Nothing will enhance the best PC games like one of the best PC gaming headset. The improved audio detail and surround sound creates an immersive atmosphere, and turns the footsteps of a foe into a dead giveaway of their location. Single player campaigns become journeys you won’t want to back out of. Online, having a great mic turns it into a social experience, letting you chat with your teammates and coordinate tactics on the fly.
The Astro A50 is a headset that does all that and more – and at $300 (£299, AU$480), it really should. Thanks in part to the Dolby Pro Logic llx format, the Astro A50 offers digitally mixes 7.1 simulated surround sound. It’s one of the best headsets if you really want to feel enemy rockets rip right past your head, and it’s versatile enough that you’ll want to use it for watching movies and listening to music. Finally, the fact that it’s compatible right out of the box with the Xbox One S, PlayStation 4 and any PC or Mac with an optical port, adds a ton of versatility – blowing the Triton Warhead 7.1, a comparable $300 Xbox-only headset, out of the water.
Long praised for its design chops, Astro Studios spun off Astro Gaming back in 2006 – which has been competing with brands like Mad Catz, Tritton and Razer to produce premium gaming headsets. While the Astro a50 isn’t the perfect headset, it definitely comes close, and the wide range of devices it’s compatible with makes it a great investment for tech fans with crowded entertainment centers. Fortunately, we’re pretty sure there will be a ton of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals out there for the A50, which should make its lofty price tag easier to swallow.
The Astro A50 features crisp highs, deep bass and thanks to its Dolby Pro llx compatibility, it features software-enabled sound mixing as good as any 7.1 headset on the market. You might also need to pick up an adapter if you want to connect to anything without an optical port, like the MacBook Pro – though its base station does have a 3.5mm input jack. We also found that Astro’s estimated 12 hour battery life wasn’t quite accurate, making the $7.99 Play and Charge Cable a tempting purchase. However, you can also just use a spare micro USB cable if you have a spare lying around.
Also, there's an essential firmware update that fixes an issue with the A50s that causes an intermittent "pop" in the audio. If you purchased the A50s, make sure to download the update and install it.
With great audio power comes a plus-sized headset; the Astro A50 is big and bulky, but still manages to be surprisingly comfortable. Every piece of the headset that comes in contact with your head, meaning the earpieces and the underside of the headband, is covered in soft, foam-like cloth. You'll definitely notice the weight of the A50s sitting on your head, but the gentle points of contact make it easy to wear. During long gaming sessions or while watching a movie we eventually forgot we were wearing it. You'd have to wear the A50 for a truly extended amount of time for it to become uncomfortable or tiring.
The fit of the A50s is not as snug as some headphones we've tested. It might feel a bit loose if you're used to something tighter, but we quickly go used to it. A more relaxed fit makes it easier on your ears, but it does mean the audio bleeds a bit. If you're cranking the sound, people around you will be able to hear it faintly. Just don't listen to any secret messages with enemy spies around.
Since the unit is large, Astro made a good choice in giving it a stealthy color scheme. The matte black finish is attractive and subdued; no need to draw any more attention to the oversized A50s. Red, semi-exposed cables running up the sides of the headband serve as an eye-catching highlight.
The microphone is super bendy and durable, and has one clever feature: pointing it straight up locks it in place and mutes it. It's a neat and convenient bit of design, but we still would have appreciated to option to simply remove the mic. Being able to tuck it straight up is a great feature for LAN parties or long gaming sessions, but makes you look like an unemployed cosmonaut when you're watching a movie. It would be nice if we could just take it off.