It’s probably pretty fair to say that ASTRO don’t really cater for the mass casual gaming market. Whilst cheap headphones and accessories are two-a-penny, the big name brands which compete for the pro-gamers of this world come in less than plentiful supply. ASTRO are one of those who, with a combination of interesting, exciting and stunningly well made products, are at the heart of the current esports surge and competitive pro-gaming action.
Now, I’m not a pro-gamer. I’m not even an esports enthusiast. I am however a regular guy who wishes I had the requisite skills to allow me to do so. Sadly I don’t, but hey, that’s not going to stop me from enjoying one of the latest products that ASTRO have brought to the market.
The combination of the ASTRO A40 TR Headset and MixAmp Pro is, without a shadow of doubt, a match made in heaven. From the second you open the gloriously created box, peeling back the outer layers in order to get to the goodies inside, you’ll be wowed by what is on offer.
The main crux of the package is the headset itself. For use with Xbox One, and indeed PC/Mac, the A40 TR oozes quality. Mostly bright white, with dashes of silver and the brilliant ASTRO logo adorning numerous parts, if you want a headset that is going to allow you to skulk away into oblivion, this is quite clearly not it! If however you want something to show off to your Twitch or YouTube followers, or just look the part whenever your mates are round, then this is most definitely the one for you.
With well padded ear cushions that lovingly caress your outer ear, and a headband that has just enough spring in it to ensure that even the lengthiest of gaming sessions leave you feeling fresh and alert, the A40 TR’s are one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever worn…and I’ve worn a few from a number of other large brands, both from the gaming world and those who deal with proper audiophiles. The swappable microphone boom is bendy enough to fit all and with a completely adjustable headset height it allows for gamers with all size skulls to be safe in checking them out. The swiveling cups ensure that if you do ever wish to drop the cans for a minute or two, then they will sit nicely around your neck without digging in to your collar bone…a bit of a pet hate for me.
But as much as the A40’s look glorious, a headset is only as good as the sound which it delivers. Admittedly the MixAmp Pro will deal with much of the audio quality, but I’ve been constantly wowed by everything which comes out of the ear cups. The sound (and let’s admit it, that’s what we are here for), is nothing short of awesome, delivering powerful audio like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I can’t for one minute pretend to know all about the bass structure or treble count that your ears will be subjected to, but on a scale of 1-superb? Well, I’ve yet to be let down and really can’t see that happening anytime soon.
With just the one solitary input on the actual headset – that of a 3.5mm jack slot – the A40’s alone are the ultimate slave unit, relying solely on the bundled MixAmp Pro to ensure that the highest quality sounds come your way.
Everything you see on the A40 TR headset can be removed and replaced with the addition of the A40 Mod Kit. Switching out the white mic, white headband, white speaker tags and white ear cushions for a lime green/black affair may not be to everyone’s liking, but personally, I adore the Mod Kit. The cushions and speaker tags themselves are magnetically attached and easily come off with the Mod Kit offerings pinging into place delightfully. It’s a gloriously easy way of amending the style to your own liking and even though the headset and MixAmp themselves aren’t the cheapest things in the world, if you can stretch to the superior Mod Kit then you really should do, even if only because the slightly longer microphone and leathered ear cushions really do throw you into a tournament ready environment. I would have loved to have seen the headband be detached and reattached with as much ease as that which is allowed with the speaker tags, but a gentle pull apart of the band is all that is required in order to switch to your desired colour and feel.
Away from the headset and the MixAmp Pro itself is, as you would quite expect, of similar quality. The size of a modern smartphone (albeit a ton thicker), covered in glossy white with a red underbelly, it sits nicely, ready to help breath fire into your eardrums at the most precise moment. Powered by the USB port on your Xbox One, a TOSlink port ensures that the Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound that it helps deliver is crystal clear, allowing you to hear each and every drop of a bomb, pass of a ball, screech of a tyre and more, no matter which game you decide to take on.
The power button which is placed conveniently on the top left of the unit doubles up as a mode switcher, so depending on whether you are using your ASTRO’s on Xbox One or PC, a simple press of the button will let you switch between the two. For the majority of your time whilst gaming, you’ll need to ensure that the power button is lit red, allowing it to work correctly with Xbox One, with a white light signifying PC mode. With a large master volume dial covering the vast majority of the front of the MixAmp, it’s also simple enough to choose your desired volume level – although my own personal advice is to chuck it on the loud setting and sit back and enjoy, because even at that level, there is absolutely no crackle, hiss or breakup of the sound that transcends into your ears.
