Having had the pleasure of experiencing Astro Gaming products before, I got a little twitch of excitement when I heard I would be testing out the new A50’s. I myself own a pair of A40’s and I simply love them. Although side by side there isn't much difference between them but in the technology this a massive difference the a50’s are still the same form factor as the a40s but now house the Mixamp.
ASTRO Gaming in their own words have invaded your living rooms with this device. The A50 provides dolby 7.1 surround sound that will be more crisp than a field of freshly fallen snow and have greater clarity than even the most finely spoken English gentlemen. Ok maybe they are my words and not Astros but the fact of the matter is that’s the A50’S are a top shelf product that promises to be worth every penny of its £249.99 price tag.
When taking the A50’s out the box for the first time you instantly get the look and feel of quality that you would expect form any Astro product. The matt finish looks great just as it does on the A40’s and compliments the retro feel that the red coiled wires and power LED brings to the headset. The stand, which the headset sits upon to charge, has a neat, simple and professional design and also houses the control hub if desired.
The Lithium-Ion battery pack is now non-removable. These bad boys are extremely hard wearing but should you require having them replaced at any time it will take a trip to Astros workshop. Although the customer service has always been great so this is nothing more than an inconvenience rather than a deal breaker of any kind.
A cleaver bit of engineering moved the A40’s mixamp into the A50’s earpiece removing some of the clutter you got with the old setup. Although this does make the headset a smidgen heavier it is not noticeable in the slightest. In fact due to the design of the padding the weight of the headset is better distributed while being worn giving the impression that it is actually lighter than the 40’s. You also get improved comfort from the padding that allows the headset to snugly sit upon your bonce.
Another feature that I quite liked was the automatic shut off if the headset was left idle for too long. This can be sometimes frustrating if your gaming on your PC and you tab out to read something for ten minutes then tab back to find it off. It's an energy saving feature that is built in so it can't be disabled so if your going to be swapping in and out of games at least be prepared to press the on switch each time. I personally like it as it lengthens time between charging and the on button takes one second to sort out.
Volume controls are nestled on the right hand earpiece. Front and back for game and voice control and the master volume dial that sits under the right cup. All easy to reach and easy to memorize and use. Another change with regards to this is the new mic mute when you holster the mic arm up. A neat feature we have seen on some other headsets. The addition of this however has shunned customer tags…our lovely DG tags! This also prevents the mic being detachable which may take away something from its multi purpose nature.
Quality comes from making a big deal out of the little details; buttons have start up and shut down noises and the control box now turns off instantly instead of having a lengthy delay as with the A40’s.These little improvements throughout the design strengthen the overall feel of the product, and the A50’s feel great. The ease of use and exciting design makes the A50’s a pleasure to use.
Cool looks and features aside, it is time to tackle the meat and potatoes of any headset and that is the quality of sound, this is what it comes down to when all is said and done. Astro Gaming have also released a firmware update to improve the A50’s sound as some users reported sound drops, our set are running the 1.1 firmware upgrade. A few areas such as background noise cancellation and volume balancing issues had have been looked at. So safe to say I have high expectations.
It did more than meet my expectations, I was blown away. If you compare them with the A40’s on paper you can only really see evolution over revolution but the results of Astro Gaming’s tinkering have had some great results. I have been skeptical reading so many other people say “this is the best headset I have ever used” as for me this is simply not the case, when it comes down to basic sound quality at least. However other than the PC360’s from Sennheiser this had to be the best sound I had personally experienced with a multipurpose gaming headset.
The A50’s soundscape is incredible I can only describe it as the same feeling you get when going to cinema and you feel that great warmth of sound that simply sweeps through you. The sound range is fantastic bringing every little noise to life and gives the bass a healthy dose of gusto. This is party thanks to slightly deepening the cans, which also has the added bonus of less sound leakage.
The surround sound works exceptionally well, even through chaotic FPS multiplier games where it’s hard to distinguish friend form foe. With the aid of the DG team we thoroughly tested all three separate sound options from the preset collection on the back of the headset. We literally spent two hours jumping in and out of games while cleansing our aural pallet in between with various music, pro tip don’t use the media setting for gaming.
