Sound is something that I sometimes take for granted in gaming. I rarely use headsets but I might have to soon if I want to game on my Xbox 360 and not wake up my child. There are plenty of headsets out there but none have the features and flexibility that I've seen in theAstro A40 set from Astro Gaming.
The A40 kit that was sent to us comes complete with a headset and a MixAmp. Both of these can be bought separately from the company but you'll save money if you buy the complete set. By themselves, the headset is $200 and theMixAmp is $130. Together, you save $80 which is a pretty substantial reduction in cost. $250 may be on the expensive side but from my few experiences with the product so far you do get what you pay for here.
For the preview I'll concentrate on the basic features here and some initial sound impressions. Let's start with the headset. It's a full over the head headset with large ear coverings. Foam is lined on the ear pieces and in the top headband making for a comfortable fit. The ear pieces can rotate 90 degrees allowing you to lay the setup flat on the table. There's a slight tilt available on each ear piece to help with fitting. The ear pieces are attach to an oval tube that allows for sliding up and down on the head band. The tube also holds the wire and it's nicely wrapped inside and out of the way. On top, the headband is large and allows for a nice secure fit on top of the head.
Unique to the setup are the outer plates on the ear pieces which are interchangeable. They are held onto the headset by four small magnets. Now I thought it was a little strange to use magnets with a product designed for sound reproduction but the company has assured that it doesn't interfere with the quality. When you take off the plate, it exposes a connector for a microphone. Either side has a connector so if you prefer the microphone to be on one side or the other, that's possible with the A40. I like that you aren't limited to which ear piece you want the headphone to connect to.
Now these are Dolby headphones meaning you'll get to experience 5.1 sound through them. I've used a few headphones that touted 5.1 sound and while they were good, it never compared to a true setup of course. In my review I'm going to try a few games and movies to see how well they do but having the ability to get some surround sound through a headset is a bonus. It'll be nice to be able to hear people sneaking up behind you and gun fire from a general direction without having to resort to a speaker setup.
The line that runs out of the headset end at a quick connect system. There are two plugs on the end and this quick connect system allows you to have connections to multiple audio sources and with the quick connect system you can easily go from one to the other without having to break down your setup. Of course you'll need more quick connect wires but if you use your headphones with multiple sources this is a nice way to go.
The microphone that was supplied with the headset is long and extremely flexible yet rigid. It connects solidly to one of the ear piece ports and you'll be able to position the mic pretty easily When connected, the arm swings well but has good enough resistance to stay where it's at. I like how you can disconnect it if you're not using it so it doesn't get in the way.Alternatively, you can rotate it up so it sits flush with the ear piece arm.
For the other essential piece of the A40, we have the MixAmp. This is the centerpiece of the system. There's a large master volume dial on top but something cool sits below. When turned, it has a nice smooth action to it and feels pretty sturdy. A dial that adjusts the level of game sounds and voice lets you customize how much of each you want to listen to. If communication is important to you then add more voice. If you want to hear more of the game, turn it the other way. The dial nicely clicks when it's in the center of the two.
There are plenty of connections on this little box allowing for a multitude of possibilities. Two digital connections (Toslink, coaxial) are available for digital sound. For just stereo, the MixAmp offers the regular left and right coaxial connection. There are also two 1/8" connectors for a PC mic and an MP3 player. Along with the connections on theMixAmp, Astro Gaming has supplied a plethora of cables. There's enough here to plug into a few different devices and use the quick connect to move from one device to another with little hassle.
The MixAmp needs power of course and that can be accomplished in one of two ways. There's a mini-USB connector on one end and an included USB cable when plugged in can provide power to the MixAmp from any USB connection. Another is the use of 4 AA batteries so you're given two options to power the device.
For gamers, you can daisy chain a bunch of these together to form a nice closed communications system. If you LAN with others and want to be on your own private voice system, just link theMixAmps together and you're all set. There's no limit as to how many you can daisy chain together but suffice to say the more people you have together the harder it will be to communicate.
Previewing the setup, I took it through a few turns at some music from my computer using it as a standard pair of headphones. Sound was crisp, clear, and loud. Lows were good and the highs were as well. The headphones fit very comfortably on top of my head and I wasn't fatigued in wearing them for long periods of time. I'll know more once I try the system out with the 360 and surround sound media along with using the voice communication setup but so far I really like what I'm hearing.
The Astro Gaming A40 system seems to be pretty popular as their site is selling out the product. I'm a little disappointed that it's not wireless but the company is striving for a professional gamer setup and want to develop a wireless technology that doesn't hinder quality of the sound but they are looking into that for the future.
So far I really like what Astro Gaming has to offer. While it's an expensive setup, it's solid and the media sounds great coming from the headphones. The MixAmp offers a lot of connection possibilities and the mixing of game and voice sounds is a great feature. Having Dolby headphones and digital connections on the MixAmp will give purchasers some great surround sound for movies and games. Come back soon for a full review of the product.
Companies: Astro Gaming
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