Below that is a smaller dial which gives the option to fine tune the amount of in game sounds with your optimum level of party chat. This is pretty much essential if you game with friends and allows for quick and easy volume adjustment should you so wish. Alongside the main dials are two smaller buttons which allow you to adjust the sounds a little bit more. With four audio modes present, whether you decide to run with the Astro Mode, Bass Boost Mode, Balanced Mode or Tournament option, you’ll find everything easy to access and within reach.
So, after all the great stuff I’ve mentioned above, it’s a little bit strange that I don’t see myself reaching for the A40’s and the MixAmp Pro as a matter of course. There are however a few reasons for this.
Firstly, I’m slightly disappointed with the quality of sound that the microphone drags in. I purposely put the A40’s to the test over a number of weeks in order to get a clear and balanced view of what is good and what isn’t, and without this time, I’m not sure I would have come across many negatives. However, on numerous occasions, party chat friends and fellow multiplayer session strangers have commented on how muffled my voice is. Now, I’m guessing those who don’t know me would probably not complain too much at the sounds they are hearing, but for those whom I have gamed with for many a year, they’ve constantly asked me to speak up, or move, as they so politely put it ‘out of your cave and back into the real world’. At which point the A40’s have become unplugged and a cheaper, but superior-mic-wielding pair of cans have instead been firmly attached. The things I’ll do to carry on a decent party!
I initially put this down to the standard microphone boom that came packaged with the headset and MixAmp, but after switching in with the green and black Mod Kit and experiencing the same issues, it seems it is something I cannot fix and either friends will have to get used to me being slightly more muffled then normal, or well…I’ll just have to find new friends! It’s not apparently a ‘bad’ sound and my dulcet tones are obviously quite brilliant no matter what mic I use, but it’s a bit disappointing that something that brings such a high quality is let down with this issue.
Secondly, I’ve had complaints from others around me of serious sound leakage and this is quite obviously down to the open back nature of the headest. Whether I’ve been using the A40’s to game on Xbox One, or as a standard music listening tool on PC, it’s been quite obvious that anything that is being thrust out of the cans and into my ears, is also being heard loud and clear by anyone else within earshot. It’s a serious issue for me, especially when I spend a considerable amount of my can wearing time in order to block out the sounds of a busy household. That obviously means that I cannot recommend the A40’s to anyone who wishes to do the same. Granted, the situation is made a ton better by switching the kit to that found in the Mod Kit, but even then I’ve seen ‘that look’ come from afar. I don’t particularly like ‘that look’. In fact, it’s something no-one should ever be subjected to.
One further issue that I can’t get past either is that of the multitude of wires that are needed for a gaming session. ASTRO A40’s are quite firmly planted in the world of the hardcore gamer, but that’s not to say there won’t be any normal human being reading this who isn’t averse to spending a little cash on a quality product. That therefore means I must point out that whilst those gamers who spend time in their own little gaming room should be more than happy with the setup that the A40’s bring, those who wish to bring the delightful headset into a living room scenario better watch out. I have kids. I have pets. I also have a massive fear of them wrecking any gaming session that involves wires. I don’t do wired controllers and I’d rather clear my life of cables as soon as humanly possible, but that’s something which is quite frankly impossible to do should you wish to run with this high end setup.
There are in fact no fewer than three wires running at any one time, with the micro USB cable providing the power, the TOSlink cable dropping in that delightful Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and then the final cable running between the Mixamp and the headset in order to provide the chat power. It’s a bit of a pain but perhaps this is a completely personal issue and really wouldn’t be an problem for those who are able to keep everything connected and hidden away at all times.
So, in summary, there is no debating that ASTRO have created a package with the A40 TR and Mixamp Pro that is right up there with the very best Xbox One accessories, albeit one that a certain type of gamer will struggle to use on a daily basis. If you’re serious about your gaming or streaming, are happy to put up with wires, have no spouse and find a bit of spare cash laying around ready for spending, then you won’t be disappointed with the standard package.
If you can stretch to the A40 Mod Kit as well, then you’ll be laughing as not only do I prefer the look with the combination of white, black and brilliant lime-green working well, but the tournament ready leather cups and mic boom are just that little bit easier to handle.
Who says ASTRO only cater for pro-gamers!?!
Related videos – Unboxing off the A40 TR Headset, MixAmp Pro and A40 Mod Kit.