ASTRO Gaming has been developing some of the most professional looking peripherals for consoles for years now. With the explosive growth in gaming in the past decade, ASTRO has taken its considerable knowledge and focused it on creating premiere-quality headsets for modern consoles, PC / Mac platforms, and mobile devices. We, as gamers, have been subjected to some incredibly gaudy peripherals, from wacky glowing controllers to bizarrely-shaped headsets that would look right at home in a crummy D-rated 80's sci fi movie.
ASTRO Gaming has a far more mature approach to their gear, with attractive and complex designs that are both modern and understated; they could look at home in any well-designed office. On top of the attractive design aesthetics of their various lines, ASTRO endeavors to bring professional-grade audio reproduction in their headsets, with the help of the Mix Amp Pro mixer/amp that can output 7.1 surround sound from various sources. Our review today covers their A40 platform with the Dying Light cup Tags; does the A40 stand up to their mission statement?
Before I go into detail on the headset itself I need to take a moment of time just to talk about the packaging of the A40... I have seen some quality packaging, from my rave reviews of the HyperX Cloud I and II packaging to various Sennheiser headsets, but not a single headset has anything on the care that ASTRO puts into the packaging and shipping of their headsets. Running around 6-7 pounds with the unit inside the box, the packaging is astonishing. Once you pull the outer sleeve off you are greeted with an absolutely gorgeous box that opens into three compartments. This packaging is serious business and initial impressions left me giddy with possibilities; if ASTRO puts this type of care into their packaging then their headset has to be absolutely bonkers (in a good way), right?
For the most part, yes. Physically the A40 is stunning; matte matte gray cups with removable backs (called Tags by ASTRO) open to a beautiful grill that covers the sizable drivers and extend into arms that attach the cups to the sturdy plastic band. The adjustable arms are, for lack of a better term, awesome as they remind me of some extremely classy protrusions, similar to those found on Optimus Prime. It sounds silly, but good Lord this headset is attractive. The cups themselves are a soft felt-like material that breathes very well as after long hours of use there is no uncomfortable heat/sweat, though I do have to say that on the inside of the cups there is a small vinyl rim where the felt meets the piece that attaches to the drive/cup unit and it catches on my earrings and can bite into my ears if I do not position the cups a little lower on my ears.
The Tags are neat if fairly pointless outside of adding a bit of flair to an already-excellent looking headset. A40 Dying Light Edition comes with three interchangeable backs (two solid backs, one back with a small hole in it, allowing for the removable microphone) and are nice, especially since they are connected with small magnets and are very easy to change out. Again, the Tags serve no purpose other than spicing up the look of the headset, however the Dying Light tags look excellent with their monochrome appearance as they compliment the grey/white/chrome look of the A40 headset.
The A40 is nice looking and all but how does it sound? Excellent, that is how. I was immediately struck with some of the nicest highs and mids that I have heard out of a headset in this price range (which is roughly a third less expensive of the extremely impressive Siberia Elite Anniversary Editions we reviewed, see: http://www.chalgyr.com/2014/07/steelseries-siberia-elite-hardware.html). Two of the best artists to listen to when attempting to put a set of speakers through their paces are Alicia Keys and John Legend, as their range is staggering and if a speaker can accurately reproduce their sound without stressing at high volumes then I am sold. Once I got the MixAmp connected to my computer and the headset plugged in, my first stop was with John Legend's "Stereo" and holy smokes, I was immediately enamored with the rich mids that the A40s can reproduce.
The depth is simply amazing, but the real kicker was playing Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" where I literally had goosebumps (and still get them). These A40's are just breathtaking, and with the MixAmp Pro connected, the full range (Highs, Mids, and Lows) is absolutely professional grade. The sheer range of these headphones are amplified tenfold with the MixAmp Pro, though, as plugging the headset directly into the 3.5mm headphone jack on my computer yielded a nice, if not as rich audio; plugging the headset into my phone was a joke, but I blame that more on my phone and less on the headset, but the real draw to the A40 is the MixAmp as it exponentially increases the quality of the headset.
While music is the benchmark I used, given music's range, I fired up some Battlefield Hardline and the explosions were masterful, there was not a single snap, crackle, or pop, and the small "game" or "voice" setting on the Mixamp really did isolate the voice of others online versus the actual game audio which is a feature perfect for streamers or Let's Players that are recording their content. If there is anything negative to say about the headset is is with the connections on the headset itself, for both the 3.5mm plug into the MixAmp as well as the microphone. I had to fiddle with the provided cable and the microphone to eliminate some popping or crackling that would appear when I would turn my head, causing the connection to brush my hoodie or shoulder. However, using a Monster Cable 3.5mm audio cable completely eliminated that issue, though the problem with the microphone remained. Others I spoke with would periodically report that there was some popping happening, but a quick rotation of the microphone in its jack on the left cup addresses the problem.
Overall the A40 is one of the nicest and most impressive gaming headsets I have seen. With one of the most aesthetically pleasing designs that can be found in gaming headsets, the A40 with the MixAmp Pro provides stellar audio reproduction regardless of whether you are listening to music, watching a movie, or gaming with friends; it simply is one of the best multi-role headsets available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC/Mac, and mobile devices that you can find. Add the high quality construction with the spectacular audio, with the fact that each gamer can purchase Tags to customize their headset (buy them here: http://www.astrogaming.com/customize-a40-tags) and you have a headset that is more than formidable and is what I would consider a must-have peripheral for any gamer.
Review by Robert
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