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Tritton Ark 100 stereo headset review

Beautifully packaged with a combination of brightly coloured premium cardboard and transparent plastic, the Tritton Ark 100 stereo headset is aesthetically quite different to other Tritton headsets I’ve used.

The matte black and bright green gives the headset a premium finish, and the band is adorned with several glossy T idents of the Tritton logo. Overall the Ark 100 is very smart, and when it’s all lit up with the motion-dynamic RGB LED lights, well… it’s something else.

It’s just a shame that unless you play with friends in the same room, or have a nearby mirror, nobody will get to see the awesome light show the Ark 100 displays – from cycling lights to pulsing colours mimicking breathing or a heartbeat. It really is a neat touch. An ambient glow surrounds your head and bounces the light around – great if you have anything nearby that is reflective – meanwhile, the lights also show which EQ setting you’re using. But the light show just isn’t apparent to the wearer, and a beep system would have made far more sense.

TRITTON-ARK-100-XB1-1

Unfortunately, the lighting system was of little use to me, other than helping to drain the AAA batteries that power the headset. A pair of batteries will give you around 10 hours play-time with lights, or 25 hours without. It’s strange then that the headset isn’t powered via a rechargeable battery – charged via a micro USB – but I guess this was a decision to keep the cost down.

You can of course use the Ark 100 in passive mode, available at the flick of a switch. In this mode none of the lights or buttons are active, meaning you won’t be able to use any of the headset’s functions – fine in the short term – but not great as you won’t be able to use the Ark’s superb EQ settings.

While there are only three settings to choose from: optimal, bass boost or treble boost, these three are more than enough to get the most out of the headset, and with two drives at the helm, the sound output is damn impressive. At the centre is a 60mm driver for bass and mids, while a 10mm driver handles the higher sounds. For a stereo headset, there sure is a lot of spatial depth to the sound and it sounds wonderfully crisp and rich, although there is an audible hiss during quieter moments.

TRITTON-ARK-100-XB1

Speaking of crisp, Senior Editor Greg commented that my voice via the headset’s mic was the ‘crispiness voice’ he has heard over Xbox Live – I’m not so sure on the use of crispiness – but Tritton, feel free to use that in your accolades! Indeed, the mic is of a great quality; no distortion, no background noise, and it stows neatly by swinging the boom arm into the left ear cup. It even has a red light at the end warning you when the mic is muted or when the batteries are low on power. The Ark 100 also features selective voice monitoring, a function not nearly enough headsets utilise.

Something else quite different to other headsets was the decision to make the headband a standard size. While the headset can adjust easily to different shaped heads, it does so by sliding the position of the ear cups up and down within the headband, locking in place so they won’t slip while you’re wearing them. It’s rather odd, but the Ark 100 fit my head as comfortably as those that had a more traditional headband. It’s extremely light too, and super comfy with memory foam padding on the headband and the ear cups. I also didn’t notice any excessive heating on my ears, which is a bonus if you game as long as I do!

The Ark 100 is a neat headset that with a few tweaks could make it even more fantastic. Raised nubs on the buttons would help to find essential modes, like volume or EQ changes, more easily. A removable 3.5mm cable would help keep the headset more neatly stowed when not in use and future proofs it against any cable fractures. And the power… it really needs a rechargeable battery that can be connected via micro USB. But my main issue with the Ark 100 is that I needed to use the Xbox guide blade to control the chat/game balancing – which I’m not a huge fan of. Having control via a puk or on the headset itself would have been far easier to tweak sound balance on the fly.

The Ark 100 delivers some incredible sounds and you can pick them up for as little as £69.99, making them an easy choice over some of the more ‘premium’ positioned stereo headsets on the market, which really can’t hold a ‘light’ to the impressive two driver system that Tritton have engineered.

Thanks to Mad Catz and Tritton for supporting TiX

LucidSound LS20 Headset review

As we all know gaming headsets are big business and can set you back hundreds of pounds, so I’m always on the lookout for something a bit more in my price range but offering the quality and versatility of a top end headset. So I was super excited to be allowed to try out the new LucidSound LS20 Amplified Universal Gaming Headset.

Reading the literature enclosed with the headset I was amazed by just how much they had packed into it, multifunction capability, 40mm speakers, bass boost, active and passive modes and dual mic’s, to name a few features. This was exactly what I was looking for but the truth would be in its use. I had high hopes for this headset though, as if it was anything like its bigger brother the LS30’s then I’m sure the quality would be amazing but also LucidSound has a solid background in gaming headsets as the team was the original founders of Tritton.

