You might know of Astro Gaming if you're the type to dual wield PC and console. The company's flagship product, the A50, has become the go-to headset for many over the years—earning itself a reputation for high-end console gaming and a suitor in Logitech in the process. But how does console's finest, in its fourth iteration, fare against PC's greatest hits? There's still some work to do yet, that's for sure.
The A50 is rather restrained in style, it's available in either black or black (one with subtle gold accents and the other with silver), but the unique tubular band is striking. It's handy, too, with measurements on either side to ensure even adjustments to find a good fit.
Your audio experience is almost entirely controllable from the headset itself, too, although the Astro Command Center app is available for further deep-dives into the equaliser. On the headset itself you'll find game/voice balance control, a power switch, an EQ preset switch for swift game/music switching, and a Dolby switch for imitation surround sound.
The headset comes packed with a wireless base station, and it displays all the vital information you might require, such as your choice of EQ preset and battery life indicator. Bear in mind, if you're hoping for a little dual-gaming system use, this base station is compatible with either the Xbox platform or PS4, not both. Both PS4 and Xbox headset versions are compatible with PC, however, so take your pick depending on which is cheaper. The one I received for review is intended for PC/PS4.
The base station acts as a 2.4GHz wireless dongle, sound card, and charging station for the A50's 15-hour internal battery. Once you're done with your headset for the day, just whack it back into the charging station and it's good to go for the next. The 15-hour battery definitely has you covered for the duration of all but the most intense, and irresponsible, of gaming sessions, and so long as you ensure to load the headset back onto the dock overnight then you'll never run out of juice.
In order to conserve precious battery life further, the A50 also comes with an auto shut-off feature, which is enabled when the headset remains perfectly still for a short period of time.
With some smart functionality to keep power draw to a minimum, the A50's dock charging system makes for easy listening without the fear of sudden, awkward power loss. Yet it's not quite as convenient as the interchangeable batteries available with the SteelSeries' Arctis Pro Wireless and hub.
And that's an important battle for the Astro A50. In the PC space, at least, the Steelseries Arctis Wireless Pro is arguably its fiercest competitor. Both headsets want to blow an equally mammoth hole in your bank account: the A50 will set you back a whopping $300 (£300), as will the Steelseries Arctis Pro Wireless. And with it all tied up in price, it comes down to who wore it best.
Drivers - 40mm Neodymium Magnet
Style - Over-ear
Connectivity - Wireless (2.4GHz)
Battery life - ~15 hours
Weight - 380g
Price - $300 (£300)
And frankly the audio isn't quite up to scratch. Especially at higher volume, the A50's sound profile can become quite congested. The bass is just a little too overpowering, even with the 'flat' Studio preset applied. And that's disappointing for a headset at this high a price point.
Most of all, it's the lack of noise isolation that has me hovering back to my Steelseries cans. The Astro A50's ear cups are comfy on the ear (the less said about the firm headband cushion, the better), but do very little to block out any of the noise from the room around me. While I'm often a fan of open-back designs, the Astro is sadly not of that ilk. Therefore you get all the downsides of an open-back design (outside distraction, loud keyboard sounds) without any of the upsides (expanded sound stage, natural timbre).
The aforementioned Command Centre app, too, feels like it could do with some UI work. While functionally succinct, the choice of grey on black text feels totally inaccessible. Difficult to read at the best of times, and surely impossible to navigate for users with partial vision, I cannot fathom why this decision was made.
And it's a shame, because I do believe that there's an underlying headset that has many redeeming qualities in the Astro Gaming A50. The design is a little different, and the dock system is simple and useful. But with a $300 (£300) asking price, you really want a gaming headset that can over-deliver in every respect, and the Astro A50, with a palette of mixed successes, doesn't quite fit the bill.