All good things eventually come to an end; such was the fate of my TurtleBeach Earforce PX21. One morning while getting ready for a long gaming session, I broke the PX21 in the middle of repositioning it. Apparently, I forced one of the ear couplings the wrong way – and snap! Yeah, you can fill in the rest. Now don’t get me wrong; I liked the PX21 while it lasted, but I noticed flaws overtime that convinced me to search beyond just a mere replacement. I needed an alternative. My quest eventually led me to the Astro Gaming A50 Wireless Gaming Headset + MixAmp.
Wireless for the Win – Unlike the PX21 (and its convoluted mess of wires), the A50 uses the 5.8GHz KleerNet Wireless Technology for clarity, range, and low interference. All that mumbo jumbo means nothing unless put to the test, so I tried listening to audio with the A50 from my room, which is one end of my house, all the way to the garage at the other end – with no hiccups. That’s a little over 25 ft. of distance covered wirelessly.
Multiplatform – Just like the PX21, the A50 is a single “all-in-one” headset solution that supports the PC, the PS3, and the Xbox 360.
Sweet 7.1 Surround Sound – Whether you’re slaying dragons, trudging through a firefight, or saving the world from an apocalypse, you don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate the DOLBY ProLogic IIx surround sound.
Comfy Cans – The cushioned ear couplings are an “over ear” design, meaning they surround your ears instead of press against them. This leads to longer gaming sessions without much fiddling.
Quick Mute – No need to fumble with small buttons or ALT+TAB your gaming session just to mute your voice; with the A50 you only need to flick the microphone piece back up to its original position.
Controls At Your Fingertips – With the exception of the DOLBY on/off button on the MixAmp Transmitter, just about everything you need are easily accessible on the headset itself. The power button, the volume controls, the game/voice balance tuner, and the audio modes (three EQ presets) are directly on the ear couplings.
Noise-Cancelling Microphone – “Extraneous” noises won’t feed into the mic. No complaints there.
Straightforward Design – The A50 does away with the glossy finish that was prevalent with its older model, the A40, and goes with a (mostly) matted black look. The color scheme is accented with the partially exposed red internal wiring. Overall, the A50 looks like what a gaming headset should be without being tacky.
Simple Stand – Although the A50 doesn’t come with a portable case, it does have a simple no-frills stand that does the job. So instead of laying the A50 somewhere on your desk as part of your daily clutter, you can now let it “sit” on its own stand and remain easily accessible. The stand also serves as a base for the A50’s MixAmp Transmitter.
No Need for Power Cables – The MixAmp Transmitter is powered by USB, so no need for additional cabling to be plugged into your overcrowded surge protector or wall outlet. Just connect the transmitter into a system, like your PC, and let it charge your headphones even if the system itself is turned off.
Premium Price Tag – At a gut-wrenching retail price of $299, you definitely want to do your research first to find out if this headset is for you. I won’t deny that there are cheap, decent alternatives out there.
Reported Audio Issues – Various audio issues have been reported, but I’ve never experienced any of them. Maybe I’m just lucky, but then again I updated the firmware as soon as I got my A50. Hint hint.
Short Cables Are Short – The MixAmp Transmitter obviously needs wires, such as the optical and USB cables, to be connected to a system. Sadly, the wires included are pretty short (or rather, “standard”) in length. Depending on your gaming setup, you may need to replace it with longer wires.
Sound Escapes – Call me nitpicky, but something I’ve noticed to be a major flaw with just about all gaming headsets, including the A50, is that they’re quite audible to those around you when you crank up the volume full blast. I mean, we use headsets for privacy and courtesy to others, no? So if sound escapes, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?
No More Customizable Tags – One of the things that made the A50’s predecessors, like the A40, unique was that they featured customizable tags. You can purchase pre-made ones or create your own via AstroGaming’s website. The A50 sets itself apart from its brethren by being more of a “what you see is what you get” model.
Xbox 360 Not Getting Any Slack – This isn’t to say that the A50 is incompatible with the Xbox 360, but rather you need to be aware of a couple of things. First, you’ll need to connect the A50 to your gamepad using the chat cable included. Second, classic Xbox 360s don’t come equipped with an optical port for the MixAmp Transmitter, so you may need to either buy an Xbox 360 audio adapter with an optical port, or check to see that your TV supports HDMI passthrough.
Battery “Pwns” You – The internal lithium-ion batteries generally give you eight hours of playtime. This may be enough for most people, but probably not for hardcore gamers. You can charge and play at the same time, but it still takes about 3 hours to do a full charge prior to using the headset wirelessly again, and that the batteries have life-spans (of about three years or so) before they need to be replaced by the manufacturer.
Pretty Much All Plastic – With the A50’s premium price tag, you’d have to wonder where most of your money is going. Surely, it’s not to cover the costs of the plastic material used to make the headset with. Fortunately, the headset has some weight and looks sturdy enough to survive minor accidents (unlike my PX21).
I’ve tested the Astro A50 Wireless Gaming Headset for almost a couple of weeks now (mainly on the PC) and I can safely say it’s basically everything I could ask for. It’s wireless, comfortable, awesome-sounding, and most importantly, it’s compatible with multiple gaming platforms. Unfortunately, because of all its bells and whistles, the price tag is pretty high – high enough to turn off even the elitist of gamers. Those who are strongly satisfied with their current headsets will probably fail to see anything outstanding about the A50. But as for me, even with all its shortcomings, I got myself a keeper.
I'm all about what makes a geek a "geek" these days, from comics to anime, and from games to the latest tech. I'm a FIU graduate with a major in Information Technology and a minor in Marketing. As a gamer, and one who doesn't believe in fanboyism, I own multiple platforms to support the gaming industry as a whole.