We’re not done yet with our gaming headset coverage in 2016. Arriving a tad bit too late for our 2016 Holiday Gift considerations is the latest addition by Astro Gaming, showcased at E3. The new Astro Gaming Wireless A50 is Astro’s remake of the previous year’s A50 headset. The A50 Wireless is the 100% wire-free solution made for each of the current gen systems, coming complete with the Base Station for the pairing and wireless charging of the A50. Both the Xbox One and PS4 variants of the A50 Wireless Gaming Headset can also be used with the PC without losing any of its functionality. We liked what we saw at E3, so needless to say we’re excited to take the Xbox One version of the A50 Wireless Gaming Headset through one of our world-famous in-depth reviews!
Let’s dive in.
Specs, Build and Comfort
The latest gen of Astro Gaming’s A50 Wireless Gaming Headset sports a close to identical silhouette/frame to the previous gen A50. Swiveling ear cups anchor individually on rods where they can slide up and down to adjust to heads of varying lengths. Those rods are connected to the headband housing a soft fabric-skinned cushion which is also present on each ear cup. The right ear cup houses controls for finagling and toggling surround-sound, EQ presets, master volume, and game and chat volume balancing. The left ear cup holds the noise canceling boom mic, which mutes outbound chat when the mic is flipped up.
Just as it was back when we reviewed the A40, the A50 sports a very comfortable and lighter-than-it-looks feel. While not my preference over leatherette cups, which provide better passive sound isolation, I cannot argue against the soft fabric ear pads being simply the tops in comfort. Not only do the ear pads provide a very breathable contact against your skin, but they also play very nicely with glasses frames. The A50 has a very gentle yet secure hold on your head. In terms of fatigue, I was able to play for about 8 hours before I had realized how long my session was dragging on. That is definitely a testament to the A50’s high level of comfort.
The snag of course is in the way that the ear cups leak sound inside and out. The leaking in of sound is not very evident unless you’re playing in a loud setting. Inversely, the leaking out of sound is only apparent to passers-by if the player plays the A50 at a loud volume in a quiet setting. Just situational nuances, if you ask me. So gamers that play in close proximity to others and worry about being a disturbance, take heed. However, if you don’t care then you won’t care!
The Base Station is straight-forward and handy, not only transmitting to and from the A50 using Astro’s 5GHZ wireless technology, but also acting as a wireless charging station for the A50. Magnetic charge points allow the A50 to slide and snap into place for charging between gaming sessions. The Base Station uses an optical in connection for taking in the uncompressed sound from the Xbox One and sending out to the A50. However it also sports optical out for forwarding the audio out to capturing devices as well as a 3.5mm jack for overlaying background music or handling phone calls. The setup is even simpler with the PC as the Base Station just connects via USB. With either the Xbox One or the PC, the Base Station’s front display keeps you in the loop with your A50’s battery status.
The Base Station came across as handier than I originally thought it would be. First off, not a lot of wireless gaming headsets give you a good indication of battery status outside of simply “low battery” notifications. So it was nice to see the four LEDs for the A50’s battery level on the front display of the Base Station. The four battery lights not only gave you power estimates in “quarters”, but it also flashed intuitively to indicate when the headset is charging. This is pretty handy considering that you have to plop the A50 on the Base Station just right in order to have it charge. It was pretty straight-forward in that regard.
The 3.5mm port for overlaying music and handling phone calls worked as expected. So if you’re looking to handle long phone calls and don’t want to break your gaming sessions, you’re covered. Swapping between PC and Xbox One usage was pretty easy as well. All you have to do is simply flip the switch on the Base Station to either PC or Xbox One and your A50 is ready to go.
At face value, the A50 Wireless Gaming Headset and Base Station are a nice looking pair. The A50 absolutely excels in comfort with negligible leakage in sound, depending on your environment of course. As to how it sounds and performs with its collection of functions, that leads us right into the next section… Sound and Performance.