There’s an explanation why console headphones have over-the-ear cups and boom microphones. They are larger than earphones, but they have stronger bass and higher-quality microphones for louder speech chats. This hasn’t kept Astro Gaming from selling the A03, a pair of in-ear monitors marketed as a decent choice for gaming audio. The A03s sound stronger than the reasonably priced Logitech G333 gaming earphones at $49.99, but complete headphones are preferable for most gaming sessions.
The Design of the Astro A03
Aside from their rare purple-and-white and red-and-blue color combinations, the A03 is a standard pair of wired earphones of relatively modest gamer flare. An earpiece consists of a small aluminum barrel with a thick section near the eartip and a thinner, slightly tapered portion that attaches to the wire. There are no stabilizing fins or loops included (only a few non-fitness wired earphones do), but three sets of varying shaped silicone eartips have a secure match for most feet. The circular backs of the earpieces bear Astro’s emblem.
The earpieces are connected to a roughly four-foot flat wire. The cable has a three-button remote with a pinhole microphone six inches down the right earpiece’s cord, halfway between the earpiece and where the wires of the two earpieces attach. The cable ends with a four-pole, 3.5mm connector.
Aside from the additional eartips, the earphones come with just a slim zip-up mesh carrying case.
Microphone and connectivity
The A03 functions as a pair of 3.5mm earphones on any current gaming console (via the headset ports on the Xbox and PlayStation controls, or in handheld mode with the Nintendo Switch’s own headphone jack), as well as any machine or mobile device with a headphone jack. The A03, unlike the Logitech G333, does not have a 3.5mm-to-USB-C connector. If your handset needs a port, you’ll need to purchase your own USB-C adapter.
In the right conditions, the A03’s pinhole microphone sounds remarkably clear for a pinhole microphone. Unfortunately, certain conditions necessitate bringing the remote closer to your lips, having the cable hang, and, if open, turning up the gain in whatever program you’re using. The A03 recorded very soft recordings, but tuning them up produced a pretty smooth sound with only a little pop and sibilance (with the microphone held up to my mouth; just dangling, test recordings sounded more hollow and distant). The speech level isn’t comparable to boom microphones on traditional gaming headphones, nor is it as good as the Logitech G333’s inline remote microphone.
Performance in Audio
Each earpiece on the A03 has two motors, one 5.8mm and one 9.2mm. The two drivers divided the sound reproduction duties between lows and high-mids, resulting in greater representation of the entire audio range. They are the same scale as the drivers used in the Logitech G333.
As opposed to headphones, earphones usually have more subdued bass, and the A03 is no different. The kick drum hits and bass synth notes in our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” don’t have a lot of rumble, but they’re low enough to have a perfectly rounded sense of visceral thump. And better, at high volume, the earphones do not distort.
Yes’ “Roundabout” acoustic guitar plucks sound clean, with a good amount of string texture in the higher frequencies and a reasonable amount of lower frequency echo. As the music properly begins, the electric bass fades into the background but does not get lost in the mix. The drums and vocals take center stage, resulting in a well-balanced, mid-focused tone.
The backbeat in The Crystal Method’s “Busy Child” is punchy, with a strong low-frequency response. Furthermore, the earphones enable the higher frequency synth sounds to break through the mix enough to sustain their presence. The electronic track has a well-balanced, absolute tone.
Via the A03, Fortnite on the Xbox Series X sounds noisy and detailed. With left-right panning, I can clearly see my footsteps and the footprints of surrounding teams, as well as the relative direction of where they’re coming from. Distant shootings have strong directionality as well, alerting me to nearby battles. The tone of shooting isn’t noisy or bombastic, but it’s meaty enough to be audible.
Similarly, Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch sounds amazing when played via the A03. The background music and different nature sounds are rich and simple, and each particular wildlife feature can be identified. The monster roars aren’t very thunderous, but they’re a clean, well-balanced tone.
Not bad, but headsets are preferable.
The Astro Gaming A03 are good earphones, but like the Logitech G333, they don’t offer a compelling argument for ditching a traditional gaming headset. The speech level isn’t as good as it will be with a boom microphone, and the earphones don’t have a lot of bass. The A03 has a much improved tone than the G333, which allows it even more appealing if you’re searching for wired headphones that can also be used for games.
If you’re mostly involved in gaming and don’t like the extra size, we suggest a gaming headset like the $60 Astro A10 or the more expensive, but excellent-sounding, $99.99 Razer BlackShark V2. Earphones are much more compact, but they aren’t as fantastic for gaming as the Editors’ Choice selections.