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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.

The A38 isn't terrible, but it's lacking in audio fidelity across the board. You might not mind if you're just looking for an ultraportable set of headphones — if, for instance, you need a decent wireless headset to wander around town while pumping Spotify from your phone. I've used the A38s for that purpose a number of times over the past few weeks.

But for gaming? Damn, these are tinny. I'm happy there's no overpowering bass on this headset, but even the high-end is lacking. Nothing but regret lies in wait for the person who hooks these up to a computer and plays Battlefield 4 or something comparable on them. You can do it, sure, but I can't imagine even a non-audiophile would be satisfied with the gaming performance of the A38s after paying $200+ for a set, especially with the (excellent) A40s and a host of other headphones running cheaper.

You've also got issues with the Bluetooth format itself. If you, for instance, built your desktop PC it's likely you don't even own a Bluetooth adapter to hook it up. I certainly don't.

I do own a laptop and a phone though, so I hooked it up to those. While the A38 paired easily with both devices, I found maintaining a connection to my phone a frustrating experience. I'm using a Nexus 5, so it's hardly like I'm running some off-brand piece of trash, but I could not for the life of me convince the A38s to maintain a stable connection while walking around San Francisco. I experienced constant hiccups in the audio, and while none were enough to convince me to take off the headset and snap it in half it's an annoyance I don't have to deal with by simply plugging in a $20 pair of Sony earbuds.

The A38 also features active noise canceling, which is a luxury since ambient noise is traditionally a downside of on-ear headphones. But while the noise cancelling is decent if you're for some reason against over-ear headphones and earbuds, I got more solitude through the passive noise cancellation of that same $20 pair of Sony earbuds than I did from the A38's fancier implementation. Again, it all depends on whether you're desperate for on-ear headphones or not.

Finally, there's the microphone — the thing that makes the A38 a headset and not an expensive pair of headphones. Like the RAW Prism, the A38 uses an omnidirectional microphone. Like the RAW Prism, the A38's microphone is completely useless. You can use it for phone calls, if only because nobody expects phone calls to sound good. Trying to use the A38 for in-game chat is a nightmare though, and should be avoided at all costs unless you want to sound like you're shouting from the other end of a reverberant hallway.


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