Buying a new pair of headphones can be a very daunting prospect. There are so many options on the market, and finding the right set of cans that fit your requirements and budget can be a very hard thing to do. Do I go stereo? Do I go surround sound? What kind of chat functionality do I require? What devices am I planning on using the headphones with?
Astro is one of the premium brands when it comes to headphones, so the Astro A40 and the Mixamp Pro should definitely be up for consideration, provided you have the budget for it.
Design and build
The Astro A40 TR is a stereo headset powered by 40mm drivers in each ear cup. It is mostly made of plastic, but it feels very well made and solidly put together. It features soft and comfortable cushioning for the two large ear cups as well as a padded headband. Adjusting the A40s can be a bit tricky, since each arm is adjusted independently. It took me a while get it set properly for my rather large melon, but once I got it sorted, it was very comfortable. I could wear them for quite long sessions without too much hassle.
It took me a while get it set properly for my rather large melon, but once I got it sorted, it was very comfortable.
The headset allows for modification by buying a separate Modification Kit. You can swap out the ear cups, headband cushion, microphone and speaker tags for something that’s supposed to be more noise cancelling, but I didn’t have a chance to test those out. It’s a very modular design, that allows for some customisation. You can for instance swap out the side of the mic boom by simply swapping the speaker tags.
The only issue I had with the design of the A40s is that it has a few sharp edges, but it might be because every headset I’ve owned has had a more rounded design, and it will certainly not put me off from the Astros.
The 40mm drivers aren’t the biggest speakers available, but it does pack a punch, and it handled just about anything that I threw at it. In fact, it was my poor eardrums that tapped out before any kind of distortion came through. It’s just a normal stereo headset, which means it is compatible with just about anything that has a 3.5mm output. You can also plug A40s directly into a PS4 or new Xbox One controller and use it as a stereo chat headphone.
Listening to the audio in stereo is great and the headset really performs very well. However, the A40s I got was boxed with the Astro Mixamp Pro, which outputs sound to any stereo device connected to it in 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound. It’s subtle, but it makes quite a difference. Getting an idea of the direction of the sound’s source is much easier, and I also actually started hearing sounds I never heard before using normal stereo headphones. I played the first few levels of DOOM again, and it almost improved on my previous experience of the game.
It’s subtle, but it makes quite a difference. Getting an idea of the direction of the sound’s source is much easier, and I also actually started hearing sounds I never heard before using normal stereo headphones.
Using it to watch movies or listen to music is also a pleasant experience. The headphones are not too base heavy, and the sound is crisp and clear. I pretty much kept the surround sound enabled, since it just sounds nice.
The Mixamp is compatible with both the PS4 and PC, although you will need some workaround to make it work with the PS4 Slim, since it doesn’t have an optical audio output that the Mixamp requires. It also uses one USB port on your PS4, and setting it up on both PS4 and PC is easy and straight forward.
Using the Mixamp is a pretty simple affair as well, you can toggle between Dolby Digital and stereo with a press of a button, as well as choose between four different presets that can be set via the Astro Command Centre on your PC. There’s also two control dials on the Mixamp, one for volume, the other for game and chat priority balance.
Functionally, how does it perform? Pretty well actually. It does what is says it does. The microphone and chat functions work well, and friends had no issue hearing me, or me them. Being able to adjust the chat volume on the fly is a great feature as well. I also like the fact that it can be used as an all-in-one solution with both my PC and PS4.
The one thing that bothers me a bit is the practicality of the entire setup, especially for PS4. On PC, it’s simple, you plug the Mixamp into an open USB port and place it somewhere on the desk that is easy to access. In my case, it works on the same principle with the PS4, since I play my console games on the same monitor I have connected to my laptop.
But, most console owners play on a TV, and sit on a couch a couple of feet away, which is where the problem comes in. The two cables connecting the Mixamp to the PS4 are a bit short, and the cable connecting the headphones to the Mixamp, is a tad bit long. It’s an odd design choice, and I can almost imagine a rather expensive processor box lying in the middle of the floor.
The Astro A40s with the Mixamp Pro is a premium headset and quite expensive (about R3,500 for the bundle), and its cost might be its biggest downside, especially considering that it’s not a wireless headset. But it has a lot of functionality and is a quality made product. It’s comfortable, customisable, compatible with multiple devices and sounds great. I am a bit concerned about the connectivity to the PS4 in normal circumstances, but using it as a headset on PC or at a desk is perfect in my opinion.
The A40s are great as as a stand alone headset, and will outclass most other cans out there on sound performance and quality. The Mixamp is a great addition to that, being able to connect to a PS4, PS3 and and PC while retaining its full functionality for all.
So if you’re in the market for a premium headset, and few wires don’t bother you, then the Astra A40 TR with the Mixamp Pro should definitely be on your list to consider.