Close to three years ago, we had the pleasure of reviewing the 3rd generation of the Astro A50 Gaming Headset + Base Station for Xbox/PC (and PS4/PC). The headset was feature-rich, complete with customization options that you can save directly to the headset, which included physical customization options like swappable head and ear cup cushions. The Astro A50 Headset + Base Station has since gotten a refresh, bringing forth a new 4th-gen iteration of the acclaimed headset. Needless to say, we were eager to try out the refreshed model when it was announced at E3 2019 to take a look at what tweaks and changes the A50 received.
So, let’s jump right in…
Astro A50 Headset + Base Station Specs
|Drivers:||40mm Neodymium Magnet|
|Transducer Principle:||Open Air|
|Frequency Response:||20Hz – 20,000Hz|
|Characteristic SPL:||118dB @1kHz|
|Microphone:||6.0mm uni-directional, voice isolating|
|Wireless:||Up to 30ft|
|Weight w/o Cable:||0.83 lbs (380g)|
Specs from product splash page…
Build, Comfort, Functionality
Coming in at $299, the Astro A50 Headset + Base Station was always a no-nonsense product that strived to live up to its cost with a strong feature set and quality audio. Right out of the box, you get the Astro A50 wireless headset, Base Station, an optical cable, and a microUSB cable.
The new 4th Gen Astro A50 follows the same general build and silhouette as its predecessor, while abandoning the console-specific color skus like green for Xbox and blue for PlayStation. Coming now in all-black, the Astro A50 uses a flexible plastic headband that connects two lightweight metal rods. Each ear cup slides vertically along those rods to adjust to heads of varying sizes. By default, the Astro A50 uses plush fabric cushioning for both its headband and ear cups.
However, gamers who opt to sacrifice some breathability and comfort for more sound isolation can purchase an A50 Mod Kit which includes replacement leatherette ear cups and headband cushioning. The 4th gen A50 and the 3rd gen A50’s mod kits are different, due to differences in headset design. Either way, here’s a link to our 3rd gen A50 Mod Kit review in case you were curious about how it played out with the previous generation’s A50 model.
The right ear cup houses all of the headset’s main controls. On the outside of the ear cup, you have a sort of rocking button that controls the balance of incoming game and voice volume. Along the back, you have the main power switch, a Dolby Audio toggle button, an EQ toggle button, and a main volume dial on the bottom.
The left ear cup houses the mic. The unidirectional boom mic is flexible, allowing you to arrange it exactly how you would like. It flips up with a soft and subtle snap to mute outbound chat.
In the comfort department, the Astro A50’s fit well while being just a pinch rigid, at first. However, after about two hours of “breaking in” the headset with basic use, the headset seemed to loosen up to a proper feel. It is also surprisingly light for a headset of its size. The headset’s ear cup adjustment mechanisms are quite solid. They give you room to make adjustments without resistance while maintaining ear cup placement exactly as you set it. The cloth cushioning on both the ear cups and headband feel great against the skin, thanks to its breathability. The cloth ear cups do a decent job at isolating inbound sound once you have sound actively playing through them. However, game sounds and voice chat seem to leak out easily with these specific ear cups. Just something to keep in mind, should you play near others.
The Base Station for the 4th Gen Astro A50 has also been reengineered, coming in at almost half the size of its predecessor without sacrificing functionality. The Base Station acts as both a wireless transmitter for the Astro A50’s as well as a charging docking station.
On the back, you have a switch for toggling the unit between PC and console modes, an outbound charging USB port, ports for inbound and outbound optical cabling, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, and a microUSB port for powering the Base Station.
The front of the Base Station houses LED indicators, allowing the gamer to monitor the status of the Astro A50. At a glance, you can see the headset’s battery level, console vs PC mode status, Dolby Audio on/off status, and current EQ setting.
Plopping the Astro A50 onto the Base Station has been dramatically improved since the release of the previous generation’s model. Whereas you used to have to do some finagling in order to ensure that the headset is both secure and charging, this new Astro A50 snaps right into the dock effortlessly. Charging begins moments after. Also, if you needed to re-pair the headset with the Base Station for any reason, simply docking the headset pairs it immediately. We were given an Xbox One Base Station to supplement the included PS4 one for our review. As soon I as I snapped the Astro A50 into the Xbox One Base Station, the headset was ready for use.
When connected to a console, whether it be Xbox One or PS4, the optical cable is used between the Base Station and console. This allows the Base Station to receive and transmit uncompressed sound from the console to your headset. The microUSB cable also connects between the Base Station and console, providing the Base Station with power as well as allowing for wireless outbound chat.
When connected to a PC, the Base Station functions as a USB soundcard, connecting only via microUSB to USB A. No optical cable connections needed. In this setup, you have all of the functionality that you would with console play, while gaining even more functionality. Install the free Astro Command Center application and gain the ability to fully customize the Astro A50’s to work exactly how you want it to. My favorite part of this feature is that you can save all of your unique settings directly to the Astro A50 headset, for use later on console.
