Astro has proven once again why it is the go-to headset brand for so many gamers.
The company has launched the third generation of its Astro A50 wireless headset. This is a $300 audio system that comes with a base station and works with either the PC and Xbox One or PC and PlayStation 4, depending on the model you get. When you get the Xbox One-compatible system, for example, it can handle both game and chat audio wirelessly with Microsoft’s console; the blue PS4 model, of course, does the same with Sony’s system.
Previous A50s enabled great wireless audio and communications, but Astro has introduced a number of upgrades that vastly improve the overall experience of regularly using a battery-powered headset.
- Pricing: $300
- Availability: Out now
- Compatibility: USB, wireless connection with PC and PS4 or PC and Xbox One.
What you’ll like
Awesome sound and ergonomics
The A50 headset sounds amazing. The 40mm drivers push through plenty of sound with excellent balance between highs and bass tones. It provides those pounding rumbles you want from cinematic gaming experiences without overpowering the rest of the audio spectrum.
Astro has focused on ensuring that the wireless signal doesn’t suffer from degradation. Even at the loudest volumes, the audio channels don’t break down with artifacts or distortion. Instead, you get a robust, natural sound. Part of that is due to the 5GHz wireless signal that can push through a lot of data with almost no latency.
The headset is also extremely well built, and that comes across when you wear it for hours at a time. I’ve used it most of the day for the last couple of weeks without ever really thinking about it or feeling uncomfortable. Its design distributes the weight evenly across your head, and it comes with a pleasing cloth material for the earcups that I found especially cozy.
A useful base station
The headset is only one part of this system. The A50 also includes a base station that serves multiple purposes. It connects to the PC or console via USB to broadcast the wireless audio, but it’s also a docking cradle that features indicators for battery level and whether you have surround sound on or not. Additionally, it has inputs for auxiliary audio sources and more.
The base has a nice weight to it. It’ll stay in place on your desk or entertainment center. It also has magnets in the part where you dock the headset. That means you shouldn’t have to struggle to get the device in its place when you’re done even if you’re carelessly using one hand.
Excellent battery and intelligent energy-saving features
The dock, however, is part of a larger impressively engineered solution to the biggest trouble with wireless headsets: managing battery life.
The A50 gets about 12-to-15 hours of use on one charge. But you’re likely to pop it back on the base station whenever you’re done with it, and that means you’ll almost never run out of battery. But even if you’re too lazy to put the headset on the dock every time or you forget to shut it off when you’re not using it, Astro has built in some technology that will come to your rescue.
Inside the headset, Astro has included an accelerometer that can sense motion. When you’re using the device, it can detect the slight craning and turning of your head. But when you set the A50 down on your desk or somewhere else, the headset will shut off automatically after a few seconds because it no longer detects those subtle movements. When you’re ready to get back to your game, the headset will turn back on within seconds after you pick it back up.
This is so damn clever, and it solves my biggest issue with other headsets: It doesn’t shut off when you’re actually using it. To save battery, a lot of wireless headsets turn off when they stop sensing audio. If you’re using a PC, that might mean it shuts down while you’re waiting for an important notification sound. That has never happened with the A50, and I’m thankful for it.
What you won’t like
Range isn’t spectacular
With wireless headsets, I like being able to continue listening to music or participating in a meeting even if I need to leave my office. The A50 can do that, but it starts to lose the signal when I get a room or two away. Other wireless headsets that I’ve used haven’t had that problem. To be clear, it’s possible that my 5GHz wireless router is producing some interference, but I’m not going to get rid of that, so I’d still consider that a problem with the headset.
Microphone is underwhelming
The mic kinda sounds like butt. Compared to some of the wired options, it’s on par with the $50 HyperX Cloud Stinger. Now, it’s wireless, and that’s often just how this works. The Logitech G933 sounds even worse, for example. I’ll say that at least the Astro’s do a fine job of eliminating background noise, so you’re voice is still easy to understand.
Check out my microphone-comparison playlist below to see what the A50 sounds like up against other products:
$300 is a lot of money. At this point, that is the same price as a new Xbox One or PlayStation 4. But for those of you out there who want a wireless audio system where you never have to think about the battery life, you cannot do better than the A50. Astro has engineered the hell out of this and produced the best wireless gaming headset ever.
Astro provided GamesBeat with a sample A50 for the purposes of this review. It is out now for $300.