Astro Gaming A40 Audio System Review: Sound Advice

Illustration for article titled Astro Gaming A40 Audio System Review: Sound Advice

Astro Gaming's A40 Audio System is largely pitched at the "pro gaming" market, a headset and amplifier combo that offers a private audio experience and the necessary options for voice chat while playing others.

The A40 Audio System is comprised of Astro's A40 Headset and A40 MixAmp. Released last year, it's a petite but powerful package that supports gaming on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, offering 5.1 Dolby Surround and combined voice audio. But you certainly don't need to be a "professional" to partake in the sweet sounds of the A40.

Here's what we thought of our month-long ears on time with Astro's audio system.

Loved
The Headphones: These things sound glorious. It wasn't until I was forced to take them off so that other people in the room could participate in the listening experience via my antiquated receiver and surround sound set up that I realized how meaty the A40 Audio System was. The A40 headphones deliver sharp, crisp and powerful audio, which I credit with helping to improve my performance in some recent Left 4 Dead 2 and Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer gaming. And while aural advantage is great, it was while playing Dead Space with these things on that really sold me.

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The Mixamp: The compact, densely constructed A40 MixAmp packs plenty of connections and power into a tiny package. It's simply and beautifully designed, with one large dial for controlling volume, a smaller dial for controlling the mix of game audio and voice chat audio. Popping cables in and out and storing the MixAmp out of site makes the wee amplifier an easily portable option.

USB Powered: I like things that are USB powered, as each of my currently hooked up consoles and the PC on which I play games come equipped with USB ports. The device can also be powered by a quartet of AA batteries, an option I haven't found a need for yet.

Comfortable, But Hefty: I'm not used to wearing headphones, so my initial experience wearing the A40 headset was not an altogether comfortable one. But my head adjusted, eventually feeling comfortable with the light pressure the A40 put on my skull. It's a solid set of headphones—324 grams/11.4 ounces—so some adjustment doesn't seem out of the ordinary, but at this point, I use these things for nearly every solo gaming session.

Hookups Aplenty: Astro doesn't skimp on the cables, including just about everything you'd need in the package from a connection standpoint, way more than I needed for my own personal use.

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Hated
Boy, That's Kind Of Expensive: Purchased together, the A40 Audio System, will set you back $249.99. And that's not cheap. The package is much more expensive if the headset and MixAmp are purchased separately, so don't do that. But they're a great, well-built option for late night gaming or for those who move their gaming sessions around the house.

One Cord Too Short: The one cable that's lacking is the Xbox 360 controller communicator cable, which plugs into the MixAmp and at the bottom of the pad. My own set up has just a little too much distance from couch to console and your mileage may vary. But the shorter cable, much shorter than the headphone cable, means I'm forced to play leaning forward. And to suffer this minor discomfort is the kind of thing wimps like me prefer to nitpick.

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At $249, the A40 is an investment, pricier than some of the consoles, but also a sound one. I've mostly made the switch from my home audio set up to the A40, and not just because the other residents in my household have become annoyed with the constant din of zombies, terrorists and space aliens being aerated and liquefied by heavy gunfire. It's not without its shortcomings, but the warm, powerful audio experience more than makes up for the minor inconveniences it's saddled with.

Would we suggest that everyone go out and grab an A40 and make it their primary audio option? Absolutely not. If you're already good on sound, more power to you. But if you're in the market for a new audio option, either out of consideration for your housemates or for a better headset/mic combo, give the A40 an earful.

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The A40 Audio System was developed and release by Astro Gaming. Retails for $249.99 USD. A unit was provided at a video game review event. Played through through portions of Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Left 4 Dead 2 on the Xbox 360 and Dead Space on the Xbox 360 with the full A40 Audio System. Played through portions of Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PlayStation 3 using a dedicated receiver and A40 Headset.

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DISCUSSION

** THIS POST IS VERY LONG, BUT I ASSURE YOU IT IS WELL WORTH IT. I TYPED IT OUT BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE PRODUCT I PURCHASED. READ IT ALL AND YOU WON'T REGRET IT! **

I researched 5.1 surround headphones for several months and feel like I know a great deal about this. First off, straight up ignore anybody who says 5.1 surround in headphones doesn't matter. IT DOES.

Second, please realize that there is no unit in the 5.1 Surround headphones market that is "Cheaper and Better." If you are looking for the best all around experience, you are going to pay the good money. Fortunately, I saved the money and finally dove into the Astro Gaming A40s + Mixamp.

[www.astrogaming.com]

I will run down the things that were most important to me:

I have a wife and usually, the only time I get to play is at night when her and my son are asleep. This means that all that beautiful surround sound and awesome audio built into movies and video games would be lost to me because I had to have the speakers down so low. I needed 5.1 surround headphones that I could crank up for Movies, PS3, Xbox, and Wii.

I needed headphones that were wireless or as close to wireless as possible.

I needed headphones that would take TOSLink Optical.

