I play games quite a bit and at all hours of the day. I have a moderate HDTV, a well-calibrated surround sound set up with some decent speakers, and a brand new apartment building full of tenants that hate them. Hi new neighbors!
Being the sensible and respectful neighbor that I am (sorry about that thud last night my friend behind the wall, I tripped) I recently picked up Astro Gaming's A40 Audio System to help maintain pleasantries with the other shut-ins in my building. The system, which consists of the A40 Headphones & the small A40 Mixamp, combine to deliver voice chat and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound to players on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. So how is it?
OH MY GOSH THEY SOUND AWESOME
I couldn’t resist not jumping to point this out right away, but these headphones produce some magnificent audio. Across gunfire-heavy titles like "Left 4 Dead 2" and "Modern Warfare 2" to the bustling city of Venice in "Assassin's Creed 2," these cans kick out an immersive surround sound quality that actually had me forgetting I was listening through headphones on more than one occasion. The audio is remarkably clean and the quality of the surround sound makes it easy to single out the location of footsteps and other locative audio markers. They haven't illuminated sounds that I missed with my home theatre. They've matched them. And that's exactly what I was looking for.
Typically, headphones tend to give me headaches, earaches, and general discomfort after prolonged use. These cans, while a bit heavier than the cheap headphones I'm used to, have yet to cause me any pain--even after 4-5 hour gaming sessions.
This little object rests nicely on a side table or next to you and, like all of the product line, looks sleek, solid, and well designed. Two knobs that turn easily (in that smooth but heavy fashion I seem to associate with quality) control both the game volume and incoming voice chat volume. There's also a button that turns the Dolby Surround off, but I'm guessing it's only there so you can press it on and off while listening to the immense difference audio fidelity. I also really like that it's powered via USB cable.
There's an intangible sense of faith that I have in Astro Gaming, and it’s a result of how I've been treated and handled along the process of purchasing the A40 Audio System. I was absolutely stunned when I called their contact number with a question about the product and a human being answered the phone -- a human being who had the answers I was looking for, no less. When there was a snafu with shipping, they called and helped reroute the delivery for me. And when the product arrived, simple instructions to get the device set up optimally made the installation a snap.
Astro Studios, a parent of the Astro Gaming company, is a design firm. Their aesthetic approach to products showcases a sleek and sturdy lifestyle brand across clients like Alienware, Nike, and Microsoft. Hell, these guys designed the Xbox 360 and it's controller that, in my opinion, is the best of the gaming pads out there. The packaging for the headset and Mixamp alone is impressive, and the unboxing… oh how I enjoyed it. You can probably tell for yourself from the product shot above that this is a very beautiful piece of hardware.
Cables! Cables! Cables!
This set comes with a lot of cables. Or at least it feels like a lot in the age of wireless. I currently have two long cables trailing across my floor from my home theatre to the Mixamp. And then there's the cable that connects to the headset. And, if you want to use voice chat on the 360, you have to plug an additional cable from your 360 controller to the Mixamp. Remember how I tripped and hit the wall? Guess how that happened.
At $250 for the pair of items, one can easily see that this is no light purchase. It's an expensive product, though I can't help but feel like those players that can swing it -- and have legitimate need for it -- should be willing to take the hit.
As expensive as they are, I'm very happy with the A40. The system has allowed me to maintain my own audio standards without worrying about upsetting those around me. And that's exactly why I bought them. If you've got a surround sound setup that works for you, save your cash and look forward to the hits headed our way in 2010. But if you're a pro gamer, or have a similar situation to mine, definitely give the A40 a listen.