Over the years that I’ve been lucky enough to write reviews on all sorts of software and hardware. I have more headsets at home than any one person could need, but I was happier than ever when I took receipt of the fantastic Astro A50 Wireless (Gen 3) headset.
Quite simply, this is my favourite headset. Of course, there are things I would like to see improved, there is no such thing as the perfect headset but for me, this comes close.
Setting up the headset is simple, after updating the firmware via your PC all you need to do is plug the wireless charging station into the Xbox via USB, whack in the optical cable and the chances are you are already using the right settings in the audio section of the settings on the Xbox.
The first issue I had with the headset was typically the microphone, in Party Chat, I was muffled or not loud enough, but thanks to the excellent Astro Command Centre software on the PC I was able to make changes to the microphone settings in seconds, as a result I was told I was clearer than I had ever been. It doesn’t matter how good a headset sounds if you don’t have a decent microphone attached it, in this case, Astro has done a great job.
The stand-out feature of the new generation A50’s is the wireless charging station. Once plugged in, it displays the headset’s battery life and whether surround sound is activated. at the back, there is a 3.5-mm jack that lets you do things such as plug your phone in for background music or output your game audio to a capture card. If you want to use your headset on the PS4 you can but at a price. Astro has released standalone wireless charging stations for each console for £90, cheaper than buying another A50!
As for the headset itself, it looks great, boasting a great design with green metallic features (blue for the PS4) mixed with sleek black features. It’s nowhere near as stylish as a Lucidsound headset but it’s still a great design. Thanks to the wonderfully comfortable foam ear cups and the 13.4-ounce frame, you can wear this headset all day without realising. You can purchase MOD kits that introduce leather, noise cancelling ear cups, but there is no immediate need for those as the foam cups are so nice.
It’s also full of features, the separate Mix Amp has gone, instead, you can find it on your right earcup, allowing you to mix game and chat volume just by raising your hand. The Dolby 7.1 Surround sound is superb, allowing me to fully immerse myself in my gaming. I’ve been playing plenty of Rainbow Six Siege with the TiX team, and thanks to the crisp sound I’ve been able to pinpoint footsteps and create a better awareness of my opponents, I’d go as far to suggest it’s made me a better player.
With every game I played, I noticed new sounds I hadn’t noticed before. In FIFA 17 for example, the crowd chants were so clear, even Rocket League surprised me with sound effects I’m sure weren’t there before. I didn’t just use the headset for games, I used them to watch the Sutton United vs Arsenal game, which was great as you could pick up the instructions from the management and their excellent use of the word ‘f***’. It was great plugging in my iPhone to listen to some tracks to Spotify, classic Oasis tracks were given a new lease of life thanks to A50’s.
The battery life is impressive, with at least 15 hours of gaming time available on one charge, thanks to the charging station though I was never short of charge. You can also plug in a micro USB to the headset to charge if you get caught short while playing. A feature you won’t even realise is the very clever built-in accelerometer, which automatically powers the headset down if you lie it down for 30 seconds, it turns back on when you pick it up.
I briefly mentioned the Astro Command Cente at the beginning of the review and how useful it was to adjust the levels of the microphone. The centre also gives you the ability to customised the sound on the headset. If you are feeling brave you can really dig into all sorts of levels, but there also some presets for you to download and use. Although it’s quite intuitive there doesn’t appear to be enough game specific presets which is a shame.
The Astro A50’s will set you back around £220 at the moment, and over £300 if you add a second charging station for the PS4, but in my opinion, it is well worth it. It’s a fantastic sounding headset that is built well and deserves a place in your gaming world.