ASTRO Gaming A50 - review

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 10:58 PM Written by 

Nobody likes wires. Whether they’re electrical or barbed, they just get in the way. Luckily, ASTRO Gaming has done its small part to cut through the wire conundrum with the A50, an entirely new, entirely wireless, gaming headset.

The successor to the wildly popular, and very much wired, A40, the A50 seems to have improved on all counts.  Previous attempts at wireless audio have included frequent battery replacement, loss of sound quality, and interference from other devices.  Not so with the A50, as ASTRO has worked some magic, and some new technology, to succeed where others have so often failed.


 

Build Quality
You’re getting what you pay for, which is plenty. This headset looks, feels, and acts like a well-oiled machine. The exterior is hard plastic, while the headband and earphones are padded with cotton. The buttons, which reside on the right earphone, feel solid and provide a satisfying “click.” It’s a hefty headset, but not uncomfortable to wear.

When not being used, the A50 makes for an attractive game room decoration with the included plastic stand, and the wireless transmitter is small enough to fit on most shelves.

The headset’s power source is an internal and rechargeable lithium battery. This feature eliminates the need for battery replacement, but raises its own problem. More on this below.


Ease of Use
Usage doesn’t get much easier than the A50. The transmitter and headset are automatically paired out of the box. The transmitter is powered by a mini-USB port and the sound source is best connected by a digital optical connection.

The transmitter can be easily connected to a 360, PS3, or PC.

The headset itself has less buttons than the usual wireless gaming headset, which is a clear plus. It has a power button, a slider that can switch between 3 presets, and a volume wheel, with the outer plate doubling as voice/game balance. The A50 does away with the A40’s MixAmp, a completely separate device, and puts the sound balance control right into the earphones. Game volume can be raised by clicking the front of the outer plate, and chat volume can be adjusted clicking the rear.
The typical mute button has been removed, as the microphone cleverly mutes itself when raised.

Both the placement and the scarcity of the buttons give the A50 a small learning curve. Unfortunately, the hardest button to find is one of the most important: the power button. It’s the smallest button on the headset and is tucked within a groove. After several uses, I still occasionally struggled to find it.

A rechargeable battery is always a welcomed feature, but the original package doesn’t include a charge cable that is long enough to comfortably charge the battery during use. This gives you two options: you can either buy another mini-USB charge cable, or simply accept that the A50 cannot be used while charging.

This battery lasts around eight to ten hours, but that kind of life takes a long time to charge. A wireless headset defeats the purpose of being wireless if you go the “longer charge cable” route. I prefer to not use it while it charges, but then of course that means no A50.



Connectivity
Being a wireless headset, the A50 has two important types of connectivity: Its wireless connection, and its varied output/input types.

Firstly, the wireless connection between transmitter and headset is one of the strongest I’ve heard. The device features wireless connectivity at 5.8 GHz, a frequency that operates at a higher level compared to other wireless devices causing less interference. My experience with the A50 had virtually no audio drop, which was a first for me when using a wireless headset. Typically, there is some buzzing or humming from a headset’s power source or the wireless signal. The A50 is completely silent when its supposed to be. The new technology is quite impressive.

The transmitter has the same connectivity as the A40, but with an added optical out passthrough port. It also has a USB port for charging purposes and an auxiliary in port.
 

Comfort
Similar to the rest of the ASTRO family, the A50 is built for long gaming sessions. This headset rests well on the head and over the ears, and provides a seriously comfortable experience. They do get hot after the first hour due to the internal power source, but its comfort is comparable to the A40’s, minus this inconvenience.

 


Sound
The A50 provides a slight step up from the already stellar A40. Dolby 7.1 surround sound is possible and sounds as full as bomb explosions or roaring car chases should in a movie or video game.

I found an improvement in the scope of the surround sound compared to the A40. Directional sound is essential in a gaming headset such as this, if you want to use it to elevate your FPS game. The A50 provides that edge.

Dialog is crystal clear as is the deep base of action sequences. If your preference is to hear surround footsteps, the three presets adjust the levels for each frequency of sound.

The A50 truly shines when worn while watching an action movie. It sounds like wearing a movie theater on your head.

The sound is clear at low levels, but pushing it to high caused the entire headset to rattle on my head. I wouldn’t recommend turning the volume up that high, but if you’re into blasting your eardrums with game audio, prepare for that to arise.  


Bottom Line
The A50 comes with a price tag of $299, which is only $50 more than the A40. If you’re in the market, it’s absolutely worth the extra $50 to take away the headache of wires.

This is a premium gaming headset and a premium is what you will pay. But is it worth it? Absolutely. This isn’t a must own for any gamer, but headsets rarely are. If you’re a gamer and you fancy yourself an audiophile, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better gaming headset it its class. ASTRO Gaming continues its reputation of quality products with the A50.

 

9 out of 10

 



Pros:
The first ASTRO headset that is completely wireless
7.1 Dolby Digital audio with virtually no wireless interference
User friendly button layout
Mic mutes automatically when raised.

Cons:
Doesn’t contain a charge cable long enough to comfortably use during gaming 

 

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