Astro has succeeded with the current generation of the A50: The base station is extremely practical and functional because, in addition to its function as a USB audio interface, other sources such as amplifiers or smartphones can be docked via fibre-optic or mini-jack cable. The headphones themselves score points with very good wearing comfort and good sound, which can still be adjusted to one’s own needs thanks to the 5-band EQ. Our only criticism would be that the Astro Command Centre and the built-in microphone need a little more fine-tuning.
The fourth generation of the gaming headset A50 from Logitech subsidiary Astro aims to impress with meaningful innovations. However, the manufacturer still offers two different versions – for Playstation or Xbox. The only difference between the two models is the colour of the printed labels and the software. Xbox users also benefit from a Dolby Atmos licence that is valid for two years. Both are compatible with Windows and macOS computers. Fans who own both Sony and Microsoft game consoles do not have to buy both versions – it suffices to purchase the base station to achieve full platform compatibility.
Design, finish and control options
The A50 is extremely flexible thanks to its ear cups, which can be rotated by more than 90 degrees, and the two-piece headband, whose ear padding is removable. The height adjustment, including scaling in 2.5-millimetre steps, offers an adjustment range of 5.5 centimetres and appears modern, functional and stable due to its tube shape – but it is quite stiff. Here we also find a flip-to-mute microphone on the left ear cup. The soft rubber makes it flexible and bendable, but due to slight spring-back, exact positioning in front of the mouth is almost impossible.
On the right ear cup, always within reach, are the volume control, a button for switching through the three sound pre-sets stored on the headphones, another button for switching on the surround mode and the power button. Furthermore, the balance between game sounds and your own voice can be adjusted via the cover of the right ear cup. If you’re right-handed, this means you have to take your hand off the mouse for a moment while gaming to adjust the controls…
An additional base station is included; this acts as a dock to charge the A50, but also as a wireless transmitter, thus connecting the headphones to PCs, consoles and even TVs with low latency. There is nothing to complain about here: the base station, like the headphones, is neatly finished, has a pleasantly heavy weight that conveys stability, and is at the same time small enough not to take up too much space on your TV stand.
The A50 has a wide headband similar to the A20, but the design means the A50 fits better – even on smaller heads. The contact pressure is higher than with the A20, but the A50 can still fall off the head during jerky movements. The head padding is tucked into the two-part headband and can be removed if necessary. The soft fabric earpads fit around the ears and are easily magnetically docked to the pods. If you want, you can exchange both with the so-called “A50 MOD-KIT” and get a headband as well as ear pads made of imitation leather – and this provides much better external noise attenuation and also slightly changes the sound. The weight distribution on the head of the A50, together with the contact pressure, makes it comfortable to wear, even after several hours nothing pressed. For large ears, however, the recesses in the pads might be too small, so a trial fit is highly recommended.
When the headphones are not (or no longer) in use, they are held magnetically on the base station and charged. Compared to the previous model, the revised design is a success: Not only is it smaller and more inconspicuous, its recesses now make it impossible for the headset to be accidentally placed on the station the wrong way round.
On the front, four illuminated squares indicate the charging status of the headphones, the connection mode (PC or PS4, or Xbox) and the sound mode (Dolby or Source Audio Passthrough On). To the right, the numbers 1 to 3 light up, depending on which EQ pre-set is currently selected. On the back, there is a small slider that must be set accordingly depending on the connection between the computer and the console. A USB-A port is used to charge the headset while in use, the two optical jacks allow connection to consoles as well as amplifiers, an AUX mini-jack connector can be used to connect MP3 players etc., and the micro-USB port connects to PCs (as a sound card) or consoles to charge the headset.
If you own a Playstation 4 Slim, you’ll have to wire the A50 base station a little differently due to the lack of an optical output: either simply use the TV’s optical output, an HDMI splitter or a small audio converter box.
The manufacturer promises a runtime of more than 15 hours, which doesn’t quite work out in our test. We measured just under 14 hours, but this depends, among other things, on the selected settings. If the battery is empty, the base station needs about five hours until the headset is ready for use again. If that takes too long, you can simply connect the headphones to the base station via USB. This way, the A50s are charged at the same time as you’re using them.
