Astro A50 wireless gaming headset review

astro-a50-stoodBack in July we let you know about the updated Astro Gaming A50 headset. We’ve had it for a while to review now so we’re ready to let you know what we think about it.

Last year, the company revamped its Astro A40 model with a Tournament Ready edition. I still love this headset and, as well as its improved Mixamp and Astro Command Center software, it has proven to be a comfrtable headset. This is what I use on the Tech Addicts UK podcast.

This year it was the turn of the Astro A50 to get a refresh.

Astro A50 headset design

The new Astro A50 follows much of the A40 TR’s design elements, which makes sense. That’s great for me as I love the A40 TR.

astro-a50-and-a40The design is clean and well thought out. The colour scheme on this version is grey with metallic green.

I’m not as much in love with green on this Xbox/ PC version I have here to review as I am with the white A40. But that’s not a huge deal breaker.

The PlayStation version is black and blue, which would suit my rig a little better. That’s all just personal taste though.

The headphone construction consists of top-notch plastics and plenty of metal where it matters. It not only looks good but feels like a quality item.

It’s all about the base

The biggest overhaul is with the wireless technology on the latest A50. Instead of having a headphone stand/charger and separate Mixamp, this is all contained within a neat base station and the cans themselves.

astro-a50-and-dock-frontThe base station holds the wireless A50 headset and also charges it.

On the bottom edge of the earcups are small charging contacts which, when placed in the base station, top up the can’s charge. Simple and effective.

astro-a50-chargingThe readout lights on the front alert players to the energy level of headset. There are four bars and the last one flashes when the device is charging.

The boom mic is attached to the left earcup. Unlike the A40 TR, this cannot be swapped over to the other side. Again, not really a deal breaker but I thought that this was a nice touch on the A40. You can swap out the foam ear pads for synthetic leather items with the Mod Kit. In the Mod Kit you also get a black headband section too. Personally, I find the foam pads much better for longer sessions.

We at GadgetyNews appear to suffer with hot ears when gaming.

The base station also has a handy charging port for your phone or other USB device. This can be found next to the console/PC selector switch.

Connectivity-wise, there’s optical in and out, a microUSB port and a 3.5mm input so you can add some background music to your gaming from your phone or tablet.

Astro A50 headset performance

The A50 utilise a 5Ghz wireless transmitter. I found this to be spot on. Let’s face it, you don’t need the range or penetration of the 2.4Ghz band as your console will rarely be in a different room to where you’re playing.

A50 set up

Setup is incredibly easy. It was made even easier for me as all I had to do was unhitch the A40 TR’s Mix Amp and use the optical cable and micro USB from that to plug in to the A50 base station. So, within seconds, I was good to go.

astro-a50-and-dock-sideThe only other thing I had to do was flick the switch over from Xbox to PC.

It might have been nice to have a button on top of the base station in order to select whether you want audio through the cans or your speakers. It’s no biggy to go in to the PC audio menu, but just something for Astro to consider for future refreshes.

A50 Battery life

Astro Gaming promises 15 hours of battery life, and players will discover that the headset delivers on that – although I am not entirely sure. There is a very good reason for this ambiguity though gadgety faithful.

You see, I have to admit, I never really saw the headset drop below a quarter charge; even after a decent session on CS:GO or Project Cars. Part of the reason for this is the ease of the charging station. Any comfort breaks or sprint to the fridge for a cooling beverage saw the headset dropped back in its charging bay.

On the occasions I’d just plonk them down on my desk, the Astro A50s had my back. Thanks to their built in accelerometer the A50 know when they’re on your head or lying flat on a table. So, when not on your bonce they’ll switch off automagically.

A50 Sound quality

The A50 headset supports Dolby 7.1. This is handy as it helps with the spatial accuracy of where sounds are coming from.

astro-a50-stoodThis means that you get the upper hand (or ear) as you will be able to better tell where discrete noises are positioned. Whispers happening behind you? Zombie groans coming from another room? Someone reloading around the corner? This isn’t cheating, it’s just another level of realism.

You can flick the Dolby tech on or off using a dedicated switch on the right headphone.

The A50 delivers crisp, immersive audio.

Astro Command Centre

You can tweak the settings via the Astro Command Center to your specific requirements.

astro-command-centre-firmware-updateMine needed a firware update but that didn’t take long.

Here you can tweak the presets that you activate using the three-position slider on the right-hand earphone.

a50-astro-setting a50-pro-setting a50-studio-settingThe headset offers three EQ modes: Astro sounds more balanced in its default state; Pro doubles down on bass and brings up the high mids, whereas Studio seems to emphasise treble. All three modes are satisfying, although Studio’s scooped mids get fatiguing.

You can also optimise the ‘Stream Port’ mix. This is the levels between Game, Chat, Mic and the Aux input. Head over to ‘Settings’ and you can even dim the lights on the base station.

Sound quality overall

Project Cars gave a satisfying rumble and wheeze when thrashing turbo-charged cars of the 80s and 90s around the track. CS:GO and Left 4 Dead 2 came in to their own with the directionality of the 7.1 helping me to stay alive for a little longer than normal.

Mortal Kombat Komplete is always handy to undo the stresses of the day. I was impressed by just how well the punches and kicks came through.

The A50 also doubles as a dependable pair of multimedia headphones. Led Zepplin’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ sounded great streamed through TIDAL. My copy of the Blade Runner Director’s Cut sounded huge as well as clear through the A50s. Gun shots rang out convincingly and diaglogue was projected naturally. The Vangellis soundtrack was as lush as always.

Microphone

The A50’s mic is more than adequate for in-game chat. I have used it without informing my Tech Addicts co-hosts, so being wireless hasn’t altered the sound quality as far as they were concerned.

I am assuming that the mics on the A40 TR and the new A50 are pretty much identical though – aside from the wireless aspect.

astro-a50-micThe boom of the microphone is totally flexible, so getting it as close to your mouth as you want is not a problem. When the mic isn’t required it simply can be flipped up vertically.

Looking at the specs for the previous iteration, if you wanted to use the mic on the Xbox you would have to add a cable. That kinda negated the whole wireless USP of the headset somewhat. That has all been sorted for the 2016 A50 though folds. Happy days Xbone fans!

a50-mic-settingsThe mic’s settings can also be tweaked in the Command Centre.

I’ve used the headset and mic in Skype chats and Google Hang Outs as well as the podcast. All came through nice and clear according to my chat partners.

Astro A50 wireless headset review conclusion

The Astro A50 is everything I hoped it would be.

Sound quality is excellent and it is remarkably comfortable to wear for extended gaming.

I do love the freedom of the 5Ghz wireless tech and there is no discernible drop in sound quality between these and the A40 TR. On the subject of wireless, even Xbox One gets in on the wire-free action now!

The Command Centre is really easy to navigate and your trio of EQ options are just a slider click away. Thanks to the Mod Kit you will be able to keep your ear pads fresh.

Add in the convenience of the charging base that also keeps your cans safely stored, I really can’t find a downside. If I was to be extremely picky, an output selector by way of a touch sensitive button atop of the base would be neat. I am not mentioning the colours as green obviously matches the Xbox theme and blue goes with PlayStation.

Astro A50 wireless gaming headset price and availability

The A50 wireless headset is out now and can be yours for £250 direct from the Astro Gaming website.

gb-sponsor

Neato Botvac and Echo Alexa connected
HP Z2 Mini compact PC packs Xeon power