ASTRO A20 wireless headset review
The A20 wireless headset is the latest model to join ASTRO Gaming’s arsenal and at an RRP of £149.99, it is aimed at the mid-range market, offering a more affordable version of the A50 wireless headset, which has an RRP of £299.99.
While the A20 drops the mixamp and surround sound capabilities of its bigger brother, the headset features a small wireless transmitter that connects via optical cable to the Xbox One or via USB to a PC. Broadcasting a 5GHz signal that also carries voice chat, the transmitter has yet to let me down – I’ve had no interference from my mobile phone or any drop in audio. The small box also includes a handy micro USB port that allows you to charge the headset – a lesser headset would have neglected this and monopolised your Xbox One USB ports by using one for the transmitter and one for charging.
As much as I love my wired setup, there are times where being shackled to a controller and mixamp can be a real pain in the ass – tangles are inevitable and I’m forever fumbling around plugging in wires before being able to chat after accepting a party invite. But before freeing myself of this burden, I connected the A20 to a desktop computer to check that the firmware was up to date. I highly recommend you do this too, not only will you get the latest software but you can also tweak a variety of settings via the ASTRO command centre.
This superb app allows each of the predefined EQ modes to be tweaked to your own specification, although for the sake of this review I stuck with the three EQ settings that come locked and loaded with the A20. Through the command centre you can also choose a mic priority – Streaming, night, home or tournament – each has its own benefits and background noise filtering it’s just a shame that these settings couldn’t be tweaked independently of the app. This would be less of an issue if the Command Centre were available as an Xbox One app.
The aesthetics of the A20 features the signature design that ASTRO is synonymous with, albeit some minor design alterations to the headband and how the ear cups adjust in height – If it ain’t broke – so it’s no surprise that they fit snuggly on your noggin, that is once you’ve wrestled with the headband. To adjust the fit, the ear cups can be moved up and down on sliding arms.
The arms don’t force you to use incremental adjustments but were a little stiff to adjust. Once in place, a cosy soft hug from the ear cups awaits – if there’s one thing that ASTRO do well it’s giving comfort for your ears. One negative I do have towards the A20’s ear cups though is that they don’t rotate horizontally. With only a slight degree of vertical movement I felt the headset didn’t fit as snugly as the A40 or A50, but it’s still uber-comfortable.
Something else that took a bit of fiddling with was the control for the sound. Located on the right ear cup, a rocker switch controls the volume with a button either side that can be depressed to adjust the balance towards either chat or game priority – a helpful beep lets you know when your half way or fully at each priority. It’s so simple now that I have worked it out but to start with I struggled with what each button was doing and the manual provided little insight – not that many of us read those.
Located just below the power button, a small EQ button allows you to cycle through each of the three EQ settings, with an ascending beep to help identify which of the three you have selected. The button sits flush to the ear cup and only by placing my finger gently on the power button was I able to locate its position. Instead, the EQ button should have protruded or had a raised nub to help you feel for its location.
There has been no better time to own a headset – the Xbox One is able to pump out 3D spatial sound via Dolby Atmos or Windows Sonic – so you can get more umph from standard stereo headsets and the A20 makes full use of this. The spatial sound and depth is phenomenal for such a reasonable priced headset… well, by ASTRO’s standards. Distant sounds were crisp and clear while giving a distinct distance and direction to the audio. The directional sound is some of the best I’ve experienced – even the most minute sound was crisp – essential when playing games like PUBG where having an edge on your opponents can make the difference between death and a chicken dinner.
Other games were brought to life within the cans of the A20 with the headset revealing multiple layers of sound from the background – whether that’s crowds of people or an enemy stalking you from behind – the range in the sound has more freedom and depth from what I have become used to and for the most part, the ASTRO mode is the best ‘fits all’ setting. The Pro setting delivers heavier bass while the Studio setting boosts the trebles – ideal for listening out for enemy footsteps on Call of Duty WWII.
Unfortunately for the A20, the biggest dent was the mic. Attached to the left ear cup, the flip down/flip up mic auto mutes while in the upright position. While active and during quiet moments you can hear an audible hiss of background noise, although this isn’t broadcast. What is broadcast is a good clear voice with no breaks in distortion but one that gave my voice a depth of bass – some of my friends felt the mic clarity was great while others thought I sounded a bit muffled. For me, they sounded clearer than usual and the voice monitoring worked well.
ASTRO have proven their mettle with top of the range headsets, but not everyone has the dollar to drop on a high-end pair of cans. ASTRO stepped into entry-level headsets with the A10 and with the A20 they have kicked things up a gear with a wireless option that won’t cripple your bank account.
With the advent of Dolby Atmos and windows Sonic, there really has been no better time to invest in a decent pair of cans and the Xbox One version of the A20 is also compatible with a PC via a simple flick of a selection switch located on the back of the transmitter.
Overall the A20 is a relatively comfortable fit and delivers solid sound. ASTRO have warranted a surprising amount of control via the command centre, allowing you to tweak the headset’s sound profiles. While sound clarity of your teammates is crisp, it’s a shame the A20’s mic can’t return the same experience for your team. This aside, the lightweight and wireless capabilities make the A20 a firm favourite versus my wired setup, which cost around double the price.