In the blue corner, weighing in at £170 we have Rich, rocking the ASTRO A40 + M80 Mixamp. In the red corner, weighing in at £129.99 we have Dave, sporting the Turtle Beach XO Seven Pro. Now… let’s make this a nice clean
Rich Berry (RB): The A40 has to be the most comfortable headset I’ve ever worn. I’ve never owned a pair that has fitted so well. The ear cups are really soft and are cosy to wear. The headset can also rest around my neck by swivelling the ear cups, which is a neat addition when you do need to take a break – plus they look pretty nifty hanging loose around my neck.
Dave Moran (DM): You see I could say the same about the XO Seven Pro, they have a nice leather finish to the ear cups and never get you feeling too hot and bothered on long gaming sessions. There is something nice about putting the headset on and feeling this coolness around the ears. They also twist to sit round my neck and l do look pretty awesome walking down the street in mine, even if do say so myself!
RB: But what about customisation? ASTRO are renowned for their Speaker Tags, which magnetically snap onto the left/right ear cups. Even though I really like the crosshatching design of the ones packaged with the A40, there are some sweet Battlefield, Dying Light and Halo Tags that I’m sorely tempted to purchase.
DM: Ah my friend, Turtle Beach saw you coming. At the Evolve launch event everyone was rocking XO Seven Pro headsets that had some sweet looking Evolve plates on them, they could have (accidentally) ended up in my pockets… I wouldn’t have really, but you know what I mean.
RB: I guess it was about time that other brands caught up with ASTRO’s Speaker Tags! It’ll be interesting to see what other gaming brands Turtle Beach will bring to their tags – and how well priced they are.
DM: The thing I love the most about the XO Seven Pro is the magical button that sits on Turtle Beach’s own version of the chat adapter. By day, the headset is a simple stereo headset playing my tunes while I write, but by night it develops Super Human hearing, letting me hear the roar of the crowd on FIFA, the moans of the zombies as they track me down on Dying Light and footsteps of my opponents as they try to sneak up on me on COD AW, the button also glows too. The headset also includes audio presets for game and microphone, which can be found at the bottom of the chat adapter.
RB: Well, while I can’t boast about a “superhuman” hearing function, the A40 does come with the M80 Mixamp. Unlike previous versions of ASTRO’s Mixamp technology, the Xbox One edition of the A40 has combined the Mixamp into the chat adaptor that includes its own ‘magic’ button.
The button cycles between three preset EQ settings that between them deliver all the sound optimisation you could ask for in a stereo headset. While stereo can never replace the pinpoint accuracy of a surround sound headset, the directional sound of the A40 is pretty impressive – no Evolve monster is safe from me when I’m up high listening for their whereabouts.
RB: I must also admit to using the A40 as my go to headset for when I’m away from my console, not just because they sound superb on my iPhone, which has a nasty habit of making the best headphones sound a bit weak, but because ASTRO have their own iOS app! Complete with custom playlists and full control over EQ, the app makes a nice companion to the A40 and can even be used with other headphones, oh and it’s free!
DM: Well, there is no app to accompany my headset, which is a shame, but they do also make my music collection sound even better on my iPhone. The XO Seven Pro is also great at blocking out the hustle and bustle of my office while I work, which is lovely!
There’s a swappable cable for mobile that comes with the headset that has an inline mic which means I can also take calls, pause my music and skip tracks.
RB: Yeah, I’m not sure my wife appreciates how isolated I become when surrounded by glorious game/music sounds when I have my ASTROs on – they do pack a nasty amount of sound leak though which means I probably wouldn’t be able to use these in the office without disturbing my colleagues!
The A40 didn’t come with an inline controller, but you can buy one for next to nothing from the ASTRO website.
DM: Let’s talk about… talking!
Once I had fiddled around with the balance between game and chat volume, the XO Seven Pro worked really well through the party chat. The removable boom mic is a great feature and by all accounts I sounded clearer than I did on an older more expensive set. The fact that I don’t have to worry about changing batteries is pretty awesome too, running the headset through the Xbox controller is a great innovation.
The other thing Turtle Beach pride themselves on is the mic monitoring. As a dad with two little ones who sleep badly, knowing that I am talking at a normal volume without waking the small people is a bonus point for me with the wife! The mic monitoring works really well and actually leads me to believe I have a voice for radio… we both know I certainly have the face ha ha!
RB: Yes, the less said about your ‘good’ looks the better! I must admit to also being impressed with the way that headsets connect to the Xbox One – with only a wire running to the controller I don’t get tangled like I did back on the Xbox 360.
The Mixamp comes up trumps for balancing voice and game volume, but then you’d expect nothing less, especially because the official Microsoft Chat Adaptor can do this, although where the Mixamp excels is that the button placement is spot on – gone are the days of fumbling about for the right button. Not only have ASTRO perfectly squeezed their Mixamp technology into a smaller unit, but they’ve created a really nice looking device that puts Microsoft’s efforts to shame.
The mic is great on the A40, it’s not too sensitive and can be connected to either the left or right ear – or removed altogether if you don’t want to chat. Voice Monitoring… yeah I envy you on that! I had voice monitoring on my Tritton headset and it’s a feature I really miss and one that seems to be absent from several headset brands. That said, I did find that the A40 didn’t completely block out my voice nearly as much as some of the other brands I’ve used, so while voice monitoring would have been ideal, I could still judge how loudly I was speaking.
RB: When it comes to headset choice the biggest thing for me, apart from the amazing sound, is the build quality. I’ve owned plenty of different headsets over the years, which span across all the brands we all know and love – the thing that hit me most about the A40 was the build quality. They are simply stunning.
From the attention to detail in the packaging, the little touches on the headset branding to the actual build quality of the headset itself – the ASTRO A40 feels like a premium product. The ear cups are sculpted rather than just flat padding and the wires twist around the headset prongs making the A40 look space age.
In gaming circles, the A40 is a fashionable piece of kit and everyone would recognise them should you wonder around an expo or eSports tournament with these around your neck.
DM: Talking of eSports the XO Seven Pro pro headset are now used quite heavily on the MLG Pro circuit, so they must be doing something right. It seems that Turtle Beach and ASTRO are really focusing on the players.
The packaging of the XO Seven Pro also had that wow factor when I opened them up, and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve happily worn these out on the streets of London while listening to the Spic… I mean Oasis.
I’ve had issues in the past with the build quality of the older Turtle Beach headsets, but the customer service was superb – they’ve come a long way since then and I’m more than happy with the build quality of the XO Seven Pro. The price is perfect for what is a brilliant multi-purpose headset and I’m looking forward to a long and happy partnership with my XO Seven Pro.
RB: It sounds to me like the two brands are really close in terms of what each headset offers. Brand loyalty will certainly play a huge part when picking a headset, and while I feel ASTRO might be ahead of the game with the large community they have invested in, which includes several big names in the eSports scene, it seems like Turtle Beach are hot on their heels in getting their new Pro series into tournaments.
It will be great to watch these two great brands battle it out – but what of the other headset brands… can Tritton, SteelSeries, Razer, Gioteck or even Polk take a piece of the pie? Only time and how deep your pockets are will tell.