Astro have always been a brand for the cool kids within the headset space. With a super sleek design synonymous with quality and aural fidelity match no matter the model, Astros have a headset for everyone. Perhaps because of this, Astro are a brand with the price tag to match, but as they say, quality comes at a price. Until the A10 model was released (which brought the Astro brand to budget-conscious gamers), you couldn’t really find a headset that wasn’t going to send a hurricane through your wallet.
Enter the A20, a wireless headset designed to sit between the A10 and the higher-end models like the A40, a mid-level headset for those that want their cake but also want to do other things to their cake… or something. How does a mid-tier headset that sits on a $250AUD price point stand up? Pretty damn well actually.
I have dabbled in the higher end Astro models before, but the A20 is actually the very first headset from the company I have properly owned. As an electronic musician and producer when not gaming, sound quality and EQ balance is of huge importance to me, so I look for finer details in audio quality with my headsets.
In terms of raw sound output you won’t find much difference between the high-end models and the A20. This is great news for gamers who want the best but don’t want to sell their car for a gaming peripheral. The A20 provides fantastic balance between the highs, mids and lows that can be customised with the brilliant, yet simple to use Astro Command Centre app. The app requires you have a PC or Mac to create your own custom profiles which can then be saved and used at the push of a button on the headset with your PC or console. Bass is raw and meaty, with some solid low output that growled and shook the senses in games such as Injustice 2 or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. I only noticed some audio clipping when things got incredibly heated in large Overwatch firefights, but this only ever occurred with the volume turned up to the max. The A20 feels designed to be played around the 70% volume mark (or lower).
High ends are wonderful as well, allowing finer details like footsteps, call-outs and far off gunshots coming from different angles in CS:GO and Overwatch. This is especially important for gamers looking for a competitive edge. The EQ settings can be fine-tuned to what you prefer from your gaming experience and personally, I prefer my crispy high and mids over bass. I find those meaty bass rumbles tend to drown out important sounds, especially in competitive multiplayer titles. The Command Centre does a great job of providing the tools for users to get what they want, although a basic understanding of how EQ works would be ideal before going crazy on your settings. That being said, the on-board presets are more than enough for most players. The default Astro setting provides a nice well-rounded feel that incorporates a solid balance of highs and lows, while the Pro setting is designed more for players looking for a competitive edge with emphasis on the highs and finer details. The final setting, Studio, takes things even further with some very juicy bass and highs and feels like it was designed for those wanting to watch a movie or listen to music as opposed to gaming. Even noting this however, on a personal level this is the setting I preferred from the three.
The microphone on the Astro A20 is a different story. Being a wireless headset, transmitting through a USB receiver provided mixed results. I got a lot of feedback from my Overwatch crew who commented that I sounded quite metallic and had that ‘on the phone’ sound to my voice when using the A20, with very occasional cut-outs when I would speak. Without being hard-wired, a headset is going to have a very difficult time keeping the same quality as a headset plugged directly into the sound card, however I was always still audible enough that it never hurt my gaming sessions. From a pro gamer standpoint however, you are going to want to go wired and spend a little more cash for the sake of fast transmission and clarity.
Battery life never skipped a beat, keeping the volume around the 60-70% mark I was easily getting 10-15 hours of battery life before I needed a recharge. Keeping the volume on full did impact things a little more, so it’s worth keeping that in mind if you are a gamer with no regard for the health of your ear drums.
Just as important as sound is the comfort factor, after all, no gamer wants to be a depressed sweating mess with throbbing ears after a few hours of hard CoD action. The Astro A20 provides a very comfortable, lightweight design that sits snugly on your head with minimal sound bleed from the ear cups, and as a gamer with glasses I loved the feel of the foam on the cups as well. Initially it took my ears some getting used to the shape but after a few hours I barely noticed they were even sitting on my head. Comfort customisation is minimal but effective with the option to clip the ear cups up and down for big fat heads (like mine). My only gripe about the design is that, although very comfortable, they feel a tad flimsy, accentuated by their light weight. I guess this is just the trade-off we need to deal with for comfort, and at the end of the day being comfortable over long periods wins out.
All things said and done, the Astro A20 is a solid entry into the wireless market that doesn’t feel cheap, but nor does it feel like God’s gift to headset-loving-gamers. It sits perfectly in the mid-tier for the casual gamer crowd with a little more money to burn. Sound quality is awesome, with some of the best bass rumbles I have ever heard in a headset that will suit single player gaming perfectly. With a wide selection of EQ options, you are going to be hard pressed to find a headset around this price point that doesn’t ooze with great customisation for that inner audiophile. Heavy competitive gamers may want to spend a little more or look elsewhere however, as the microphone really does bring down what is otherwise a solid piece of kit.
Headset tested on PC, Mac and PS4. Sound quality consistent across the board.
- Excellent sound quality
- Comfortable over long gaming sessions
- Great EQ customisation with Astro Command Centre
- Long lasting battery life
- Microphone quality can be a bit naff