WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Astro’s headset is one of the best Xbox One gaming headsets because it has fully wireless capabilities, an extremely useful charging dock, and some of the most incredible audio quality we’ve heard. What’s not to love?
Sound: Fully wireless surround sound with digital optical audio
Weight: 0.83 pounds
Battery Life: 15 hours
Compatibility: Xbox One (with base station), PC, Mac
Mic: Semi-flexible flip-up
Drivers: 40mm neodynium
The Astro A50 is deceptively lightweight at 0.83 pounds, despite aiming for a semi-industrial look. Earcup height adjusts up and down, but otherwise this black-and-green headset is set in its ways. The fit proves comfortable no matter what kind of headset you prefer. The excellent design continues right down to the lengthy mic, which is both flip-up to turn off and flexible, an interesting combination that seeks the best of both worlds and mostly achieves it.
The earcup material is, on the base model, a very soft weave that keeps the headset from overheating and provides maximum comfort. However, it’s also sort of a magnet for loose hair and bits of dust or dirt, which can prove annoying over time. If you don’t want to take the weave off and wash it regularly, there’s hope! Astro provides a small mod kit that includes alternative earcup liners made with a soft but more impermeable leather-like material, which lets you switch until you find your favorite.
All on-set controls are located on the left earcup. There’s an on/off power switch, a Dolby button, a switch to change EQ settings, and a volume roller. On the outside of the earcup, pushing the very broad back panel will change the volume balance between game and chat. It’s an interesting combination that tries hard to be organic. The volume and the back panel volume mixer buttons are very easy to use with only a little practice. The other buttons are harder to manage, but their abilities also aren’t very important when wearing the headset, so that generally works out.
But now let’s talk about this base station: on one hand, the station acts as a cradle to both prop up and charge your A50 headset. It’s an approach we prefer, since it solves the problem of storing the headset after use. The base station is sleek and black, the headset slides into the cradle effortlessly, and as long as you have room near your Xbox you won’t mind displaying the headset like this at all.
But the base station is a lot more than just a charger. It connects to the Xbox via both a digital optical audio connection and a USB connection (the downside is that you need a free USB port here, but since the station also charges this isn’t a difficult sacrifice). When on and connected, the front of the station lights up with basic indicators on battery life and connection. Buttons on the side allow you to switch between PC and Xbox mode depending on what system you are currently using, and addition USB ports allow for more complex setups.
The A50 was one of the first high end headsets to make the full jump over to wireless for Xbox One. In the past, full wireless capabilities have been difficult to design for the Xbox, due to formatting and proprietary sound issues. Over time this issue has been minimized, and with the right tools headsets like the A50 can be fully wireless, even with voice chat enabled. It’s a big step, but you need that aforementioned base station for it to work. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you make sure you get the current version of the A50: To make it easy, just look for the model that says “Xbox” on the box, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
But let’s talk about the sound quality itself: It’s amazing. What the A50 does with 40mm Neodynium magnet drivers – a very common standard at this level – almost boggles the mind. Even when it comes to the surround sound, none of its competitors were able to match the sheer clarity and presence of sound, especially when descending into bass ranges. It’s a remarkably high quality experience, and one that made us ask, “Just what is Astro doing differently here?”
Our suspicion is that there is some top-notch surround sound audio processing at work in that base station, combined with the clarity of the optical audio connection. Whatever the cause, if you are looking for the best easy sound experience on Xbox One, the A50s are at the top of the list. We say easy, because other headsets like the Turtle Beach Elite Pro with its Audio Controller can be adjusted with minute precision for a particular game, but out of the box nothing compares to the A50 – and that’s not even considering the PC-friendly audio software customization download that Astro provides with the headset.
The mic quality isn’t quite as mind-blowing as the sound, but audio pick up is still excellent, aided by the easy mic positioning that the headset allows.
The A50 is rated for 15 hours of sound before it needs recharging. But as long as you remember to rest the headset in the cradle when you are done, battery life is never really an issue. In our tests, the battery charge never died even when approaching the 15-hour mark.
Ultimately, this headset is impressive from beginning to end. The only downside worth mentioning here is that, as with many high-end headsets, Xbox One compatibility is sometimes disrupted through unknown causes. You may find that the headset refuses to connect after working just fine the previous day, or that it stops working after an hour in the charging dock. A full reset almost always fixes these problems, but it’s worth noting that things don’t always work smoothly.
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