LS20 Box

When it came to unboxing I could instantly see the quality, the headset felt solid but surprisingly light in weight and at first glance it looked more like a professional pair of Audio headphones that I would use for listening to my music rather than a gaming headset. This was further reinforced by the black and silver finish on the cradles that moved with ease but didn’t give you that feeling that they would snap off in your hand. The box contained everything I needed, Headphones, small instruction booklet, 3.5mm jack, USB cable and the complimentary LucidSound sticker and after approx. a 30 minute charge via the USB cradle I was ready to go.

Now to be honest I’ve always found finding a suitable pair of over-ear headphones problematic as after an hour or so they get uncomfortable and never feel truly snug, but this wasn’t the case with the LS20’s. The whole headset fits nicely on your head with the earbuds and leather covered crown resting comfortably making wearing them for long periods of time a real pleasure. This is reinforced by the use of memory foam in the ear cushions, like that used in its bigger brother the LS30’s, which mold to the user. The longer you use them the more comfortable they get.

LS20 Headset Side

Functionality and control I have to say is amazing for the LS20 headset. Inheriting again the LS30’s ear-cup controls, everything you need is within natural and intuitive reach on the side of the cups. On the left ear you have the power and mode selection, boom mic jack and usb charging socket underneath the ear bud and on the actual ear itself the volume is on the outer rim of the ear-cup and can be easily be adjusted by rotating, and by pressing the side of the cup you can mute the audio. Then like the audio mute the right side has the same mute function but for the mic. The mic can be easily connected (for gaming or chat) with a healthy click when it plugs in, and removed just the same. Again the quality comes out here as you feel comfortable doing this and not that you are going to break it after 10 or 15 times and once connected it can be easily adjusted for the perfect distance from your mouth. Also another nice feature is that a blue light on the end of the boom mic shows if the mic is muted or not.

LS20 Headset Left

Paring with the Xbox One was also so easy, just plug the 3.5mm jack into your headset and then in to your controller, (if you have one with the new 3.5mm jack port) or into your headset adapter. Then change the volume setting in the Xbox devices control panel and that’s it, game and chat to your hearts content. Voice chat is crisp and auto mic leveling ensures you are not shouting and can hear your friends nice and clear. Selection from Xbox One to PS4 to PC / Phone is achieved by selecting one of the modes of the headset represented by the appropriate power LED color, Red for PC, Blue for Xbox and Purple for PS4 and once selected the headset does the rest.

Sound Quality is sharp and clear, even if you use it in powered or unpowered mode and the bass boost when activated brings that extra grunt that a lot of sub £100 headsets just fail to deliver. I was even finding sounds in games that I just didn’t realise existed and even though it wasn’t surround sound I was getting a truly immersive experience.

LS20 Headset Right

The thing that makes the LS20 a solid competitor in the market is that it’s a true hybrid of a headset. With the ability to multifunction between Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS or Android smartphone, PC and mobile gaming devices such as Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita. Add to this the huge selection of on-board headset controls and features, whilst also looking cool to wear while out and about, makes this the perfect headset for someone who’s looking for something that it not only used for gaming but can be used every day. Also I forgot to mention that is has an inbuilt mic too, meaning you can take phone calls etc. without the need for the boom mic to be attached, what more could you ask for.

Is there anything wrong with the LS20’s? To be honest, no, I haven’t found one yet and I have been wearing them nonstop for gaming and also personal audio use for over a week now. I can’t even complain about the battery life from the in built rechargeable battery, on average you get approx. 20 hours of use and even when the battery is low you can still use the headset in unpowered mode with little impact to the quality of the sound.

The LS20 is an amazing headset that has brought style, grace and versatility to the low-price entry market. Currently available at just under £80 at Argos, this headset sets the bar very high for all the others competing in this area. If you are looking for a good priced entry headset that in my opinion competes and even beats other headsets in this range for gaming, but also looks cool enough that you can walk outside wearing them, then this is the headset for you. It will be money well spent, I assure you.

Thanks to LucidSound for supporting TiX

Thrustmaster Y-350X 7.1 Doom Edition headset review

In order to hear the full effect of the gloriously gory sounds of punching, dismembering and shooting the copious amounts of demons in Doom, a headset is recommended, and seems Thrustmasters agrees with that sentiment and have produced the Y-350X 7.1 Doom Edition headset. And with its highly competitive price point of £129.99, can this headset provide the quality we desire in a more wallet friendly package to the likes of Astro and Turtlebeach?

