silent Hill: Downpour. Now, the third, “media,” is supposed to be for general movie playing, but three out of the four movies we tried to test it with just came back booming too loud for our own good. Some action lovers might get a kick out of it, but, really, “flat” works just fine.
One other thing – this is the first Astro Gaming headset as of late that doesn’t use the customary “tag” speaker covers that worked so well on the A40’s, like Battlefield 3 and Saints Row: The Third. The reason for that, as Stan told us, is the technology going into the headset, but still, if you’re expecting to add this touch, you won’t be able to. On the bright side, the black and red built is sick-looking.
For $299, the A50’s are one of the top-of-the-line headsets out there, and they don’t quite push too much beyond what the A40’s can do, outside of the hardcore “Astro” settings. So some of you might consider awaiting that upgrade till you have some extra cash. However, if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks and really want something that makes your game experiences thunder into your ears, the A50’s really are the way to go.