Headsets are now a dime a dozen. The selection is a good deal smaller when it comes to wireless headsets, especially those with 3D surround sound and good sound. You will almost automatically come across the name Astro here. The headset specialists, who have now been part of Logitech for more than three years, have earned a good reputation over the past few years with MixAmps and headsets. Right? In any case, I found a short interlude with the Astro A 50 and its surround capabilities at Gamescom 2019 quite exciting. And colleague Markus, as the owner of a wired Astro A40, was also excited about the wireless version. How convenient that Astro was persuaded to provide us with a test sample for a while. In our case it is the Xbox (plus PC/Mac) version, whereby all descriptions also apply to the PlayStation version.
Up and down
In general, the Astro A50 is pretty easy to set up and connect. The headset and console are connected via USB and, depending on the hardware, the optical cable that is included. Xbox Series X/S owners must enter here firmware upgrade with the headset because the consoles no longer have an optical output. Instead, all it needs is the USB connection from the console to the base station. If you use the headset on the Xbox One, the console’s optical output is used, but the base station of the A50 conveniently has a passthrough. The console then practically takes care of the rest. In terms of material quality, the A50 makes a solid to really good impression. The ear pads with magnetic holders are a nice touch, for example. Only the headband seems wobbly than necessary. In practice, it can still withstand quite a lot, but the spring steel construction in the Beyerdynamic style, which can now be found in many headsets, inspires more confidence. The pull-out mechanism for the ear cups, on the other hand, is as simple as it is effective and robust.
If the A50 is then placed on the head, it leaves a comparatively light impression for a wireless headset with 380 grams according to the manufacturer (and 372 according to my scales). This definitely contributes to the successful comfort, as well as the successful ear pads with velor covers. The headrest, on the other hand, could be a bit wider. Even if no unpleasant pressure built up here, the HyperX Cloud also has more comfortable padding for the headband, albeit more sweaty than the A50 because of the different cover. Ear warming is absolutely acceptable for a closed headset. However, the sticking point could be the size for one or the other. So the A50 fitted perfectly with Mitnerd Markus and there was still some room for improvement. For me, the headset was already fully extended and the ear pads were a little tight. With the Beyerdynamic Custom Game, on the other hand, I could not only make it much larger, I also simply have more review space for my ears. In short, with a big head you could quickly reach the limit of the A50. If it fits, the A50 can definitely score with a comfortable fit, even if I would like the next version to be a little bigger.
The operation is also quite logical and uncomplicated, from top to bottom on the right ear cup we find the power switch, selection buttons for surround and EQ mode and the rotary control for the volume. All this can be easily operated with the thumb and you can find your way around very quickly blindly.
Bang, boom, bang and more
And how does it sound now? This depends, among other things, on the respective EQ preset. Unfortunately, I only found the neutral EQ really usable as a preset, the other two just work too extreme. With the neutral EQ, the A50 does something that is still rather rare in gaming headsets. It works fairly balanced and unobtrusively. Only in the direction of the very deep tones does it act minimally reserved, at least with the velor upholstery, while the upper bass is subtly emphasized. This is somewhat reminiscent of many open headphones. All in all, however, the bass is fairly balanced and this picture extends from the mids to the highs. Especially high-frequency sharpness and sharp sibilants are non-existent here. The spatial representation without virtual surround sound is quite compact, but clean. On top of that, the 40mm drivers work cleanly and with little distortion. You have to do without the last bit of resolution compared to good headphones or, for example, an MMX 300, but the A50 does a good job here too.
Things get exciting with the Astro Control Center. Among other things, the app lets us freely configure the EQ presets. This means that sensible adjustments are possible, such as a bit of punch in the deep bass or a certain transparency kick in the super high range or the targeted reduction of certain frequencies. Unfortunately, the console version of the app ran anything but smoothly on my Series X. Here it might make sense to create presets on the PC if the problems persist on the console.
And of course there’s the surround sound thing. Here the Astro not only had to be compared to other headsets with Dolby Atmos (via app), but also to DTS Headphone X. One thing is very important, as long as such systems are not adapted to your head and ears, none of them will work virtual surround variant equally good for all people. Impressions are always quite subjective. This also applies to the following assessments!
