In the world of gaming headsets, few brands are better known than ASTRO. They’ve made a name for themselves by delivering headsets for gamers of every budget, often staking out displays big displays in department stores like Walmart and Best Buy. We’ve had the chance to try out the latest version of the company’s flagship, the A50 Wireless and Base Station (Gen 4) and are ready to answer the question: at $299, should this be your next high-end purchase? Read on to find out.
- Current Price: $299.99
- Platform: PC, Xbox One
- Transducer Principle: Open Air
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20,000Hz
- Characteristic SPL: 118dB @1kHz
- Weight w/o Cable: 0.83 lbs (380g)
- Battery Life: 15 hours (standby time approx. 20 months)
- Microphone: 6.0mm uni-directional, voice isolating
- Frequency Response: 100 - 12kHz
- Ear Coupling: Over-Ear
- Drivers: 40mm Neodymium Magnet
- Wireless: Up to 30ft
- Power Supply: USB Micro-B (USB 2.0 compatible)
- Wireless: Up to 30ft
- Inputs and Outputs: Optical Pass-through, USB Power & Soundcard, USB Charging Port, AUX In / Mic out (TRRS 3.5mm)
- Output: 5.0V, 180mA
- Weight w/o Cable: .70 lbs
- Dimensions: 8.5”/4.25”/1.15”
ASTRO’s line-up is long and varied, covering headsets across every major platform and catering to every kind of gamer, from the budget-constrained to those that demand only the best. The A50 Wireless Gen 4 is the latter, coming in at the top of the company’s product stack and featuring the very best in features and comfort amenities the company has to offer. It also offers a number of improvements over the last generation, including the new ASTRO Audio V2 system, a vastly improved microphone, an upgraded base station, and a sleeker more refined look.
I’m not a big one for packaging, but I can appreciate when a company goes above and beyond to deliver an exceptional unboxing experience; it is your first impression, after all, and at this price point you want to feel like you’ve chosen something exceptional. That’s definitely the case here. ASTRO has packaged the A50s in a solid cardboard box that’s decorated to be a display item once the unpackaging is done. After you remove the outer sleeve, the inner box is decorated with artwork and opens like a book to display the headphones in a nice window. You really feel like you’ve bought a premium product with this one; it makes a stellar first impression.
Solid Upgrades from Gen 3
When it comes to headphones themselves, I enjoyed the overall design, so it’s nice to see ASTRO didn’t do anything radically different this generation. The structure and size are largely the same, including the distinctive adjustment bars that give the A50s their distinctive look.
What they have changed is the controls and it’s a definite improvement. Rather than rely on switches for selecting your equalizer setting and power, we now have buttons. This makes the earcup more uniform and the buttons easy to use. On the last generation, I’d have to hold the side of the earcup to keep it in place when changing equalizer settings; a button feels much more refined. The volume control is still a roller, though, which is nice.
Another nice change is that the game-chat balance is now integrated right onto the face of the opposite earcup. Pressing either side adjusts the audio balance in that direction. The buttons are tactile enough to prevent miss-clicks, too, which is nice.
Another update is actually hidden behind the cushions. Taking a cue from companies like Sony and Sennheiser, the drivers are now angled to direct sound into your ear. It’s a small change but a meaningful one as it avoids small lost details by having a more direct path to your eardrum.
The base station has also been upgraded. On the rear, there is a now a toggleable switch to select your platform. Ours was the Xbox/PC model, but it’s the same for PS4. We also have our TOSLink connections, auxiliary and charge connections, and Micro-USB for PC connectivity.
ASTRO Audio V2
The big selling point of this new generation is something ASTRO is calling ASTRO Audio V2. It’s a system, not a singular feature. Let’s go through exactly what they’ve changed.
Redesigned and upgraded drivers. The headset uses 40mm dynamic drivers utilizing a hybrid mesh material for enhanced clarity and less distortion. The drivers have been tuned with surround sound in mind and to eliminate the most ironic issue many surround sound headsets face: less positionality when surround sound is turned on, resulting from lower quality drivers and over processing.
