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One of the best features of the Astro A50 is how it plays nicely with so many different toys. As long a device has an optical port, the A50 will work with it right out of the box. Without an optical port, the A50 can connect to devices (like a MacBook) by plugging a standard 1/8th-inch speaker cable into the transmitter.
Once you've plugged in, syncing is relatively painless. Additionally, Astro includes a very simple Quick Start Guide that explains how to connect to a PlayStation 3, PC or Xbox 360S (an original Xbox 360 will require an AV adapter, component cable or use of your HDTV's optical port).
For most setups, the Astro A50 uses two connections: USB and optical. After plugging into those two ports, syncing is accomplished with by pressing a button on the transmitter and then the headset. LEDs flash for a second or two and then you're connected. When going between different consoles, all the plugging and unplugging can get annoying, depending on how accessible your home theatre is, but syncing is always reliable and easy.
However, on the Xbox 360, the A50 requires the dreaded chat cable to go between the headset and the controller. Unfortunately, since Mad Catz has the exclusive rights to true wireless chat on the Xbox 360 with its Warhead 7.1, this is just how it has to be.
Some devices, such as the PlayStation 3, need you to switch audio sources in the settings menu when going between the A50 and your television's speakers. This is easily accomplished, but may create trouble for other, less tech savvy members of your household.
Interface simplicity is key with something like the Astro A50 headset. When you're taking enemy fire in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or in the middle of an explosive cinematic climax, you don't want to be fooling with the volume controls. While we wouldn't call the A50's interface complex, it's not as simple as some headsets we've encountered, and its method of mixing game and voice sound took some getting used to.
The A50's master volume is controlled with a scroll wheel found on the lower part of the right earphone. It's easy to find at a moments notice, and not so loose that you'll flip it too fast and blow out your eardrums. However, the big Game to Voice balance button on the right earpiece can be a bit of trouble. Pressing the game side turns up the game volume and turns down voice, while pressing voice does the opposite.
We prefer headphones that treat game and voice sound as two individually adjustable channels, rather than the A50's method of adjusting one in relation to the other. It's by no means a deal breaker, but we suggest that you find a level you're comfortable with and then leave this big button alone in favor of the master volume.
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