ASTRO Gaming has released their 2013 A40 Audio System, and I have loved every moment of using it. Check out what he has to say about the ASTRO Gaming A40 Audio System.
ASTRO Gaming was the main sponsor of MLG up until recently, a lot of people worried as to what the future of ASTRO was and whether or not this meant that their products weren’t at the top anymore, my findings say quite the opposite.
ASTRO A40 Audio System Packaging
The artwork on the packaging of the A40 audio system was sent in is just remarkable. Truly something to keep for display, very ‘gamer’ and reminiscent of the artwork found on high-end graphics cards. I was blown away at it, such a fittingly wonderful presentation for a remarkable piece of gear. After opening the box, I was greeted by the audio system, where I actually stood for a few minutes and looked at it, seeing it in the flesh was quite a different experience to having just seen photographs of it on the ASTRO website.
ASTRO A40 Headset
ASTRO has made a beautiful piece of gear for gamers, the sheer look of the headset screams “GAMER!” and let’s be honest, it looks pretty badass. This open, circumaural dynamic headset is framed with dull black matte plastic, whilst the sliders for the earcups is a chrome painted plastic. I would be totally intimidated if I saw the entire opposing team were using ASTROs at a tournament, they give off a very professional gamer vibe. This is a headset for people who take their gaming seriously. Wear your ASTROs flat around your neck pro-style or throw them back on for days of play in ultimate comfort, with the Superior Fit & Finish.
The headset connects to the MixAmp through a 2M 3.5mm cable, whilst the MixAmp is connects to the source by an Optical audio cable. I didn’t find any ‘creaky’ sounds while wearing the headset, nor any ‘windy’ sounds from the cables of the headset when they brush against your clothes or your skin. In the past two weeks that I have had the A40 system I have spent hours either gaming, watching movies or critiquing music. I have been able to easily achieve 10 hours without head or neck fatigue thanks to the headband pressure being 2.6 N and the light weight of just 324g making them very comfortable for long periods of wear.
The A40 audio system 3.5mm cable allows you to quickly disconnect it so that you can simply disconnect your headset if you need to get up to grab a snack or use the bathroom without taking your headset off once you’ve adjusted it for optimum comfort for your session. This also allows you to replace the cable at a later date which increases the longevity of your product, and of course use a longer cable too if desired; if you have a faulty cable for whatever reason within your warranty, just send the cable back and ASTRO will ship you a brand new replacement.
Adjusting the headset fit your head is easy but at first I found it odd. Instead of clicking locks, ASTRO has made the headset feel tight and just slides up and down. Just a little different than what I have seen in most headsets. No real difference, still secures the headset size perfectly.
The padding ASTRO has included on the headset is great. Very comfortable, and that’s what counts. Every gamer that requires comfort to be a necessity, you cannot sit down for practice or just game for hours with an uncomfortable headset. However, this is not a noise cancelling circumaural headset, so if you want to drown out the sounds in the background, you better turn the volume up.
ASTRO has incorporated a cool feature on the headset, which can be used personally or commercially. ASTRO has developed interchangeable speaker tags for their headsets. Each audio system is shipped with their respective audio system speaker tags, so in this case I was shipped with A40 speaker tags. These are attached onto the headset by four magnets, and come in a variety of designs, though the best part is that you can order custom designed speaker tags straight from ASTRO Gaming which is great for representing your team at tournaments.
With the Swappable Cable System, you can remove and attach your unidirectional boom microphone on either side of the headset. This is great for people who have a preference on where they want their microphone. There is a reassuring click as the microphone locks into position which provides a nice feeling of knowing the microphone won’t fall out whilst using it. Another perk to having a removable microphone, is no more annoying microphone in the way while solo gaming as well as not having to worry about breaking it whilst traveling.
ASTRO has equipped the 2013 edition of their A40 audio system with Dolby Digital Surround Sound 7.1 with a characteristic SPL of 104dB. That is 70mW 32ohm per channel of audio, blasting in your ears sitting on top of your head, these transducers pack just the right punch for hardcore gaming, and putting you ahead of the competition with their great communications microphone. Watching movies and listening to music is great as well with the ASTROs. Getting the clear and clean audio while watching The Amazing Spider-Man on my iPad was just as a wonderful experience it was the first time watching it. Lately I have been listening to Blink 182’s latest EP on the ASTROs and must say the music sounds beautiful and powerful, presents a big “Oomf” in Travis’ drumming.
ASTRO A40 Audio System Specification
Now with this audio system being the latest iteration of the A40 audio system, ASTRO has done some refining and upgrades. ASTRO has included updated 40mm drivers in the earcups of the headset, updated the cushioning on the actual ear cups themselves and included the stream output on the MixAmp. ASTRO’s 40mm drivers reach a frequency response of 15 – 28,000 Hz with a nominal impedance of 50 ohms, this puts them on a par with Razer’s Chimeras whereas Turtle Beach’s Ear Force XP500 only reach a frequency response of 20 – 20,000 Hz.
The 6.00mm microphone itself is unidirectional and noise-cancelling with a distortion of less than 0.1%.
ASTRO Gaming clearly has a sense of humour and fondness for Star Wars with a particular statistic of claiming that just like the Millenium Falcon, the A40 can complete the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, this is probably a tongue-in-cheek jab at how people are baffled by numbers or maybe a bit of fanservice for the geeky crowd that are likely to purchase the A40, but more likely it is simply to take the Michael out of the consumer, this little bit of nonsense casts doubt over the spec sheet as a whole.
The A40 audio system could easily do justice to DSD audio played on a PlayStation 3, a great record to test this out with is one of the pay-what-you-like Wheatus EPs.
