Since 2004, (when Xbox Live was launched) I’ve been engaging multiplayer sessions on my Xbox360 using the default headset. Sometime around 2011, I tried out my first branded headset. While it offers great comfort, I had problems with audio. Everytime I participate in online sessions, I experienced echo issues. Eventually, I became a silent team member for a while. While I was being cooperative in my online missions, I couldn’t provide the much-needed feedback to my teammates and was deemed ineffective to the group. I tried asking/searching around for solutions but there wasn’t any back then. I became skeptical to try out any other models. That branded headset collected dust and was eventually discarded.
When I was offered to test out the Astro A40 with MixAmp Pro, I was both eager and worried. I was unable to narrow down to the root of the problem with the past headset, and I was unsure if my existing straightforward set up of console to TV was missing something. I wasn’t prepared to fork out on additional item/accessory but since the A40 is going to be on loan, I thought there’s no harm trying. Then the huge box came, and I turned into a kid excited over his Christmas present.
The packaging sure knows how to pique my interest. There is an intersection in the middle of the box where I lift to unveil the headset and the mixamp pro. It was cleanly tucked, ready to be embraced. On the right, another compartment reveals, housing all the necessary cables to bring the headset to life.
Here they are below, all the attachments and cables for the A40. At a glance, it may appear troublesome/time consuming to set up, but I was able to hook up everything within 10 minutes (including snapping of photos). The cable connects to your Xbox360/PS3 console through a USB port and another to the Optical cable port. (If that is too messy, you can consider the Astro A50 which offers less cabling requirement)
The first thing that you need to do is to decide whether you prefer to have the microphone attached to your right or left. The Astro A40 allows the earpiece location to be interchanged to suit your habit. If you’re those who can only afford to channel your gaming energy to one night on a weekend, chances are you might develop a tendency to recline onto your favourite pillow after the first two hours or so. Hence, the placement of the microphone is important so you can grab a few minutes of power nap while your online buddies head over to the fridge for gaming fuel or step out for ‘oxygen’ breaks. During extended hours of online gameplay, you may even the employ the elite skill of resting your head on the pillow while continuing to dish out multiplayer mayhem in the game.
Two hours, you say? That’s pretty less-than-average for a hardcore gamer but the point here is throughout my use, the A40 headset is very comfortable and does not strain the ears or my bald head. All thanks to the cushion on the ear cups and underneath the top frame. The only challenge is keeping my eyes open, so until the next-generation of Astro headset offers a solution to that (any is possible), I resort to coffee and soda for that extra mile.
The MixAmp Pro has glowing buttons that are bright enough for you to spot in the dark but not too intrusive to be a distraction while you’re focused on your game. It has two knobs – a big one to control the volume, and a small one to balance the in-game sound and voice. This is extremely helpful for intense multiplayer cooperative games, and I’m glad that I can be an effective team member to my group.
I also discovered that the Game vs Voice knob also allows me to manage the in-game chatter. While playing Diablo III and XCOM: Enemy Within, I was able to hear my computer teammates better by merely adjusting the knob, without having to tweak the default audio settings from the game. Not all games have custom sound settings in their menus, so this is where the MixAmp Pro really shines.
In the Diablo III vs XCOM: Enemy Within example, I thought each game is best enjoyed through different audio settings. On Diablo III, there are numeous audio logs to listen to, which is more important that the in-game sound effects. This is vice versa in XCOM: Enemy Within, with the troopers speaking very little and hearing the audio cues (of the threats) is more important in order to allow me to strategise.
As you can see from the picture, I didn’t need to increase the volume knob too high when playing. At such almost-mid-range settings, the MixAmp Pro is able to satisfy the audio needs when playing late at night. Of course, the settings may differ depending on the game you’re playing and (probably) on the time of day, but in the few console titles I tested, there’s never a need for me to raise the knob higher.
The other thing I really liked about the A40 is the ability to use it outdoors and for my mobile devices. I just need to unplug one cable from the MixAmp Pro and plug it to my iPad or smartphones. Here, you see it being tested on Windows Phone 8 games such as Halo: Spartan Assault and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Delicious sound quality with convenient portable gaming is always welcome.
If you’re not too bothered about fashion statement, the Astro A40 can be an efficient audio companion while you’re out and about. It is great to keep you focused at the neighbourhood gym or while you’re heading out to grab some quick takeaway meal. It is also not intrusive to other commuters while you’re out enjoying video streaming on public transport. This versatility makes the A40 a worthy investment and is worth considering if you’re looking to spend your Hong Bao earnings on something this Chinese New Year.
The A40 retails at S$380 in Singapore, while the A30 and A50 retails for S$310 and $445 respectively. Check out the interesting versions of the A40 (I think I’m gonna save up for the Plants vs Zombies Edition).