If you play console or PC online gaming, you'll know that what you hear is just as important as what you see. To that end, it's no surprise that a decent set of headphones should be on the Christmas list of any serious gamer, and we've found a stellar pair from Astro. We review the A50 Wireless Gaming Headphones.
The Astro A50 Wireless Gaming Headphones are over-ear headphones designed to be worn for long periods, complete with a built-in boom microphone. Comfort has very clearly been at the top of Astro's list here, as both the cans and the headband are heavily cushioned. In fact, the can cushions are attached by magnets, meaning they can be swapped out for different styles and sizes depending on what you want. Furthermore, the headset is fully adjustable, and everybody we gave it to to try found that it was comfortable and snug – even children.
The headphones are wireless, but not Bluetooth as most headphones labelled wireless are. The A50s use 5.8GHz WiFi to connect to the included base station, which itself is then connected to your PC or gaming console. Speaking of which, we were sent the set optimised for PS4, but an Xbox One version is also available. Also, both versions work automatically with a PC and even a Mac, so only console users have to make the right choice.
That wireless has a range of 30 feet, so if you play somewhat away from you gaming setup, you'll be fine. The base station is also how the headphones charge, and the onboard battery will keep you playing for up to 15 hours. That's pretty impressive, especially considering the headphones aren't all that heavy. To charge them, you simply place them on the base and the connectors meet. Easy.
The boom mic is also pretty sweet, because as well as having an actual bend-and-hold boom (seriously, it magically stays wherever you bend it), there is also a lift to mute function. Nudge the mic upwards, and your gaming comrades won't be able to hear your mum/partner/kids bugging you. Handy.
But the sound... oh gosh, the sound. For a start, due to the over-ear design, and the fact that they fit snugly, almost all outside noise is blocked when you're in a gaming environment. Also, these babies use Dolby Headphone 7.1 Surround – something specifically formulated for gaming so you can accurately pinpoint from what direction a noise came. And it works so well, presenting a realistic environment for your senses no matter what game you're playing.
As well as that, the quality of the overall audio is spot on, with music and scores sounding as if you're hearing them via extreme high-end headphones. Voices, lyrics, and spoken words were also crisp and immediate. The included software allows you to tweak the sound and programme presets which can be accessed by a three-way switch on the right-side can. Oh, and there is a fantastic switch to balance the game/voice levels, so if you want to focus more on the sound of your game-mates' voices than the gaming environment, you can.
These are incredible headphones which actually seem pretty well priced for what they are. Hours will go by and you'll hardly be aware of them on your head, while the versatility of the presets, the wireless connection, and the easy mic should win over even the most experienced of gamers.