In just a matter of days now the summer convention season kicks off at E3. Followed by San Diego Comic Con (and other Con;’s across the states and Europe), PAX, GamesCom and many more. In celebration of this, ASTRO Gaming are offering 50% off with FREE shipping from ASTROGAMING.com on all gaming apparel found in their online store. The offer is only valid in the United States store, not the Canadian, UK, German or French unfortunately. Good news for our US readers, bad news for the rest of us.
Are you heading off to a convention over the coming months? Let us know below and let us know what you’ll be getting from the ASTRO Gaming range.
When deciding which headset to purchase what makes you choose one brand from another? Loyalties? Quality? How about whether it’s stereo or surround sound? Everyone has their preferences and sometimes even an allegiance to a brand, but in my experience most seem to agree on one thing – ASTRO Gaming makes the best headset. That’s quite a bold statement and one I just had to investigate for myself.
After chatting with a representative and looking at all the headsets that ASTRO offer, one word can describe my initial experience with them… impressive. Their website is well laid out and includes a forum, blog and community page, which links to two of their pro eSports teams – Team EnVyUs and OpTic Gaming – there’s even apparel and accessories you can purchase, all of which are reasonably priced. First impressions are everything and mine is of a company that loves its brand and its community equally – you can’t help but be sucked into the vibe that these guys create – but while ASTRO Gaming looks impressive, the proof in the pudding is in the eating… or in this case the listening!
These days companies pay as much attention to packaging as they do to the product itself and the Xbox One edition of the ASTRO A40 is no exception. Packaged in high-gloss heavy cardboard, the headset is neatly displayed in molded plastic and the box is held shut with magnets – in the absence of a proper A40 case, that can be bought separately, the packaging is more than adequate at keeping the headset safe and sound.
I certainly appreciated the quality right from the moment I took the box out of its cover sleeve and with a big grin on my face I carefully removed the contents, which includes everything you will need to get on with gaming plus an extra 3.5mm audio cable that you can use to connect the A40 to a smartphone. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a standard audio cable, using another high-quality cable, only delivered sound in one ear so if you do fracture the cable make sure you pick up a replacement directly from ASTRO.
Before getting down to business and plugging the headset in, I took a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the A40 – it’s stunning. The build is solid without making the headset cumbersome or too heavy. The ear padding is shaped, fits around your ears and made of soft-brushed fabric for maximum comfort – the unidirectional swivel of the cups mean that you’re guaranteed to get the perfect fit and you won’t overheat while using them.
The A40s are a snug fit, it was like my ears were being given a huge hug but not so that it crushed my skull! At no time did the headset give me any pain or discomfort while gaming or listening to music. When you do need a break, the A40 can be rested comfortably around your neck with the earcups folding flat – they look pretty awesome too in sky blue and grey. The ASTRO branding is accented across the A40’s design, which really celebrates its brand without overindulging.
Once you’ve checked that your Xbox One controller has been updated with the latest firmware by using the micro USB that comes in the box, you’re good to go. Plug the headset into the M80 Mixamp and that’s it, no other leads are required. ASTRO are renowned for their Mixamp technology, which for the Xbox One edition of the A40 has been combined into the chat adaptor. The style of it puts Microsoft’s official adaptor to shame.
A rocker switch controls the balance between voice and game while a large turn dial located at the face of the Mixamp controls the overall sound, depressing it lights the dial red and mutes your mic. In the centre of the Mixamp is where the magic happens – the equaliser.
There are three EQ presets that cycle with each press of the button: Pro, Core and Media. Pro is best for when you’re gaming online; you won’t be caught out when you have this EQ setting active. While playing Evolve I could easily pick out which direction the monster was headed and on Advanced Warfare I was aware when some sneaky bugger was trying to shank me in the back. Core is your all-round EQ setting, ideal for single player gaming and Media is… well, for listening to films and movies.
Combining the chat adaptor with the Mixamp is genius, there are fewer wires than the previous Mixamps and all the controls are directly at your fingertips. The only downside is that you will only be able to use it with the Xbox One; also the wire that connects the Mixamp to the headset is enclosed so if it fractures you’re kind of screwed. The wire itself protrudes from the bottom of the Mixamp and at a slight angle, I would expect that ASTRO have done enough tests to ensure that fractures are unlikely and should you suffer one I’m sure the good folk over at support would only be too happy to sort out a replacement or repair – after suffering a fracture with the official Xbox One stereo chat adaptor this is something that bothers me more than it would do most.
The Mixamp’s buttons are well placed; you’ll never be caught fumbling around for the right button. The EQ settings are perfectly pitched and I often cycled between them during games depending on whether I was listening out for other players, running through a level or just immersing myself in a cutscene.
The presence of the headset’s audio is something I wasn’t quite prepared for. Having used a variety of stereo headsets over the years, I thought I had heard it all, but the A40 really places you inside the sound – ok, so not many of us have been to a warzone, but when listening to music it really sounded like the band were there in the room with me.
