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Astro A20 (Gen 2), Xbox version
August 18, 2020
Original: $119 USD
1.5m (USB-A to USB-C cable)
17.8 x 26.2 x 8.7 cm (headset)
Astro has been one of the most popular brands of gaming headsets for a long time, and while that success hasn’t always been reflected in the quality of its products, eventually there has to be a winner. The Astro A20 (Gen 2) is a pretty straightforward wireless gaming headset—there’s an Xbox version and PlayStation version, and both have compatibility with PC but no software.
We spent a week with the Xbox version of the headset and really put it through its paces. Is it worth a buy?
Editor’s Note: This review was updated on November 7, 2022 to address some formatting changes.
What is the Astro A20 (Gen 2) like to use?
There’s a lot about the Astro A20 (Gen 2) that will be familiar if you’ve used Astro’s products, or even if you’ve just used a gaming headset designed for Xbox consoles. In short, it has a few extra features on Xbox, most of which aren’t available on PC but otherwise, it’s pretty much a plug-and-play affair.
As a product on the lower end of the Astro line, the headset has a simpler construction than, say, the Astro A50, but that’s a good thing. This is largely a plastic affair, with a rubberized headband cushion and fabric ear pads. The fabric ear pads make wearing it for long stretches comfortable, and less sweaty than with leather. The ear cups tilt to accommodate the angle of your ears too. It’s very comfortable, but if you’ve got longer hair the rubberized headband may tug at it.
Actually using the Astro A20 (Gen 2) is pretty straightforward, but as with all Made for Xbox gaming headsets, it’s not equally good everywhere. The headset features a volume dial and buttons to swap between game and chat channels, but you can’t access more than one audio channel while you’re gaming on PC. The flip-to-mute mic works as advertised, and the headset’s three pre-loaded EQ profiles are all accessible across platforms, though (you can toggle through them with the button below the power button).
How does the Astro A20 (Gen 2) connect?
The Astro A20 (Gen 2) does not support wired audio and instead connects to your gaming device of choice using a 2.4GHz USB wireless dongle, but don’t be fooled, this isn’t a standard wireless connection. Like the LucidSound LS50X, the included dongle uses the Xbox Wireless connection standard, which is why the Xbox version of the A20 (Gen 2) won’t work with devices like the PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, and why Windows recognizes it as “Xbox Controller” when the dongle is plugged into your PC. If, however, you want to expand the Xbox version to your PS5, you can shell out an extra $20 USD for the PS5 transmitter.
Alternatively, you can simply spring for the PlayStation-oriented version of the A20 (Gen 2) instead of the Xbox variant. With this, you won’t be able to play on Xbox consoles unless you buy the Xbox transmitter, but it will work with Sony consoles along with PC and Mac. You should be able to use the PS5 transmitter with a Nintendo Switch, since Nintendo added support for USB devices back in version 4.0.0.
How long does the Astro A20 (Gen 2) battery last?
Astro claims the A20 (Gen 2) can last up to 15 hours on a single charge, but in our testing, we found it well exceeds that. During a period of constant real music output peaking at 75dB(SPL), the headset lasted 20 hours, 33 minutes, more than 30% longer than estimated. Performance like this isn’t bad, but it’s a relative drop in the bucket compared to recent releases like the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless, or even the SteelSeries Arctis 7+.
No, the headset does not support fast charging, and you must set aside three hours to complete a full charge cycle.
Does the Astro A20 (Gen 2) block out sound well?
The Astro A20 (Gen 2) doesn’t block noise out terribly well, compared to other over-ear gaming headsets. There are likely a few reasons for this. For starters, the shape, angle, and minimal tilt capacity means the headset may not establish a terribly good seal around your ears—it certainly doesn’t around mine. The choice of fabric to cover the ear pads doesn’t exactly do the isolation performance any favors, either.
Basically, this will work alright for most quieter home environments, but even moderate noise will come through pretty clearly.
How does the Astro A20 (Gen 2) sound?
The Astro A20 (Gen 2) outputs sound that falls pretty close to our target curve, with a few notable exceptions. There’s a notable degree of added emphasis in the high range from 3-10kHz, and a drop in emphasis in sounds under 40Hz.
