The rivalry between consoles isn't as fierce as it once was. As gamers have grown older, they've gotten to an age where they can afford more than one video game system. Loyalty to one brand isn't as important compared to the idea of which game plays the best on a respective machine.
With more people owning multiple consoles, the problem of duplication arises. The way devices are made nowadays players usually have a headset for the Xbox line and another for the PlayStation family. It can quickly create an issue ( like at my house) where players discover they have way more peripherals than they need.
Astro Gaming solves this with the Astro A20 Gen 2, one headset to rule them all. The concept goes like this: Players buy a headset that includes a USB transmitter for the console of their choice. If they buy a PlayStation version, it will be blue and come with a dongle that works for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles. If they pick up an Xbox version, the headset has a green trim and it comes with a dongle that works on Xbox One and Xbox Series X 5/8 S consoles.
If players want to use the A20 Gen 2 on the opposite console, they won't have to buy another headset. They just pick up a $20 A20 Gen 2 transmitter for the other console, and bam, they can use a device originally sold for the PlayStation on an Xbox and vice versa. The headset itself is agnostic while the transmitter does the heavy lifting.
It's all part of the ongoing evolution of headsets and sound going on in the next generation. I've used the Astro Gen 2 on both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and the device handles sound from both consoles well. Partly, that's because both systems have custom sound chips that process audio designed for a set of cans.
When it comes to the A20 Gen 2, the sound quality is good, but not the best I've heard. The 40 mm Neodynium drivers delivers big but not booming bass. Don't expect teeth-rattling shaking from explosions. Instead, blasts in first-person shooters are just big enough to be felt, adding an immersive experience. It handles the mids and highs decently with clarity coming through but it's not spectacular like the EPOS 5/8 Sennhesier GSP 600. With that said, players will miss out on the finer details of the soundscape such as the subtle sound of running water in a scene that has murmuring crowd. The sound of rain could be missed over louder chatter.
Despite the decent audio quality, the separation, how well the headset produces surround sound, is great. The all-important trait of being able to pinpoint the direction of the noises is there. Players will know if there are footsteps behind them, especially if they use one of the three presets programmed into the A20 Gen 2. Unfortunately, the device didn't work the Astro Command Center software, so there isn't a way to fine tune those settings.
By making a generalist headset for both consoles, Astro Gaming missed out on tuning the device for a specific system. That shows up when comparing the A20 Gen 2 to Sony's Pulse 3D wireless headset. That device is designed specifically for the PlayStation 5 had sound that was a step above with aggressive, punchy bass and beautiful separation that created a feeling of layered multidirectional sound.
Although a dedicated headset is a clear winner there, the A20 Gen 2 trumps its rivals in comfort and reliability. The A20 Gen 2 is a set of cans that I can wear forever. It sits easily on the head and is even accommodating to those who wear glasses. I can't say that for the Pulse 3D. The cushioning is plush and the design is battle tested over the years. Few devices have such a well-worn and solid design.
The A20 Gen 2 doesn't have much in terms of extras. It has a solid boom microphone that is not detachable but has the flip-to-mute feature that's super handy. Meanwhile, the headset held out for a little over 15 hours. That's good but not great compared to its rivals.
Ultimately, what players are getting for the $119.99 price is a workmanlike wireless headset. It eschews many fancy bells and whistles to deliver players good audio, but it's greatest value lies in its versatility, comfort and reliability. Few wireless headsets can be used on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Add in the cushy ear cups that can stay on your head forever, and Astro Gaming has built a headset that's built to give players some of the biggest bang for their buck though it doesn't offer the best sound.
(c)2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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