Astro’s A50 headset manages to be simpler and more user-friendly than it’s ever been.
This is how every gaming peripheral should be. The newest edition of the Astro A50 (now available at Best Buy and Amazon for $299) is a drastic — and much needed — update over previous versions of the product, and it sets a new bar for gaming headset expectations, both in aesthetics and in tech.
The little annoyances of previous editions are gone now. In the early years of Astro, we saw separate mixer units here, extra Xbox One connection wires there, nuances to setup everywhere. We saw Astro work to get better, taking small steps toward improving issues plaguing the gaming headset industry as a whole.
This year, we see a leap forward. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the new A50s set up in a matter of minutes, connecting with exactly one wire (or maybe two, depending on your home setup). The new package includes the A50 headset, a micro-USB cable, and one base station, and the base station does most of the heavy lifting.
The base station has been completely redesigned, ditching the ungainly headset-hanger design in favor of a flat base that sits easily on a desk. The base connects to either your PC or your console with that micro-USB cable, and really, that’s the only setup needed here; the base station functions as both charging dock and wireless sync device. Charging and wireless data transfer is done through a dock that comes with the headset. To sync the headset to your console or PC, simply plug the dock in and you’re good to go. If you happen to own both a PS4 and Xbox One, it will be possible to purchase the other console’s dock and swap your headset between the two docks.
Plop the A50 headset onto the base station and, as long as your console is on, it’ll charge the headset automatically. Lift the headset off and turn it on, and it’s instantly in sync with your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC, ready for gaming action.
It’s simple and efficient, removing much of the annoyance that may have prevented more casual users from shying away from a high-end gaming headset, and it doesn’t stop there, either. The headphones themselves come equipped with an accelerometer, so the device can tell when it’s on your head, and when it’s been put down. It powers up and shuts itself down accordingly, conserving battery life. It also does so in speedy fashion so it’s never annoying; this isn’t one of those devices that takes 10 seconds to get up and running.
Astro’s rethinking of all of this is a technological wonder of sorts, simplifying and streamlining a lot of headache. Essentially, both the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the headset are completely identical. The base stations, however, include minor differences, since both consoles utilize slightly different protocols.
But the headsets are interchangeable and can quickly be paired with either machine, as long as you have the corresponding base station. So a gamer who picks up an Xbox One set of A50s can easily go purchase a PlayStation 4 base station later, and use the Xbox One A50s on the other console.
It’s all about convenience, and that continues throughout the new A50 experience. The base station also provides quick information, letting you know the battery life and basic settings of the A50.
The units are tremendously comfortable, and despite the bevy of tech inside, they’re incredibly light, sitting almost unnoticed on your head for hours, leaving you to get immersed in the game.
Astro’s sound quality helps that process. It’s an all-around balanced sound, one that proves strong for dialogue, music and action. The bass is potent on the A50s, too, shining during explosions in such games as Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The microphone, meanwhile, is strong; I’ve heard no complaints from gamers on the other end.
Mixing functions don’t disappear, either; they’re simply built onto the right earcup, allowing you to tune and rebalance game and chat audio to your liking in an instant. Gamers who require more detailed control of their headset settings can still utilize Astro’s Command Center software by downloading that software to their PC and connecting their headset.
It all adds up to the finest gaming headset of this holiday — and the finest gaming headset we’ve seen in several years. For years, Astro has worked to set the bar for gaming headsets, delivering improvement after improvement.
The Astro A50 wireless headset is the best gaming headset I’ve ever used, but it comes at a price where the standards are very, very high. Even with some amazing features, there are also some minor issues which may turn some off as well.