For most people, getting a new console also means upgrading their set up. After potentially seven years, countless things could’ve changed. We had the rise of 4K, eventually bringing the cost down to $150 at the right size, countless more gaming products, a few new brands, more advanced technology, and new ideas and looks. ASTRO Gaming has been a big name for a while and to go with the launch of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series, they released a new version of their popular A20 wireless headphones. With a new look, some exciting features, and more, is the ASTRO A20 worth considering or are there better options out there for the money?
Not much has changed between the first and second generation ASTRO A20 headphones packaging. ASTRO Gaming makes it perfectly clear which model you’re looking at, with simple colors, countless mentions, and even a fairly large indicator of whether it’s an Xbox or PlayStation headset. Unlike a lot of the headphones, we’ve covered over the years, very little information is given about the features, with a strong focus on what is included. Key things like a flip-to-mute mic and 15+ hours of battery life are highlighted, along with the package including the wireless dongle and charging cable.
Inside the box is an interesting tech-esque design that has all kinds of branding against a vibrant color. Nothing important in the grand scheme but it leaves a strong impression when opening the packaging. You’ll also find a plastic shell that is holding the ASTRO A20, with the dongle and other accessories in easy to access locations.
In terms of design, very little has changed between generations. In fact, what stands out the most is the look. Previously they were black with colored accents, whereas the second generation has a mixture of black and white, with the same accents, blue for PlayStation and green for Xbox. This doesn’t mean much for Xbox owners but for anyone with a PlayStation 5, it’s an accessory that matches the system. Not perfectly I’m afraid, due to PlayStation being more of a grey and ASTRO using a solid white, but enough where it invokes the idea of the system. The bright blue or green colors also make for a strong design that allows them to stand out in a playful but still sleek way.
Performance-wise, well, they’re among the flattest headphones I’ve reviewed, though it depends on what exactly is playing. When playing Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of Elusive Age background sounds and finer details were easy to miss. The core music was also kind of lifeless, but storms, rain, crowds making comments, and things like that felt somewhat immersive. When playing with Destiny 2, I struggled to hear the little things that people tend to look for. Players running, enemies approaching, distant gunfire, and similar sounds.
At higher volumes the sound was a bit bright, making it hard to listen for extended periods. This can be somewhat corrected by changing the equalization, but it never hits a point where it stands out next to other, admittedly most costly, models. This problem somewhat increases when you play with friends, like the volume dial changes to a voice and game prioritization dial. Often times I had to pick hearing friends to making out details or in some games getting the fullest experience and that was a shame. ASTRO also opted out of including a headphone jack, which to some might be disappointing.
While ASTRO A20 has some shortcomings, a lot of this is made up for in overall value. Clocking in at $120, they’re among the cheapest wireless headsets on the market and offer a strong showing in other, equally important, areas. One such area is comfort. They’re extremely lightweight with breathable earpads that I had no issues using for multiple hours of play. The mic is also good enough to work in most situations, it just sounded a bit softer and not as clear than higher-end options. ASTRO also went with USB-C with this unit, potentially allowing it more versatility in terms of charging.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is the wireless USB transmitter. Traditionally, wireless gaming headphones have been divided by brand. This is due to some choices Microsoft made, resulting in specific models for Xbox and PlayStation. Usually, the aforementioned missing headphone jack would attempt to make up for this fault by giving players a way to connect the headphones and still get some kind of value from them on other platforms. In the case of the ASTRO A20, a simple $20 dongle can make the PlayStation version work on Xbox and vice versa. For this review, we got the additional dongle and it was super easy to swap between platforms. To me, this is the major selling point, as now you might have a $140 or so pair of headphones, but they simplify a lot of setups. Long term this will probably be a more standard feature but for now, it’s a strong selling point.
ASTRO A20 Gen 2 Review – Verdict
What makes gaming headphones a bit different than traditional headphones is that there is a multitude of considerations. For some it’s comfort, others sound quality, a few want a competitive edge and so many other things. ASTRO Gaming does a great job of offering a product that makes sense. While there is absolutely a market for high-end headphones that work on multiple platforms or more specialized units that don’t even require a dongle, there is also a market for people that want a nice, versatile pair of headphones at an affordable price, which is what the ASTRO A20 Gen 2 offers.
[Editor’s Note: ASTRO A20 Gen 2 PlayStation version and Xbox dongle was provided to us for review purposes.]