What good is the best sound if I can’t enjoy it on my brand new console? I was faced with this problem when I unpacked the A50 gaming headset from Astro in anticipation and wanted to try it out for the first time. Connection to the Xbox One? No problem with the optical connection. But: The Series X has no such connection. A fact that Astro has fortunately remedied with a firmware update. Because if a headset costs 320 euros, then it should support the latest technology, right?
The Astro A50 delivers top-class sound
After this initially, subtly confusing circumstance, the A50 then showed its strong side. Above all, this affects the sound that spreads out of the 40mm drivers towards your ears. Sounds good, dynamic, clear in the highs and has a lot of bass to offer. Or to put it another way, the sound is worth the price. The question is more, are you willing to pay that price? I am being so honest and saying that I am not sure I would spend that much money on a headset even if it had the best sound in the world.
Of course, everyone has their own sensations and pain limits. But no matter that the A50 delivers superb sound – including 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos – there is no doubt about that when gaming. In Star Wars Squadrons you can literally feel when the TIE fighter in your crosshairs burns up in a glistening ball of fire or an imperial cruiser breaks apart after heavy fire. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the ambient noises as you cross England invite you to take a short break and relax and dream to briefly enjoy the babbling of the river and the chirping of birds in the background. In contrast, the fights sound martial and convey the force behind Eivo’s blows and blows. The roar of the powerful engine sounds in Dirt 5 is no less brilliant and makes you happy when you listen to the noises of racing cars.
This also extends to other entertainment areas such as film, TV and music, although it performs best when it comes to gaming. Which I don’t want to give the impression that there are problems with everything except gaming. No, it sounds just as great, even though I have the feeling that when I play I can get that little bit more out of it. And yet: I can’t get enough of Queen’s legendary Bohemian Rhapsody, the A50 pampers my ears with precise reproduction in both the quieter and louder passages. John Williams’ Imperial March hammers out of the drivers with the force necessary to make me believe that a company of stormtroopers is deployed behind me. Hamilton literally lets me feel the deep bass of his music. Each of the pieces I heard was a real pleasure to listen to. It hardly matters whether I play quieter songs that put the voice in the foreground – Queens Who Wants To Live Forever – or play music in which the motto is: the louder the better – 30 seconds to Mars’ This is War, Within Temptations The Reckoning or Nightwishs The Greatest Show on Earth, in which quieter tones and powerful sounds alternate.
As for movies, I tried the A50 with a couple of Star Wars movies. Sorry, but the Star Wars nerd in me just comes through, you have to live with that. In episode 4: A New Hope, it felt like the Star Destroyer who was initially hunting for Princess Leia’s corvette was racing through my living room. However, the opening moments of Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith still give me goosebumps, especially when the sound is as thrilling as it is here. The drums pound from the headset drivers, announcing the impending disaster as the two Jedi Interceptors race close to the surface of the Venator-class Star Destroyer and then plunge into the chaotic frenzy of battle over Coruscant. And Rogue One bombards you in the final third with a veritable firework of action that gives you the feeling of lying in the trenches and feeling the impacts around you while the rebels on the beach of Scarif in their endeavor to steal the Death Star plans attack the imperial base.
Depending on the type of use, there are also different presets, for example the pro mode for gamers. This is suitable for you if you can do without bass, because it reduces the bass level so that you can hear steps or other noises better, for example. Astro mode is a good balance of everything and studio mode is more suitable for music and movies. Or you can play around with the settings in the Astro Command software and find what suits you best. The Astro A50 is flexible in this regard.
The quality of the sound does not end up in your ears alone, the microphone of the A50 also does a good job and transmits your voice in an understandable manner to everyone who is listening to you. But there’s still room for improvement, it’s not the best of the best that Astro has to offer in this area. The microphone is muted by tilting it upwards. If you pull the microphone down, you activate it. It couldn’t be easier.
Gimmicks with the Astro A50 and what that means for the runtime
Speaking of tilting. A nice gimmick is that the headset recognizes whether you are wearing it on your head or whether it is, for example, resting around your neck or lying on the table. In that case, it switches to a kind of standby mode and reactivates itself if you put it on correctly. Nice, as I said. Perfect? No. Standby mode consumes battery power, so it makes more sense to turn off the headset if you won’t be using it for a while.
The charging takes place via the base station, which you connect to your console or PC. Simply stand on it and the magnets it contains hold the A50 in place to supply it with delicious new electricity so that it can continue to serve you. Small disadvantage: the base station is connected to the respective device via USB. And if this is not connected to the power supply, the headset cannot be charged via the station. Overall, one charge gives you a running time of around 15 hours. It takes just under three hours to fully charge it. Quite a long time if you could use it. In this case, it is better to use a USB cable to charge it so that it can still be used at the same time.
The Astro A50 is available in two versions
By the way: The A50 is available in the PC / Xbox and PC / PlayStation variants. The base station is kept in an inconspicuous black look – partly matt, partly glossy. Fits wonderfully with the headset and is not overly conspicuous next to the PC and television. The A50 transmits its data using 5GHz technology, and according to Astro, the range is around twelve meters. Well, such maximum ranges are rather insignificant for gaming, but at least the connection remained stable and without interference when I pushed the headset off my head and moved into the kitchen to get a drink or pursue other needs. In the living room on the couch in front of the TV, I had no problems with disconnections either, everything was stable. As far as the rest of the apartment is concerned, it all depends a little on the structure or the walls.
As mentioned before, you can define your own settings for the sound profile using the Astro Command Center software. Here you play around with highs, lows, bass and all sorts of options, set your own profiles and so on. You can also regulate communication via microphone individually and use the profiles to set up your own settings for different games, for example. Which is very useful if – depending on the title – you want to hear steps or you want it to be a lot of buzzing after explosions and gunfire.
In terms of design, the A50 is presented in a similarly chic black as the base station. There are no big gimmicks, everything is functional and the buttons can be found on the right auricle. It sits comfortably on the head – even after long gaming sessions – and can be flexibly adjusted or moved. The construction and the material used definitely do justice to the price. Everything leaves a neatly built, extremely stable impression. If you want, you can also use a mod kit to replace the existing, fluffy ear pads and headband with alternatives made of synthetic leather. According to Astro, they then provide even better noise shielding. But it already does a good job in the standard version.
Astro was a little frugal when it came to the cables supplied. Both the micro-USB cable and the optical cable are each one meter long, which doesn’t give you much flexibility in setting up. Depending on your setup, you are severely restricted in terms of placement and you have to buy an additional cable.
Astro A50 wireless gaming headset (Gen 4) review – conclusion
On the whole, Astro delivers an excellent performance with the A50 in terms of both sound and workmanship. It is primarily suitable for gaming and shows its strengths there, even though music, film and the like don’t really sound worse. The only question that remains is whether you are ready to pay such a high price for a headset? If you are putting that much money into your hand, it should be a longer-term investment. The good thing is that the A50 doesn’t leave the impression that it isn’t – and it works with the new consoles as well, albeit only after a firmware update. From my point of view, there isn’t one huge point of criticism about the A50. If there is something to complain about, it is rather small things … the short cables, the imperfect microphone, charging in the base station via USB alone. These aren’t huge annoyances in everyday life, it performs its job with flying colors when playing. And if you use it primarily for listening, you don’t care about the microphone quality either way.
You can use the headset at Amazon.de to order.
- Manufacturer: Astro
- Compatible with: PC / PlayStation or PC / Xbox
- Release date: Available
- Price: around 320 euros