Gaming Headset Showdown: Astro A10 vs Plantronics RIG 400
Two Budget Kings Enter The Showdown!
It’s Wednesday, and it’s time for the headphone showdown!
Today, the $49 Plantronics RIG 400 takes on the $59 Astro A10. Both headsets come from manufacturers with long and storied histories, and both try to offer gamers premium products for a budget price.
Only one can emerge victorious!
PLANTRONICS RIG 400
For $49, the RIG 400 is no slouch. It comes in a variety of models and variants, and some of them even include a free Dolby Atmos code right now.
The RIG headset system is fully modular, meaning that you can swap ear cups, headband pads, and other accessories seamlessly from headband to headband. Plantronics uses 40mm drivers with a neutral frequency response, and they even include a response graph right on the side of the box.
All of the 400 series models are wired, all of them use non-detachable wires, and all of them are essentially the same aside from the colors/different headbands.
The $60 Astro A10 is a huge departure for Astro. They’ve long focused on higher end products, with their iconic A40 bundle costing $249.
In the A10, Astro took most of their design sensibilities and jammed them into a much cheaper product. The drivers are similar in performance to the A40. The pads are almost as nice. The build is quite durable in spite of some creaky plastic here and there. And the cable is detachable.
So sure, the mic doesn’t detach. And sure, they’re a little smaller than the A40’s. But this headset is remarkably close to its much more expensive big brother.
Like the RIG 400, all the models are basically identical save for different colors.
Audiophiles will prefer the RIG 400, and I think most gamers will prefer the A10, especially if they’re used to other headsets/headphones.
The RIG has a surprisingly balanced sound signature, with very gently emphasized bass and a smooth mid and high range response. It responds the way I expect cheaper studio headphones to respond. Every detail is in place, and everything sounds “Correct.”
The Astros are more fun. Subbass and midbass are just a touch more elevated and thumpy, without sacrificing too much midrange detail. Highs are a bit gentler on the ears…though there’s a nice bump in the area where footsteps often live, for players obsessed with those.
Soundstage is a little more open on the RIG…but I imagine that the general “oomphiness” of the A10 is going to please more people. It’s fun without sacrificing detail. If you’re really picky, you’ll hear a gentle hollowness in the mids in Astro’s model…and you should pick the RIG.
WINNER: For my personal tastes, the RIG 400 has a more correct sound…but they both do exceptionally well for the price range. And I use the A10’s when I want to feel the bass a bit more.
The Astro A10 is much better here.
I always test every headphone I review in a moderately loud coffee shop for outside isolation, and in a quiet room where I record audio for leakage.
Astro performs better in both of these categories.
Both headsets use memory foam padding with a cloth cover. But Astro’s foam is thicker and their covering is more luxurious. The RIG 400 has a slightly more airy sound as a result…but if you’re in a loud room, its isolation performance isn’t that great.
Neither headset performs anywhere near a nice noise- cancelling set. Leatherette is generally a better pad material for isolation, but the A10 performs within the lower end of the range I expect from leatherette pads.
WINNER: ASTRO A10
When I first picked up the A10, I was shocked at how heavy it was.
I had the exact opposite reaction to the RIG 400. It was light as a feather. Or a piece of paper.
I think they’re both actually well-built. My A10 has developed a little creakiness over time in both of its ear cup joints, but I think that’s just due to the plastic and the laws of physics, and not any particular weakness per se. Its headband is tank-like. It’s a piece of metal with a thick rubbery coating over the top of it. The weight is good and satisfying, and it feels like you could throw it around and not break it.
With the RIG, I feel like I could blow on it and it’d slide across the table. The plastic is quite flexible, but there’s a certain hollowness to everything that doesn’t inspire the same kind of confidence that the A10 does.
WINNER: ASTRO A10
I really like the modular nature of the RIG. It’s quite easy to disassemble and pop back together, and everything has a satisfying click. It’s nice to know that I can easily replace a part if it breaks, and I can see how it’d be fun to mix and match parts from different RIG headsets together.
Of course, most people are just going to buy one of these.
The look of the RIG 400 is very angular and a little strange.
By contrast, Astro has gone with a very classic design in the A10. It looks like a bog standard pair of Astro headphones. It looks almost exactly like every other headset Astro has made. I think this is a good thing.
Astro also happens to be an industrial design firm, and it shows. If you like classic designs, you’ll love the A10. If you want modularity…the RIG is the better choice.
WINNER: ASTRO A10
Although the A10 is more comfy than it should be with its tiny headband pad…the RIG 400 is better to wear.
This is in large part thanks to its stupidly light weight. The RIG 400 basically floats on your head, and it doesn’t clamp down very hard either. If you want to forget the headset is even there, the RIG is the better choice.
I don’t think the A10 is uncomfortable at all. But its extra girth makes it more noticeable. Also, its nicer pads warm my ears up a bit more. That’s good for cold days, but not always ideal for long gaming sessions.
You’ll be happy with the comfort of either of these…but in a side-by-side, the RIG feels better.
WINNER: RIG 400
Sometimes I think of calling this category “Bang for the Buck,” but that seems a little silly.
The A10 comes with a detachable cable in the box, and that’s it. You can’t detach the mic, but it will flip up to mute.
The RIG 400 comes with all the parts you need to create one RIG headset, plus a detachable mic. Some of the models come with a free Dolby Atmos code right now too.
Both headsets feature a nice in-line volume control that’s very smoothly stepped. The RIG 400 also has a mute switch, since its mic doesn’t flip up and down like the A10 mic.
While I appreciate the no-nonsense no-frills nature of the Astro A10…right now, the RIG 400 offers you slightly more for your dollar in terms of stuff in the box.
WINNER: RIG 400
Both of these headsets have shockingly good mics in this price range…but Astro’s is better.
The Astro mic is very natural and nice, and good enough for regular recording work. The RIG mic is decent, but it still has a bit of a “microphone” sound to it, with a slight bit of nasal tinniness.
WINNER: ASTRO A10
OVERALL WINNER: ASTRO A10
Once again, here we are in a stupid scenario where the headset that I think sounds a touch better and feels better to wear…hasn’t won the showdown.
This is why I don’t always like doing this.
Honestly, you’d be happy with either one of these. And even though you’re getting more value for the money with the RIG, you’re easily getting more than $10 of extra build quality with the Astro A10.
Both headsets are comfy, both sound very good, and both have solid mics. You could decide this one totally on aesthetic and be happy either way.
I like both of these a lot, and I recommend both of them all the time. The Astro is better if you love bass and need a great mic. The RIG is better if you want neutral sound and don’t mind the angular design.
That two budget headsets of this caliber exist today is shocking. Not that long ago, you had to spend $100 to get the quality that both of these offer.