Everyone has their own gaming setup preferences, but I’m interestingly often asked about my own gaming setup. Amongst all aspects of a gaming setup, audio is always a prevalent topic. Although I don’t have in depth experience with every piece of audio equipment that exists in the wild, I do have a personal taste when it comes to my choice for audio. I’ve tried out a few headphones in stores, gaming events, and conventions, and I’ve found that I like to use the Vmoda Crossfade LP’s for general use, and the Astro A40’s for gaming.
This won’t be a review of the Astro A40 (2011) edition, because you can’t really buy them anymore (unless of course you get them second hand, which I’d still suggest doing if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative). More so, this article will focus on my experiences with using these headphones separated by The Good and The Bad. This will serve as a point of reference for the Astro A50’s I’m set to review shortly. Stay tuned for that!
The Good: The prestige that goes with being a pro gamer, is having pro equipment. Over the last 8 years, Astro Gaming has been synonymous with pro gaming, and has been the official headset of several gaming conventions and MLG tournaments. The Astro Gaming brand is a powerful influencer amongst hardcore gamers, with good reason.
I’ve had the pleasure of using the A40 wireless system, complete with the 5.8 mixamp. The headphones are high quality, flexible, and extremely durable. I love the aesthetics of the design, even though they are quite large. Most people won’t want to walk around with massive headphones, but depending on the circumstance, it may play to your favor. I have Black Oni branded tags on my headset, which makes me easily identifiable amongst gamers and aesthetically minded individuals.
Overall, build quality is great. They’re extremely comfortable, and long gaming sessions never feel strenuous or burdensome with the headphones on. Even during heated battles, or even worse- Heat waves in my Boston, I never feel that they add any level of discomfort. If anything, I feel more in-the-zone-when I’m plugged in, and fully immersed in sound. And speaking of sound, the audio is quite good- especially when paired with the mixamp 5.8. Turning on the simulated surround sound lets a sea of powerful sound effects flow into your eardrums. Explosions sound awesome, characters speak with crystal clarity, and you can hear the footsteps of enemies around you at all times.
Online gaming is a huge emphasis for these headphones; being able to pinpoint where someone is based on which direction you hear them coming from gives you a HUGE upper hand in battle. Voice chat works really well too, as I’ve always had compliments on how well the other gamers receive my voice, and they come through clearly as well (assuming they have a decent headset.)
Another huge plus of the wireless system, is that you can plug any headphones into the wireless mixamp, if you have a pair that you feel produce better stand-alone sound, you can certainly do that. I found these Astro A40’s quite suitable for my long gaming marathons.
Bad: One of the very few issues I had with build quality was that a screw for the left side of the headphones magically unscrewed itself. I have no clue how this happened, but nonetheless, it did, and I scavenged around my apartment to find a screw that would fit the empty space. (I eventually did, so yay)
My first PS3 chat cable suddenly stopped working in year one, and after about 2.5 years, the original quick disconnect cable started generating buzzing sounds when connected to audio sources. For the case of the PS3 chat cable, and the quick-connect cable, Astro sent replacements to me without much of a hassle, which was greatly appreciated. All representatives have been responsive and courteous, and I’d highly recommend getting in touch with support if you ever have issues with their products.
In terms of a functionality gripe, my current gaming set-up on my PS3 has the in game and voice chat from other players coming through both the default speakers, and the headphones when I capture online gameplay. The downside to doing this is the inability to adjust the voice chat volume control on a separate channel, so if you move the slider to make the voice louder, it actually gets lower. Very frustrating!
On PS4, the in game audio comes through the tv speakers and the headphones (mainly for game capture purposes), but the audio from in game chat does not go through both the TV and the speakers. This means I can’t record audio from other gamers at all with these headphones connected. This has more to do with Sony than Astro, but it’s still worth mentioning.
When wearing the headphones casually over the neck, the material (plastic?) digs into my neck a bit due to the hard angle between the headphone cups and the band. It’s not a huge problem, as there are no issues when wearing it on ear, but it’s quite irritating when you want to take the headphones off but keep them easily accessible, or wear them as a fashion statement.
The microphone quality isn’t bad by any means- But compared to some other microphones when used outside of gaming, it isn’t the strongest. You won’t want to record your singing performances with it, but it’s great for calls (I use these for the Black Oni Podcast) and gaming.
Overall: Those gripes aside, I’m really happy with my purchase and definitely recommend Astro Gaming products. High build quality, and excellent sound make this a great choice for gamers, but these are 3 years old, and technology has advanced quite a bit since my foray into “become an audiophile” (which I’m not). I definitely prefer using these gaming headphones over other ones, though the whole wireless audio system was a bit on the pricey side. What’s great though, is that the standalone headphones are fairly reasonably priced, going for $150 on astrogaming.com. If there are any discount codes, or special Black Oni promotions, I’ll be sure to give you all the heads up. Be on the lookout for a video unboxing and review of the Astro A50’s on the Black Oni Channel!