I’ve used my fair share of wireless headsets for play on my various consoles but it seems no matter what, there’s just something that’s either missing or not working quite right.
I’ll be honest, no matter how good a pair of headphones sound, I just cannot fathom being tied to my console; having a lengthy wire tether me like some kind of gaming prisoner and as such, I have attempted to use wireless headphones whenever possible. Of course to truly immerse yourself in the action, you can’t go wrong with surround sound headphones and up until now my favorite pair, not just for build quality but sound quality and functionality have been the A40s and MixAmp Pro. The only true issue I ever had with it was having to have the headphones tethered to the MixAmp itself and while it wasn’t that big of a deal, it still didn’t truly feel “wireless” to me.
Enter Astro Gaming’s newest baby: the A50 Wireless Headset. Offering up 7.1 surround sound, the A50 ditches the MixAmp in terms of a separate device, instead integrating it directly into the headphones. Hallelujah! The right ear cup now houses the volume control as well as the control that lets you adjust how loud the mic audio can get in respect to the game audio. This control was previously also found on the MixAmp Pro as a separate dial, while Astro also added a switch that lets you change the built-in equalizer, one for gaming, one for “media” and another which is flat for unaltered audio. Astro says that game publishers will also have the capabilities to create their own EQ settings for use with the headphones that could enhance their titles. This of course would be free and updatable via a software download, which even if it’s never used much, is still a pretty cool option.
The wireless audio is handle via the 5.8 GHz Kleer Net technology that from my experience, not once gave me any major issues if I was either up close or downstairs. In fact, you could be listening to a TV show with the headphones and be anywhere in the house and still hear it perfectly. During my lengthy review process, I did come across some random audio hiccups which would cut out the sound for a split second, that wasn’t noticeable too much when playing games, but was pretty obvious when watching TV or movies. That was really my only concern about the headphones, but to Astro Gaming’s credit, they acknowledged the issue and shortly thereafter released a firmware and software update that addressed the problem. I can thankfully report that the audio hiccup is completely gone.
Having played a variety of games, from Modern Warfare 2, Madden NFL 13, PGR 4 and Battlefield 3, each game sounded pretty phenomenal. I could hear bullets flying, enemies creeping up behind me; I could hear every tackle and crowd response, and even dialogue sounded crispy clear. Without question, the audio performance was top notch, even when I switched over to stereo mode; though 7.1 surround was obviously the way to go.
On the mic side, just like many PC headphones use nowadays, the A50’s mic will now auto-mute when you flip it upward and the voice quality was just as good as the A40s.
Connection is also pretty easy to get done. The transmitter connects either via AUX input or with an optical cable. You pair up the transmitter and the A50s by holding the power button for a few seconds and it only takes a moment to connect. Unlike the transmitter that was included with the A40 / MixAmp Pro combo, there is no actual power cable, but rather uses a USB cable to get its juice. You can simply connect it to the back of your Xbox 360, PS3 or PC, while a separate USB cable is used to charge the headphones themselves. If you’d rather have an actual AC adapter, you can use any old mini-USB power cable to do the same thing. You’ll also find a second button on the transmitter to either turn on/off 7.1 Dolby Surround.
I also dug the fact that while there was no carrying case to be found (though the ones for the A40 work, if you have one), Astro decided to add a cool little display stand that not only gives you a proper place to hand your headphones, but also has a place for the transmitter to sit on.
At $299.99, the A50s are easily the best way to go when you’re looking for a quality, surround sound and wireless solution for your gaming needs. With an 8-10 hour battery life, a comfortable design and some of the best audio you’ll hear on a gaming headset, Astro Gaming has outdone themselves with their best headphones yet.