Review: Astro A50 Wireless Headset + Mixamp

Many gamers underestimate the huge impact audio has on creating a fully immersible experience. The Astro A50 will entice you into replaying old favorites just to experience the breathtaking audio that we were all meant to enjoy.

A good headset is one of the few gaming accessories that can really enhance the immersive experience in video games. Surround sound is an experience which can turn mere footsteps into reverberating fear. A headset with a mic is also essential for online gamers who wish to communicate with teammates on console without having to interrupt their gaming experience. As for any PC gamer, especially ones raiding endgame content in an MMO, it is an absolute necessity.

The Astro A50 is exactly what you’re looking for in a reliable, omni-compatible, high quality headset. Sporting Dolby 7.1 thanks to the Dolby Pro Logic IIx, realism levels in-game increase dramatically. Hearing a missile whiz by your ear can make even the most hardcore of gamers think twice about leaving cover. Be it explosions, music, video, highs, lows, mid, we found nothing this headset doesn’t perform to with only the highest pillar of perfection. To be honest, for the price of a console, we expected nothing less. Break open the piggy banks, ladies and gentlemen, the A50 will run you a cool $300 (+tax).

Ok, so the A50 isn’t perfect. It’s pricey and doesn’t have full Xbox 360 wireless compatibility, but it makes up for it, and then some. Astro Gaming began competing with established brands such as Turtle Beach and Mad Catz in 2006 and is becoming one of the most versatile headset designers in the business.

DESIGN

When designing a high quality headset, especially a wireless one, some sacrifices must be made. One such sacrifice is size. Wireless headsets need to incorporate a battery, along with enough speakers to produce Dolby 7.1 Digital quality sound. Keeping this in mind, Astro has created one of the most comfortable headset designs we have tested to date. The A50 isn’t a light headset, but with cleverly designed foam at the top of the headband along with earcuffs that don’t press into your ears, they sit comfortable and can be worn for hours with ease.

The cuffs are large and will fit almost any ear size comfortably. The A50 comes in one color, black with red cables running along the sides, overall a very eye-catching scheme that masks the unit’s bulky size.

The stand is also black, with the mixamp matching the headset’s colors. Two buttons sit that enable power and Dolby 7.1 switch for extended battery life. A nice feature that many high end over-the-ear headphones these days have been featuring is rotating earcuffs. Astro decided this would be a nice feature and has also given us full 180° movement to ensure that almost anybody could have the headset lay neatly around the collarbone and nestled the foam padding behind the neck for a comfortable resting position.

 

INTERFACE AND SPECS: 

Weight : .81 pounds

Color: Black, accented with orange/red

Cuffs: Over the ear

Connection Type: Wireless (RF)

Drivers Per Ear: 1

Surround Sound

Microphone

Independence:  48 Ω

Frequency response low : 35 Hz

Frequency response high : 20000 Hz

Battery Time : 8-12 Hrs

Dolby 7.1

Wireless Range : ~ 35 Feet

Input: Optical/AUX

The A50’s interface is almost exclusively on the right earcuff. The volume adjustment wheel accurately modifies the output of your headphones, without changing system volume.  Although the voice/game volume is also able to be modified, they exist on the same channel, meaning once you find the sweet spot, rarely will you need to adjust this option. A power button also rests on top of the equalizer switch. The A50s have three different settings.

1. Pro: Highs are accented for crystal clear voice and game sound.

2. Media: Heavy lows and increased bass for those of us that enjoy goo tunes during hardcore slaughter sessions. 3.

3. Core: Balance volume for equal outputs

One thing that bugs me a bit is the positioning of the power button. While it is simple to reach, it can be difficult to find in the dark as it is halfway nestled into the earcuff’s frame.

AUDIO QUALITY

This is what we’re here for. When it comes down to it, this is the main reason anybody would shell out 300 big ones for a headset. There isn’t much to say, other than superb. The A50 shines in all aspects of this category. The 7.1 is flawless in quality, every tiny implemented game sound transmits directly into your eardrum in a symphony of high quality audio sex. From extreme explosions to the quietest of whispers, the balance these headphones provide is just unbelievable.

I found a few 7.1 tests on YouTube that impressed me beyond belief. The audio does what it is supposed to, create the illusion of depth in almost any situation. Games like Battlefield 3 completely change with a good headset.


If microphone quality is a huge issue to you, than the A50 does not disappoint. Every single person I’ve voice chatted with has complimented me on the clarity of the microphone. Surrounding sounds are also muffled, creating crystal clear speech on PS3, PC, Mac, and Xbox 360. Although, for the 360, you will still need the talk cable since Madcatz owns the exclusive licence for this technology. The mic also has an extremely convenient swivel mute feature, which will instantly cut off all input when toggled upward. We call it, the Ninja Mute.

BATTERY LIFE

As with almost all modern wireless devices, the A50s incorporate a lithium Ion Battery. This means that in a few years it will need to be replaced, assuming you keep your headset for this long and at $300, you should.

Highest battery life achieved was roughly 12 hours on a full charge (6 hours) with a 360 with Dolby 7.1 turned off. Personally, i get roughly around 12-16 hours on PC due to its power conservation feature. While this is a great addition, it is also the one thing that I disliked about this headset. Whoever decided on the shut off and low power signal, know this, you have scared the everliving shit out of me on a daily basis. While the self-shut off feature occurs roughly after 10 minutes with no audio being transmitted, the low battery blip is even louder. This is the headset’s only flaw in my opinion. For many PC gamers, alt-tabbing to check emails, Facebook, or other websites can easily last for 10+ minutes. So there you are, reading some Nerd Reactor posts, when your ears explode due to not having played any audio for 10 minutes.

Might I suggest in the future a gentle vibration feature upon self-shutoff or low battery warnings?

FINAL VERDICT

At $300 , this is a pricey item, but definitely a worthwhile investment. While reattaching cables when changing systems can become quite arduous, it is well worth it. For anyone with multiple systems, looking for a reliable, powerful, stylish headset, the A50 is ideal.

Pros: 

  • Easy setup with user friendly interface
  • High quality Dolby 7.1 Surround
  • Wireless up to 35 feet
  • High quality microphone
  • Cross-system compatibility
  • Ninja Mute
  • Long Battery life
  • Multiple EQ settings
  • Stylish and presentable

Cons:

  • Extremely loud power signals
  • No full wireless with Xbox 360
  • Won’t end world hunger ( ok, maybe this one’s a stretch )

FINAL GRADE : A

 Additional Awards: TBA

  1. Nerd Reactor Christmas list 2012 top headset
  2. Writer’s choice Headset of the year 2012

Adam Kharakov

Adam “kharakov” Kharat is part nerd, part geek, and full awesome. With deadly writing skills and the sleeping habits of a jackrabbit, late night gaming sessions are all but mandatory.

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