After tearing through the box – with specification breakdowns, Doom’s Revenant demon, and some pleasant shots of the headset itself adorning the packaging – the black plastic of the headset reveals itself, with its scattering of etched white scratches and the Doom and Thrustmaster logos. Its round brown speaker cushions begging to rest against your ears, and the brown cushion on the headband poised to rest comfortably upon your head. The detachable power pack and Xbox One controller puck sport the same black and brown colour scheme, with clearly ladled buttons on the puck allowing for the mic, voice feedback, and 7.1 to be activated and disabled, as well as the ability to switch between game, chat and bass volume controls. It only gets better once these are plugged in and green and orange lights dictate the volume level. It’s certainly an attractive headset.

Doom headset 1

However, minimal documentation can leave you wanting. It’s fairly intuitive to setup and use but when problems occur it’s off to the online documentation for answers and that too is on the small side. And unfortunately we did encounter some problems with the initial setup, with the puck not responding and only finally coming to life after unplugging it and plugging it back in to the controller several times. These issues persisted with different controllers and with the initial setup over multiple gaming sessions, however, once we were up and running the headset’s quality truly started to shine.

The bass is simply remarkable, with exceptional crispness and range across the low frequencies and terrific enhancement to its treble counterpart at the high end.  The 60mm drivers deliver loud, high quality sound that’s a delight to experience. Activate the 7.1 mode and the sound is enhanced further, providing you with brilliant directional audio feedback. However, the 7.1 is virtually simulated rather than the real thing, and its source is stereo as opposed to the Astro A50 5.1 source to 7.1 virtually delivery. It therefore doesn’t quite live up to the A50’s in this area, but its mighty close.

Doom headset 2

However, this is a £130 headset as opposed to Astro’s £250 equivalent, and the sound quality it delivers despite the lower price point is exceptional. Furthermore, the mic also provides crisp, clear voice, although its bare plastic does mean it’s highly sensitive to wind and breath sounds. We also found that long sessions with the round speaker cushions do end up hurting your ears.

The Y-350X 7.1 Doom Edition headset achieves tremendous sound quality in both its speaker delivery and mic input, making it a very competitive product against any of the high-end headsets currently on the market. And with its low price point it’s a bargain. However, it gets uncomfortable to wear over longer gaming sessions, picks up breath sounds very easily, and occasionally fights against the Xbox One controller. Mind you, its impressive scope of compatibility, with it working terrifically on PC, smartphones and PS4 makes, this a flexible headset that’s ideal if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution –  although the 7.1 functionality is restricted to the Xbox One through the puck. Indeed then, it’s easy to recommend the Y-350X 7.1 Doom Edition headset.

Thanks to Xbox and Thrustmaster for supporting TiX

ASTRO Gaming’s A50 gets an upgrade

ASTRO Gaming’s A50 is about to get one heck of an upgrade. Aesthetically the headset remains the same, offering that ASTRO comfort that the A40 and A50 are renowned for, but the new A50 comes mod  Kit ready – ASTRO’s latest initiative – the ability to swap in and out core parts of the headset.

For the development of the new A50, we took everything we learned from last year’s A40 TR launch and applied it to the new A50,” said Aron Drayer, VP of Marketing for ASTRO Gaming. “These two products now share the same all-digital platform, allowing the A50 to utilize ASTRO’s Command Center software for adjustment of every input and output, along with the creation of custom EQ profiles.

One thing that has been missing from the A50 is the ability to create custom EQ settings – chalk that one of your want list because the new headset not only comes with the three preloaded EQ settings, but allows users to create and save their own settings – there’s even the ability to share you custom settings with the ASTRO community! The new headset is also compatible with ASTRO’s command centre, enabling you to adjust noise gate, side tone, microphone levels, game volume, chat audio, mic, and AUX channels individually to generate custom audio mixes for streaming output.

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The Xbox One edition has striking green accents and when not in use, sits neatly on a revamped base station, which charges the headset when it’s docked.

I love my ASTRO Gaming A50’s and these upgrades will sorely tempt me into upgrading when the headset releases later this year.

Playsonic Alpha headset review

The gaming headset industry is a minefield of various makes, types, and ultimately quality. There are headsets available for all budgets, tastes, sound type, and much more, and getting the right headset for you can be an absolute nightmare.

