New Gear at E3 2012

The A40 headset from ASTRO Gaming has consistently been my favorite headset since my original review (on Tom's Games) back in 2008. Updates have come over the years, with a mic tweak here, some new foam inserts there, but ASTRO has largely kept to its original formula for what many consider the best headset in gaming today. Well, ASTRO Gaming is bringing a brand new around-the-ear headset to market soon, and it's called the A50.

The most major changes in the A40 system have been with the MixAmp, which started wired (now called the MixAmp Pro), with a shift to wireless with the MixAmp 5.8. The A50 takes those changes to their natural conclusion, including a wireless MixAmp in the headset itself. The A50 has a non-removable rechargeable battery, which powers the wireless functionality. This built-in MixAmp (all of which is housed in the headset itself, so no more 5.8 transmitter dongle here), has three EQ modes (Media, Core, and Pro), which cater to specific uses: Media for movies and music, Core for casual gaming, and Pro for the more competitive types (hearing footsteps and such). Pro lowers the bass and brings the highs up, which helps with enemy position placement, while Media kicks up the bass for those epic battles in whatever crappy summer movie you're watching this afternoon.

While the design cues are largely the same, the A50 system is just as light as the A40, which ASTRO attributes to re-examining all of the materials used in the design. The one A40 favorite that isn't part of the A50? Speaker tags, as the A50 uses the space where tags once lived for volume and voice/game mix controls. Speaking of which, all of the controls are housed in the headphones, including EQ choice, volume, mix, and inputs for USB (charging) and the Xbox 360 controller voice cable (note: wireless voice for the 360 is still a Mad Catz exclusive, hence the use of the cable).

The wireless receiver for the A50 looks familiar, its because it looks very similar to the A40 version. You have Optical in and out, micro USB for charging the headset, another USB port, and an auxiliary port for connecting iPods and the like. This receiver can be stuck next to the Xbox, or placed in the base of the A50 stand (pictured) which makes charging the A50 pretty convenient.

This is a premium, mufti-purpose product, so a high price tag - $300 - is to be expected. It's a lot of money, but this can be used with your PS3, Xbox 360, and any PC with the proper connections, so those three Benjamin's go a long way. And if our final verdict on sound quality (expect a full review within a few weeks) is anything like that for the A40, this is money well spent.

The A50 is and isn't an update to the A40 at the same time. It's a wholly new product, and won't be replacing the A40's on the ASTRO website, but you can be 50 feet away from the A50 and immediately tell where it draws its inspiration from. ASTRO's position on the two headsets is simple: The A40 is for the hardcore, competitive gaming crowd, while the A50 is meant to be a cornerstone in your home theater setup.

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  • Anonymous
    Headset looks so sick.
  • wiinippongamer
    You cant get a much better gaming experience and 10 times better overall sound quality for less than $150 with an audio technica AD700 and a clip-on zalman mic. All "gaming" headsets out there are pure rubbish.
  • wiinippongamer
    I intende to say you CAN get a better experience
  • elcentral
    why would you say a50 head set is not as set for gaming compared to the a40 ? a50 is a overall better product and adds wireless. i cant count the times wireless helps me in gaming. you are gathering for an instance and your guild leaders talk about how you will succeed. you can go to the wc take some drinks from the fridge start some coffee and still be in the middle of the walk true. i can no longer use wired headsets.
  • Anonymous
    I was able to listen to the samples at the E3 booth. They were funky as I will not wear them in public. The lights were not distracting.The 3 sound modes were okay. The surround sound is not true digital surround..meaning it is with the red and white audio plugs. Not the digital optical cable we so love. BUT!The simulated surround sound these headsets have makes it hard to believe they arent digital.
    The wireless sounded fantastic! No popping distortion. Even with all of the background noise from the E3 showroom hall, the game audio was clear and detailed. I will be getting a pair for sure!They're going to be like having a fat chick sitting on my to wear inside the bedroom. But I don't want my friends seeing me doing it.
  • nolarrow
    I hate this head set more than any other computer product I've ever used. Mic sounds like garbage. Head phones are less comfortable, less reliable than my fata1ity gaming headset I got for $15 on a newegg sale. For the love of everything holy people, do not buy this shit. No part of this peice of crap justifies $250. My mic wont work if I have the system setup via optical, but if I leave the system setup via usb then it sounds worse than my other head set. Its just a big ol' turd. Avoid astro products.