Cross-platform headsets were admittedly more of a novelty at first, with their success stemming more from their versatility than actual sound quality. Much has changed since then, and we’re now seeing wireless, cross-platform headsets receiving accolades in several different genres. The Astro A50 embodies some of the more recent advancements, and has a few noted changes from its brother, the Astro A40.
The biggest change A50 brings is the integration of the previously external mixamp. This has been fitted into the headset itself, and the earcups have also been widened to increase comfort. Click here for more details.
The mic is permanently attached to the left ear, and mutes automatically when flipped up. Below the left earcup is 1 x mini USB for charging, and 1 x Xbox 360 chat cable input. In addition to housing the mixamp, the right earcup also has a power button near the side, a toggle switch for 3 presets, and a volume control knob.
The basestation is small and fits nicely in the included stand. A power button and a surround sound toggle don the top, while the back houses 5 ports: optical in (for your console connection) , optical out (for mirroring your audio to another sound system), USB (for charging the headset), mini USB (for connecting to your PC or console), and an auxiliary 3.5mm input (for connecting additional devices like a smartphone or iPad). The last feature is actually quite nifty, as it will overlay the auxiliary input onto your current audio feed, enabling you to listen to music while gaming.
- dual-band wireless for better reception
- one-touch toggle between Dolby Surround Sound and Stereo
- multi-platform compatibility (Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC )
- auxiliary input allows 2 sources to be heard simultaneously
And now to the sound: This model produces some incredible acoustics. While there may be debate over the necessity of some smaller features, the sound quality is indisputably good – and not just for a wireless headset.
Music and movies are clear and very well externalized, and gaming is equally as impressive. Battlefield 3 and Skyrim sounded crisp and warm, both in stereo and Dolby Surround. The open air acoustics produce a clean midrange and treble, and do a great job of not making anything sound “pinned” to the ear.
The cables included with the headset could a bit longer, so you may want to purchase a separate optical cable if you can. The tap controls for game/chat on the earcup felt impractical, and the inability to control game volume and microphone volume independently was a detraction. The headset does play well across each platform, however, and the variety of inputs make it easy to integrate with existing sound systems.
Astro A50 Review | The Verdict
The Astro A50 is by many measures an excellent pair of headphones – a wide soundstage, balanced mids, emphatic bass, and a long range make this truly one of the best wireless models out there. And while there’s no doubt it would satisfy most gamers, some may debate whether it warrants the $300 price tag – especially considering it’s around $50 more than it’s older brother, the A40, which is considered by some to be the better of the two. If you’re on a budget, you may want to save your money and spring for a mid-range pair. However, if you want one of the best and can afford it… treat yourself!
UPDATE 11/17/2013 : PS4 compatibility has been confirmed! Firmware update v1.5 will allow the A50 to play nice with Sony’s latest next-gen console.