Personally, when researching headsets, there are three criteria I tend to look at: comfort, sound quality, and microphone quality. Comfort-wise, you really can’t fault the Playsonic Alphas. They have a well padded head-band, and the single, over-ear cup is well cushioned and stays comfortable over long periods of play. I wear glasses when playing, so it’s important for me to find a headset which doesn’t result in the arms of my glasses being embedded into the side of my head, and I can safely say, this did not happen with the Playsonic Alphas.

The sound quality is also excellent, with a great range of bass, mid, and treble tones, which are perfectly balanced. Despite being a single-cup headset, I was still able to pin point enemies around me with ease. The benefit of a single-cup headset is that you are still aware of your personal surroundings, leaving you able to play easily, but also be able to listen out for spouses shouting at you to come off the game at 1am.

PlaySonic-Alpha-Mono-Chat-Headset2

Unfortunately, the microphone really lets the headset down. I tried various configurations to try and get the best sound possible, but all resulted in an incredibly quiet, muffled, or broken sound. I first tried plugging the headset directly into the 3.5mm jack on my Xbox One controller, but without having to eat the microphone, my team mates found it incredibly hard to hear me. I even removed the microphone boom cover to see if that helped, but the difference was negligible. Secondly, I tried plugging the headset into my chat adapter, which connects to the base of the Xbox One controller. This improved my voice somewhat, but it was still hard for my friends to hear me as quite often my voice would cut out, and usually at suboptimal times during the game.

EDITORS NOTE: We spoke to Priftech about this, they shared the following link to show the how the sound from the microphone should be when plugged directly into a phone, there is a chance Xbox Live could have caused the problem, other members of the team using headsets such as Astros can be awfully quiet for no reason – we have seen other reviews that suggest the microphone works well so we may have been unlucky.

The build quality of the Playsonic Alpha is pretty solid considering the price. I’ve tried a few budget headsets which all felt poorly constructed, and as if they’d fall apart after a short while. The Playsonic Alphas feel strong, and as though they would last a long time.

The Playsonic Alphas also features in-line volume controls, which make is easy to control the volume as and when required. The microphone is also fully detachable, so if you wish to use them just to listen to music or game audio, you don’t have to worry about moving the microphone out of the way to do so.

The Playsonic Alpha Wired Mono Headset is from the lower-end of the budget range, available from Priftech on Amazon for £19.99, and whilst they provide a great listening experience, the poor microphone hold it back significantly.

Thanks to Xbox and Priftech for supporting TiX

Mad Catz show HDMI-powered gaming headset at CES

Tritton Katana 7.1 HDMI Headset

Mad Catz have been showing off their new Tritton Katana 7.1 HD headset at CES this week—and has picked up a CES 2016 Innovations Award for the product’s unique approach to game audio.

Nearly all gaming headsets today utilise digital optical audio to carry their surround sound streams. These have always been limited to six channels of compressed audio, however, and only replicate a “simulated” 7.1 experience. Getting true, uncompressed audio often requires some pretty high-end equipment in your console gaming setup.

Tritton Katana 7.1 Headset

Tritton’s new Katana HD 7.1 appears to solve this problem entirely, taking an uncompressed 7.1 audio stream straight from the console’s HDMI port, right into your ears, through a smart little codec from DTS that encodes audio into a spatial binaural stereo stream, giving you that familiar sense of surround sound. It’s compatible with HDMI-ARC too, so you only need one transmitter for all your audio sources. No more cable switching!

Unfortunately for Xbox One users, however, it’s not completely wireless. You’ll still need a chat cable heading to your controller, unlike the Astro MixAmp Pro TR’s integrated USB solution. Still, lossless HDMI audio is something of a first for standalone gaming headsets and is definitely a welcome step forward.

The Tritton Katana 7.1 HD is priced at £179.99 and ships in March.

Turtle Beach Elite 800x review

Turtle Beach continually strive to make the best headsets around, they already have a hugely successful range of Xbox One headsets and with the arrival of the Elite 800x they were hoping to finish off any competition… unfortunately, the 800x fell at the final hurdle.

Packaging

The standard Turtle Beach packaging is great quality as usual, the plush white box makes a satisfying whoosh as you open it for the first time revealing the headset. Under the main packaging you’ll find everything you need to get started.

With the headset you’ll get the magnetic charging stand, digital optical cable and USB cables for updating the firmware on the stand and headset.

Setting up

As ever, getting the Headset ready is rather simple, plug the digital optical cable in to the Xbox and the charging stand, then plug the USB into the console and to the back of the stand to power it up. After checking the audio settings on the console are correct, you can turn the headset on. There might be a chance that you’ll need to pair the headset with the stand, but in my case I didn’t need to do that.