I needed headphones that either had a built in microphone or could "add on" a microphone easily. This was very important because playing multiplayer on XBOX or PS3 requires a headset with friends.

I needed headphones that sounded retardedly bad ass.

It came down to these 3:

Turtle Beach EarForce X##

Tritton AxPro

Astro Gaming A40 + Mixamp

The Turtle Beach EarForce were immediate ruleouts for me because they were not compatible with the PS3 and TurtleBeach does not offer a surround sound PS3 and X360 solution.

This left the Tritton AxPros and the Astro Gaming A40s. Initially, I was put off SLIGHTLY by the fact that the Astro Gaming A40s were a little more expensive than the Tritton AxPros, so I invested in the AxPros and ended up quickly returning them for the following reason:

Very noticeable hissing sound when there should be silence

There were "gaps" in the surround sound. For example, if somebody was shooting back and to the left of you, you wouldn't hear it until you turned slightly more left or slightly more right. If there is a sound happening behind you and you spin in a circle, the sound should travel around the headphones depending on how you are oriented based on the sound. As you would turn around, the sound of whatever you are trying to isolate would face in and out because of these gaps.

Finally, there are two humongous freaking AC adapters that you have to plug in in order for the damn things to work AND the headset has TWO cables running from it. One to power the damn things and another to connect to the base station. I found this to be REALLY ridiculous and unnecessary.

I returned the Tritton Ax Pros and purchased the Astro Gaming A40s and have never regretted a single penny spent on these beauties. You save some money if you buy the MixAmp and Headphones together, which I did. I purchased the MLG Edition because the earcaps are not only replaceable and modular, but you can now actually make your own custom earcaps. The standard setup comes with 3 earcaps. 2 that are just flat and have whatever design you ordered, and 1 that has a hole in it so that you can plug in the microphone if you are gaming with the microphone. This is great because if you are not gaming, you can remove the microphone and use one of the flat caps and they just look like regular headphones.

The microphone is 1 single piece of flexible silicon and it plugs right in to either the left or right can.

Another great thing about these is that there is NO AC ADAPTER REQUIRED. This is awesome! The MixAmp runs off of USB, so you can plug it into any USB port that supplies power and there are no batteries or AC Adapters required. There is a battery compartment, though, so if you are gaming on the go and don't have a USB port available, you can use batteries, which is awesome.

Also, there is only a single wire running from the headphones to the MixAmp and it is a VERY thin wire. It is like the size and weight of a pair of earbud headphones. If you are using them for the 360, there is also a wire that runs into the controller, but this is also a very thin wire. The only downside about wiring that I found was that I had to buy an adapter to get it to plug into the PS3. However, the adapter was cheap and they provide you with instructions on setup.

The sound is perfection and the surround sound works fantastic!

The headphones themselves are surprisingly light and are VERY well designed. The headphone piece itself has a wire that hangs from the ear that you connect to the wire that runs to the MixAmp. This means that you can disconnect the headphones from the wire that runs to the MixAmp so you can go to the bathroom or get a drink or get up and do something without having to take the headphones off. This is made even better by the fact that the headphones fold inward and lie flat against your chest so that you can take them off your head, disconnect from the "dongle" and let them rest around your neck and on your chest. It is amazingly convenient and well thought out.

The headphones come with a heavy duty carrying case that will carry wires and spare headphone caps. When I say heavy duty, I mean it. The damn thing is probably bullet proof. If you own a pair of Oakleys, you know the cases they sell at the store that are really hard? This is like that, except even more badass and heavy duty. That's not to say it is heavy, because it isn't, its just very durable. Your headphones definitely feel safe in there.

List, man. You will pay good money for the A40s + Mixamp, but it is WELL worth it. I wouldn't have typed out this entire thing if I didn't truly believe in them. I'm not freaking rich and I'm not spoiled, but I saved the money for these and do not regret it whatsoever. They are the best pair of heaphones I own now and even when I am gaming during the day, I decide to put these babies on instead of playing through my speakers because they are just THAT DAMN GOOD.

Don't deal with the TurtleBeach incompatability issues and don't hassle with the Tritton AxPros ridiculous amount of wiring.

Buy the A40s and be happy.

PS: To demonstrate the AstroGaming awesome customer service:

When I bought the MLG Edition set, they were out of the MLG Edition Earcaps. Instead of canceling my order and asking m to just get the regular ones, and instead of going "Out of Stock" on them, they just sent me the original version of the headphones with a letter that promise they would send me the MLG Earcaps at no extra charge as soon as they were available. 1 week later, I recieved a package that had a brand new set of MLG Earcaps for absolutely no extra cost. I got $20 bucks worth of Earcaps (the standard ones) for free and it took no effort on my part. Secondly, I sent them a thank you note and telling them I would be investing in their BlackBird case hanger and instead of saying thanks, they sent me the hanger ($20 value) for free also. I invested in Astro Gaming and they invested in me. As soon as the next version of these headphones comes out, I will be purchasing them without hesitation.

GET THE A40S!!!