Thanks to the kind and very responsive individuals at Astro Gaming, let's start this review of the A50 wireless headset for Xbox One and PC with the unboxing of this high-end product.
You should find an adhesive circle to the right of the semi-circular area which you can remove with a fingernail or scissors. If there is a second one to the left of this area as well, remove that too.
Rotate the box 180 degrees anticlockwise or clockwise depending on your preference and you should find a similar adhesive circle at the bottom of the outer sleeve and the inner packaging which can be removed in the same way.
The area you just removed that circle from is actually the opening of the box. Place your finger through the gap between the outer and inner layers, pulling the flap up and towards you.
Now comes a tough part. Holding the outer box with one hand, push the inner packaging so that the two elements separate and the inner packaging is completely disengaged from the exterior. You may need to do this in stages so you don't unintentionally break any packaging as you go.
Open the box so that the section containing the headset is on a flat surface. The headset, given that it's not secured into the box, comes away with a gentle removal via the headband.
The small circular plastic piece in the centre of the assembly contains an optical cable. This area also has a hole which can be used, carefully, to remove the entire plastic array from the box.
Removing the main plastic holder reveals printed materials and the long and unusual looking base station for the headset, on the side of the box that is towards you. On the other side of the box, underneath an ellipsoid plastic cover, is the final piece of the unit, namely the USB cable.
The base station is simply designed as well. With the ports facing towards you, there's a USB port, an optical in and out port and a 3.5mm port in that order.
When you plug in the base station, it will automatically reroute the audio from your system to it. Unfortunately the only way I found to avoid this was to run my screen reader's output through an HDMI device, using a 3.5mm headset to listen to the output and navigate from there.
The software seems better equipped for accessibility than that of its rivals, however buttons and other controls still aren't correctly labeled for an easy user experience. However, I believe this could be patched in given that parts of the software already appear to use standard Windows controls such as edit boxes and buttons.
The Strange echoing you might experience is due to Dolby being set to on. Using the button below the power switch, you can disable the feature (indicated by a descending series of tones). The echoing should stop from here on out unless you repeat the above directions.
The microphone doesn't have a mute/unmute button, but works via pulling the mic downwards to unmute and fully upwards to mute it. Game and chat balance is handled via the front and back of the right earcup's shell, where pressing the front turns up the game volume and the back turns up chat volume.
Unlike with other wireless offerings, whilst the A50s do experience a level of lag, it's not severe enough that it will impact your performance to a large degree. The only issues I had were during tests with Killer Instinct, where the breaking of shadow moves requires very specific timing. This is similar to my experience with other wireless headsets and would likely abate with time and adjustment to the headset itself.
Playing Gears of War: Ultimate Edition via co-op with party chat was a painless experience, with the audio coming through loud and clear. I preferred the middle of the default presets, with enough bass that it was convincingly cinematic, but not too much so as to ruin the atmosphere. Adjusting game and chat balance with the front and back controls on the right earcup as previously mentioned was smooth and unobtrusive, save for when the headset beeped to inform me it was either at 50 % balance or at 100% either side. If these beeps, or for that matter the one indicating the unit needs a charge, could avoid cutting out the in-game audio that would be much appreciated as it can really distract from the in-game action. However, if that can't be patched in with a firmware update, it's still not too frustrating.
The next part of the process might frustrate you, it certainly did me. You have to very carefully pull the tab that the adhesive was stuck to up and out of the hole it's in, making sure not to push too hard so as not to wedge it in place. My own approach meant that I had to push my finger further into the packaging than I would like, worrying about whether I'd actually be able to get into my product without breaking the packaging in the process.
Once the tab is removed, pull the flap that you've just unsealed outwards towards you, then move the plastic oblong in your way upwards and away from you so that it folds over
Before removing the modkit from its outer box, flip it over so that the earcups etc, when they are removed, are the right way up.
In the easiest and final part of this unboxing process, place your hand underneath the now correctly positioned inner holder for the products and pull smoothly from the outer sleeve.
The headband, on the other hand, has a rather frustrating replacement procedure. The first time I tried it, for fear of breaking the unit, I decided to get sighted assistance. However, though it might feel like you're going to break the headset, I will say that if you're careful you can replace the part with relatively little hassle.
Below is the advice I was sent by Astro regarding their recommended method for replacing the headband:
Step 1: Hold the headband with one hand. With the other hand, pull firmly outwards from the center on one side of the headband frame. The headband will pop out of place, allowing you to remove the other side of the headband from the frame of the headset.
Step 2: Align the Mod Kit headband tabs with the clasps on the frame of the A50 Headset.
Step 3: Firmly press the frame inwards to secure the Mod Kit headband in place. The headband will snap into place.
Replacing it is a matter of clipping the new part into place with the in-line grooves, but this can be made easier by lining it up with the old piece before its removal to see what way it should be inserted as the shape of the part is specifically meant to go in one way.
Reversing the entire process was very straightforward, with the replacing of parts with the previous instructions needing no sighted assistance.
However, it must be reiterated that within the hours of time I spent with the modkit equipped, I had no issues in terms of comfort or hearing my game or those playing with or against me, as with the default experience.
The only issue I experienced whilst switching out the various pieces for the headset was a complete lack of any storage case, bag or holder for the spare components. I'm a little surprised that for the price of the modkit, something isn't included that can allow you retain your original components for later usage, should they be needed.
If you're looking for a unit that you can wear for long periods of time without discomfort, delivering easy volume adjustments in a wireless fashion in addition to high sound quality, the Astro A50s might just be what you're looking for if you're a PC and Xbox One gamer.
I'd like to again thank Astro Gaming for providing both of the items for this review.
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