While playing MW3, Transformers Fall of Cybertron and Halo Reach I got a good feel for how the headset performs across different sound qualities. Halo Reach has fantastically strong audio. Modern Warfare 3 is dirty and chaotic and Transformers gives you that big movie feel while playing it. Across all three games it became very clear how good the spatial awareness that the A50's provided was. I could literally hear every bullet, feel every grenade and feel my heart sink when a power sword powers up behind me. That's the worst feeling isn't it. We tried creeping up on each other, planting equipment and the person using the A50's got such a clear advantage it was crazy.
There are a few features that are unfortunately missing that prevent the 50’s from completely dominating the competition.. Bluetooth integration has become increasingly more prevalent with multi-use headsets to allow greater flexibility with certain systems and the simple option to answer your phone calls without messing about with your headset (although it may be hard to hold a proper conversation while going for a hat trick on Fifa perhaps. any maybe a little rude?).
The headset itself is very simple to set up far wireless/surround sound systems go, two connections into the hub and you done. Unless you using the headset on the Xbox 360. You are forced to use the chat cable to properly communicate. There is no doubt in my mind that the Astro A50’s have come on leaps and bounds over their older A40 brother, but a wired headset in some form or another is still a step backwards in my opinion, for now though some wires are a necessary evil we all must endure even if the problem is only the Xbox 360 chat cable. It’s hard being a gamer eh? This is mainly due to the design of the Xbox so the blame can't be really left at Astro's feet.
The A50’s will work in this way with a PC, Mac, PS3 and 360 along with a great many mobile devices. What they have done to make the headset more wireless is remove the need for the cable to headset wire that was often responsible for the sling-shot your expensive tech across your living room when someone tripped on it. Nice one.
Testing out the range and clarity of the wireless I found I had no problems moving around, I even went and stood in my kitchen and made a drink while chatting on the headset. It works best however with clear line of sight.
A50 Headset with Li-Ion Battery,Astro Wireless 5.8 Ghz Transmitter w/ KleerNet™, Headset Stand, 1.0M USB Power Cable, 0.5M USB Charging Cable, 1.0M Optical Cable, 1.5M XBOX Live® Chat Cable
20Hz - 20,000 KHz
Weight w/o cable:
118 db @1kHz
2.5mm XBOX Live® chat port, Mini-USB port
6.0mm uni-directinal noise canceling
USB mini-B (USB 2.0 compatible)
5.8GHz STS Module
Optical In, AUX In (3.5mm)
Optical Passthrough, USB Power & Voice, USB Charging Port
Here you have a high-end high quality headset. It gives great sound and speech quality It is comfortable, it is great looking and has impressive battery life…it’s a fantastic headset that should be seriously considered by any gaming enthusiast. There are a few small areas that could have been changed but that would have pushed the price even higher and are such footnote issues that they are not even really even worth worrying about. The A50’s are an improvement on the A40’s mostly in design. Upgrading may not be cost effective but you’re a first time Astro buyer then coughing up the little extra cash to go for these is definitely sensible in my books.
Some of the points raised by Chris are valid in my opinion, but what I will point out is, the a50s are completely wireless except for xbox360, as you still require a chat lead. What the a50s do have in their favour and this is a big one, it will work with every system straight out of the box full compatibility, so if you’re a multi platform gamer a50s are an obvious choice. Although on paper the a40s seem pretty much the same as the a50s make no mistake, the sound is a notch or two up when compared. Comparing with my pc360 on a wired astro mixamp, there is little to no difference in sound detail Pc360s do take the edge but not as blatant. Great thing about AstroGaming, there headsets are not full of gimmicks, and audio is paramount. Even audiophiles who use headphones such as audio technica, grado, sennhieser still use the astro Mixamp for that pleasure, so hardware wise that speaks volumes.
Incredible sound quality
7.1 surround sound
Expensive…but worth every penny
Ease of use
Multiformat and multipurpose
No removable mic
No customer Tags
Still wired to some extent(Xbox360 only)