It’s been some time since we’ve seen premium Astro gear. Once recognized completely for its high-end headsets, Astro spent the previous few years carving a distinct segment on the budget-friendly finish of the market. First there was the A10, delivering surprisingly nice sound for under $60 (and incomes our decide for finest finances headset). Then Astro adopted up with the A20, for entry-level wi-fi.
But with these newcomers now firmly established it’s excessive time Astro returned to its signature headset, the A40.
Note: This evaluate is a part of our roundup of best gaming headsets. Go there for particulars on competing merchandise and the way we examined them.
Like father, like son
Astro’s billing this newest A40 as a brand-new era, however I don’t assume the headset’s truly modified. This is, by all outward appearances, the identical A40 Astro has been promoting since a minimum of 2016.
The magnetic covers over the earcups have been tweaked barely, I believe—however that’s basically meaningless, given these covers are replaceable by the end-user, and are available 1,000,000 completely different kinds. In any case, the brand new “default” covers have a smaller-type brand and fewer extraneous ornament.
That’s it! That’s the one change! (Maybe.)
Otherwise, the A40 is basically frozen in time. And why not? The A40 is an icon, particularly the uncovered steel rods that protrude via the headscarf. Most of those “edgy” designs age out, however the A40 doesn’t look dated but—which isn’t to say it gained’t ultimately. Astro nonetheless has a couple of years left although, and if ever there have been a not-broke-don’t-fix-it scenario it’s the A40. Astro’s good to depart it alone in the meanwhile.
And the A40 nonetheless tops the competitors in sure departments, even and not using a refresh. It’s one of many few headsets with a reversible microphone—which means it may be plugged into both the left or proper ear to fit your choice. I’ll personally by no means use that characteristic, and left-hand mics are so standardized I truly discover the concept of a right-hand mic a bit unsettling. Still, I’m certain it’s appreciated by a sure area of interest.
Comfort can also be first-class. HyperX and SteelSeries are on-par with Astro, and Logitech not far behind, however the A40 deserves credit score all the identical. I’m particularly a fan of the A40’s default microfiber earcups. They may not be the very best for heat environments, as they entice warmth and in addition take in sweat as a substitute of wicking it away. Here in San Francisco although? They’re gentle, they’re breathable, they usually don’t irritate my beard.
That final level could be very particular, certain, however let me reiterate for my different bearded readers: The A40’s earcups are a minor miracle.
Astro might use a greater wiring system although. The 3.5mm hookup is in direction of the again of the left earcup, and whereas the cable stays out of the best way it additionally tends to rub in opposition to my neck—particularly in cross-body conditions, as when plugging right into a PC on my proper.
I additionally want Astro would put extra effort into its built-in controls. Astro’s very personal wireless A50 is a mannequin I want different corporations would emulate, with Game/Chat mixing (or chat-mix), quantity, EQ, mute, and Dolby all simply accessible and comparatively intuitive. But on the A40? There’s a mute toggle on the cable and that’s it—not even a quantity wheel.
Mix it up
Why? Because Astro needs you to buy its MixAmp—and it is best to. Astro sells the A40 standalone for $150, however fact be advised, it’s an embarrassingly stripped down headset: It’s restricted to a 3.5mm enter with no splitter, you lose entry to all of Astro’s software-side enhancements, and the built-in controls are minimal. You can get a significantly better and extra succesful wired headset for $150.
Ante up $100 extra for the A40-plus-MixAmp bundle, nevertheless, and also you get chat-mix, quantity management, EQ, Dolby, and extra—albeit as a separate field, not constructed into the headset as with the A50. Still, it’s the best way to go in case you’re set on shopping for an A40. Without the MixAmp, the A40 is a a lot weaker providing.
The MixAmp is the place Astro’s undertaken the majority of this fourth-generation redesign. The earlier MixAmp was oriented vertically, with one monumental quantity dial over the smaller one for chat-mix.
