Astro A40 Chat Headset Review

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The Astro A40 is the premier chat-ready 5.1 surround sound gaming headset on the market, compatible with Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. But unlike the Turtle Beach X41, it's wired.

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Price

$250 with mixamp needed to combine chatting and surround sound.

Verdict

I still vastly prefer the convenience of Turtle Beach's wireless X41 headset, but I have to admit, the Astro A40 sounds better.

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Illustration for article titled Astro A40 Chat Headset Review

Playing Borderlands, everything from the growls of skaggs to the cadence of machine gun fire sounded richer and rounder on the A40s than my X41s. Maybe the sounds weren't always as distinct, but especially when cranking the volume on each headset, I realized the general listenability—the whole package of sound—was more pleasant with Atro's product, making me long for hearing loss. It's a difference in mid range that, while not absolutely Earth-shattering, will probably be noticeable to most in a side-by-side test.

Both headsets have extremely similar sound localization. And chatting, on both, is an equal joy.

But there's one, huge, horrible, despicable Achilles' heel to the Astro A40s. To connect the headset to an Xbox 360 (or PS3/PC), wires will invade your entire living room because the console needs to plug twice into a mixamp (the big, retro box you see in the lead photo), then the mixamp connects your headphones and controller. That's confusing, I know. Here's the full workflow:

Xbox 360 optical out and USB cord => A40 Mixamp => Headphones/Mic and Xbox 360 controller.

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Illustration for article titled Astro A40 Chat Headset Review

Ultimately, not only are you negotiating four wires for this one headset, but you'll still be tethered close to your console because of one, generally short/inflexible wire: the optical cord from your Xbox to the Mixamp (you can always opt for stereo plugs, but that sort of spoils the fun).

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So while I knew the A40s sounded a bit better than my X41s, I couldn't kick back and enjoy the game in the same way. For one long cord or tight quarters PC gaming, I might opt for the A40s. For four cords sprawled across my living room, I'm sticking with the X41s—especially since they're $50+ less.

Maybe you'll feel differently.

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Excellent sound

Illustration for article titled Astro A40 Chat Headset Review
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Headphones work with any 3.5mm source, too

Illustration for article titled Astro A40 Chat Headset Review
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Wiring gets obnoxious

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DISCUSSION

Dude,

You just cut the A40s short on so many levels. I generally love your reviews, but this was quite frankly completely shit.

I'm going to give your readers the review they deserve.

First of all, while yes, the turtle beaches are less expensive, and yes I DO love wireless, some things are still just better at the moment wired. Also, I saw a few posts about Tritons, for those of you considering the Tritons I would go read a few real audiophile reviews before you buy them.

First I will say the Turtle Beaches are a great headset as far as sound goes, and for most gamers and 360 users they work perfectly well and they are WIRELESS.

Pros:

• Good sound quality

• Wireless

• Good surround separation

• Circumaural, so they fit around your ear, providing a good sound chamber and giving you way more hours of pain-free play

Cons:

• for anyone with a larger head, the build quality is crap and is something the headphone industry has been doing wrong for years.. all those cool little points of articulation are made of crappy injection molded rigid plastic, after about 6 months to a year the joints start to split/crack/break on larger heads.

• as far as game systems and chat, they are 360 only. you can however listen to audio sources fine, but the chat functions don't work on the PS3. I didn't try them on PC.

That's my mini review of the TBs to add to your already fair assessment of them in your review.

Now the A40 review:

I too hate wires, but being a bit of an audiophile and having had several 300+ sets of fullsized headphones and constantly trying wireless sets the audio from one to the other just doesn't compare. A friend in the game industry mentioned the A40s to me when I was becoming frustrated with always trying to tuck my mic under my senns.

I bought them shortly after they were announced, and after a small delay in shipping they arrived. My concerns about build quality were instantly dispelled as soon as I opened the amazingly well designed packaging. I'm talking Apple-like unboxing experience here.

Firstly Astro sends you like one of every kind of cable you could want minus the expensive optical (monoprice.com is your friend). The cables are made with that very supple and nice to the touch sheathing that you see rarely on products under several hundred dollars.

