Anyone who’s read my scribbling on gaming grade cans could tell you, Astro Gaming products are mentioned regularly. Though not the cheapest, you could do a heck of lot worse to your gaming experience as they are some of the best gaming-specific headphone and mic setups on the market. The Astro A40 heaphones with the Mixamp were the reigning champs for a good modest handful of years. That is until, the Razer Tiamat 7.1 set unseated the champ (if only in raw audio playback).
Well Astro Gaming is back with a brand new set of cans, the Astro A50 Wireless 7.1 Dolby Digital gaming headphones. They support your triumvirate of gaming go-to’s in the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This is Astro gaming’s first completely wireless setup. You may remember the company kicked out a wireless amp that was tethered to your computer or console but functioned wirelessly between the amp and the headset. This time we’re flying completely “Commando”…as it pertains to the lack of wires, NOT a lack of pants. FYI! Some really cool features from previous offerings are sacrificed. But performance is not one them.
Before we slap them on, let’s get a good look. Unsurprisingly, the new wireless joints from Astro look much like the company’s other wares. Style and general shape are more-or-less identical to past iterations. The signature flagship motif has always been the black-on-black color scheme and the A50 set has more than taken up the pigment baton; It embraces it with much less color variance. The all-black look is just barely disturbed by the minimalist white and red accents. A deep red cord is also visible, extending from the earpieces up through the hallow piping connecting the headband.
The unit ships with the headphones and attached microphone, Astro wireless 5.8Ghz wireless transmitter, display stand, 1-meter USB mini-B power/voice chat cable, 0.5m USB charging cable, 1-meter optical cable and a 1.5 meter Xbox Live chat cable. It’s a concise bundle that keeps things simple.
But there are some standout differences from your A40 setup. Gone is the option to swap out purchasable speaker tag designs. This was a bit surprising and I have to say, I miss it. I never bought new speaker tags. But amassed a few sets over the years from owning different “Astro gear” and I like the option. Here the mic is fixed to the left side, which kills the whole speaker tag swappage. So out the window too, goes the ability to move the mic from left or right side. The omissions result in a rather modest look. Yet I assure you, none of this is game-changing by any stretch.
Firstly, let’s set her up. It’s a simple process. But it does require a optical-in connection on your console or PC. Playstation 3 and xbox 360 users are golden. But PC users may want to double check for that optical-in connection on the back of your box. The port in question will be either baked into your motherboard or on a sound card. If you don’t have this port, there are many aftermarket options available. I am using a Creative Xfire sound card with built-in optical-in. The included optical cable connects the transmitter/charging base to your console or PC. A single USB connection handles power and voice chat. While the second USB cable goes from the transmitter to the A50 headphones to charge them.
Again, this is a simple setup that works nearly perfect. I did have one minor adjustment, which is fairly specific to PC users. I swapped out the USB charging cable. Instead, I use a longer USB-B cable that works with an AC adapter. “Why?” you ask? This ensures my headphones get fed a constant flow of power even when my computer is turned off. Otherwise the transmitter will not receive power to charge your headphones. If you shut down your computer, with little juice left in the A50 set, it’s doubtful they will sustain another prolonged session in the absence of another good charging. This alternative removes your computer, be it on or off, from the equation completely.
After it’s all connected, I enjoyed long hours of impressive audio in pampered comfort. The Astro A50 are just slightly more comfortable than the standard and wired A40 setup. That’s something to brag about. The ear cushions provide sufficient and comfortable padding. The headband is fitted with plenty of padding as well and it all is devoid of unnecessary heft or constriction. The wireless functionality offers even more comfort by way freedom of movement and range of motion.
For added listening comfort you can flip the mic up to auto-mute voice communication. In addition, you can still dial up the game audio while also dialing down the voice chat audio. This is now done on the headphones, themselves and not the Mixamp, like the A40 setup. The right side ear piece with the aforementioned red and white accents, houses the toggle for this. Press up/down on red accented line to dial up/down the Voice audio. The white accented handles the game audio. Audio ques are your only means of knowing how the two are balanced against each other. It bothered me initially but really it’s about preference and your particular setting for a given game/voice chat client/system audio.
I ran these puppies through several of the best games on console or PC. If you didn’t think DayZ Mod could get any creepier, you were “dead” wrong. The clarity and balance in low to high sounds is staggering. I could hear zombies shuffling through the grass even at night in pouring rain…ATVs and helis off in the distance… it’s a real survival asset. Borderlands 2 comes to life in the best ways it can: gun battles! They offer up new sounds that went previously unheard. This was the case for Battlefield 3, Deadlight, Dishonored, Planetside 2 (beta), Hawken (beta). While, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Enhanced Edition, didn’t provide new audibility, it sang like it had never before with A50. To boot…? I was complimented several times on the voice chat clarity.
Draping your ears is these new unanchored cans, is the best thing a multiplatform gamer could do for themselves. Yet beware; these are not your highest grade cans for music lovers. I have no complaints for what’s on offer here, but expect stellar gaming audio. Music lovers will have to settle for “great”. Poor you! You also get four equalizer presets to choose from. These are a big help as well, for some are clearly more suited for music, movies or games. Play with them and see which you like for what you do.
Coming full circle… I like them. I like them a lot! Plus Astro continues to improve on greatness with regular firmware updates and an eager ear bent firmly in the community’s direction. It’s a one-stop and highly canorous fix for all your gaming audio needs. It’s also not all that cheap. For 3-bills, the Astro A50 Wireless Gaming headphones could be yours. It’s the same money for similar 7.1 wireless offerings at Mad Catz. Yet where those are Xbox exclusive, these out-perform the Warhead 7.1 setup across more gaming platforms, thereby maximizing your money spent.
Bottom Line: The Astro A50 Wireless 7.1 Dolby Digital gaming headset is one impressive set of cans. It’s best feature is its performance, with comfort and aesthetics coming in close 2nd and 3rd.
- Outstanding gaming audio quality
- Music is only “great” comparably
- Audio-voice flexibility
- Compatible with PC, Xbox 360, Playstion 3
- Wireless ease with zero interfenence
- Yours may require a firmware update
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.