9 out of 10 – Editor’s Choice from Official Xbox Magazine

Let’s be upfront about this — $250 is a helluva lot of money for a gaming headset. However, the ASTRO Gaming A40 Audio System finally gives gamers an all-in-one late-night gaming solution with no compromise in quality.

The A40 consists of two parts: a headset and an amp. The headset is a killer closed-ear design, which isolates you from the outside world with minimum sound leakage to annoy anyone sharing space with you. It delivers great positional audio (you’ll need to use an optical cable to hear surround effects), and it includes a boom mic, which you can place on either side of your head. The A40 performed extremely well in our music testing: we picked up nuances in our test tracks that we’d never noticed before, and the boom mic also worked admirably well.

The real magic for Xbox gamers lies in the bundled amp. This little wonder takes your audio input, whether it’s 2-channel stereo or the 5.1 optical connection, and mixes it with the voice chat from your game. A simple balance control lets you blend the two signal volumes to your liking — a fantastic feature that works wonderfully. When we began testing, we detected a little bit of static using this knob, but it disappeared after an hour or two of use.

The ASTRO A40 Audio System is crazy-expensive for a normal stereo headset, but it’s priced comparably to 5.1 headsets from other vendors — and those units don’t include the voice/game mixing capability. Our only complaint is that it creates a messy wire snarl in your living room, but it sounds so good that we don’t even care.