Review: Astro Gaming A40 TR Headset with MixAmp Pro TR
• Still one of the best designed gaming headset there is
• Very comfortable to wear on long run
• The personnalisation options with removable ear tags
• Even easier to setup and use
• Easy to switch from console to PC use
• The quality of the gear is just top notch
• Limited and unbalanced audio rendering
• Too much bass when using Dolby Digital option
• The TR part doesn't really scream for an upgrade
• Price still too high compared to competition
• Audio Chat is now powered by USB channels
• The Mod Kits texture can really warm your ears
After my review of the Astro Gaming A50 Wireless Headset, the good people over at Astro Gaming thought it was essential to close the loop by testing the brand new models of their Astro Gaming A40. Released in late 2015, the all new Astro Gaming A40 TR (TR stands for “tournament ready”) is available in numerous versions, but I got the opportunity to review the white Xbox One version that comes with the newly improved Astro MixAmp Pro TR, as well as at Astro TR red Mod Kit to seal the deal. Does the fancy two letter at the end of the name – TR – changes much of Astro Gaming’s signature headset? Well, I’d say yes and no, so read on while I explain a bit more clearly if you’ll need this upgrade or not.
So what’s in the box?
Like with all other Astro Gaming products, the principle of neat and subtle packaging is always present: a thick cardboard cover sleeve enrobe a box, which opens up with a little latch on to the right and left side, as if you were opening a treasure chest of some sort. On the left is the Astro A40 TR headset, paired with the MixAmp Pro TR. The latter is an improved version of the original MixAmp, which acts as an external amplifier to mix audio and mic channels, and more but we’ll get more into details on the MixAmp Pro TR later in this review.
On the side container, you have your microphone, plus all sort of corded gear you’ll need to connect your MixAmp Pro TR to the headset and to your console (or PC), with the help of a dual stereo and microphone 3.5mm jack, an optical cable and a USB wire to power the amp (but also get audio from a PC), and finally a 0.5m Digital Daisy Chain Cable (more on this in the MixAmp Pro TR review part). Depending on the version you pick, you’ll get either a black Astro A40 TR headset with small gray and golden details, alongside a black MixAmp which is marketed to work specifically with the PlayStation 4 (PC and PlayStation 3 as well) or in the case of our review unit, a white headset and MixAmp with hints of gray and red for Xbox platforms (and PC as well).
The Astro A40 TR headset
Let’s move to the characteristics that make this Astro A40 TR and better than its previous version. You should know that this headset is customizable, you can change the foams at the ears, the TAGS (ie the design of the helmet in the atria, as shown in the video above).
Like its big brother the Astro Gaming A50 Wireless Headset, the Astro Gaming A40 TR truly oozes excellent workmanship in its built and material quality. The only thing that differentiates the A40 with the wireless A50 is the lack of controls on the headphone’s tags, but the core elements are there, with Astro Gaming’s known futuristic design that still brings a touch of originality, and helps the headsets to be recognizable from afar.
The Astro A40 TR is definitely a comfortable headset, equipped with three memory foam areas that are as well covered with fabric, located on the earpads and on the top of the arch, in a kind of insert placed between the two “branches” that form the hoop. Very comfortable to wear, they contribute greatly to the comfort, and weighing 360gr, which is rather conventional for a over-the-ear headsets, the pressure between the ears and the top of the head is well-distributed, and once properly adjusted to your head length, you can play hours without any feeling of pain. Also note that you can twist your headset cups to perfectly rest on your chest as you’ll notice in the picture featured in this review.
The main jack cable of the Astro Gaming A40 TR is removable, a good thing especially when needed to be carried around, or even stored properly, with the first end plugging directly into the headset left cup, has a small remote control to mute the mic quickly, and the other end can plug into the MixAmp Pro TR, or even straight into a multi-channel jack 3.5mm input like on the Xbox One controllers or even a PC.
The interchangeable magnetic Astro Gaming tags option is there as well, which helps you to have an extra personalization option on your headset to stand out in the crowd. While ready-made and special edition tags can be bought via Astro Gaming to support your favorite brand or even team, the best part is that you can get your own custom-made tags with the help of a dedicated design tool on the Astro Gaming website. Sadly, the option to create is available to all, but buying and shipping them is only available to selected countries at the moment.
The big difference though between the 2013 Astro Gaming A40 version and this current line of “Tournament Ready” A40 is the ability to equip and enhance the headset with Mods Kits. This new set of accessories is available in 5 different options and colors, ranging from blue, yellow, green Halo edition, Black Ops 3 themed edition, Optic Gaming green (the renown FPS eSports team) and finally red, which the Astro Gaming team were kind enough to send me to test as well.
These mod kits are meant to help you in tournament settings, such as loud arenas, lan parties or other competitive settings were surrounding sounds can still be heard with a headset. The Mod Kit pack comes with two red and black colored closed-back speaker tags, which helps constrain the speaker sound inside the enclosure, to isolate the noise. It also come with a longer unidirectional microphone with integrated filtering, noise canceling ear cushions and finally a padded headband. These two last parts are insulated with a synthetic leather helping increase a passive noise isolation. This Mod Kit basically will turn your headset from a semi-open to a closed helmet, more suitable for noisy environment, but I’ll have to say that I’m not a fan of the synthetic leather on the cups as it can warm your ears in rather hot and humid countries, even with air conditioning on, and the price for the kit overall is a bit steep amount to cough up (around $60) when you already paid $250 on the headset and its MixAmp.
