Tech Up! Astro A50 Wireless Headset Review

By Justin Prinsloo 16.03.2020

Astro's A50 wireless headset is back for a fourth generation in spectacular fashion. Boasting some under the hood revamps and a much sleeker looking base station, it's clear that Astro has shot for the stars in attempting to make this the wireless gaming headset to beat, improving even further upon 2017's model, the Gen 3's - an already exemplary big-budget piece of gear. The latest A50 model certainly boasts more than a few bells and whistles, but does it deliver where it counts?

 
Astro has made its name by delivering high quality goods that not only perform well but look good doing it. It's safe to say that the fourth Gen A50 is no exception; this is what true premium looks and feels like. The build quality is exceptional, crafted from malleable but durable plastic, housing some excellent padding around the ears and headband to ensure maximum comfort for as long as you have these on. The twin cylinders that protrude from the sides of the earcups and serve to adjust the fit size have an unmistakeable appearance, what with the measurement lines running along them to make it easy to find and re-find the perfect fit. These are eye-catching in the truest sense.
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The Astro A50 is relatively easy to set up. On PC, the base station needs to be plugged in via USB, and a few options tinkered with in your system's sound settings, all of which are laid out in the comprehensive manual included in the box. This rings true on consoles as well, although an additional optical cable is needed (also included in the box). The headset promises a decent battery life, too, with up to 15 hours on a full charge. One of the A50's neatest gimmicks is that it uses internal gyros to detect micro-movements, meaning that if you put the headphones down on the table and wander off, they'll turn off automatically, and turn back on as soon as they're picked up again.
 
The microphone attached to the left ear can be muted by flipping it upright, and the volume dial is located on the right ear along with a few other buttons. The outer ear has a couple of buttons used for balancing the audio between 'Voice' and 'Game' in order to adjust the audio mix on the fly. On the rear of the earcup above the volume dial is the power switch, a button to toggle the excellent Dolby Audio, and an EQ button used to cycle between one of three available presets. The positioning of these buttons is fairly awkward and takes some fumbling to get used to, but they all contribute to giving the A50 some serious customisability.
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In terms of audio quality, these beauties pack some serious firepower. The bass sounds stunning, and is complemented by some excellent performance in the mids and highs too. This makes any game feel many times more immersive, particularly if you are coming from lower quality audio. Many competitive gamers would scoff at the notion that some particularly dynamic headphones could alter one's performance to a significant degree, but these truly do make every sound so much more identifiable by dint of the omnidirectional audio on offer here, so it's no exaggeration that they could give you an edge in competitive play.
 
As mentioned, this comes with Dolby Audio built in, which works marvellously with Astro Audio V2 to deliver some excellent surround sound that is some of the best that a gaming headset can offer. Working in tandem with all these options is the base station, which handily has LEDs to display battery level, an icon to display when Dolby Audio is enabled, an EQ profile indicator, and a light to show the chosen platform. The model Cubed3 reviewed was for PC and PS4, but a PC and Xbox One version is also available. The base station operates as a cradle for the headset, which crisply and magnetically slots into the grooves. The quality of the microphone has also seen a significant bump up from previous A50 generations. There is a wealth of options available in the Astro Command Centre to finetune audio input to ensure that you're sounding your best.
 
Speaking of the Astro Command Centre, to use the A50 without optimising it in this PC software would be heresy, particularly because it's free to download. It does a remarkable job of simplifying some of the complex customisation options that are available. Four different noise gate settings are accessible to allow for or mitigate background noise, from a low gated 'Streaming' option to the more highly gated 'Tournament' mode, and everything in between. The mic level can easily be adjusted here too, as can the side tone to change the level of your own voice being fed back through the headphones.
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The equaliser is where things get truly exciting. In fact, the level of customisability available when it comes to adjusting each audio frequency is quite overwhelming, and it's recommended that this isn't touched unless you're a dauntless audiophile. Most gamers will be quite content to flip between the available presets, which are aptly labelled for each of their intended uses, from 'Media' to 'Studio' to 'Pro.' Furthermore, there are settings to adjust the mix when streaming, making this headset an ideal addition not just for tournament-goers and audiophiles, but for streamers too. In fact, this might be one of the most compelling "all-rounder" gaming headsets available.
 
The synergy on exhibition between the headset, base station and software is truly a joy to experience and testament to Astro's penchant for going above and beyond to provide high quality audio and gear. The only significant gripe this reviewer has with them is the level of audio bleed that they emit - pretty much everything at mid to high volumes leaks and is audible to anyone within earshot. In order to mitigate this, you'd have to shell out for the A50 Mod Kit which comes with some more rigid earmuffs - a discouraging prospect when held alongside the already eye-watering asking price of the base A50.
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9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
The Astro A50 headset promises absolute immersion, and grandly delivers on this promise. From the sleek design and fine-tuned Command Centre software to the very impressive Dolby audio, the headset smacks of top-drawer bang for your back. This bad boy looks and sounds great, and the improvements made over the previous generation only serve to enforce the Gen 4's exemplary quality. Aside from some audio leakage, this headset is certainly one to beat.

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