There are a number of manufactures that offer virtual 7.1 surround sound options, but few can compare themselves to what Astro Gaming has to offer. Astro Gaming is the king on top of a populated mountain and the A50s are their defining product. The A50 headsets are incredibly expensive, a luxury for any video game player, but the cost is not just for show. The quality of the headset is unmatched, creating the most enclosed surround sound experience you can find, while at the same time being comfortable and not too heavy. Considering that the Xbox One has (or rather had if you buy a newer controller) their own proprietary headset connection on the bottom of the controller, Astro Gaming has gone ahead and created an A50 model for the system that adjusts the color scheme and includes the needed adapter for chatting.
The Astro Gaming A50 Xbox One Edition comes with a bevy of items that are all essential for getting it to work properly. You have your 363 gram headset, followed up by its lightweight and fully portable MixAmp Transmitter (Tx). There’s also an optical cable, two USB cables and a display stand that needs to be put together on your own. Most importantly, for those looking to chat with other gamers online, it requires a connector as the Xbox One has its own proprietary headset system (and now supporting 3.5mm connections with newer controllers). An Astro AG1 Xbox One Chat Cable has been supplied, being plugged into the bottom of the controller and to the bottom of the headset to supply users with voice chat capabilities. Because of this, the headset isn’t 100% wireless, requiring users to run a cable from your controller to the headset. Fortunately, if you have no intention of using this, there’s no cables necessary.
The setup for the Astro Gaming A50 does require a bit of extra work to get it to function, but it’s more or less what we’ve come to expect. The MixAmp draws power from the console through a supplied USB cable, while at the same time, the second USB cable helps charge the device’s lithium-ion batteries that run for roughly eight hours. Users can leave it at that if they are fine with stereo sound, but the optical cable is meant to be plugged from the back of the Xbox One to allow for the full Dolby Digital surround sound experience. The AG1 Xbox One chat cable, as said, requires a simple plug and play functionality to the bottom of the headset, but is completely option depending on the game that’s being played. Finally, the display stand is broke up into three parts that just need to be slid into place. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely that simple as there are a lot of connecting parts and it becomes difficult to take apart if you want to make adjustments. In the end, you can display the pricey headset next to your Xbox One with pride.
The wireless connection process is very simple that it almost never needed syncing on our end. On the MixAmp, there’s your standard power button and then a Dolby that will enable and disable the surround sound feature. In addition, the A50 MixAmp comes with an AUX connection on the back of the box, which is perfect for listening to music on your phone, even though the 3.5mm cable is sold separately. The headset did have a little weight to them, which is expected from wireless headphones, but fortunately you’ll never will feel overburdened with these on, unless of course you happen to have a very small neck. The headset’s design itself is pretty basic from what we’ve come to expect, just with a couple of color swaps. You can get these in three different schemes: a dark olive Halo edition, black white lime outlines, and white with lime outlines. The A50s come complete with a fully adjustable headband, a flexible microphone and velour ear cushions. Most of the controls and functionalities are designed right on the headset itself, with the power button and volume wheel on the right side, and connections on the left. Everything is easily accessible.
An extra feature that’s almost hidden from the outset (at least if you don’t read the manual) is the right speaker plate acts as a game / voice balancer. Whether or not you’re using the AG1 chat cable, this can help adjust the audio levels in a game, and this is especially helpful considering the volume wheel on the bottom of the headset can be difficult to access at times. It’s a very convenient function, but the only negative notion is that, depending the balance between the two audio channels, the headset will emit a loud, high pitched wine that will pierce the ears of anyone. It’s meant to be used as a notification, but it could have been toned down a bit.
We testing A50s with games such as Forza Horizon 2, Rayman Legends, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive and various other titles and the audio quality is unreal. The clarity and bass that comes through the speakers will make you think you’re an enclosed room with a high quality surround sound system kicking. Granted, this is still virtual 7.1 surround sound as it’s inefficient to stuff seven speakers into a headset, but Astro Gaming does a phenomenal job in create the perfect 7.1 atmosphere. The A50 are tailored for all types of media as it comes with three Equalizer (EQ) Modes. There’s the Media mode that’s best for movies and music thanks to the enhanced bass, Core which is perfect for single player gaming, and then Pro which is aimed more towards competitive gameplay. As per usual, there is some white noise, especially on Pro setting, but it’s minimal and can only be heard when there’s little to no audio being transmitted.
One aspect that’s always important to a headset is its comfort level, and fortunately with the A50s it’s high. There are those who prefer leather ear cushions, but the velour material they use here are incredibly soft, even more so than traditional velour headphones. The height values are also easy to adjust to better fit any head, and the overall satisfaction on sitting down with this headset for an extended period of time is greatly positive. The only issue with the headset as a whole, while not a huge problem, is that the microphone’s volume and clarity levels aren’t as spectacular as we’d hoped. While it’s more than adequate, you can definitely tell most of the effort has gone into the development of the audio quality before anything else. We were told at times the headset was too quiet on the Xbox One, oddly enough too loud on the PS4, but never the right balance from the other end. One aspect that was noted, though, is that it’s better than the Kinect’s microphone and the headset included with the system.
The Astro Gaming A50 Xbox One Edition can be a hard sell to the average consumer. Who wants to shell out essentially the cost of the system itself for essentially an accessory? If you already have a thousand dollar plus surround sound system, the A50 is not for you unless you want something that can replicate that experience on the go. But, for those who are tired of 2.0 stereo or for some reason mono, the asking price ends up being a great value. For the extra $100 over its wired brother, though, we do wish Astro would add the ability customize tags as currently it’s unavailable for the A50. Regardless, you won’t be able to find a better wireless headset that offers the same audio quality than the A50, and it doesn’t hurt it comes with a stand you can hang it from to show off.