Charging Stand

I’ve had various ways of storing my headsets over the years, and most of the time they just end up hiding away in my drawer of gaming stuff, not anymore. The stand for the Elite 800x not only acts as somewhere to rest your set, but it also charges the built-in battery at the same time. The picture below demonstrates just how nice it looks. The stand is magnetic so the headset sticks in place with minimal fuss.

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The Headset

On first inspection the Elite 800x is a sleek sturdy looking headset, with just enough Xbox Green to compliment the standard Turtle Beach black. It doesn’t feel too heavy, the cushioned ear cups sit perfectly on my head. Some people have complained that the fit is too snug, but for me it’s a really comfortable fit. The cups have a great amount of cushioning meaning I can wear the headset for hours without really noticing. They are quite big, so although you can wear them out and about, there are smaller headphones you could use, one person at work described me as looking like a Cyberman from Doctor Who!

The headset is packed full of features; as well as being completely wireless, they have noise cancellation and it’s an awesome feeling when you activate it, background noise is sucked away.

Built in Bluetooth allows you to play music from your smart devices and you’re also able to mix in your own music while playing games, if that’s something you prefer.

Everything is controlled by buttons on each side of the ear cups, accompanied by a voice confirming your selection. The buttons are really sensitive, if you put the headset in your bag you can easily turn it on without realising as well activate Bluetooth and all sorts, so you’ll need to be extra careful.

I been through plenty of headsets and I can comfortably say that this is the best sounding headset that I’ve used, most of my review has been spent playing Batman Arkham Knight, which we all know is full of atmosphere, and the 800x improves the experience even further. Combined with the noise cancellation you can fully immerse yourself in whichever world you are playing in. Three are a host of sound presets to switch through depending on the game you are playing, which works really well.

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The downside

Unfortunately there is a huge downside to the set, the microphone and mic monitoring just doesn’t work properly. Every time I went into a party on Xbox Live people would tell me they thought I was using Kinect to talk with, I sounded like I was in a tunnel, or completely muffled.

There are three sound settings to determine how loud the room is to allow the monitoring to adjust, but it made minimal difference. The problem could easily be solved by adding a boom mic to the product, despite firmware updates to try to improve things, it wasn’t enough to improve the chat quality, making it incredibly difficult to justify the 800x price tag (currently £250).

If you are purely a gamer who doesn’t play multiplayer games this headset is brilliant, the sound quality is out of this world and being able to make use of Bluetooth is excellent, but if you play online with friends at any point your are better off checking out the Stealth 500x – you’ll miss not having the super charging stand but you’ll be able to chat with friends clearly.

ASTRO Gaming A50 wireless (Gen 2) Xbox One headset review

A few months ago I put ASTRO Gaming’s A40 + M80 MixAmp Xbox One edition to the test, and boy was I impressed. Now it’s the turn of their prized headset, the ASTRO A50, but will the 7.1 Dolby Pro Logic IIx headset live up to its £250 price tag?

Like the A40, the A50 comes exquisitely packaged in a high quality gloss box that is clasped shut by magnets and wrapped with a cover sleeve. Within the box the contents are proudly displayed in molded plastic, but like the A40, there’s no hard case included, however, the A50 does come with a neat stand that, although tricky to assemble, looks great, proudly displays your A50 and houses the Tx MixAmp neatly beneath it.

The headset is of the same quality build and style of the A40, with soft touch plastic, shaped cushioned earpads and unidirectional swivel meaning the headset can be adjusted for maximum comfort, giving my ears that same feeling of being “hugged”.

Box contents

The non-removable mic boom is attached to the left ear and when in the upright position, the mic is muted. The left side is also where the charge and audio cables connect; unfortunately the A50 isn’t completely wire free. A micro USB (that’s included) can be connected to charge the non-removable lithium-Ion battery, although the cable is rather short, perfect in length for charging when stowed but not so good should you run out of power mid-game – during which time I used my Xbox One controller play and charge cable. When low on power, the headset will give you several warning beeps before cutting out, with the battery life at around 8-10 hours – considerably less than the awesome battery life of ASTRO’s A38.

For voice chat, you need to plug the audio cable into the left earcup and connect the mic puck to your controller. Like the A40, the wire connecting to the back of the puck is at a slight angle and should it need replacing, you can swap it with the official Microsoft adaptor. The connection into the headset is well positioned and unlike the A40, it doesn’t catch against my shoulder when I turn my head.

