For the most part, gaming headphones come in one of two different styles. Either they’re a traditional headset with a microphone attached or they’re essentially a microphone attached to a single ear. Outside of those, there have been a few gaming earbuds over the years. HyperX has their Cloud Buds, Turtle Beach has their Battle Buds, and 1More trying their luck with Spearhead VR BT with each finding varying levels of success. ASTRO Gaming wants to expand its well-known gaming headphones to a new market with their A03 in-ear monitors. With solid construction and a clear focus, are they a must for anyone looking to avoid a large headset or is there a reason why this market has yet to take off?
Surprisingly, ASTRO Gaming went with a very small package for their A03 in-ear monitors that are filled with information. On the front, we have a cover with a picture of the product, which can be opened up to find the in-ear monitors. In addition to finding A03, there are various eartips, a mesh case, a single sticker, with the inside cover having a rather, let’s go with unneeded, diagram. The reason I say, for lack of a better word, unneeded is that it shows where to insert the headphone jack on a variety of products. Gaming controllers and Nintendo Switch are one thing, but it also includes a laptop, tablet, and phone. As much as I would love to dissect the logic behind showing the location on those general devices, especially when even the products it’s clearly referencing is occasionally in a different location, it really doesn’t matter. On the back there is a lot of general information about the headset like it’s a dual driver headset tuned for gaming with aluminum details and tangle-resistant cable, giving potential owners a decent idea of what to expect.
Build quality is surprisingly good. As mentioned above, both the red/navy and white/purple A03 in-ear monitors boast an aluminum finish. Due to how the in-ear monitors sit in your ear, they will start with a cool sensation before it dissipates. I’d say it takes probably a minute to happen, though it might take longer if you’re outside. The cable feels well-constructed and even attempting to tangle them proved somewhat difficult, a huge bonus for anyone planning to use these on the go. As for the case, it’s a little mesh pouch. It does the job but hardly anything special in any way.
Following some pretty substantial testing, A03 has a rather hollow sound. When I used them to play Gambit on Destiny 2, the Drifter would go from being crisp and clear to kind of muffled in the background. Certain sounds, like my gun firing or boosters when jumping were extremely bright, causing them to not only hurt at higher volumes, they overrode a lot of the action around me.
When playing Godfall they made my weapons distant and weak sounding, taking away from the brutal nature of the game. Other times background noises are lost in favor of more demanding sounds. This is a bit worse when you work on challenges that basically require great performance to come out ahead.
As for music, it’s clear that the low end is increased a bit with not enough mids or highs to compensate for it. Often times songs were completely overpowered by bass, giving them a totally different feel than what nicer sets offer. Without that extra separation, it makes for an oddly flat and weak sound coupled with a booming bass to round it out.
While none of these things will ruin the gaming experience per se, there isn’t much to make them stand out. I couldn’t actually find a situation where I liked the sound, oftentimes resulting in me grabbing another pair to see if it’s the game, my memory of the headphones that were off, and most times it was the headphones.
Outside of sound, they do feature a mic that is serviceable. It also sounds kind of hollow and isn’t extremely clear but you shouldn’t run into a situation where people tell you to get a different headset.
ASTRO Gaming A03 In-Ear Monitor Review – Verdict
When it comes to something like the A03 in-ear monitors, it’s easy to focus on what it does wrong or where other things do better, but they’re honestly not bad for the money. Compared to similarly priced items they’re basically on par with the better build quality. While I’d personally suggest just saving for a better pair, like 1More’s Triple Driver headphones, these are still perfect if you just want something decent to carry with your Switch or have a child use.
[Editor’s Note: ASTRO Gaming A03 In-Ear Monitors were provided to us for review.]