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At $300, the Astro A50 is a big investment. That's roughly what an Xbox 360 or a PS3 costs these days! Still, we would recommend these pricey cans to anyone with multiple consoles in their home, or someone who likes to game on PC as well as enjoy stereo sound in their living room.
When going between different devices, the plugging and unplugging can get tiresome, but it's worth it. The A50s provide high quality sound and relative ease of use with a lot of different devices. They provide phenomenal in-game sound, handle team chat adequately, and are good enough for enjoying movies or music.
First, the sound quality was top notch. The Astro A50 has a great mix that provides the sort of sound localization that will change your gameplay experience. Other headsets, like Tritton Warhead 7.1, use Dolby Pro Logic IIx just as well, but the A50 provides better sound fidelity.
It also works on more devices, which makes the $300 purchasing price much easier to swallow. If you game across more than one system, this is the headset for you. It's also good enough for movie watching and enjoying music, which helps to further justify the price.
It's also surprisingly comfortable. You may look like spaceman when you wear this big headset, but you won't be uncomfortable. The soft foam on the ear cups and headband makes the A50 sit very softly, despite its size and weight.
The game and voice mixing. We really would have preferred separate channels with individual volume controls, rather than having to adjust them in relation to each other. It was not exactly a deal breaker, but a bit of an annoyance. It was sometimes hard to achieve a good balance between game sound and voice chat, and when we did, we thought, "Ok, I'm never touching that button again."
The battery was pretty inconsistent, and Astro's claim of 12-hour battery life is not an accurate blanket statement. The performance of the charge varies, depending on what device you connect to and whether or not you enable to mic. Still, you should be able to get 8 or so hours out of it, which is nothing to sneeze at, but selling the Play-and-Charge cable separately is a tad insulting. It's not the $7.99 Astro charges for it (that's a good price, really), it's just that it will probably mean another run to the store. When we pay $300 for something, we expect to get everything we need in the box, especially something as essential as a charging cable of a functional length.
We heartily recommend the Astro A50 to any gamer who wants a powerful, versatile headset. It offers excellent sound fidelity and mixing, and being able to use it on a PC, Mac, Xbox 360 or PS3 makes it worth the money. While going between multiple devices will always be an annoyance of plugging and syncing, the A50 provides sound quality that's worth the trouble.
We were slightly miffed by the variable battery life, but that issue is just plain overshadowed by the powerful sound and flexible options provided by this headset. If you game exclusively on the Xbox 360, you might prefer the Tritton Warhead 7.1 headset, which is better integrated with Microsoft's console than the A50 is with any single device. At the end of the day, however, we prefer a more versatile, jack-of-all-trades headset to an exclusive one, especially at this price point.
If you do decide to pick up an A50, buy a Play-and-Charge cable as well (unless you already own a long USB to mini-USB cable), and make sure to download the latest firmware update, which completely eliminates an issue with sound "pop."