This brings me on to another standout feature of the A40 – how they work with an iPhone. I’ve found that the iPhone has a nasty habit of making the best headphones sound crap but not even the A40 could be knocked off its game. My music was alive and I wanted to hear my entire iTunes library again to see how different it sounded.
I don’t think I will be wearing the A40 out in public anytime soon though, as much as I like the design I did find that they suffer quite a bit from sound leak – not to worry though, ASTRO have a smaller Bluetooth set that I’m sorely tempted to purchase just for music on my iPhone. There’s even an iOS app that includes a music player, equaliser, manuals, videos, community links and iPhone wallpapers – the app has it all – the music player even allows you to queue up music and create playlists.
Another of ASTRO’s headset features is the speaker tag, customisable cover plates that magnetically snap onto the outside of the headset ear cups. New sets and designs can be purchased from ASTRO and include two plain plates and one that has a mic hole – unfortunately the set included with the A40 only has one of each – the plain plates are for when you don’t have a mic connected.
The mic itself is on a super flexible boom and can be attached to either ear, using the speaker tag that includes a mic hole. I did find that the mic is actually the weak link in an otherwise perfect headset. While using the Razer Kraken, my friends commented on its mic clarity but when I appeared online with the A40s I was asked if I had a cold! I could still be heard perfectly fine, but I sounded deeper – I did find that I could hear my friends more clearly and even though there’s no voice monitoring, I could also hear my own voice better so I didn’t end up shouting down the mic. With the Kraken I found that the mic was too sensitive with it often picking up my breathing, with the A40 this is not an issue – if the weak link is just that I sounded deeper then I’d consider that to be quite an achievement!
I’ve used a lot of great headsets over the years and without being disrespectful to any of them, ASTRO Gaming has knocked them all out of the park. I can’t recommend the A40 enough, everyone who has had a listen to them has remarked at their clarity and comfort and it only leaves me with one question… is it wrong to love a headset so much?
I must admit to being surprised at the audio clarity and how different my games sounded – everything just sounds so perfect, so alive. The A40 is a premium headset and it’s no wonder why ASTRO owners speak so highly of it, sure the initial outlay is rather daunting (£170) but if you have the pennies for a top of the range headset, look no further than the A40. If you’re after a surround sound solution for your gaming needs then ASTRO Gaming also have an A50 but that’s for another review.
Thanks to ASTRO Gaming for supplying TiX with a review unit
Another Xbox One gaming headset is on its way and this time it’s from the lifestyle and performance audio guru’s at Skullcandy Inc. The Skullcandy SLYR for Xbox One has been designed and developed by Skullcandy alongside ASTRO Gaming ensuring it is 100% compatible for Xbox One.
The Skullcandy SLYR features the unique and powerful GMX-1 Controller-Mounted Mixer, which places the controls for game-to-voice balancing, volume, and push-button mute right at your fingertips for quick, on-the-fly adjustments.
The new Skullcandy SLYR is available now from select retailers nationwide or directly at www.skullcandy.com, for $99. A special Skullcandy SLYR Halo Edition is also available and features a custom headset colour and graphical treatment inspired by the Halo franchise.
Skullcandy SLYR and Skullcandy SLYR Halo Edition features include:
Designed for Xbox One – Designed specifically for the Xbox One, the Skullcandy SLYR for Xbox One will provide hours of game playing, movie watching and music listening excitement with superior fit and comfort as well as premium audio tuning for gaming.
New GMX1 Controller-Mounted Mixer – Newly designed specifically for the Xbox One, the GMX-1 Mixer is a controller-mounted audio device that works with the SLYR Headset to deliver game-to-voice balancing, volume control, and a push-button mute right at your fingertips.
Skullcandy Supreme Sound – Engineered for gaming, music, movies and more, Skullcandy’s Supreme Sound provides powerful bass, natural vocals and precise highs with a rich and detailed stereo soundfield tuned specially for gaming.
Stashable Mic System – The Skullcandy SLYR for Xbox One features a highly precise, stylishly discreet, stashable boom mic, which can be rotated away when not in use for a more customizable in-game communication experience.
New Xbox One Edition SLYR Colour – The Skullcandy SLYR for Xbox One features a new custom colour scheme inspired by the Xbox One itself. A classic Black headset with Xbox Green accents, earcups and boom mic create a stylish statement for any Xbox gamer.
New “Halo” Edition SLYR Colour – The Skullcandy SLYR Halo Edition for Xbox One also features a new custom colour scheme inspired by the Halo universe! The new SLYR features a White headset with Grey accents and custom, but subtle Halo design elements throughout.
ASTRO Gaming are well-known for their Speaker Tags and they do love to bring out special edition headsets and tags for their community – whether that’s custom made tags, eSports team tags or gaming tags – whatever your preference, ASTRO have got you covered.
The latest game to receive the tag treatment is Battlefield Hardline and ASTRO have three sets available:
Class – sold exclusively at Amazon
Faction – sold exclusively at ASTRO Gaming
Hardline – sold exclusively at The Penny Arcade Expo East, Boston, March 6-8, Booth #6124
Each of the tags are also available bundled with an A40 headset. How good are ASTRO’s A40 gaming headset? Watch out for our review later this week.