They also send you a nice rigid case that will hold the mix-amp headphones and a few cables as well as an extra battery pack should you need it.

Out of the box the quality of the headset was perfect. All the stresspoints are reinforced with metal parts or metal cover plates. The cable tubes are metal and the ear pads are a nice felt material (not quite as nice to the touch as my senns velour-like material but much less sweaty after a few hours gaming). All od the plastic parts are made of a heavy duty flexible ABS-like plastic but are very lightweight. They fit my MASSIVE gourd and don't squeeze my head and don't crack or break.

The boom mic is a wonderful flex material with a seriously robust plug that you can either take out for regular listening, removing the gamer-tool look we all know so well and allowing you to take them on the subway with you if you'd like. It's also switchable from left to right. The set includes three magnetic plates (one with a hole for the mic) to cover the open aural sides for a tiny bit more isolation, but people nearby will still hear your sound if it's really cranked.

People said my voice was loud and clear on the mic.

The sound is colored, but these are not monitors for sound mixing. I wouldn't say heavily colored, but they aren't flat. They have a decent bass response and are crystal clear even at high volume. As the other review states, the mids are wonderful and voices are very clear. The surround imaging is top notch and you can really close your eyes and call position on a well mixed source. The sound is warn which is perfect for movies and games and works great with most music.

Another nice benefit here is that most of the parts on the headset are replaceable such as the ear pads, side plates, boom mic and headband itself.

Now on to where the magic happens, the mixamp.

This is the backbone of the setup as far as the sound goes. It's a small and beautifully manufactured powered mix amp. There is a TON of inputs on this thing. Regular RCA stereo input, 1/8in input and output jacks, coax and optical as well as the mic input/output miniplug for the 360.

The action on the volume and level mix is smooth and quality feeling. The mix level adjustment is awesome since you can adjust the level between your audio input and you mic.

A few more cool points on the mix amp:

• you can also mix in a third audio source (in my case I like to be able to still hear audio notifications from my computer).

• it can be used with ANY system, PC, PS3 and 360 (as far as chat options)

• the plug for the headphones works perfectly with the iPhone and works splendidly when making calls at my desk.

• can be used with a battery pack that in my experience has gotten me 10 hours of gaming on one charge.

• charges via USB (depending on the source of power I sometimes do get a slight buzz when using them while charging, but once the charge is complete I no longer here it).

• the mixamps include a chaining feature for LAN parties where other mixamps can be connected and create a private chat channel.

• there is a small adapter that will allow you to connect another headset/headphones and the chat channel works between them. This sounds odd at first but it's GREAT for my wife and myself watching a movie while the baby is asleep in the next room. We can have it at an enjoyable level and still speak to each other.

• the mixamp will send the surround effect to any set of headphones plugged into it, but I've found its much more effective with the Astro cans.

• the surround effect can be cancelled easily for music sources.

The mixamp uses Dolby Headphone which is a new and specific tech developed by Dolby specifically for headphones. It is far superior to the work around Turtle Beach and Triton have been using and the imaging is amazing (they more than likely don't want to pay for the license when they already have the regular licensing). Read any good headphone blog and you will find there is no argument as to the sound on product from companies that have licensed the new tech.

Pros:

• Amazing build quality

• Replaceable parts

• Mic is swappable and removable

• Sound is excellent for surround sources

• Circumaural for comfy fit

• Mixamp can be used with other heaphones

• Lots of input options

• Uses superior Dolby Headphone tech

Cons:

• Pricey for someone who may just want a quick and dirty audio set up for their xBox

• Wired

Sorry for the long post, but I just really feel that when a product comes along that gets it right on so many different levels it deserves a proper review. I would go so far to say that for movies and gaming that these are nearly the perfect headphones. Other gaming sets (and I've tried a BUNCH) just don't compete when all the angles are taken into consideration.

I do believe Astro Gaming has plans for a wireless set in the future, so if thats extremely important hang out a bit.

Hope this helps anyone making a choice on a new headset.