Nobody's perfect, but the A50 wireless gaming headset is pretty close with a bevy of new features that improve functionality across the board.
ASTRO's new A50 headset boasts wireless functionality across all platforms right out of the box, joining the ranks of Turtle Beach, Creative, and Logitech. There are a few missing features holding it back from perfection, but at the end of the day, it's one of the highest-quality gaming headsets you can buy.
More of an evolution than a revolution, the A50's guts are mostly the same as the A40's, exhibiting minor tweaks to the chassis, but major additions in terms of functionality. Doing away with cosmetic tags, ASTRO decided to go with a completely closed-back design, boosting bass response and sound isolation as a result. On top of refining the audio, the new wireless wonder seamlessly integrates ASTRO's old wireless MixAmp into the right can. This is the biggest advantage the A50 has over the wireless A40's reliance on an external device.
- Transducer Principle: Open Air
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20,000 KHz
- Nominal Impedance: 48 ohm
- Weight w/o cable: 0.81lbs/363 grams
- Characteristic SPL: 118 db @1kHz
- Ear Coupling: Over-Ear
- Connector: 2.5mm XBOX LiveŽ chat port, Mini-USB port
- Microphone: 6.0mm uni-directinal noise canceling
- Power Supply: USB mini-B (USB 2.0 compatible)
- Battery Life: 12+ HoursFrequency Response:35-20,000 Hx
- Wireless Radio: 5.8GHz STS Module
- Inputs: Optical In, AUX In (3.5mm)
- Outputs: Optical Passthrough, USB Power / Voice, USB Charging Port
The redesigned Transmitter TX up-scales audio to Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound. You have the option to disable it, but it's a feature we found valuable for listening to music and stereo content in general. For wireless communication, it utilizes Kleernet's 5.8GHz radio tech. This ensures minimal interference from Wi-Fi equipment and portable phones, but it's also the biggest difference from the old Transmitter, effectively crippling cross-compatibility.
Other Kleernet-enabled devices can connect to the A50 headset without the use of the Transmitter TX, but the number of devices under that relatively new specification is quite low, relegated almost exclusively to HP's latest laptops. Continuing one of the best hardware trends at the moment, the base is powered by USB and includes an additional port that can be used to charge the A50s when they aren't in use.
The rechargeable battery packs roughly 10 hours of juice after a recommended five-hour charge via USB. Having an internal battery presents certain advantages, but it also means you are at the mercy of its finite life span. Like with all batteries, the ability to "hold" a charge degrades over time, and once it has run out, you're left with two choices: string a USB cable from your headset to an open port, or send your A50s in for servicing. There's no word on the A50's real-world life span in this regard. Surely, anything less than a few years is bound to frustrate customers, and in turn, ASTRO support.
In case you need to pass the audio signal to another device, you're restricted to optical output; there is no 3.5mm pass-through. This is a noteworthy exclusion because it prevents you from using the A50s in a wired fashion. True, you can connect the USB cable in the event the battery dies, but you are still receiving a wireless audio signal. With this in mind, the A50s do not fall within current MLG regulations. When you consider the prevalence of the A40s among competitive gamers, it's confusing to see such disregard for their strict adherence to hardware standards.
ASTRO implemented a new EQ preset system for the A50, which at the moment is limited to three preloaded configurations. It has stated that a complete software-based customization solution will appear in the near future. When exactly is anyone's guess, but considering Turtle Beach and Creative have products on shelves with this functionality out of the box, it would behoove ASTRO to release its solution in a timely manner.
The first built-in preset, "ASTRO," represents the manufacturer's ideal settings, perceivably ramping up the bass and down-tuning midrange frequencies. "Core" seems to be the baseline EQ preset, reproducing native bass, mid, and treble response as dictated by the audio source. Finally, the "Media" preset boosts the low- and high-end frequencies, leaving the midrange well enough alone to serve as the metaphorical glue, balancing out the two extremes.
Truthfully, there may not be another gaming headset as comfortable as the A50. A near solid weekend of use proved not only bearable, but damn-near addictive. The memory foam and cloth-like materials used for padding conform to your skull's unique form, allowing just the right amount of ventilation while maintaining a satisfyingly snug fit. Even on "large" heads, the A50s never apply an uncomfortable level of pressure. After a few hours of use, they begin to feel like an extension of your ears, and their presence becomes something of an afterthought. You can adjust the vertical position of the cans in relation to the strap, and since they float within their bracket, it's easy to find an adjustment that suits your particular needs without too much fiddling or experimentation required.
anything that has wireless, is an autmatic NO BUY for me. Wired always. So if it has a wire that i can connect it up then fine.
I have a pair of Sennheiser PC360s and they are the most incredible headphones ever. Amusing seeing that their brand isn't even considered as part of the list.
Razer Tiamat 7.1 = 179.99$
I'd go for that over this ASTRO A50 in a heartbeat.
I however have Roccat Kave, and am not planing to scrap 'em until they die on me.
Pretty funny that this costs as much as a 360 or ps3 but it can be used for a lot more than just gaming. Plus, it's an incredible peripheral with astounding build quality. I'll be buying them as soon as the next-gen consoles come out.
No headset is worth $300. I could buy a PS3 with that much money, or 5 new games. No way I'm spending it on a headset, even if they are extremely good.