ASTRO A40 MixAmp
ASTRO has a very clean, sleek and gamer matching aesthetic design to it. Encased in a lightweight, chrome painted plastic and surrounded with a rubber band to seal the MixAmp and provide friction against the surface it is stationed on and stop it floating around.
The MixAmp is powered by a USB mini-B to USB cable. Plug the cable into any USB port on your Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC or Mac and you’ll have power running to your MixAmp. When plugging the MixAmp into a PC or Mac, you need to go to your microphone settings and change them over to “ASTRO MixAmp Pro”. This will enable the microphone for your A40 audio system and enable the use of your Game/Voice audio control for PC and Mac games. The ASTRO MixAmp is a plug-and-play installation, so it takes care of itself once you connect it to a PC or Mac, this is great for a long-term investment in audio hardware considering that some of the other high-end options stop working with future versions of your operating system like the issues Apogee has had with on their AD/DA converters with Mountain Lion or even just Lion! USB is a great choice as it will be backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and is found on all modern computers. The ASTRO A40 audio system is definitely going to be used with Xsplit whilst streaming my gaming sessions.
The volume adjustments are simply awesome, and ironically simple. When presented the MixAmp you notice two rotary encoders, with an aesthetically pleasing smooth operation as opposed to a less than accurate clicking rotary. One is for Master Volume control and the other is for Game/Voice Volume control. It’s great, adjust the Game/Voice volume to whatever preference and then use the Master Volume to make louder or quieter as needed. I personally find adjusting the Game/Voice dial three-quarters turned to the right, towards Voice is a perfect balance. The Game/Voice rotary encoder has a particularly nice feature in which you can feel a tactile click when you reach 50/50 which is great for the obsessive compulsive types or using it in the dark mid-session just like the ridges on the ‘f’ and ‘j’ keys on a keyboard are used for locating where your hands are on a keyboard whilst touch typing.
What has to be my favourite my feature of the ASTRO MixAmp is the Daisy Chain feature. This enables the ability for teams at LAN gaming tournaments to have lag-free voice chat. However, many MixAmps are available at a station, is how many users can be in a chat. Great for communicating with your team and making sure the opposing team cannot hear your strategies. However, if you are like the majority of console gamers and gaming at home, the A40 audio system ships with a 1.5m Xbox Live Chat Cable to let you chat with your friends online on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
The ASTRO A40 audio system features Optical Audio. This personally saved me the headache of connecting the MixAmp to my Xbox 360 with piggyback cables and the disconnecting from piggyback cables to my PC, just a headache. With Optical Audio, I can just connect and disconnect directly, to accommodate which setup I am utilizing. If you do have an Optical Audio port on your PC or Mac, the audio system also ships with a PC splitter adapter.
MP3 port allows the user to connect an MP3 device, or really any device that has a 3.5mm cable port. What I found it useful for is surfing YouTube on my iPad whilst gaming Halo 4 or as of late, Borderlands 2. I can surf YouTube for any tunes I would like to listen to and the audio is fed through the MixAmp and works cooperatively with the other audio sources. I also found this useful for using video guides for specific achievements.
Broadcasting and recording gameplay is getting bigger and bigger every day, and we need gear that is easy to use and delivers. However, the only way for this feature to be utilized is by broadcasting, using the 2m 3.5mm audio cable. Plugging the cable into the Stream port on the MixAmp and Microphone port on your streaming PC or Mac.
With the EQ feature, you can fine tune for more suitable bass and treble levels for whatever you are doing. Big bass for movies or a nice subtle treble for those hardcore, clutch gaming situations. There are four different modes for the EQ, all customized for different boosts in audio. The first mode is called “Pro Mode”, and what it does is enhances all sounds that requires most attention in a competitive setting including footsteps, grenades and gunfire. The second mode is “Core Mode” and has no audio enhancements at all. You get the audio how the audio engineers wanted the source to sound. The third mode is “Media Mode” giving you loud bass for music and movies. The fourth mode is called “Sports Mode” and is geared for sports game, making the audio sound like a stadium or arena. Personally, I stick with the Pro Mode, the perfect balance for myself.
ASTRO A40 Audio System Hints & Tips
I have friends who also have the ASTRO A40 Audio System and I had asked them if they have any suggestions for maintaining the audio system. Here is what I got, and trust me you’ll want to take care of them.
1. Hang your headset up
Like most headsets, you don’t want them sliding off your table or desk and end up breaking. Hang them up, don’t be silly.
2. Be careful with your cables
I’ve been told these cables are the most fragile parts of the ASTRO A40 audio system, so take care of them. I recommend unplugging the 2m 3.5mm chat cable and laying it on a table or desk.
3. Turn off the power on the MixAmp
Although I haven’t found any reports of overheating, we both know it would suck majorly to have this overheat and die, so just take the extra step and turn it off.
Is the ASTRO A40 Audio System good value?
The ASTRO A40 Audio System isn’t cheap, I won’t lie. With that said, if you are an enthusiastic gamer with an extra £199.99, I highly recommend you order this system, you won’t regret it. The shipping was unbelievably fast also. I had placed my order via iPad, on Sunday December, 9th and UPS had delivered Monday December, 17th. Though as headphones go, the A40 audio system is quite the bargain.
The ASTRO A40 Audio System: To buy or not to buy?
The ASTRO MixAmp is quite honestly the most powerful component of this audio system. From simple features as MP3 connection to a privatized local chat system, this is a must have piece of tech at tournaments and other gaming related events, and for the hardcore, enthusiastic gamers. Buy it here!
Image Credits: Bryan Desrosiers