I’ve spent the last month and a half putting the latest Astro A50’s to the test, playing everything from shooters, RPG’s, and adventure titles. So, are these fully wireless headsets worth the $300 price tag? Read on to find out.
Presentation: It sounds a bit silly to some to discuss presentation for a product review, but in all honesty, it is important. As a graphic designer and illustrator, I understand how important presentation is in delivering the message of a product’s perceived value. If you go to a restaurant, most would expect that the plate not only tastes great, but also looks great. For that reason, part of my excitement when Astro sent over a pair for me to review, was actually looking at the packaging in person. Similar to the 2011 Astro A40’s, the A50’s are presented as a premium gaming product. The external box has a blend of exciting and sleek colors and shapes, invoking a sense of sophistication and edginess before you even open the box. Once opened, you’re presented with a very simple layout, with the Astro’s front and center, and the stand and cables underneath it. Putting the stand together is simple, and looks very sleek, matching the look and feel of the actual headset. Aesthetics and build quality of the headset are no different, in that it’s extremely well built, yet light-weight and comfortable.
Compared to the astro A40’s, there isn’t much different at first glance. Upon further inspection however, you will notice three key things: Firstly, the A50’s only come in one color-black. Secondly, the A50’s no longer grant the ability to customize your speaker tags. You are stuck with the default speaker tags that are built into the device. It’s not a big deal at all, but it does take away some of that customizability you may have been used to on older models, so if that is important to you, you may want to look at the aforementioned A40’s. Lastly, the speaker tags have been replaced with functional on-headset controls, which helps with unifying the experience to only the headset.
Functionality: On the right side, you have the controls for voice to game audio balancing, power button, volume rocker on the bottom, and an audio mode switch (media, gaming, and pro mode.) I wouldn’t say I got much value out of the other modes aside from pro, so I’d suggest not even bothering with any other modes, as they can dilute the audio quality. On the left side of the headsets you’ll find the boom microphone (which was strange for me because my previous headsets all had the microphone on the right.) While adjusting to this new change, I noticed something peculiar and innovative; moving the microphone to its upright position away from your mouth automatically sets the microphone to “mute”. I can’t say I’ve seen other gaming headsets use a functionality similar to these, and its much welcome here.
Audio quality is what you would expect from a premium audio device. Sounds are rich, clear, and base is heavy where it counts. I’ll admit, I’m no audiophile, but I do recognize good audio quality when I hear it. This headset has improved noise isolation due to the design of the cups, and audio on both ends, input and output through the microphone is very clear. The microphone quality is even better than the previous A40’s, which was already pretty good before. People on the opposite side of conversations always say they can hear me well, and testing it out myself through live-streaming gave similar results. The fact that these headsets are completely wireless, utilizing the 5.8 ghz frequency band is icing on the cake, but can be a flag for concern for those with several wireless devices that can access that frequency. I tested these headphones on the Playstation 4, and made sure to have the setup done properly and to the book.
Setup is pretty simple- Simply plug the optical cable into the back of your PS4, then into the back of the wireless transmitter’s “optical out” port. Next, plug the usb wire into wireless mixamp reciever, which then goes into the USB slot on the PS4, and your system should recognize that a headset is connected. The headsets should be paired already, so you don’t really have to worry about that part, but you’ll have to adjust your audio settings on your console. Once you’ve set the audio output to optical, and set the sound mode to Dolby Digital Surround Sound 7.1, and set the audio headset mode to chat only, you’re good to go! I did have some issues with a few things regarding connectivity, so let’s take a moment to talk about those issues.
If you listen closely, you can hear the high-frequency at play when interacting with certain elements that create subtle sounds. This is likely just an artifact of the wireless technology sending out frequencies, and most people may not even be able to hear it (the wonders of audio!) I noticed it, and it bothered me at first, having not experienced that with my previous headsets. And speaking of frequencies, I noticed some wireless transmission conflicts when using these headphones in my apartment. Since the playstation itself is wireless, which wirelessly talks to my ps4 controller, which is usually near my cell phone (which btw, is a piece of crap all on it’s own, and does cause interference when used in conjunction with this headset), paired with a laptop for recording gameplay, and a wireless router near the playstation and wireless transmitter, there were several times where people’s voices became distorted. I also noticed that my pair of A50’s somehow magically managed to unpair themselves a few times after my console has been on standby with everything plugged in. Perhaps if I changed the band on my airport extreme router, I wouldn’t have those issues, but reducing the number of wireless devices within close proximity typically yields better results. Just be mindful of the other wireless devices in your set up, and try to have your mixamp receiver further away from your console and router. The less interference the better. Overall, it has been a nuisance dealing with those issues, but not deal breaking- just something to consider in terms of keeping your expectations realistic in real world application.
Price: $300 is a lot of money, I’m not going to beat around the bush. With options like the the Playstation Pulse Gold headset available on amazon for $88, it’s hard to sell some on the value proposition. I haven’t had a chance to use those headphones, so I don’t know how they compare to the Pulse headsets, or Turtle Beach’s newly announced premium headphones.
Lasting Appeal: In the context of my experience with the A40’s and older turtlebeach headsets, I can say with confidence that the convenience and ease of set up for these headphones are worth the price alone. The fact that they hold a charge long enough to game continuously all day is an added bonus, but do expect to recharge the battery in between every few sessions. The fact that these come with everything you need out of the box to use them with your console, and that they come with a 30 day money back guarantee is a no brainer for anyone looking for a supreme audio experience.
- Great design and comfort
- Comes with everything you need
- Great audio & microphone quality
- A bit on the pricey side
- Can be more prone to interference than A40’s
- Non Customizable