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Astro A38 review: A staggering price to pay for convenience

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 19, 2015
I honestly don't even know how to rate the Astro A38. Technically it's a gaming headset, sure, but it's abundantly clear Astro doesn't really expect you to use these very often with your PC. Everything about this headset was designed with cell phones in mind, from the small form factor to the fact that it only connects through Bluetooth.

I honestly don't even know how to rate the Astro A38. Technically it's a gaming headset, sure, but it's abundantly clear Astro doesn't really expect you to use these very often with your PC. Everything about this headset was designed with cell phones in mind, from the small form factor to the fact that it only connects through Bluetooth.

We're a PC publication though, so we'll rate the A38 on its PC merits. And those merits are few and far between, especially at a punch-in-the-face-and-steal-your-wallet $230 price.

Unlike the rest of the over-ear headsets in this round-up the A38s are worn on-ear, which means I'm already not a huge fan. I love earbuds because they're small, and I love over-ear headphones because they cancel out some noise and deliver better sound. As far as I'm concerned, on-ear headphones fall into a weird twilight zone that features the worst aspects of earbuds and over-ear headphones. They're cumbersome, but also don't feature great audio.

Your choices are slim if you're a fan of on-ear headphones though, so feel free to disregard my opinion on that matter at least.

The design of the A38 is otherwise attractive, looking like a scaled-down version of the better-known A40. It's a durable piece of kit, built for street usage with a soft matte finish that nevertheless is resistant to scratches and other wear-and-tear.

On the back of the left ear is a power button (which doubles as the Bluetooth pairing button) and a one-button control for answering the phone, pausing music, et cetera. The back of the right ear has volume controls. Underneath the left ear is a mute toggle for the omnidirectional microphone.

The ears are padded, though since these are on-ear headphones I still wouldn't say it's exactly comfortable to wear for long stretches at a time. I could get through an hour or so before the cartilage at the tops of my ears started to ache from the pressure.

Range is the typical 30 feet unobstructed, less if you have walls in the way. The battery life is great, with Astro claiming 20+ hours of music listening and my anecdotal usage matching that figure handily. If you're using the device as an actual headset, you'll supposedly get around 15 hours. Either way, it's better than the ten hours use in Corsair's H2100. Charging is done through a MicroUSB port on the bottom of the right ear.

But how does it sound? Again, these are on-ear headphones, so they're really not comparable to 90 percent of over-ear headsets on the market. They also only connect through Bluetooth, which leaves you with another drop in quality. Bluetooth audio is better than it was, say, five years ago, but it's still not great. Everything is a bit muffled, a bit thin and reedy.

 

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