E3 2016 – ASTRO Gaming New A50 Headset Impressions – Wireless Audiophile Experience
ASTRO Gaming is known for making premium video game accessories. This E3, they announced an update to their popular A50 headphones. We were able to see what they were all about this year, and have details below.
A Headset With History
The A50 Wireless Gaming Headset originally released in 2012, and quickly garnered a following from gamers who demanded great audio in a headset that could also be worn for hours between charges. The update announced just before E3 indicates that ASTRO Gaming has been hard at work to incorporate user feedback into this revised model.
For starters, there is now a version that works with the PlayStation 4 (hence why we are providing coverage). Other than the color, that is the differentiating feature between versions of this model. The rest of the changes as follows applies to all of the new A50 models.
The A50 includes “accurate audiophile-grade performance no matter the source.” While we couldn’t hear any samples while at E3, the currently-released A50 is well-known for having great audio quality, so it is reasonable to expect that will be the case in the new model. The technical specifications include an expanded frequency response range of 10 Hz – 20 KHz, which indicates that these should have better bass response than your average headset, which typically has a response range of 20 Hz – 20 KHz. The headset can also get quite loud, with an SPL rating of up to 118 dB, a setting we do NOT recommend unless you want your eardrums busted. This is all driven by a pair of 40 mm neodymium magnets, one per ear.
Wireless For 15+ Hours
Since the headset is wireless, a few specs are very important here: battery life and wireless range. The battery is said to last for approximately 15 hours of use between charges. The headset also includes an accelerometer, which detects when it is not being worn. The headset will put itself to sleep if this occurs, in order to save battery life. Once you pick the headset back up, it turns itself on automatically. This is a great inclusion to see, and a convenience that is good to see in a premium headset.
As for wireless range, the A50 Wireless Gaming Headset uses the 5 GHz frequency band, which means a few things. The first is that the 5 GHz band tends to be less crowded than, say, the 2.4 GHz band, where many, many, many WiFi networks live. A tradeoff of the less crowded bandwidth is that because the microwaves are higher-energy, their range is reduced compared to lower-energy frequencies. However, the range is still around 30 feet, so it should work in essentially all gaming setups.
A new base station has been designed, which includes magnetic charging contacts to make recharging the headset a breeze. There are also indicators for battery life and Dolby Surround on/off status. The base station also handles automatic pairing with the headset, optical pass-through, and AUX in/out.
Amp Up Your Audio
A built-in amp allows you to modify levels of various audio being streamed into your headset. This includes such things as adjusting the balance of game versus chat audio, so if you don’t want to hear voice chat as high as the game’s mix for a while, you can do that here instead of fumbling through a game’s sound settings menu.
The A50 Wireless Gaming Headset also includes a boom mic, which is noise-cancelling. You can also flip up the mic when you want it muted, which should come in handy to shut yourself up much quicker than before.
An ASTRO Command Center software is also included, but this is more for the PC side of gaming and does not really apply to PlayStation gamers. This is where you can adjust many different types of levels and create custom audio mixes to get an optimal set of audio levels for your favorite games.
Finally, the new A50 is also compatible with the ASTRO A50 Mod Kit. This kit includes a leather headband and leather ear cushions which can be swapped in place of the headset’s included headband and cushions. The claim is that the mod kit uses premium materials for a more comfortable fit and better sound isolation. The mod kit is sold separately.
The ASTRO A50 Wireless Gaming Headset looks like serious business. Having held the headset as well, I can confirm that it is much lighter than any headset thiss size deserves to be. Only time and reviews will tell if it is comfortable over longer gaming sessions. The ASTRO A50 Wireless Gaming Headset is currently slated for a summer 2016 launch, with an MSRP of $300 (US).