Astro A20 Wireless Headset Review
The New Sweet Spot in Astro’s lineup?
Astro’s new $149 wireless A20 headset is their first product to carry Logitech branding on the bottom of the box. It’s entering a newly-crowded field of relatively-economical wireless gaming headsets.
How does it fare?
UPDATE 2/10/2018: I ran into an issue with mine where they wouldn’t turn on anymore, and returned them and bought a Switch. Turns out that issue was just a known glitch! This Youtube video shows how to reset them. Oops! Just wanted to spread this info a bit more widely.
The Astro A20 is $149 and retails in both green Xbox One and blue PS4 variants. Each version has full PC/Mac compatibility as well, and in fact, you’ll need a PC or Mac to tweak the custom EQ profiles and mic settings.
The Xbox One version contains special drivers to achieve USB chat on that platform…but as I’ll point out later this version also works completely on PS4.
There are also some Call of Duty branded versions that sell for 10 bucks more and come in different colors…and for your troubles/extra cash, you get a code to redeem for microtransaction bucks inside the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII video game. Yay?
As the followup to Astro’s excellent budget A10 headset, the A20 is trying to pack in everything you’d want without any unnecessary frills. It doesn’t connect to anything other than its included 5 Ghz wireless dongle. There’s no wired support. The battery is rated at about 15 hours on medium volume.
This has essentially the same sound signature as every other Astro headset, which is a good thing.
It’s a slightly warm, slightly aggressive sound, that seems designed to split the difference between fun and accuracy. Highs are gently reduced from their maximum without a hint of fatigue. Bass is right in that nice middle ground between punchy and rumbly. The mids are present and don’t sound hollow or muddy.
I’ve had a very nice time listening to this headset, and I can’t really complain about the way they sound without getting extremely nit-picky.
It sounds very friendly, impressive, and pleasant…sort of like what I expect out of Bose products. It’s tuned for long gaming sessions, and I think a slightly warm signature is just the right call for that purpose.
Soundstage is acceptable for a closed-back pair, with accurate left/right imaging. This pair does not include the Dolby Headphone decoder of the more expensive A40 and A50 units…but you can use software virtual surround solutions like Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos, and those work great.
Astro includes three default EQ presets. The first is called “Astro,” and it actually gently elevates the highs and upper mids without touching the bass. Even with this EQ turned on, the headset presents a nice, generally warmer-than-flat sound signature that I could listen to all day.
The second mode is called “Pro”. It adds a somewhat aggressive hump in the bass and boosts the upper-mid footsteps region. I don’t really like the way this sounds at all, particularly for music.
It’s probably designed for gaming tournament scenarios. The extra hump in the bass helps further block out outside noise, and the boost in the upper mids helps bring out footsteps and game chat.
So I get why this preset exists.
The third preset is called “Studio”, and I think it’s trying to mimmic the slightly “W-shaped” sound of something like the M50X. I enjoyed the sound of this one just fine. It’s nicely detailed, and more aggressively punchy in the bass than the default setting. It has slightly boosted highs too, that have just a touch more detail and “tizziness” to them, but still don’t sound fatiguing.
Of course, with a computer, you could delete all these if you’d like.
If you hook up the A20 to a Mac or a PC, you can download the Astro Command Center and fully reprogram each of these EQ presets to your heart’s content. That’s really great! You can also tweak the mic settings a bit, which I’ll get into more below.
This is just simply a nice-sounding headset. The highs are present but not too aggressive. And the bass should satisfy all but the most obsessive of bassheads. I think the equally-priced RIG 800 sounds a touch more impressive on its default EQ…though that headset has some issues with digital clipping/distortion when your source volume is turned up, which thankfully isn’t a problem on the A20.
Astro has always presented a solid, safe, fun sound signature across their lineup, and it’s really nice that the two lower-end offerings retain that.
Like the A10, the A20 has an impressive amount of isolation for a cloth ear cup headset. The ear pads seal well against the head, and have a very dense memory foam inside. It won’t block out as much noise as an active pair of headphones, or some of the better leatherette pads on the market…but it’s great for a headset using cloth.
I used it in a very noisy coffee shop with only minimal issues/complaints.
So here’s a weird thing.
The Astro A20 uses the headband pad from the Skullcandy Crusher Wireless.
I don’t mean it’s a similar pad, I mean it’s the exact same pad.
Until this past July, Astro was owned by Skullcandy. Astro is also an industrial design firm, on top of selling headsets, so I’m guessing that they designed this headband pad for the Skullcandy headphones last year, and liked it enough that they employed it on the A20 as well.
The rest of the design is classic Astro. You’ve got two sliding ear cups that are sort of shaped like trapezoids. There’s a flexible boom mic that flips up to mute but doesn’t detach. The back of the right ear cup houses all the controls, and they’re really easy to find just by feel.
I think this is a totally fine design, though it’s still based loosely on the original A40, which came out eons ago. The sliding mechanisms are closer to those on the A10, with some light metal reinforcement.
Interestingly, these are lighter than the A10’s. Those were kind of tanks, especially for their price. The A20’s don’t feel cheap…but they don’t feel as impressive in the hands as their cheaper cousins, either. I’m sure they’ll still hold up just fine, but it was weirdly disappointing that they were lighter and used less metal, even though a light weight is good for comfort.
If you’ve never liked the “Astro look” in the past, these won’t change your mind. They’re definitely from the same family. And they’re clearly built to last.
I just miss the solid steel headband from the A10's.
Astro has once again nailed headphone comfort.
