Astro Gaming headsets have always been a tradeoff: you get premium audio, but you pay a high price for it literally.
It’s tough then, at least initially, to take Astro’s new A10 cans seriously. At minimum, you’re looking at a $150 buy when you pick up a new Astro headset. If you want the company’s MixAmp which boosts the sound while offering a greater level of control over the output add in another $100.
A pair of A10s, on the other hand? $60. That’s less than half the cost of any other current Astro. Surely, there’s some kind of tradeoff. That’s what I was looking for over the past month as I tested these puppies firsthand with my gaming setup at home.
My biggest takeaway? Sound is not the issue.
For game audio, the A10 produces a big, crisp sound across a wide range of frequencies. This is most evident in action-heavy games, such as Overwatch or the newly released Prey. Even at higher volumes, individual sound sources are distinguishable in those games’ aurally busy environments.
Whether it’s a quiet moment or a loud one, you can hear the footsteps of approaching Overwatch foes or the skittering of Prey‘s spider-like Mimics. When D.Va screams “Nerf this!” as Pharah lets loose with a rocket barrage and Junkrat steers his Rip-Tire, all at the same time, you hear each source distinctly without the soundscape turning into a muddy mess.
That level of audio fidelity helps offset one of the A10 headset’s more notable weaknesses: no virtual surround sound. This feature can be very helpful in first-person shooters, especially as it helps you to pinpoint the direction a particular sound is coming from.
The analog-only A10 gives you a great stereo mix left and right positioning is easy to track but it lacks the accuracy of what you’d get from a more expensive headset.
Chat audio is less impressive. It’s perfectly serviceable on the receiving end, and I’m told by those I played with that my mic sounded fine if a bit overly sensitive. But the boom mic which mutes when you flip it up can be adjusted. If you’re a heavy breather, just make sure to bend the mic out a bit.
Sound mixing can be a problem, depending both your platform of choice and how much you’re willing to spend. For PC and PS4 users, you can adjust overall volume on the A10’s cord but you’re forced to rely on each platform’s built-in mixing capabilities if you want to tweak the balance between game and chat audio.
Xbox One users have the option of purchasing a $100 version of the A10 which includes Astro’s M60 mixer. This little doodad slots into the expansion port on your Xbox controller and gives you button-based control over both the volume and the audio mix. You can use an A10 and the included analog audio cable with any hardware you like, but the M60 is an Xbox-only device.
On the design side, the A10 is an unremarkable, all-plastic headset. It’s not an ugly piece of kit, but it lacks the sense of style evident in Astro’s higher-end metal-and-plastic models. I don’t personally feel that looks matter so much in a headset, but perhaps you do.
Durability is far more important, and the A10 seems to be indestructible. I obviously haven’t had enough time to see how the headset’s internals hold up over the long term, but the band typically a weak point on any headset can bend in any number of directions without snapping.
That’s because there’s a steel strip inside the flexible plastic headband. Even if you accidentally step on your A10 and bend the whole thing out of shape as I did, intentionally, during testing you can hand-mold the band back into its original form.
That’s only the headband, of course. The plastic earcups, while well-made, could still snap off or crack if you mishandle your headset. All of which is to say: you’ll still want to be as careful as you would be with any other tech toy in your collection. But the added headband protection a notable weak point for over-the-ear headphones is welcome.
In terms of how they sit on your head, the felt-padded cups are built to completely encase your ears with a snug fit. There’s no built-in noise cancelling technology, but the A10 provides great noise isolation. My dog and my wife both have had no problems sneaking up on me while I’ve been wearing these headphones, even during a game’s quieter moments.
Those earcups are comfy, too; I’ve never been a fan of leather/pleather earcups because of the sweat build-up, and that’s not a problem here. There’s also ample space inside each cup to fit my admittedly average-sized ears.
If there’s any issue with comfort, it’s at the top of the headband. The A10 is a naturally snug headset, but most of the weight is carried in the earcups. That means they start to weigh the whole thing down during long play sessions, and the narrow felt padding that sits atop your head can sometimes start to dig in uncomfortably as a result.
That’s hardly a dealbreaker, but it’s something to keep in mind. You’re still buying Astro-quality audio when you pick up an A10; you’re just getting fewer features. If you’re looking for a new gaming headset and you’re on a budget, I don’t think you can do much better than an Astro A10.