Astro has been a trusted brand in headsets for years now, and gamers have loved the design and sound quality of their recent A40 headset. As good as the A40 is, however, Astro is determined to make it better. With their latest bundle, Astro is packaging its flagship A40 TR ("tournament ready") headset with its MixAmp Pro headphone amplifier.
Together, the headset and amp offer insane amounts of customization, including Dolby Pro virtual surround sound and in-game/voice chat balancing, much to the delight of pro gamers, streamers, and audiophiles. The A40 TR - PS4 edition is currently available for around $250 on Newegg, GameCrate's parent site.
Design and Comfort
The A40 is an over-the-ear open back pair of headphones. For those who are unfamiliar, open back headphones don’t isolate sound the way more traditional closed back headphones do. Instead of making the audio sound like it’s coming from inside your head, open back headphones make the audio sound like more of a natural part of the environment, letting in a bit of ambient noise. This isn’t better or worse, just a matter of preference.
On the design front, the A40 is built pretty solidly. The plastic frame and aluminum struts are well made and will last a while, but it’s a little too big and bulky. The A40 weighs in at 369g, and it felt every bit of it. I also can’t get over how unappealing the A40 looks. It’s very boxy and industrial – not my tastes at all. At this price range, I expect a sleeker, more elegant design – something I feel like I could take out and about.
The earcups are covered with a generous amount of black fabric padding. There’s enough of it to make the headset comfortable, but the padding isn’t as breathable as I’d like. After a few hours, my ears ran a little hot, and I needed to take a break. Also the headband doesn’t have enough cloth padding, so it digs into my skull. Together, it resulted in a headset that I can’t wear for more than a few hours at a time.
Performance and Features
The A40 can connect to your computer with a detachable 3.5mm plug, but you’ll be better off connecting it to the MixAmp Pro. This is the fourth version of Astro’s headphone amplifier, with a brand new design and some new features. Upon first glance, you can’t help but notice the two giant knobs – one for overall volume, the other for balancing the mix between game audio and voice chat.
There are also buttons for four different EQ profiles and a button to enable the Dolby virtual surround sound. They’re easy and intuitive to use, and the game audio/chat balance feature in particular is extremely cool for streamers looking for complete control of their sound, as well as gamers who just want to quickly lower the in-game audio (or their loud friends).
There are a surprising amount of outputs on the MixAmp. Beyond the USB output you’ll use to connect the amp to your PC, there’s an optical audio output for connecting to your PS4 (or Xbox One, if you buy the Xbox One compatible version), a 3.5mm aux input, a “stream” port if you want to take your microphone’s audio to a separate capture device, and two, count them, two Firewire ports to daisy chain multiple MixAmp Pros together if you want to record multiple mics from multiple A40s.
All of this is extremely powerful, no doubt, but understandably overwhelming. This is not a headset for beginners or those who just want something that sounds good and lets them chat with their friends. You’re going to get a lot out of the MixAmp Pro if you know what you’re doing and need the features, but for those whose eyes glazed over while reading that long list of outputs, stick with something less complicated.
For the customizers and fine-tuners out there, Astro’s Command Center software is second to none. With it, you can adjust the levels of every single input, as well as completely customize the four on-board EQ profiles with a five band equalizer, making them sound exactly how you want. You can also adjust things like side tone and noise gate. Side tone determines how much outside noise “leaks” into the headset, and the noise gate can block out outside sounds. For those who love tweaking their sound, the MixAmp Pro is a godsend. It’s truly incredible how much you can do with this little box.
The A40 comes with a detachable microphone. It sounds pretty good – there’s no fuzz or distortion, and your voice comes through nice and clear. If I’m being nitpicky, it sounds a little too trebly, and I also noticed some popped “p’s” and hissing “s’s.” You can quickly mute the microphone with an in-line switch built in to the 3.5mm cable, but curiously, there’s no option to mute on the board.
The power of the MixAmp
Despite all my minor complaints, I really fell in love with how the A40 and the MixAmp Pro sound. The soundstage here is meticulously crafted for games, with a focus on the bass and midrange frequencies. It’s incredibly visceral and immersive, especially with the Dolby virtual surround sound. And that’s saying something, because I normally hate virtual surround sound, as it leaves everything sounding murky and distant. Not with the MixAmp Pro.
The sound is right up in your business, like a punch to the face. There’s an incredible depth to the soundstage with the Dolby surround sound that transports you right on to the battlefield. For music, you get a very wide, textured soundscape. While the bass can be a bit boomy on some tracks, it’s not overly pronounced or artificial. No matter what genre you throw at it, you’re going to get a natural, rich sound.
Ultimately, what makes this headset and amp so good is that you can tweak it to sound however you want. Astro even offers Mod Kits – additional parts that let you swap out the earpads for a comfier set covered in synthetic leather, a noise canceling microphone, and earplates to spruce up the headset’s look. It’s cool that they’re offered, but after spending this much money on a headset and amp, the Mod Kits feel a bit like a cash grab. It only serves to make the included parts on the A40 look inferior by comparison.
Is this a lot of money to spend on a headset? Of course. But you’re not buying just a headset, you’re buying a headset and amplifier. While the headset is lacking in some areas – especially when it comes to comfort – the MixAmp Pro is an absolute beast. If you crave complete control over your sound and have complex gaming audio needs, this is the package for you.
For more, check out the Astro A40 TR (in various versions) on Newegg.com.