It's been two years since Astro Gaming last introduced a new gaming headset, but as we learned earlier today, that time has been put to good use. With the support and resources from its new parent company, Skullcandy, Astro has been developing its first fully wireless product, the A50, which was introduced this week at E3. The A50 will fall alongside the company's critically acclaimed A30 and A40 gaming headsets, and will sport integrated 5.8GHz wireless connectivity and multiple audio presets.
The A50 shares many of the same design elements of the company's A40 headset, but adds a few unique changes. While both the A40 and A50 sport the same chassis with around the ear padding, stereo 40nm drivers, and swiveling cans, Astro has dropped the open back exterior paneling and added a 5.8GHz KleerNet receiver, rechargeable lithium ion battery, and onboard DSP chip into the left and right earcups. The unit comes paired with a small basestation transmitter, modeled after the company's existing Mixamp 5.8, which features Dolby 7.1 surround and Dolby stereo processing. The base station can be paired with up to four A50 headsets and connects to any audio source with optical digital, USB, or 3.5mm output and supports chat functionality with all major games platforms, including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
One of the most unique features of Astro's wired audio solutions, however, was the degree of control it provides to the user. With support for multiple simultaneous audio sources, including gameplay audio, chat communication, and auxiliary media, Astro's Mixamp allowed players to control the balance of all of the sources without having to go into an on-screen interface. In order to make the A50 truly wireless, Astro relocated all of the mixing controls to the headset itself. In place of the mixing dial, Astro has placed a two way button on the side of the right earcup, allowing users to tap in either direction to boost chat or gameplay audio. Overall volume can be adjusted via a small dial on the edge of the right earcup, and the integrated microphone can be muted by lifting it into the upright position. Of course, we've seen similar control designs in other wireless gaming headsets, but Astro has simplified the experience by making the controls easily accessible and limiting the array of controls to only the bare essentials.
But, of course, the A50 would be nothing without quality audio to match. Astro has dropped the same drivers it uses in the A40 into the A50, offering tight low-end response without dampening mids and highs. While the A50 has solid native tuning, it offers a degree of personalization as well. The A50 ships with three audio presets, which can be toggled by a small switch on the side of the headset. By default, the modes comprise of Astro, core, and media, which offer Astro's preferred audio settings, flat equalization, and a media-centric preset, respectively. Astro's offer a significant amount of bassy punch for gaming applications, whereas core is truer to the source audio. Media bumps the bass up even higher for music and movie applications. Later this year, Astro will release a toolset for users to create their own custom presets on a PC and install them on the A50 via USB.
The Astro Gaming A50 wireless headset will be available for order in two weeks with an asking price of $299.99 and shipments expected to begin in early July.