Sound and Performance
Since Astro takes pride in their drivers, you’ll seldom hear that they tweak their raw sound presentation in any way outside of how they deliver their MixAmp and EQ technologies. With the latest generation of the A50, the Astro MixAmp is built into the headset, allowing you tweak and fine-tune the various inbound and outbound sounds of the A50 using the Astro Command Center software. There’s a button for toggling Dolby Headphone7.1 Surround Sound and a switch for toggling their on-the-fly base EQ presets of ASTRO, Pro and Studio, both found on the right side of the ear cup. Simplifying those settings, the presets toggle between:
- A high-range focus, for foot-step tracking
- A balanced sound not focusing on either hi’s or low’s
- A low-range focus, for a deeper lean towards bass
I’ll start off by saying that all the presets sound great and are effective in their own right. I love bass-leaning headphones as long as the bass presentation is not muddy. That is definitely the case with the A50’s bass-leaning “Studio” setting which resented a powerful and full bass that didn’t over whelm. That said, I preferred the “Balanced” setting over the other two as I felt that I heard everything I needed to hear in-game, at the level I needed to hear it and fully enjoy it. It was a crisp and powerful sound that was only made better by leaving the Dolby Headphone7.1 Surround Sound setting on at all times. Through many hours of game play with just a sprinkling of movie-watching, I always enjoyed what I heard.
You could also use the Astro Command Center to refine and alter these presets as you see fit. You can edit the EQ settings and save them as profiles, effectively creating your own custom EQ’s to toggle between on the fly. I was especially impressed with this as it allows the more discerning audiophile to tweak the A50’s sound presentation exactly to their liking. I’m not sure I encountered any console-centric wireless headsets with this level of customization options. EQ presets? Definitely. However, it wasn’t if you could make your OWN presets to toggle. On top of that, your custom EQ settings also work whether you’re using the A50 with a console or the PC. Big points there.
Spoken voice came across loud and clear, both inbound and outbound. Teammates on the other side of my mic complemented me on my voice clarity but also mentioned that they could hear some background noise from time to time, which was a testament to the sensitivity of the mic. Fret not as that is why the Astro Command Software is in this mix. Using the software, I was able to control the Noise Gate of the mic as well as the side tone, which I always maxed out. That definitely helped with keeping the A50’s focus on only, if not mostly, me.
If anything, I simply wished that the Noise Gate control allowed you to control the mic’s range of listening with the same level of control as it the command center gives you with the Side Tone. The Side Tone control uses a somewhat standard slider bar giving you a somewhat defined level of control as to how much you can hear your voice. The Noise Gate control simply came in 4 presets, which you had to choose from. Hovering your mouse cursor over them did give you a little tooltip popup, explaining how each preset behaves. However, Noise Gate is the kind of control that I expect gamers would like to have a slider-bar-like control for, as seen in chat clients like Ventrillo and TeamSpeak.
Minor knocks come in the occasional wireless interference that simply happens with these devices. Generally speaking, keep the Base Station away from other wireless transmitting devices. I didn’t want to knock the A50 directly for this more than I just wanted to mention the possibility of some brief audio interruptions. Given that we’re swimming in tech thanks to all the reviews we do, I just took that for what it was.
Finagling with the buttons of the A50 was not too bad, although there was a minor learning curve to navigate at first. The power switch on the A50 is on the same ear cup as the EQ switch, which is also located in that same general area. What that led to was the accidental shutting off of the headset when I just meant to toggle the EQ switch. Whoops, ergonomics! The game and voice balancer also took some brief getting used to. It not only took time to identify which side of the ear cup balances voice or chat, but also how hard to press that panel to achieve the desired result.
After a short period of time, you’ll get used to the placements and controls, allowing you to enjoy the A50 for what it is – A high-performing piece of equipment in every facet of audio transmission.