Especially with Dolby Atmos, I found the Astro quite successful at Gamescom 2019. For me, the location of noises was simply more consistent during our short trade fair appointment than just using the Dolby app on the PC and console. And this is exactly the impression that is retained even after a long test at home. Apparently some tweaks have been made here and that seems to be the main sticking point here. The location sharpness and thus precise direction detection simply work better here. Compared to Dolby Atmos. The image rotates, for me, but with DTS Headphone X, which the Astro unfortunately does not currently support. Headphone X generally works better for me than Dolby Atmos, apparently the underlying HRTF suits my head better. For that reason alone, I would like Astro to support DTS Headphone X in the future in addition to Dolby Atmos.
Finally, there’s one thing that I can’t say for sure whether it’s due to our test sample or whether it’s a general feature of the A50. The headset works noise-free, but in absolute silence you can hear a very, very quiet hum like an approx. 400Hz sine wave in the right ear.
Compared to other, closed headsets, you should also know that the Astro A50, at least with the velor cushions, hardly insulates ambient noise at all. I pick up as much of the environment as I do with my open headphones, including a Beyerdynamic DT 880 Edition. However, my ears stay a little cooler there. The A50 is then very far away from the acoustic shielding of the custom game. After all, sound leakage isn’t a big problem on the other hand. With the DT 880, the environment hears much more, but less with the custom game.
Micro, battery and such
Of course, a headset also includes the microphone, which is unidirectional on the A50 and should pick up little ambient noise. Conveniently, it’s auto-muted when directed upwards and offers an overall solid performance. However, it does not come close to the excellent intelligibility of the custom game, although it still picks up more ambient noise. Depending on the situation, it sometimes has slight advantages and disadvantages compared to the HyperX Cloud’s microphone, which does a really good job for its price range.
I didn’t have any problems with the battery life. It was measured at rtings with 17.5 hours, which should work quite well in practice, even if I didn’t stop the time that precisely. If you simply place the A50 on the base station after the gaming session, you should never have the problem that the battery is empty. However, if you forget to charge it completely, a full battery charge should take about 4-5 hours. For this, however, the A50 has to sit properly on the charging station, and that could actually be a bit better. In the test period, it worked for me to ‘drop’ the headset from a height of two or three centimeters onto the base station, but when I put it on carefully I had to make corrections more often.
For me the Astro is nothing in the long run. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, it does a lot right and actually allows itself a few blunders. The main reasons are the fit and the fact that I can’t easily use the Astro on multiple consoles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even have a Bluetooth mode, because thanks to the balanced sound, it would be more than solid headphones. Finally, I personally miss the DTS Headphone X support. On the other hand, if you only play on a console anyway and maybe also on the PC, you get a really successful headset that is definitely worth its price. PlayStation 4 players benefit from the Astro’s surround sound anyway, while the situation on the Xbox isn’t always that clear thanks to various surround add-ons, including Windows Sonic. The Astro A50 can also score here.
Unlike Michael, I am an absolute layman when it comes to headphone and surround knowledge. However, I was completely won over by the technical specifications that Michael made clear. The digital Dolby Atmos on the PC and Xbox Series X pretty quickly put a smile on my face, especially since I just don’t have the space for a corresponding system at the moment to even come close to such a sound experience. The Astro A50’s compatibility, which limits us to one family of consoles plus PC, is annoying as I’d like to have one headset for all consoles, TV and PC. However, the quality and the leap to a wireless version actually make me consider using the A50 for Xbox Series X and PC in addition to my A40 (PS4 version) in the future. The last few months in numerous Zoom meetings have made me curse the cable of the A40 after the A50 was passed on to Michael. Wireless is much more convenient. A Bluetooth function would have been the icing on the cake, but Astro is once again convincing for the advertised field of application (gaming).
Good Dolby implementation
Inherently neutral and, thanks to the adjustable EQ, adaptable sound
Good battery life and usability
Doesn’t go well with big heads
No Bluetooth function
Base station layout and design needs improvement