Sometimes it’s hard to know when you have a bad headset until you’ve listened to one that’s better. It’s not something you think much about as a system like the Xbox 360 will often come with one or will have one that will come bundled with a necessary peripheral. So moving from a free headset like that to one with a quite a bit more in the quality department is much like going from standard to high definition TV’s for the first time. In other words, you don’t know what you were missing up until that point.
Since I haven’t really shopped around for gaming headsets much, the only name that had really come to mind was Turtle Beach, and the one headset I’d used of that didn’t last very long. So when Astro showed off their new A50 models, I was interested to see what their product could bring to the table. And from the little hands on time I had with it, the answer is quite a bit.
While the headsets used in the MLG are generally wired (as professional gamers want to eliminate any potential lag that could occur from a wireless product), the A50 is a wireless product. This can definitely be a convenience for many normal users. You can fully enjoy your music with wireless headphones, with no tangling cables getting in your way. The lag, however, may sometimes be a problem. While I’m perfectly fine with the idea of wireless, my primary concern would be with lag in sound or interference with other devices in my home. While I didn’t get to try it in my own personal environment, there were plenty of cell phones present and there didn’t appear to be any sound lag, which was nice. Especially since one of the reasons I dreaded using the Turtle Beach headset was the massive amount of cords that would come out of the thing would constantly be tangled.
One feature I thought was nice was the ability to lift the microphone up if you want to mute it. There are many occasions where if I’m playing a game with a headset on and I need to talk to someone in the room, I have to fumble with the cord in order to shut the mic off. This means I’ll always know where the off switch is and it’s something I usually do out of habit anyway. The volume controls are all located on the headset itself too near the ears, so those are just as easy to find. It will also fit neatly around your neck when not in use, as the ear muff part will fold down, and the plates can be taken off to be customized with whatever you want.
So, how does it actually sound? I had the thing going at full blast practically and not only did it drown out what was going on around me, it was like having a home theater system in my brain. Everything was quite clear too, so in the Call of Duty title that it was being showcased with, you can hear every bullet and every footstep that takes place. Of course, all of this performance comes at a cost. The A50’s will run you $299.99 and can be pre-ordered from the Astro website (they’ll be shipping in late July). If you play a lot of online games though and are constantly on your headset, it may be worth the price of admission to get a good quality product. Especially since a good surround sound system would run you more than that. Hopefully the final product operates as nice as the demo model I was shown.