The Astro A50

A Review On: New ASTRO Gaming A50 Wireless Headset - ASTRO Edition - Xbox, PS3, & PC Gaming!

New ASTRO Gaming A50 Wireless Headset - ASTRO Edition - Xbox, PS3, & PC Gaming!

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Purchased on:
Price paid: $299.00
Zombiechow
Posted · 695 Views · 1 Comment

Pros: Sound Quality, Terrific Range, Outstanding Mic, Comfortable to wear for long periods

Cons: Potential Build quality issues later in its life, the need to purchase longer USB cables is inexcusable.

Introduction:

Anybody who knows me best will tell you that I'm picky. Actually, to say that I'm picky would be an understatement. I work hard for my money and absolutely demand to feel that I get what I'm paying for, even if my perception of "what I deserve to get" for that money at any given price point is skewed. I'm happy to say that the Astro A50 has met my expectation in nearly every way possible. It's a fine piece of equipment and will greatly enhance the time you spend with music, games, and movies.

Features:
  • 5.8 GHZ KleerNet Transmitter
  • Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround
  • Astro's legendary Mixamp Integrated into the Headset
  • Onboard sound profiles and volume wheel.
  • Full PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 support


Packaging and Setup:

The headset arrived in rather elaborate packaging, and it was a joy to behold the size of it. The inner box is protected by an outer sleeve which slides off to reveal the box itself. As far as marketing goes, there is minimal information on the back about the headset and it mostly outlines the features I listed above. In my opinion, it's nice to see this direct, non-excessive approach.

The box, which opens like a large book, contains the following:

  • The Astro A50 Headset
  • A 5.6GHZ Transmitter
  • Headset Stand Assembly
  • 1 x SPDIF cable
  • 2 x USB cables of varying length
  • 1 x Xbox 360 mic cable
  • A Quick Start Guide and Warranty information.

The contents of the box are very well protected by an inner and outer plastic shell contained within. A delivery man could drop and throw it around for an hour and I'm fairly confident that the contents would remain unharmed.

Setup was an absolute breeze for the PC. I removed the headset and transmitter t from the packaging, attached the longer USB cable to the motherboard, then the opposite end to the Mixamp. I did the same for the optical SPDIF cable, attaching it to the proper ports on both devices.

The transmitter contains two reasonably sized buttons with outer LED color rings. One being the power button and the other being an activation switch for Dolby 7.1. To pair the headset, I simply held down the power button on the transmitter until it flashed blue, then did the same for the headset. That's about as simple as it gets, ladies and gentlemen.

The stand is relatively simple to assemble, but requires and unnecessary amount of force to build. It comes in three parts. The base, a long back, and the neck which the headset rests on. The base of it has a place for the transmitter to rest on, but contains no charging functionality. A USB port on back of the transmitter serves as a means to receive firmware upgrades as well as to charge the headset.once assembled, it can bot be taken apart.

Upon updating the firmware with relative ease, I was ready to test.

Initial impressions:

The build quality is fantastic. Weighing in at .81 pounds, they look and feel substantial while not feeling remotely heavy during use. The styling is modern, sporting clean lines and contemporary design and a subtle black and orange color scheme. Upon further inspection, I was saddened to find that the large majority of the headset was composed of plastic, with the exception of two short rods that serve as an adjustment guide. The mechanism that slides up and down on these rods are plastic as well, which saddens me and causes concern about long term durability

The earcups are large and padded with a plush felt-like material and are extremely comfortable. This is an over the ear headset, thus an important feature. I applaud Astro for this design decision as faux leather tends to degrade and peel over time. It looks highly durable, yet comfortable and should last a good number of years. The headrest is also padded in a similar fashion and it too, is very comfortable.

The microphone is located over the left earcup and has a nearly full 180 degree range of movement. When it's placed fully upright, the sound is muted. Then pulled down in front of you, it's hot and ready for action. The mic appears to have basic noise cancelling capabilities and is rigidly adjustable.

