Transducer Principle: Dynamic, Closed
Freq. Response: 20-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 32ohm
Characteristic SPL: 100 +/-3dB @ 1kHz
Distortion: Less than 0.1%
Connector: 3.5mm jack with PC splitter
Note: Specifications are provided by the manufacturer and were not tested in this review for accuracy.
At this year’s E3 conference in Los Angeles, I was invited to Astro Gaming’s off-site demo room at the Luxe Hotel to check out their new A50 wireless headset (due in late July). Astro Gaming is a spin-off from Astro Studios, the company that designed the original Alienware PCs (prior to the acquisition by Dell), XBOX 360, D-Link’s Boxee Box, and OnLive’s set-top box and controllers. Recently acquired by Skullcandy, Astro Gaming creates and designs quality accessories aimed at professional gamers, including headsets, bags, and backpacks. After the demo, the folks at Astro Gaming offered me their Astro Scout backpack (made to carry an XBOX 360, PS3, or 17” laptop plus accessories), as well as a pair of A*Star In-Ear Headsets to review.
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The A*Star headset comes packaged in a nicely-designed fold-out box with an outer sleeve. Inside the box are a set of small, medium, and large ear gels, a PC adapter cable, and a soft carrying case to hold both the earbuds and a portable media player (similar in size to the older iPod Nano - my Samsung Galaxy S 4G was too big to fit in the small case). The earbuds come in your choice of white, silver, or black, and feature a flat, highly conductive cable with a small control center for volume, microphone, muting, and pausing. I found the flat cable to be a real benefit, as it was less susceptible to getting tangled, twisting up on itself, or getting easily snagged. The thumbwheel volume control is super smooth and takes very little effort to turn up or down, while the pause button worked flawlessly with several music apps on my Galaxy S 4G (including Spotify, Pandora, and the phone’s built-in Music Player). And the built-in microphone worked fairly well during phone conversations (although I do not normally use a stereo headset for phone calls).
To be honest, I’ve always had problems with earbuds, regardless of who the manufacturer was. I could never get them to fit properly and snugly, and to me they always sounded tinny. And, at first, the A*Star had similar issues. I tried all three sizes of ear gels, and none of them seemed to fit properly, with the large seeming to fit best. After a few weeks of use, however, I found the large ear gels conforming to my ear canals and providing a better fit, becoming more snug and providing better sound isolation. I use Spotify most of the time when listening to music on my Galaxy S 4G, and found the low-end to be lacking quite a bit when listening with the A*Star earbuds. I had very different results, though, when I connected the headset to my home theater receiver (Yamaha RX-V563), enjoying a much wider range of frequencies with better low-end response. I tried them again on my smartphone, this time using the Music Player that came pre-installed. After playing around with the various EQ and DSP settings, the audio quality of the earbuds was greatly improved, much closer to the results from my Yamaha receiver.
Astro Gaming sells the A*Star headset (along with their many other products) either directly through their website (http://www.astrogaming.com) or through Amazon, and the A*Star retails for $79.99. While some may find that a bit pricey for earbuds, I found these to be built much more solid than most of the competition, and felt the carrying case and medallion control center added extra value to what I consider to be premium earbuds.