I've spent the past month putting Astro's new A30 headset through its paces. You may know of Astro's work from their first release, the A40 headset. Originally designed for professional gamers, the A40 is a high-end headset solution that may be great for a LAN party but isn't really what I would call portable or mainstream. After all, they're kinda enormous. The A30's go in another direction entirely.
In an attempt to court a larger audience of every day, un-sponsored gamers, Astro has released the A30 headset. The biggest difference is clear from the get-go. The A30 is much smaller than its professional cousin. It's designed in such a way that you could walk down the street with them and no one would bat an eyelash. I daresay they actually look cool, which makes sense considering Astro started off as a design company whose most notable work comes in the form of Microsoft's 1st party 360 controller.
The A30 comes in black and white varieties, but those Astro logos over the ear cups are actually replaceable magnets which allow for a level of personalization through Astro's online store. The cups also rotate, allowing you to store the headset flat or wear it around your neck with the cups resting against your collarbone.
Although they're smaller, the A30s are still very much designed with the gamer in mind. Thick, high quality padding on the headband and ear cups allow you to wear the headset for hours on-end. That's probably true for most people, though I started to feel some discomfort after about an hour and a half as the headset was pressing on the thick, plastic arms of my glasses. My head is also a bit on the large side, and, even though I had to adjusted the headset to its maximum size, I still felt pressure above my ears. People without glasses or with thin-ripped glasses probably won't have any issue at all, but just something to take note of for the Tina Fey's and Buddy Holly's out there.
I'm not an audiophile, so please excuse my lack of scientific specifics, but the A30's sounded excellent in every instance I used them in. Astro ships a wide array of wires to adapt the headset to any possible situation, from a short one for use with an iPod while you're walking down the street, to a medium one for use on a computer, to an even longer one for a home media set-up. In each instance, the sound came through crisp and clear on both the high and the low levels, with plenty of bass and power where needed.
If you're looking for some additional fidelity, you can buy the A30's in a package which also includes Astro's MixAmp (pictured on left). This allows for Dolby Digital sound where available, and comes with a massive volume knob and a handy dial to modify chat audio versus game audio.
Worth noting that once you bring the MixAmp into a picture, the number of required cables does start to get a bit unwieldy, especially if you plan on using the headset for chat (with the included mic). On the 360, setting up chat requires no fewer than four different cables going into the MixAmp (on the PS3 and PC it's only 3), so if you're a nut about cable management you may want to just stick with the headset.
There's no question that the A30's are extremely well-designed (assuming you lack a huge head with equally huge glasses) and great sounding. There aren't many high quality headset solutions out there designed with gamers in mind, so Astro is left standing mostly alone in this field, and does an admirable job.
The A30 headset is available from Astro's online store for $149.99. If you buy the headset and the MixAmp in a bundle, that'll run you $229.99.