The on board control section is superb. The volume wheel is easy to locate and has fast action with great tactile response. The switch that contains the three sound presets is also easy to locate, and while not as easy to use for somebody with large thumbs, was still very functional and easy to find. The power button (located directly above the preset switch) is also easy to find and requires minimal effort to use, even for large fingers.

The right earcup has integrated voice and music controls. These are activated by pressing either the left or right side of the right earcup. I didn't find them useful in a PC setting and can only assume that this is an Xbox 360 feature.

To summarize, regardless of its heavy usage of plastic, the build quality is fantastic. It feels substantial, the layout is well thought out, and it feels like it will last more than a few years.

Initial testing:

Before I begin, this headset requires the use of an optical SPDIF connection for optimal performance. While it will function via USB, it will only operate in two channel mode, you will notice degradation in quality as well as occasional periods of audible "hiss", and the sound presets will not function.

Additionally, your source MATTERS and it puts a great smile on my face to say this. A large majority of wireless headsets on the market don't require this , and as a result, sound quality suffers. I highly recommend the use of a dedicated PCI/e sound card for optimal results.

Battery life is roughly around 7 hours in real world use. They can be charged during use, which will likely require the use of a longer micro-usb cable (not included). In my opinion, given the overall cost, this is inexcusable. Adding insult to injury, Astro sells these longer cables as an add-on for an absurd premium.

Let's face it. This is a wireless headset. I didn't to be wowed by the sound quality, but in relative terms, I was, and while it doesn't come anywhere close to besting the likes of the Beyerdynamic MMX 300 (hands down the best gaming headset money can buy), it produced amazing sound for what it is.

Music:
It's relatively unforgiving to poor quality source material, which is a good thing in and of itself. I was able to identify details in some of my source material that I was previously unable to hear. Separation was also surprisingly good, and for a closed back headset, the soundstage of my reference material was produced fairly well.

Sadly, these tend to distort at higher SPL levels, which was a disappointment. With that said, don't expect SPL levels that will rock your brain. Bass is more of an "integrated affair" . It's maintains a pretty consistent balance with everything else that's happening around it, which is something I like...not to say that the bass doesn't hit, because it DOES.

Overall, music reproduction was above average for a wireless headset, and as long as you keep this in perspective, you won't be disappointed.

Movies:
I'm gong to keep this short and sweet. This is a fantastic headset to listen to a film on. Explosions BOOMED without sounding unrealistic, engines roar, and the 7.1 Dolby Digital emulation sounds fantastic (provided your source decodes it). A test drive of "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises" left me with extremely positive impressions. They excelled in this category.

Gaming:

I'm proud to say that these excelled in this category, which is ultimately the most important thing here.

Scores were reproduced BEAUTIFULLY, presenting details details I had never heard before (especially in Portal 2, wow), as well as other sound effects. Everything from quiet footsteps behind you to bullets firing and hitting walls in the distance are presented with fantastic clarity and spacial positioning. This was especially evident in Battlefield 2, Battlefield 3, and Far Cry 3. The Dolby 7.1 encoding shined in supported games. Nothing but high marks here.

Range:

Again, high marks here. I live in a 1.200 sq ft apartment and I'm able to nearly walk the entirety of it while maintaining a clear, clean signal. Very impressive to me.

Conclusion:

This is easily the best wireless gaming headset on the market. If you absolutely must have the best gaming headset money can buy, go buy the Beyerdynamic MMX 300. If you absolutely MUST have a wireless headset, this is the way to go, period. While I'm a slightly disappointed about some of the design design decisions (mostly all of the plastic), i'm extremely pleased with the overall sound and build quality. The mic is top notch and the range is fantastic.

This is a wonderfully optimized piece of equipment that serves many purposes. You won't be disappointed thumb.gif

1 Comment:

I've had my A40's since Oct. 22 2009 and still don't have any complaints out of them.