I got quite the surprise when I picked up the subject for my latest review from a colleague. Instead of a game, which usually comes in a pretty small package, I got handed a paper bag the size of a video game console. Peering into the bag, I glimpsed the words “Astro A50” on the box held within. I had to quickly Google that on my phone. A headset? Huh.
I’ve never been much of a headset user. I have a relatively spacious living room in which I play video games, and my audio equipment is set up to best take advantage of that; after all, nothing really beats a full-fledged Dolby Surround 7.1 home theater system, right?
Having planned to stream some of my gaming sessions online for Geek Culture TV, I realized that a headset was necessary in order for me to engage my audience effectively. I have to be able to talk to my viewers somehow, right? And I figured, if I was going to use a headset, it might as well be one that some say is the best on the market.
Let’s find out if the Astro A50 lives up to that lofty reputation, shall we?
Bits and Pieces
Let it be known that I am not a techie by any means. I can hold my own in video games any day of the week, but I can’t tell an iPhone 4S from an iPhone 5 even if my life depended on it. Upon opening up the box and giving the instructions a quick once-over, I initially felt intimidated; with all the features and amazing sound quality that the A50 boasted, surely it must be hell to set up and configure?
Fortunately, that was not the case. In fact, the whole process pretty much boiled down to… plug-and-play. It literally took me only a couple of minutes to make sure everything was connected properly and hooked up to my PlayStation 4, from which I would be broadcasting my gaming sessions.
Following that, I booted up the PS4, and made a quick trip into the console settings menu to ensure that the audio output was optimized for headphones. With that, I was done!
It was certainly quite the pleasant surprise to not have to fiddle with a thousand-and-one different settings with the A50 in order to experience what it has to offer. Having a high-end headset like this work right out of the box felt immensely satisfying, and I haven’t even really started using it yet!
The Hills Are Alive…
I tested out the A50 with a number of games for the PS4: Metal Gear Solid V, inFAMOUS: Second Son, and The Lego Movie Videogame. The headset comes pre-programmed with 3 equalizer settings: “Media” (great for movies and music), “Core” (middle-of-the-road), and “Pro”, which provides unparallelled audio quality for gaming. For the purposes of this review, I spent most of my time with the A50 set to “Pro”.
Gunshots, explosions, footsteps and ambient environmental noise, all of which are ever-present elements of modern video games, sounded simply spectacular. Even without an actual sub-woofer, I could feel the deep bass thrumming in my bones whenever, say, an armored vehicle drove by the bush I was hiding in while playing Metal Gear Solid V.
The A50 also does an excellent job in conveying distance and localization of sound. I found it very easy to discern where enemies were coming from just from audio alone, and I was even able to get a good gauge of how far away they were. There were several times during which I instinctively cocked my head to assess a suspicious noise as if it were real life; that’s how convincing it was!
Adjusting the balance between in-game audio and chat audio is also a cinch. There are no fancy dials to fool around with, as the entire right earpiece is essentially a giant toggle switch: Tap the forward end (relative to your face) to increase emphasis on in-game audio, and tap the rear end for the opposite effect. It really can’t get any easier than that now, can it?
In The Zone
I am happy to report, however, that the A50 is extremely comfortable to wear, despite being seemingly bulky and heavy at first glance. Appearances can be deceiving, indeed!
The materials used in the construction of the A50 are sturdy and lightweight; at no point in my streaming sessions did I ever feel like I needed to take it off for a breather.
The earcups themselves are soft, somewhat fluffy, and molded very nicely to my ears and head. This of course also had the welcome effect of minimizing audio bleed, and kept any unwanted external noise out of my ears.
Coming from someone who has never fancied wearing headphones (and has a rather large head), this is quite the big deal! After acclimatizing to the fit and feel of the headset for a while, I almost forgot they were there; that’s how comfortable the headset felt to me.
The Final Verdict
Honestly, I had such a great experience with the A50 that I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about it! Now that I’ve used it for a few weeks, I cannot imagine doing any of my broadcasts without the A50; it has become an indispensable part of my gaming habits.
I suppose the only drawback I can think of is the steep price. Retailing at US$299 online, and around $450 in Singapore, the A50 is certainly not for everyone. However, if you believe in paying for quality, and are willing to spare no expense in acquiring a headset primarily for gaming purposes, definitely check out the Astro A50. It’s easily one of the best gaming headsets you can buy.