Astro Command Centre
Once the management software for Mac or PC is installed, fine adjustments can be made in the clear interface: Under “EQ Settings”, we find pre-sets such as “Media” or “Studio” as well as the option to edit or change the three equalisers permanently stored on the headphones. The 5-band EQ can even be edited in detail. Thus, the characteristic frequencies, the volume (-7 dB to +7 dB) of the individual bands, as well as the steepness of the crossover frequency of the three centre bands can be edited.
In the “Microphone” section, we have the four pre-sets: “Streaming”, “Night”, “At Home” and “Tournament”. The former offers a moderately set noise gate that only takes effect late. Thus, the voice should sound natural in quiet environments, but background noise is only discreetly suppressed at a very late stage. The second pre-set is supposed to be particularly suitable for gamers who tend to play at night, as the noise gate only works subtly. “At home” is the default setting of the A50 and is aimed at small LAN parties, among others, because the noise gate intervenes earlier here than in the two previous pre-sets and removes most of the minor ambient noise. Tournament gamers with an audience in the background should concentrate on the fourth and last pre-set. Here, the voice sounds most unnatural because the noise gate grabs early and even filters the sidetone so that cheering fans do not interfere. Microphone sensitivity can also be adjusted here, as well as the sidetone, i.e. how strongly you can hear your own voice through the headset.
If you’re on the move as a streamer, the four channels “Game”, “Chat Audio”, “Microphone” and “Aux” can be set to a volume ratio that suits them under “Streaming Connection”, or they can be muted individually.
Finally, the balance between your own voice and the game sound, the alarm or notification volume can be set, and firmware updates can be installed.
Straight out of the box, the quality of the unidirectional flip-to-mute microphone is rather average, as it sounds somewhat muffled. An analysis with the spectrometer shows that the overtone range between seven and nine kilohertz, which is important for speech intelligibility, is missing. However, these frequencies are needed to lend brilliance to one’s own voice. Unfortunately, the Astro Command Center is no help to us here, as no equaliser is provided for adjustment, and even switching the microphone pre-sets only improves the result a little. Nevertheless, speech intelligibility is always ensured: Via Discord, Skype or Zoom, the person on the other end of the line always understood us without problems, even if it was not crystal clear.
Without any sound modification measures, the sound from the 40-millimetre drivers is a bit overcast, and the ratio of bass, mid-range and treble were not quite balanced enough for our taste. The low bass is restrained but still recognisable, accents are set more in the upper bass range. The mids are just as inconspicuous, with the lower mids and the upper bass providing a warm basic sound. On top of that, the highs are not particularly pronounced, corresponding material, therefore, sounds withdrawn and lacks radiance. The advantage here is that nothing hisses – neither sharp hi-hats nor sharp S-sounds from voices were unpleasantly noticeable, which made hours of fatigue-free listening possible.
Of course, we still got a lot out of it thanks to the equaliser, and if you are not satisfied with the basic sound, you will find a nice option allowing you to “tweak” the sound you want.
The spatial reproduction was limited in stereo mode and could use more depth and width. Large reverberation chambers, therefore, seem narrower and more two-dimensional than we are used to from hi-fi or studio headphones from the same price range.
Over all, the A 50 nevertheless deliver quite well in terms of “listening to music and podcasts”, so that we give them a grade of “2-” in this respect.
Of course, it got more spacious when we played games with the A50. It became clear that the headset was tuned for gamers: When Dolby Atmos was activated, footsteps can be clearly localised in the room, gunshots or explosions were reproduced voluminously and richly without much masking of other audio events, and spoken content always remained intelligible. The change from open space to closed rooms was reproduced just as cleanly as we experienced it in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider”, for example.
The A 50 can also for an immersive film experience by simply pressing the Dolby Audio button on the right ear cup. This is not comparable to a real surround system, because the headphones only have one driver each. However, the spatial impression conveyed by films from the Star Wars and Marvel universes can definitely be rated as good. We did, at one point or two points, miss the powerful rumble of the low bass, but this could be adjusted to some extent via the EQ.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@ 1 kHz: 118 dB
- Weight without cable380 g
- Cable length100 cm
What's in the box
- A50 Headset
- Base station
- 1.0 metre micro USB cable
- 1.0 metre optical cable
- System requirements: Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Mac
- Xbox version: Dolby Atmos licence for two years
- Auto Play/Pause