The Astro A50 and Base Station pair up to give you a collection of features that alone stretch out far enough to help justify the $299 price point, outside of sound performance. The Base Station allows you to monitor all notable aspects of the Astro A50’s status. It gives you a stylish dock for your headset, which both charges and re-pairs it. On PC, you gain a USB soundcard that drives the audio from your games and media to the A50’s. The aux port allows you to introduce another sound source to transmit wirelessly with the headset. Also, keeping streamers in mind, the optical out port allows you to forward the incoming game sound to an external source outside of the A50 headset.
The package that comes with an Astro A50 + Base Station purchase gives you the full setup for the console you choose. It has a “complete” feel of a feature set that gives you anything and everything you need to game on the platform of your choice.
More Functionality, Performance and Final Thoughts
When talking about the Astro A50’s performance, you have dive even deeper into the features that the Astro A50 + Base Station package gives you. Specifically speaking, you control how the Astro A50 presents sound, both inbound and out via the Astro Command Center. When connected to a PC and docked into the Base Station, you can make EQ adjustments, create your own EQs, manage the mic’s behavior, and fiddle with streaming settings. Here is where you can make all of the adjustments you want and save those settings directly to the headset. Those settings remain in play on the Astro A50, regardless of the platform you are playing on, until you overwrite them.
When playing around with EQ’s you can apply the EQ’s of your choosing to the headset, which is then toggled during use with the EQ Button. You can pick and apply from Astro’s premade EQ’s or manage each frequency yourself if you know what you’re doing. You make the Astro A50 perform exactly how you want it to.
Doubling back on the build of the Astro A50’s, this new 4th gen headset makes it easier to swap between EQ’s. Instead of a three–setting switch, you have a simple and direct button to press. The previous generation’s switch was tricky to finagle at times, especially when you wanted to set it to the 2nd (middle) EQ, where you had to blindly prod around to make sure you didn’t push it too far to the first or third setting.
What I particularly liked with the Astro Command Center, as I did with the previous A50 generation, is the level of control you have over the microphone. PC players know all about controlling how much their mic “listens” thanks to chat software like Discord. However, console gamers do not really have that level of control when playing on the Xbox One, for instance. Sure, you can probably fiddle with mic monitoring (aka sidetone), but mic customization usually ends there.
The Astro Command Center allows you to have that granular level of control over how far the A50’s mic listens, saving that setting right next to the headset. Playing in a loud environment or next to someone with loud TV listening habits? That’s a thing of the past thanks to your ability to restrict the mics listening to only nearby sounds, namely you, the gamer. Most importantly, that setting extends to console play as well.Thanks to that level of customization, the mic projected my voice strongly and clearly to gamers on the other side of my chats. Above all, it does so while keeping background sounds out of my transmissions.
Speaking directly about the out-of-the-box EQ settings, the Astro A50’s delivers a powerful and clear sound, whether you opt to use Dolby Audio or not. At its default EQ setting, ASTRO, sound was balanced with highs being easy and effortless to pick up. That meant footsteps and gun shots, as well as the directions they were coming from, registered clearly and effectively. Explosions and ground rumblings were warm and engulfing, yet not overwhelming. This EQ also worked quite nicely with media enjoyment, for both music and movie watching, making it a solid default EQ for the A50.
The Pro setting leaned even more high frequency sounds. With Dolby Audio active and positional audio in play, like Dolby Atmos or Windows Sonic, those sounds were even easier to pick up, especially since the EQs dampened the mids and lows. That dampening, however, was not so severe that the overall audio presentation was negatively affected. It served its purpose while still keeping the overall experience at an enjoyable level. I was not too sure about the Studio EQ’s purpose, however it felt more geared towards mid ranged sound, i.e. vocals. In the end, I found myself mostly working with the ASTRO and Pro EQ, where I was more than satisfied with the performance.
At $299, the Astro A50 + Base Station continues to be a hefty investment that still manages to validate its price point. You have an impressive sound presentation backed by a high level of customization. The out-of-the-box setup with fabric cushioning allows for comfortable gameplay for hours, despite the size of the headset. Should you prefer more sound isolation, you again have the option to customize the physical nature of the headset, thanks to the leatherette option offered by the Astro A50 mod kit.
Astro Gaming tends to take years between releasing iterations of new products. Thanks to the time spent in development, when those new iterations finally drop, they seldom disappoint. That is definitely the case here with the Astro A50 + Base Station. It’s a strong product that is worth every penny. If you have a wad of money saved up and are looking to spend it on a high-level product, you should definitely take a look at the Astro A50 + Base Station. You’ll be more that satisfied with the collection features, let alone sound performance. Check out the Astro A50 + Base Station for yourself using the links below…
† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided an Astro A50 Headset and supplementary Base Stations for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.