Tom's Guide Verdict
The Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor brings signature Astro sound to a set of stylish gaming earbuds, even if the fit could be a little better.
Good gaming sound
Bold color schemes
Compatible with almost everything
So-so music performance
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Compatibility: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch (handheld), mobile
Drivers: 9 mm
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Connection: 3.5 mm
The Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor is a pleasant reminder that while there are no perfect gaming earbuds on the market yet, there are plenty of very good ones. While full-size gaming headsets get most of the love, gaming earbuds are ideal for the player who doesn’t want to deal with bulky hardware, either at home or (especially) on the go. While the A03 doesn’t do anything radical from a design perspective, it sounds great and doesn’t cost much money.
Granted, the A03 still suffers from a number of common earbud problems. How well they fit is highly dependent on the shape of your ears, and a 3.5 mm audio jack is admittedly less useful now than it was a few years ago. The A03 also doesn’t handle music quite as well as I hoped. But while it may not be one of the best gaming headsets for everyone, at $50, it’s a good device, and one that elegantly splits the difference between a gaming peripheral and an everyday accessory. Read our full Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review for more details.
Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review: Design
The Astro A03 looks like a lot of other earbuds on the market. The cord is almost four feet long, making them easy to hook up to any laptop, mobile device or console controller. The earbuds themselves have a cool metallic sheen with a tasteful Astro logo on the outside. You can choose among three different tip sizes for each earbud.
On the left earbud’s cord, you’ll find a control panel with three buttons: volume up, mute and volume down. It’s a straightforward design, and I especially like that you can get it in either a stylish blue-and-red or a more muted white-and-purple.
If I have one complaint about the A03, it’s that the design is already a little dated, as modern devices go. Headphone jacks are, unfortunately, a little passé in high-end smartphones, and USB-C is also now an option on most gaming desktops and laptops. Granted, a USB-C connection would have prevented the A03 from working with console controllers, but including an adapter might have helped.
Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review: Comfort
It’s always tough to evaluate comfort for earbuds, and the Astro A03 is no exception. Unlike most gaming headsets, which slide over your ears no matter how they’re shaped, earbuds are highly dependent on your ears’ unique geometry. Generally speaking, earbuds don’t fit me well, and neither did the A03. The middle-sized tips felt like they were constantly on the verge of falling out, but the small tips did fall out, and the large ones couldn’t get inside my ears at all. I was stuck between one size that didn’t fit well, and two sizes that didn’t fit at all. This complaint isn’t unique to the A03, but still worth noting.
As such, I couldn’t wear the A03s for long; something about the fit in my left ear, in particular, made the experience nearly painful, even after short gameplay sessions. I won’t say that the fit is a dealbreaker, since I understand that my ears are unusually unreceptive to earbuds, but the A03 is simply not going to be a comfortable option for a lot of gamers.
Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review: Performance
First off, the good news: the Astro A03 provides absolutely wonderful sound for games, regardless of platform. I tested the A03 with a PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch (handheld mode) and Android phone just to make sure that its performance was consistent. The A03 handled every game beautifully, balancing clear treble with surprisingly rich bass. This is because each earbud contains two drivers — a rarity among cheap earbuds, although not so unusual in more expensive models.
I was especially impressed with how the A03 handled the eerie, atmospheric sound effects in PS5’s Demon’s Souls, and the deep, resonant gunfire and explosions in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on the Xbox Series X. But whether I was controlling armies in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition on the PC or building up my team in Tales of Crestoria on Android, games sounded rich and resonant.
This is why it’s somewhat strange that the A03 doesn’t have great music performance. Even with its dual drivers, the bass sounded unimpressive when I listened to tracks from Flogging Molly, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Rolling Stones and G.F. Handel. Music had a flat, muted soundscape that stood in stark contrast to how the earbuds handled games.
Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review: Features
Since the Astro A03 functions via a 3.5mm audio connection, it has relatively few special features. There’s no software, surround sound mode or equalization options — you can plug it in to listen, and unplug it when you’re done. That’s about it.
The one interesting feature of the A03 is its control panel on the left earbud cord. The volume and mute controls work on Windows PCs and mobile devices but not on consoles, so they’re useful only about half of the time. Not being able to see them when the earbuds are in use is also a slight problem, although the buttons are big and distinct, so it’s not as bad as on some competing models.
The mic is also fine, providing audio quality roughly on a par with a typical phone call. It’s good enough for either online play or everyday conversations.
Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review: Verdict
Our Astro A03 In-Ear Monitor review discussed how this set of gaming earbuds provides great gaming sound at a reasonable price. However, it can be tough to get a comfortable fit – at least depending on the shape of your ears — and music performance is strangely subpar.
Still, gaming earbuds are a mixed bag in general, and it’s good to see Astro put out a product with uniformly solid performance and design. If you want games to sound great but don’t want a huge peripheral to engulf your whole head, the A03 will get the job done at a fraction of the weight. They’re also easy enough to stash in your pocket, thanks to a handy carrying case that comes in the box.
Due to its sound quality, I prefer the A03 over the Razer Hammerhead or the HyperX Cloud Earbuds, but they’re all in the same price range, and all have some pros and cons. Whichever one you choose, at least you can be sure that it won’t weigh — or cost — much.
Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.