7 out of 10 – Wired Gadget Lab

Astro A40 Audio Gaming System

If you frequent LAN parties, or an ill-tempered roommate / significant other/ downstairs neighbor disapproves of muzzle fire thundering from your speakers at 4 AM, you might want to give the A40 Audio System a listen. Consisting of a headset and a dedicated mixer and amplifier (sold as a set or as individual components), it’s geared towards Xbox and PC gamers who want solid surround sound without violating municipal noise ordinances.

The headset is fairly impressive on its own: comfortable, great sound, and fairly attractive to boot. The microphone can be swapped to either side — a nice touch that complements the customizable faceplates. We noticed a slight problem with noise leaking from the headset: the included foam inserts help cut some of the excess din, but bystanders could still hear the occasional of clashing swords or revving engines. Definitely not a deal breaker, but if you’re taking these to the library, you’ll want to turn the volume down a tad.

The A40 really shines when it’s paired with the A40 MixAmp. Powered by 4 AAs (which last for about 7 hours of continuous use), it can also run on USB power, or via an optional rechargeable battery pack. You can connect it with traditional analog cables or through an optical cable, directly through your TV or PC, or hook even it up to your home theater—Astro packs plenty of cables to support your needs. You can also attach your own MP3 player to play music alongside the voice and game audio. Unfortunately, the balance on the Mixer will only handle game and voice volume, so you have to adjust your iPod manually. The MixAmp’s best feature is the Dolby Surround support, pumping surround audio in a multi-channel setup, or simulating it on standard stereo headphones. So even if you’d rather stick to your own headset, you can still get (faux) surround sound.

This system is most definitely designed with professional gamers in mind, with a special nod towards the LAN gaming community. Multiple units can be daisy-chained together via a connector tucked into the base of the unit, creating a sort of hardware-based Teamspeak (assuming you and your buddies get several MixAmps). For Xbox Live users, just jack the mic cable into the bottom of your controller and you’re good to go. —Nate Ralph

WIRED Comfort, for multiple head and hair sizes. Clear voice quality is a plus for smack-talking. Connectivity options to complement most setups.

TIRED PC gamers won’t mind, but wireless La-Z-Boy warriors probably don’t want to be tethered to their audio system. Add every component up and you’ve got an expensive setup on your hands.

See Wired.com’s original review here.