Review: Astro A20 Wireless Headset Gen 2

Astro’s headsets have long been a gold standard in gaming audio and value — and the Gen 2 versions of the A20 seeks to offer up the benefits of a wireless headset with a more affordable pricepoint without compromising quality. There are two versions out there — one for the Xbox One family of consoles and PC and another for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC. You can use one headset across all consoles if you’d like, but you’ll need a second USB dongle to do so. The dongle is only $20, so it’s not a massive expense if you want one headset across all of your devices. Before this kind of solution, I would generally go with a wired option to provide more bang for the buck. Having the Astro A30s for about six years has led me to like the Astro brand as a whole and the A20’s over-the-ear design is more comfortable with glasses than an on-ear design.

We’ll be using the PlayStation/PC variant and the black, white and blue design is sharp. The white-heavy accents wind up nicely matching the PS5’s black and white look, while the blue fits in with what Sony has gone with a dominant color on their packaging across both generations. The A20’s large ear cups fit nicely over the ear and feel great with glasses, and the cloth material for them feels good even after longer play sessions. One issue I’ve had with my Logitech over-the-ear headset is the ear cups would get uncomfortable after an hour or two, which never happened here even with longer play sessions.

Going from device to device is simple — although the includes instructions leave much to be desired. Fortunately, if you’ve ever paired a Bluetooth headset up with a phone, it’s a similar process. You plug the USB dongle into the console of your choice, press its sync button and then do the same on the headset. At that point, you should be good to go and depending on your settings, you can adjust audio levels from there or use the dial on the headset itself to put more of an emphasis on in-game sound or voice chat. There’s also an EQ button to help balance things out without having to mess with the dial. The overall arrangement of the buttons on the right-hand ear cup is fine in theory, but awkward to use in-game unless you have a bit of time to kill.

From the bottom to the back-middle, you have a USB-C connector for fast-charging with the voice/game dial about a quarter inch away from it on the back-bottom corner. Between its bright blue look and location in an easy-to-feel spot on the headset, it does make a solid point of reference in-game when you can’t just take the headset off. You know that from the dial, you have to go up an inch for the EQ button and then a quarter inch above that is your power light and another quarter inch above that is your power button. It’s a decent interface that works well at times, but if your headset moves around during play, you’ll probably wind up accidentally hitting the wrong button unless you always make sure to use the dial as your starting point on the headset.

Visually, the boxy design may not be for everyone, but it’s distinct with wide sides to help everything stay balanced on your head. The headband itself is comfortable and the pop-up mic is fantastic too. It’s great for when you want to go from a multiplayer session with the mic to solo play – which I did for Titanfall 2. There it’s fun to play online and blast away at humans and titans alike — and the headset’s audio quality makes playing it more fun than it is with lower-quality headsets. With the A20, you can get a decent idea of the impact of your shots as both a human and a titan. As the former, your firepower stands out more, so you’ll be able to get a better sense for the power and speed of a machine gun versus the more subdued and methodical approach of a handgun. Playing a titan gets a bit more intoxicating with a good headset on, as the sense of power you have compared to the humans is made more evident with booming steps that have more power thanks to a good headset.

With all of that said, while I do like the over-the-ear design, the lack of surround sound is disappointing for a headset over $100. The stereo separation for music and dialogue is still impressive, but at this price point, one would expect at least some degree of virtual surround sound to be present. With Titanfall 2, that would offer the ability to use not only the mini-map to see where enemies are, but hear enemies that the mini-map can’t showcase and get a better idea of who’s surrounding you. In newer games, like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it would be a godsend for crowd control purposes. There, you’re surrounded by folks constantly and being able to tell where foes are at outside of your range of vision would be a huge help. As it stands, the A20s are still great for a game so dialogue-heavy because you get a sense for their emotions better thanks to cleaner audio and hear more of the ambient sounds from the NPCs, whether it be chatter or just people going about their day.

Closing Comments:

The Astro A20 Wireless Headset Gen 2 is a solid headset that’s comfortable over longer play sessions and scores points for ease of use when it comes to using it across multiple devices, but still has room for improvement. The lack of instructions for using the device is odd and while they do include documentation on sites to go to for setup, it’s strange to not just include another foldable leaflet in the box since it’s full of little foldable parts listings and warranty info, so it’s just one more slip of paper. That issue aside, it’s good for a wide variety of games, but does suffer from a lack of virtual surround sound. It has impressive audio separation though, so for games with a solid mix of dialogue and environmental noises, it’s quite satisfying. It’s a shame you need a $20 dongle to use the PS4/PC headset with an Xbox One/Series family console or vice versa, but it’s nice to have more functionality out of it. If it had virtual surround sound, it would be a no-brainer. Without that feature, it’s a tougher recommendation even with its versatility.