The new MixAmp is arrayed horizontally (as pictured above), with a quantity wheel on the left and chat-mix on the fitting. A neat contact: The wheels are RGB backlit, and the lighting turns purple when the A40 is muted. Four pin-prick lights down the middle point out which EQ preset you might have lively, and there’s a button to swap 7.1 or Stereo modes as properly. The again is festooned with inputs—optical, USB, Aux—and a change that permits you to toggle between PC and PlayStation 4 on-the-fly. PC and Xbox, in case you purchase the opposite mannequin.
The essential profit is best cable routing. Inputs all feed into the again, after which there’s a single 3.5mm jack on the entrance that goes to the A40. It’s rather a lot cleaner-looking than the earlier mannequin, which cut up the ports between the back and front in ways in which typically made it laborious to maneuver the MixAmp when you had it set.
In common, the brand new MixAmp merely seems extra skilled, like a reputable piece of audio mixing gear, the place the earlier model felt sort-of toylike.
As I mentioned, Astro sells the A40 with out the MixAmp, but it surely’s laborious to think about why. This tiny field is borderline important so far as I’m involved. Even so, it’s much less of a leg up than it was once—Logitech (who in fact owns Astro these days) and others have began constructing chat-mixing performance into their $100 to $150 headsets as properly, with built-in controls. The MixAmp feels much less novel than it used to, and costly as well.
But in case you’re shopping for an Astro A40, it’s a should. It makes a mediocre standalone headset into top-tier gear.
You can hear it within the sound, as properly. I examined the A40 with and with out the MixAmp to get an concept of what the A40 truly seems like, versus the way it sounds with the MixAmp.
And standalone, the A40 sounds high-quality. It’s a really heat headset, with low and lower-mid frequencies prevalent within the combine. Cymbals and snare hits are likely to get misplaced or buried although, and I’ve seen that music feels flat and cramped. That’s particularly stunning given the A40 makes use of an open-backed design, which permits extra ambient noise but additionally usually creates a broader soundstage. Here, you positively lose isolation, however the A40 doesn’t sound practically as vast because the HyperX Cloud Alpha, as an example.
The bar for $150 headsets is rather a lot increased than it was once, and with out the MixAmp I’m not satisfied the A40 beats out cheaper web site favorites, even wi-fi ones like Logitech’s $150 G935.
With the MixAmp, the A40 sounds extra spectacular. Even with the Stereo combine, not Astro’s software program 7.1, music feels considerably extra vibrant. Astro’s EQ presets cowl a superb vary as properly, with the default a full of life profile that provides each the bass and upper-mid registers a kick. Is it probably the most correct listening expertise? Would you combine an album on it? Absolutely not, but it surely does sound fairly rattling good and hides a number of the flaws in Astro’s tuning.
That mentioned, I’ll elevate the identical caveat I raised with the A50s a couple of years again: The A40s price rather a lot, and may sound good out of the field, earlier than EQ. I firmly consider that, and I want Astro might get the A40’s unenhanced sound as vibrant as its processed sound.
It’s price noting that Astro’s bought one of many higher microphones in the marketplace. That’s one space the place Astro’s firmly forward of most everybody else. The mic is versatile, straightforward to place, and voice replica is wealthy and crystal clear. Astro additionally scores factors for offering extra microphone choices than common. Not as many as Logitech’s new G Pro X, thoughts you, but it surely’s nonetheless higher than the norm. As a mumbler, I’m notably keen on the “Night” preset, which reduces the A40’s software program noise gate and picks up even my quietest instructions.
So, the million (or $250) query: Does the A40 with the MixAmp sound ok to justify its value? That reply is difficult. The A40 with MixAmp sounds nice, positively one of many better-sounding gaming headset packages. But $250 is steep these days, and personally I believe you’d want the comfort of operating a number of inputs to the identical headset via the MixAmp to justify investing in a wired headset this expensive. If that’s you… in case you’re a streamer or another content material producer kind… nice.
Otherwise, it’s laborious for me to think about why you’d select a $250 wired headset over a $300 A50, getting basically the identical construct however in a extra handy wi-fi type. Wired, the aforementioned Logitech G Pro X is a strong different for half the worth. Astro’s identify nonetheless instructions a premium, and the A40 definitely justifies its excessive value—however not as a lot because it did a decade in the past, when there have been fewer choices.