The headset offers three EQ presets to change the way the headset sounds: Astro, Studio, and Pro. Astro is the default and what we’ve got a measurement for, but Studio is meant to flatten out the frequency response for media consumption, and Pro tailors the sound to competitive gaming by draining the bass output out of the mix. These options don’t sound all that different from each other, but the Astro default sounds pretty good in most scenarios anyway. You probably won’t feel much need to switch things up, though it’s still nice to have the option.
Lows, mids, and highs
Most kinds of music will sound pretty nice coming through the Astro A20 (Gen 2) on the default EQ preset. In The Dripping Tap by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, vocals sound clear during the quiet initial part of the song as well as amidst the heavy distorted guitar and bass later on. As the intensity builds in the latter half of the song, each instrument still comes through distinctly, and nothing feels like it gets harder to hear.
In game, audio like this shouldn’t cause any issues. The slight drop off in sub-bass audio will mean the various rumbles associated with explosions and gunfire in games like Fortnite may not be quite so distracting, which could be a good thing. Playing games like Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn and Risk of Rain 2 on PC, the Astro A20 (Gen 2) handles the balance between in-game sound and the musical score quite nicely. The bass response isn’t overdone with this headset (more on that in a bit), so the rumble of explosions and gunfire in games like Valorant or Apex Legends isn’t overwhelming or especially distracting, which can be important when you’re trying to keep an ear out for positional audio cues. There’s no built-in spatial audio feature here, but the headset supports Windows Sonic spatial sound and it works just fine.
How is the Astro A20 (Gen 2) microphone?
The Astro A20 (Gen 2) microphone sounds pretty standard for a gaming headset. It’s loud and clear, and bass response is a little under-emphasized. Extended Zoom meetings or Discord calls will sound pretty good, just don’t expect to record any podcasts with this.
Astro A20 (Gen 2) microphone sample (Ideal):
Astro A20 (Gen 2) microphone sample (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Astro A20 (Gen 2)?
The Astro A20 (Gen 2) is a straightforward gaming headset and it’s hard to imagine being disappointed with it, as long as you get the right variant for your needs. The headset sounds good, and it’s comfortable. The microphone isn’t stellar, but it’s got no volume or clarity issues. The battery life is decent, too.
However, for $120 USD, this is definitely a little barebones. The lack of any software isn’t terribly glaring—who doesn’t love a plug-and-play headset—but it feels a little notable, given the game and chat feature doesn’t work on PC, and the EQ presets don’t feel overly different from each other.
What should you get instead of the Astro A20 (Gen 2)?
If you’re on the hunt for a great Xbox Wireless gaming headset, there are two directions you can go—either get something cheaper that does all the same things or get something around the same price with more features. The Razer Kaira line has a great option for either approach. The Razer Kaira Wireless is $99 USD, and has all the same features as the Astro A20 (Gen 2), plus it’s more comfortable. The Razer Kaira Pro retails for a little more than the A20 (Gen 2) at $149 USD, but it brings Bluetooth functionality as well. Both of these headsets need an additional Xbox Wireless dongle to work with PC but they’re on sale very frequently, which can easily balance things out—at the time of writing, the Kaira Wireless is available for $79.99 USD and the Kaira Pro runs for $99.99 USD.
If you’re considering the PlayStation version of this headset, but want some alternatives, great options are even easier to find. Headsets from Turtle Beach like the Stealth 600 Gen 2 is a straightforward, well performing headset with good sound, a great microphone, and good battery life—there’s a MAX version out now that promises even better battery performance too (stay tuned for that review).
Frequently asked questions about the Astro A20 (Gen 2)
For this generation (gen 2) of Astro A20 (Gen 2), there are two models—a PlayStation-oriented one with blue highlights, and an Xbox-oriented on with green highlights. In some places, a PC/Mac version is listed, but it’s really just one or the other of the Xbox/PlayStation models.
You can’t connect the Astro A20 (Gen 2) to a phone, so it’s terrible for phone calls.
Yes, you can use the A20 (Gen 2) while it’s charging.