The mic fidelity is double that of the A40, and at 48MHz you would expect it to perform far better, and it does, although I did find that I needed to position it closer to my month to be heard more loudly. The clarity of the mic is superb, with no static surrounding my voice and very little background noise coming through – my friends could tell when I was using the A50. The moment I stop talking, the mic cuts straight out, whereas with some mics there is a pause of white noise. My only criticism is that if you are in a party chatting with a friend with no audio playing, the headset won’t recognise there is any audio and turn off to save power.

The right earcup is home to the A50’s audio controls, with a nifty rocker switch built into the earcup plate that allows you to adjust your sound in favour of game or voice – there’s a helpful audible beep when you hit 100% game or voice volume, or the optimum 50/50 split. The right earcup also has a small dial that allows you to control the master volume, and a switch that can be set to one of the three EQ settings – Media, Core or Pro.

Like the A40, I ended up favouring the Pro EQ setting, which boosts high frequencies – ideal for hearing someone sneaking up behind you. I also favoured this setting more than the others because the A50 is rather heavy on the bass, switching off the Dolby Digital sorts this, but you lose all of the enhanced depth that the Pro Logic IIx gives. With this in mind, and having used a similar headset from a rival brand, I must admit to being slightly disappointed that there isn’t an option to customise your own unique EQ – what a feature that would make if you could use the ASTRO app to control each EQ level!

I also found switching between EQ settings rather tricky, particularly as the switch is so close to the headset’s power button. The rest of the audio controls however are perfect – particularly the ability to mute the mic just by flicking up the boom, but by having the audio balance control as part of the right ear plate and a non-removable mic on the left, it does mean that the A50 isn’t compatible with ASTRO’s speaker tag system, which is a real shame, but there are several colour combinations to choose from, all of which look really smart, particularly the Halo 117 edition!

Tx MixAmp

The audio magic happens within the A50’s tiny MixAmp – the Tx. The USB powered box connects to the Xbox One via an optical cable and can also be used on a PC via USB. The unit itself simply has two buttons – one for power and one to turn the Dolby Digital on/off. Unfortunately the unit doesn’t power down/up automatically when you turn the Xbox off/on and I would have liked the option to control Dolby Digital as part of the headset – not all games sound great in glorious 7.1 virtual surround sound. Telltale’s Game of Thrones was one such game that sounded better in stereo, you just need to get off your backside to see whether you prefer stereo or surround sound for each game you play.

As with the A40, the stereo sound is incredible but once you hit that Dolby Pro Logic… wow… the depth to the sound is incredible – audio swirls around your head – when switching to stereo you can certainly hear how the sound changes to be more direct, coming in straight to your ears rather than sounding like you’re engulfed in it. The clarity that the A40 introduced me to suddenly opened up, giving my audio a depth to the space it filled, immersing me even more in the sound. Rather than being able to point at enemies left or right, the sound that the A50 pumps out gives greater accuracy to directional sound and it works superbly well. My audio was alive, it felt real – living in its own space, almost like I could reach out and touch it.

A50 stowed

The A50 has given me a whole new experience to my audio, everything from menu selection sound effects to how a gun sounds as you unload a clip into an enemy, ambient noises in the world of Tamaria to the hustle and bustle of a busy Los Santos street corner. I’ll be honest, some sounds actually made me jump because I wasn’t used to hearing them behind me, hats off to ASTRO and the virtual 7.1 surround sound because it works a treat!

I’ve even begun to play my music through Dolby Digital, which gives it a nice spatial depth, making the stereo option almost sound flat in comparison – both options are of course great, with a crispness and presence to the sound.

If you are after quality and an audio experience that you won’t be disappointed with, then I highly recommend you look at ASTRO Gaming’s range of headsets – but which one should you go for? The A40 or the A50? It’s difficult to recommend one pair over the other because they are both such great headsets, it really comes down to personal preference – do you want the depth of Dolby Digital, the bass of explosions and to be able to pinpoint sounds to a higher degree of accuracy or do you just want a high quality stereo headset – I would be happy with either!

So what’s next for ASTRO? On my ‘would like’ list would be the option to create my own EQ settings, and after using the A38, I’d love to get the noise cancelling technology into my gaming headset for the ultimate immersive audio experience.

Thanks to ASTRO Gaming for their support and supplying TiX with a review unit

ASTRO Gaming A40 + M80 Mixamp Xbox One headset review

Box

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!

Open box

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.

M80 Mixamp

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.

Headset tags

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

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