The ear pads have larger holes than those on the A10, so you shouldn’t have any huge issues with the pads or the insides touching your ears. The pads are shaped comparably to those on the A40 and A50, with a nice subtle molded shape that helps make up for a slight lack of lateral rotation in the cups.
Although the covering is similar in quality to the cloth on the A10, the foam inside the pads is perhaps the nicest Astro has ever used. It’s a squishy memory foam and I really like the way it feels. It molded nicely around my glasses.
That Crusher Wireless headband pad serves its purpose well, and offers more direct head support than any other Astro headset. All of those use half-length cloth pads. This pad is made of a soft rubber with a pocket of air behind it, and it feels quite nice on the head and in the hands.
It also picks up a ton of dust instantly.
The weight and clamping force are just about perfectly balanced, and the result is a headset that’s easily wearable for hours, once you get it adjusted correctly. If you don’t place it just right, the ridges in the headband might cause you minor discomfort, but that’s about all I could see being a comfort issue.
Astro can stand proudly alongside HyperX as a headset company that actually cares about user comfort. What a concept! :)
I never expect wireless mics to be amazing, especially on gaming headsets. There’s not a lot of bandwidth to spare in the design of these products, and often the mic audio gets short shrift.
No such issues exist on the A20.
Like the A10, it has an exceptional microphone. The tone is natural, with nice resonance in the voice. It has decent background noise cancellation. There’s a tiny amount of barely noticeable compression, but honestly I’ll take it. This is perhaps the best-performing wireless mic that’s not on a Razer product.
You can use the Astro Command Center software to pick from different noise gates, and adjust the amount of side tone as well. This directly copies the features of the more expensive Astro headsets, which is wonderful.
Inside the box, you get a wireless transmitter, the headset, a 1 meter USB cable, a half-meter USB cable, and a 1 meter optical cable.
The wireless transmitter is nice! It has just enough weight to it that it doesn’t feel hollow, and it has rubber feet so it won’t slide around on your desk. I bought the Xbox version, so it has a toggle on the back between Xbox and PC modes. In Xbox mode, the USB connection basically fools an Xbox One into thinking a controller is connected, and you can pump all the chat audio to your headset that way. Regular game audio comes in over the optical connection, and you can balance these levels with buttons around the volume wheel on the headset.
In PC mode, you can get audio to the transmitter either through USB or optical…but you’ll need to use USB if you want to use the mic or the Astro command center.
The headset will also work with a PS4 in PC mode, if you connect up both the optical and usb cables, thanks to the PS4 supporting most generic PC USB headsets. So if you need compatibility with all three platforms, the Xbox headset is the one to get!
The white light on the transmitter turns green when you switch to Xbox mode, which I thought was a fun touch.
The transmitter has a full-sized USB port on the back that you can use to charge your headset or other devices, but it’s not a full passthrough. That’s what the shorter USB cable is meant for, but I also use it with my Macbook. Strangely, the headset always turns on when you’re charging it, so make sure to turn it off if you’re just unplugging it and don’t want to play right away. On the upside, you can listen and charge at the same time.
I think the 1 meter USB and optical audio cables are both too short.
Unless you plan to put your transmitter directly next to your Xbox or PC, they’re kind of hilariously tiny. I would have liked at least double the amount of cable length. Also, the optical cable included is very thin and springy and kind of annoying.
These cables will get you going, but if you’re picky like me, you’ll probably replace them with aftermarket cables, or old ones you had lying around.
The battery life estimate of 15 hours seems about right.
But let’s talk about the wireless performance.
Astro uses a 5Ghz transmitter, instead of the 2Ghz that’s pretty common for wireless headsets. This offers more bandwidth, and probably helps them make the mic sound so good. They also claim it offers lower latency.
5Ghz signals don’t travel as far as 2Ghz signals, and they don’t do as well going through walls. So don’t expect to throw these on and walk around your house. In fact, mine started to cut out and pop when I got to the next room. As long as you’re in the same room, they sound perfect. But keep that in mind, on the off chance you plan on somehow playing your console from your kitchen on the other side of the house. You’ll need something like the RIG 800 for that weird scenario.
As alluded to earlier, this is straight- up a stereo headset. There’s no built in surround modes of any kind. You can use Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic on Xbox One or Windows 10…but on PS4 you’re stuck with stereo. It’s a very nice-sounding stereo though, so I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker unless you must have virtual surround built in to the hardware.
Astro has basically produced an A50, but taken out the magnetic removable ear pads and the Dolby Headphone decoder…and then lopped $150 off the price. That’s an astounding deal if you’re looking for a headset and you’ve decided that Astro is your brand of choice.
The RIG 800HX offers a free Dolby Atmos code in the box right now, and slightly better battery life. However, it will have some issues with digital clipping if you don’t turn your source volume down, and it doesn’t isolate nearly as well as the A20. It also doesn’t have as nice of a microphone.
In short, the A20 is a totally good and fine wireless headset with exactly the featureset I’d expect at this price point, and sound that mirrors its more expensive cousins.
In fact, if you’re good with stereo or one of the software virtual surround modes Microsoft has recently introduced…there’s almost no practical reason to select the A40 or A50 over the A10 or A20. Sure, the more expensive headsets do offer interchangeable ear pads. But that’s kind of the one leg they have left to stand on, direct comparison-wise. I still love the more premium A40…but these cheaper models are perfect for most consumers who want the same sound and feature set, as long as you don’t want to change out your pads all the time.
Highly recommended for gamers on a budget that want a solid mic, a slightly warm sound, and good comfort!
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