image
 
OR

Astro A50 (2016) Headset Review: An Exciting Improvement to Wireless Gaming

Haroon Sultan
Technology Reporter
Editors Rating

8.7
overall
EXCELLENT
Pros: Super audio quality, comfortable enough to wear the whole day, great battery life
Cons: Microphone isn't up to stuff, Expensive, Wireless range is mediocre

When the Astro A50 first came out, it redefined the gaming audio landscape and became the standard for comparison when it came to wireless game headsets. Since then, we’ve seen numerous brands like Logitech and Turtlebeach improve their product line, dropping the A50 down a notch or two.

The 2016 edition of the Astro A50 headset takes everything we loved about the original and brings you a new yet familiar level of quality. This is the wireless gaming headset that turned heads when it first came out and now they’re back at it again.

Design and Comfort

The Astro A50 is similar to its predecessor in terms of design. No sparkly LED lighting needed as this headset has its own appeal. The sharp angles, the exposed metal piping running along the sides and the soft-touch plastic covering lend an elegant look. It is unmistakably a gaming headset but it doesn’t scream that out loud in an obnoxious way like some headsets tend to do.

The A50 comes in two color variants, the PS4 black/blue and the gray/green for the Xbox One. PC users need only care about which color they like best as both models are perfectly compatible with your system.

The lightweight frame and wonderfully soft ear cups almost made me never want to take the headset off. Or at the least, I didn’t feel any discomfort during my 6-hour Guild Wars 2 sessions. For those who prefer something different though, Astro has a Mod Kit that swaps out the default plush ear cups for some leather-coated ones.

Where it starts to differ from the A40s is with its built-in controls. The power button has been transformed into a slider, which is way more convenient to use. There’s also the volume dial, Dolby switch and three-way EQ slider to go with it on the right earcup

Speaking of power, the headset comes with a nifty gyroscope that detects when you put the headset down and turns it off after 30 seconds. So, you can just leave it powered on, take it off and place it on your desk without wasting its battery. This very intuitive change, however small it may seem, helps rope in a smoother overall experience.

Docking Station and Connectivity

Moving on to the Astro A50’s companion, we have a plastic brick that serves the purpose of transferring wireless audio to the headset as well as charging the device. It also triples as a really cool display stand. While it’s a little heavy and not as convenient as a dongle, it just makes using the Astro A50 all the more pleasant.

When you’re done gaming, you plop it on to the base and it starts recharging immediately. At first, it takes a few tries to get used to the placement of the headset on the charging connectors. From what I read, you can buy a standalone base station from Astro and link it to one headset. By simply placing it on the base station, it quickly pairs with it and is instantly useable.

On the rear, the base station comes with a USB port, optical audio input and output as well as a standard 3.5mm jack. On the side, you have another USB port in case you want to charge your headset using a wire and a switch to swap between PC mode and console mode.

One of the minor downsides of the Astro A50 headset, which coincides with quite a few other wireless gaming headsets, is the lack of a direct audio input from the headset to use for mobile devices like phones or tablets. But that’s forgivable.

Also, the range isn’t nearly as impressive as the Astro people make it out to be. I walk out of my room and instantly lose connection whereas my friend with the

Performance

The Astro A50 delivers on the price tag at least where it counts. The audio quality is exemplary, with full and rich sound but still manages to afford enough clarity to different levels of sound. I’m not technically an audiophile (still expanding my horizons), but from a gaming standpoint, the headset delivers an experience you would expect. The three equalizer modes that the headset provides each offer a slightly different kind of sound. The “Astro” setting is the middle, balance mode while the “Pro” setting bumps up the bass. The “Studio” setting seemed to favor treble, but I didn’t really enjoy it as much as the other settings.

The A50 shines at its brightest when it comes to raw bass, like when cars and building explode. The 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound performed amicably when playing multiplayer games and I was able to discern footsteps heading my way. While I wasn’t able to do much about the guy tea-bagging me as he flaunted his victory in my face, I appreciated the clarity and distinction of the sound effects.

The microphone on the Astro A50 is probably the only part of the package I was really disappointed with. I’m used to gaming headsets skimping on the mic, but for a headset worth as much as this one, you would expect something… better. The voice quality from the A50 was a little fuzzy and difficult to make out over game audio for my friends. I had to ramp up the input gain on my software, which should not be the solution to this predicament, considering the mic is right next to my face.

 The Astro A50’s battery life is also surprising. I used the headset for about three days without placing it back into the charging dock. I wasn’t able to get an exact measure on it, but it seems to last around 14 to 15 hours, which is more than enough for some intense gaming sessions.

Software

Behind the scenes on your PC, we have the Astro Command Center software that helps you customize your A50 headset. It might have seemed a little messy at first, but there’s a whole bunch of useful options made available to you. You can create custom presets to use with the EQ mode slider on your headset so you don’t need to keep adjusting it on your computer. There are a ton of microphone settings as well which are extremely useful for when you’re streaming or when you want to hear yourself speak while you’re communicating with your teammates.

Updating the firmware for the Astro A50 was easy, as I simply needed to place the device back on the base and let it finish. There was a point where I messed up the update by picking it up off the base and the headset refused to turn on. Panicking, I figured out how to hard reset the headset and it booted back on, never missing a beat while I missed several.

For those interested in how to reset the headset in case you screw up an update, just switch the device on and hold the Dolby and Game (right ear cup) button for 30 seconds. That should fix it.

 

Review Verdict:

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been skeptical of wireless headsets. But the Astro A50 may have soften me up a smidge. The addictive comfort, superb audio quality and ease of use keep me coming back for more. There’s really no way to appropriately describe how enjoyable it is to use and despite the occasional quirks in behavior, it is truly deserving of our Feedbaac Best Choice Award.

The headset with the base station is available for AED 1,199. If your budget can withstand it, the Astro A50 will deliver pretty much you would expect of a premium wireless gaming headset. With the potential of Astro’s Mod Kits, you might never get bored of them. Personally, I’m eyeing the Rick and Morty customized earcups.

For the latest Astro A50 prices, check out our product page here.