Astro Gaming is a bit different than many other headset manufacturers. Rather than an expansive product line, Astro offers a streamlined portfolio of three headsets (including the A*Star Earbuds) and two different companion Mixamps: a wired solution and a wireless one.
The products have been iteratively improved. The original Wireless Mixamp was upgraded to 5.8Ghz. The A40 headset got a new microphone. That’s how Astro works: constantly perfecting. That’s why it’s big news when they announce a new product, unveiled to the media for the first time at E3 2012 in Los Angeles.
The new A50 headset is a fully-embedded wireless solution (as opposed to the Wireless Mixamp 5.8, which still requires a bit of cabling). In a feat of engineering, the team at Astro has crammed their mixamp technology into the right earcup of the new gear. The most amazing part, though, is that it doesn’t feel any heavier than the A40s we included in our Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide.
The form factor is nearly identical to the A40s, with a couple of small differences. Given the embedded wireless technology, you won’t be able to change speaker tags (a customization feature on the company’s other products). The microphone sports a flip-up mute feature, which is a fantastic convenience. The drivers are the same 40mm (technically 44mm) units found in the A40s.
On the exterior of the right earcup is a volume rocker that mimics the game/chat audio dial on the Wired Mixamp and Wireless Mixamp receiver. On the underside of that cup is the master volume dial. It was designed with ergonomics in mind. When wearing them, my hand naturally went to the master volume control. It was extremely comfortable.
The back sports a brand new feature on an Astro product. There, you’ll find a switch with three presets. The first is a media setting for music and movies. The middle is for as-intended sound from games. The bottom is Astro’s “pro mode.” Coming this fall, owners will be able install custom presets created by the company and by community members. More info on how that will work is forthcoming.
The left ear cup only has two ports. The first is for charging the integrated battery via USB. Charging takes three to five hours, offering 10 – 12 hours of life in return. The battery has a three-year life, and the company will offer a replacement program similar to what Apple has in place for their iDevices. The other port is for an Xbox 360 chat cable.
For PC and PS3, the included wireless transmitter will connect via USB. The whole package comes with a nifty stand that neatly holds the headset and fits any of Astro’s mixamp devices. This includes the brand new version of the wireless mixamp, which comes with a Kleernet chip. This technology is the widest band available, lag free and purported to be slated for 30 to 40 million consumer electronics devices. Should you purchase a television with Kleernet built in, you’ll be able to pair your A50s directly with that unit. Now, imagine if Sony, Microsoft or both decide to implement this in the next generation of consoles. That’s right, a direct link to between your headset and the gaming hardware. The possibilities have us quite excited.
When the A50s are available in about a month, you’ll be able to connect multiple units to a single transmitter (up to four are guaranteed, but in the lab the team has managed up to 16 with no degradation). They’ll be available for pre-order soon at a price of $299.99 on the Astro Gaming website.