While briefly mentioned, the Astro A40 TR comes with a flexible microphone, which can be attached to any side of the headset (left or right), by simply interchanging the holed tags with the flat one. On the front of the quality of the microphone recording, it is to my opinion still the same as the previous generation, which is good enough for chatting in parties while gaming (even with the TR longer muffled mic), but don’t expect something you could use for gaming commentary. On that front, I would advise you to move toward proper podcast cardioid mics such as the iconic Blue Yeti.
Finally the wire remote on the audio jack consist of one button, which can quick mute the mic, which is a bit of a letdown for someone who had the original Astro A40. The 2013 version used to come with a media controller cable, equiped with its own volume control, but also a microphone mute button and secondary mic to be able use. That option was perfect when needing to listen with my Astro A40 on the go with my phone, and still be able to answer calls without a very visible directional microphone.This use to make this headset more versatile, but considering that there’s always the A30 and A38 bluetooth smaller versions available, I get what they removed that option in the packaging.
The MixAmp Pro TR and Astro Command Center
One might think that the MixAmp has not changed much between the 2013 and later 2015 models, other than looks. At first sight, the MixAmp Pro TR seems to be the same as the old version, other than a change in color schemes. But make no mistake, as this new TR model has undergone major changes on so many layers, from connectors to how it operates.
Let’s start first with the connectors, shall we? On the front of the MixAmp Pro TR are two Daisy Chain Link to interconnect MixAmp together, which is a great features for those wanting to speak to their team in a lan party, without having to use an online service. Added to that is the 3.5mm jack port to connect the A40 TR (or other even other headsets) and 3,5mm auxiliary audio port which you can use to connect your PC, phone, or any other device.
On the back of the MixAmp Pro TR is an optical cable and a 3.5mm port for streaming purpose, and is basically a port that channels out everything that comes through the MixAmp itself. For example, we can record the sound of the game from the console (coming via the optical audio), your voice via the headset microphone, but other stuff like music from your phone via the auxiliary input, or even someone else’s voice via Skype. This all can be great for wannabe YouTubers or Twitch streamers, as there’s no need to use multiple audio inputs and mix them via Xsplit or any other recording and streaming software, as it all comes from one output.
The MixAmp Pro TR face is adorned with several buttons and dials. The center dial is the main volume level, the smaller one under it is the mixer that can alter the levels of game audio and voice from online parties or other VOIP systems. Finally 3 illuminated buttons can be pressed to turn on and off the MixAmp Pro TR, one to active or not the Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound decoding and Dolby Headphone encoding system, and another one to switch between 4 preset equalizer modes. But there’s a secret feature as well, and that’s the power button being a PC Mode activation button as well, which lets you switch from the Astro Command Center software and console mode. In both PC and console mode, the USB will need to be plugged into each respective platforms, which can be a disadvantage for some. You see, back in the old days, an extra wire was needed to be connected from the MixAmp to the Xbox controller to be able to use the Microphone, but with the new MixAmp Pro TR that channel goes through the USB cable, which doesn’t help for those that are out of free USB ports on their consoles.
In any case, the MixAmp Pro TR does make a difference when used with the Astro A40 TR Headset (and even other brand headsets as the MixAmp is universal), and it does seem more clear on PC (and Mac) thanks to the Astro Command Center program. This software will allow you to switch between different audio modes, but also play around with certain frequencies based on your preference, whether it is gaming or even just music.
Is the Tournament Ready upgrade worth it?
If you already have an Astro Headset, or another gaming headset and use it on the new Astro MixAmp Pro TR, you will then have a complete change of sound spectrum… or not. In my case, I tried the 2015 Astro A40 Headset with the current TR model of the MixAmp, and the audio was very different from being plugged directly into the controller. There is a sort of predominance in the bass frequencies which gives an effect of a “suffocated” tune, which was only solved after playing around with the equalizer. But yet again, doesn’t seem like any upgrade has been made in terms of audio technologies, but more of a redesign of the wiring system.
In terms of comfort, I have yet to find any negative points after well over 20-30 hours of game-time tested. The Astro A40 TR Headset weighs just over 300 grams which might be quite heavy for a headset, it is very comfortable thanks to the different foams, but I do have this personal problem with the Mod Kit cushions, as well as the length of the cable that connects the headset to the MixAmp which is a bit short (in comparison to the previous A40). Yet, does it really justify the price? Reaching 250$ when bought with the MixAmp, the A40 is on part with budgets real audiophile brands reach – like Sennheiser or Shure – but doesn’t equal their audio quality. Adding the Mod Kit to the mix, you will end up paying up to 310$ for the setup, when your 2015 Astro Gaming A40s will give you the same quality on all levels, except without the new TR wow factor.
The Astro Gaming A40 TR Headset with MixAmp Pro TR was reviewed using a review unit provided by Astro Gaming alongside a Red version of the TR Mod Kit. The headset and MixAmp Pro are available in two different colors, and compatible with PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and numerous other systems. The TR Mod Kits only work with the new TR headsets, and come in 5 different versions. All of the items reviewed are available to purchase on the Astro Gaming website as well as select online stores and retailers around the world, and Geekay Games in the Middle East We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.