We’ve reviewed quite a few accessories from Astro Gaming, but we’ve yet to check out their wireless headsets. As far as headsets go, Astro is top of their class, offering excellent quality and amazing sound. That holds true, even for the wireless 4th generation Astro A50 TR headset. We’ve had some extensive testing with the newest iteration of the headset on Xbox One, and we’ve come back with our impressions.
Like the wired 4th generation Astro A40 TR, the A50 also requires Windows 10. This is to download the new Astro Command Center app, making it possible to download firmware updates. Interestingly enough, while the Astro Command Center app is available on Xbox One, you can’t use it until you first use it on a Windows 10 PC. As it turns out, the Xbox can’t install the firmware updates to the headset. Xbox seemingly has the advantage over the PlayStation for having the software, but both still require Windows 10 to properly use.
The Xbox One does have one clear advantage over the PlayStation though. Unlike the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One offers Dolby Atmos, which the Astro A50 TR fully supports. To make the package even better, the headset includes a two year activation for the service. For those unaware, Dolby Atmos offers spatial sound, providing a 360° audio experience. It works even for normal headphones, but better headsets will still offer a better quality. Of course, this works best for games that have native Dolby Atmos support. Luckily, the recently released Gears 5 is just one such game.
Our Gears 5 review is still in progress, but we’ve been using the Astro A50 TR the entire time. Using the Dolby Atmos truly makes a difference, allowing us to hear all around us, even above and below. The gunshots blaring, the chainsaws ripping, and the meaty explosions of dismemberment were all heard with excellent quality. It helped to improve the experience of the campaign, and it also gave a tactical edge in the multiplayer. Footsteps and other sounds could be heard all around me, even from above. It was made even easier when hearing the various enemy shouts from specific distances.
Like the Astro A40 TR, the microphone has sidetones on by default. For players that enjoy hearing themselves talk, then it’ll sound fine right out of the box. For those that prefer just to hear the game and the chat, they can turn it off in the Astro Command Center. Sidetones on or not, the microphone allowed for crisp and clear voice levels. Unlike the Astro A40, muting the microphone is done simply by flipping it up till it clicks in place. On the audio side, the right tag can be used to balance between game and chat with ease. It even has an audio cue for a saved preference.
As mentioned before, the Astro A50 TR sounds excellent in most aspects. Unfortunately, there are various situations that can disrupt the excellent sound. We couldn’t quite figure out if this was a problem with the headset or the Xbox interface, but there was a clear issue with the headset assignment when booting up the Xbox. We could never get it to work consistently, as sometimes the headset would work fine, sometimes lowering audio quality, or just plain not working at all. When it was an issue, unplugging the USB cable to the base station was an instant fix. Despite this, it really does hurt the overall experience with the headset. Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue on PC.
Other issues we came across were simply user error, figuring it out over time. While it’s not exactly the fault of Astro, admittedly, their instructions might benefit from more details. Luckily there are quite a few troubleshooting guides online, but we still felt we had less problems figuring out other Astro devices. One thing that we never ran into was interference, which is a plus. The previous generation used a 5GHz wireless transmission, providing a shorter range and a higher chance of interference. The 4th generation has gone back to 2.4GHz, and it seems like it was the right choice. This change alone might make it worth upgrading from the previous generation.
Being a wireless headset, the A50 runs on a rechargeable battery. Boasting roughly 15 hours, we never ran into an instant where the battery was an issue. This is due to the ease of charging, as the included base station works well as a simple charging dock. When game sessions are over, simply dock the headset on the magnetic station and you’ll likely be fine by the time you get back in the game. Even if the headset is getting low on battery, there’s various audio and visual cues to make sure you’re aware. It may not be the longest battery life on the market, but thanks to an easy charging solution, it’s not much of an issue.
Overall, the 4th generation Astro A50 TR may be a good solution for those looking for a wireless solution. So far, it feels like it may be a stronger experience for PC users. Firmware updates can easily change that for the Xbox One, though for right now, the wired A40 TR seems to be much more reliable. Again, it’s hard to say if these issues are the headset or the console interface itself, but they’re issues regardless. When the headset is properly situated, it’s an amazing audio experience, especially for games like Gears 5. It just might take a couple steps to get to that point.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
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