In my testing, I found the A50s to be very good, especially with Dolby Atmos enabled. Each A50 Wireless comes with a free two-year Atmos license too, so there’s no reason not to use it. With surround sound enabled on the headset and Atmos enabled on the PCs, spatial positioning is outstanding. I could tell exactly where enemies were whether they were above me, behind me, or clamoring around to the left and right on the floor below. The original A50s were already good in this respect but they’ve really taken it up a notch.
Another thing that really stood out to me was how well the headphones handled bass response. I always enjoy running gaming headsets through bass tests on YouTube to see how they handle powerful low frequencies. Some shake and distort, but the A50s provided a tight rounded bass profile that was very impressive. This was also true in my other audio testing, across metal, hip hop, and streaming action movies and orchestral soundtracks.
ASTRO Command Center Software. Like the previous generation of A50, the A50 Gen 4 features its own ASTRO Command Center software suite. Here you can customize your own EQ profiles and save them to the device. The stock profiles have also been improved, so you may not find this necessary. For gaming, you have the ASTRO profile which emphasizes tightly tuned bass. Consider this the “fun” profile. Next, we have the PRO profile which pushes the mids and highs, emphasizing important cues like footsteps and dropping out the bass. Finally, we have my personal favorite, STUDIO which is more balanced profile that, in my opinion, shows the drivers at their best. It’s a more neutral profile, which is great for picking out details in music.
Upgraded Base Station. We’ve already shown the physical improvements but the base station also has improved latency, so staying in sync when streaming video is flawless. ASTRO also claims that the base station is designed to be more resistant to interference from other wireless sources, though I never had an issue with that on the original. Additionally, it extends the range of the headset up to 30-feet. I was able to walk up to two bedrooms away in my upstairs before the signal started to degrade, which is impressive.
Usage Impressions and Final Thoughts
Using the new A50s for a week, I found myself impressed. It can be hard for the average consumer to put your finger on exactly what’s different in ASTRO’s models year over year - I wish they would change the unchanging naming scheme. But actually using them shows a definite improvement in the quality of the sound, especially when surround sound is enabled.
They’re also quite comfortable. The padding is plentiful and the velour finish on the ear cushions doesn’t trap heat the same way leather does; at the same time, it’s also not as noise isolating, but a Mod Kit will be available that gives you an option if you want to “slip away” into your soundscape.
Reviewing headsets has shown me that the top of my head is sensitive to heavy headsets and this one tends toward that side. I did need to take a break after a couple hours but your mileage may vary, especially if you have longer hair than my close crop.
Battery life was surprisingly good. At 15 hours, I was able to use them for most of a week before they ran dry. Outside of my testing, though, I don’t think this will ever become an issue. Since they charge simply by setting them in the dock, they automatically recharge every night completely eliminating any battery life issue.
I was most impressed with the microphone. It has been an amazing year for headset mics between Logitech’s Pro X headset with Blue Voice software, Audio-Technica’s excellent ATH-G1WL and it’s outstanding wireless mic, and now the A50. The mic last generation sounded anemic and compressed - common qualities among wireless mics. The mic here is full-bodied, uncompressed, and right up there with good wired mics. I have to give big props for that.
Overall, this headset is a solid improvement over last generation. It feels well-built and solid, offering excellent surround sound with a free two-year Dolby Atmos license included, and one of the best wireless mics you’ll find for streaming. It’s expensive and certainly caters to the “best of the best” hardware crowd, but if you can afford it, ASTRO hit a home run with the A50 Wireless Gen 4.
- Outstanding surround sound
- Improved controls on each earcup (MixAmp is now embedded)
- Improved wireless range
- Comfortable cushions that don’t get too warm
- Excellent wireless mic
- Still a bit heavy
The product discussed in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.