Peripherals that don’t have wires are becoming a must-have in my life, because I loathe cable clutter.
So whenever a wireless anything crosses my desk, I am only too happy to review it to see if I’d like to add it to my personal arsenal of wireless peripherals.
Such was the case with Astro Gaming’s A20 Wireless Headset – a 5GHz gaming headset designed for PC and Xbox One use that, after using it for this review, I’d even buy with my own money I like it so much.
First impressions weren’t that great, though, as neither the packaging nor the headset’s design had me thinking this would be anything but a cheap headset built by the lowest bidder. I’m also not familiar with the Astro Gaming brand, and I was expecting the worst.
I was very glad to be proven wrong just a few minutes later when I put the headset over my head: it was comfortable, it had a pleasant heft to it without being too heavy, and the strap was easy to adjust to my head size and the earcups were big enough that they easily covered my large ears.
Plus, I was very pleased with the overall build quality – this is a sturdy, well-made headset. I’m only not wild about the receiver itself, as it feels like a cheap plastic box of Chinese electronics, but it works, so who cares what it looks or feels like.
Setting these up was simple, requiring only that I plug the receiver into my PC with the included USB to micro USB cable and install the Astro Command software. That let me set my personal parameters, tweak the EQ to my liking, check for firmware updates, and more. For use with my Xbox One, I had to plug the included optical audio cable, and then make sure the switch was set to whichever source I was using.
Once it was set up all I had to do was game, and game I did. With the EQ tweaked to my liking, the booms of gunshots in Battlefield 4 were deep but not overpowering, positional audio cues kept me abreast of other players’ positions, and in games with good ambient audio and a subtle soundtrack, like The Witcher 3, the music came through without drowning out or muddying the rest of the soundscape. The audio is very clear overall, and I could adjust the volume with the tiny roller thingy on the right earcup – a very handy feature I used a lot.
What I absolutely loved about the A20s, and something I am sure gamers who play a lot of multiplayer will appreciate, is the fact that when the microphone boom is up, the mic deactivates itself. Talking to mates requires nothing more than to slide the boom down and do your thing, and for those moments when you don’t want to be heard anymore, like when someone enters the room to ask you about something not game-related, just slide it back up and you’re immediately muted.
Since these are wireless and use the 5GHz frequency, naturally I also tested their effectiveness at distance. As I work in an open-plan office, I left the receiver on my desk and walked away but maintained line of sight. 20m from my desk audio reception was perfect, and it was only as I broke that line of sight by putting partition walls between myself and the receiver that it broke up a bit; but even then, only a bit.
It died completely when I had two brick walls between myself and the receiver, but that’s to be expected. Overall, I was impressed with the headset’s range, and am confident the headset is fantastic for the use you’ll likely buy it for – to free yourself from cables while ensuring good audio and chat quality while you game.
I’ve used headsets before that haven’t been comfortable to wear for extended gaming sessions, but these don’t qualify – even after a 4-hour session of Factorio, the A20s remained comfortable to wear thanks to their cushioned ear cups and the ample space they provide between speakers and ears.
They are highly recommended for gaming marathons, then.
I got about 15 hours off a full charge, which is pretty good as it meant only recharging every second evening. I recharged using the bundled USB cable connected to the charging port of the receiver; it’s not an elegant solution (I’d have preferred a stand of some kind), but it works even if it doesn’t entirely meet my objective of eliminating cable clutter.
So how much for all of this gaming audio goodness? You’re looking at around R2500, which I actually think is a fair price for what you’re getting. In my private capacity I own a Razer Chimaera 7.1 headset, for which I paid R1700 and have been thoroughly enjoying for years now, and I’ll definitely consider the A20 when it comes time to replace them as I feel these offer similar performance and quality.