Because you need yet another headphone review. Okay, maybe you don’t, but you’re getting it anyway. Call it concessions to the manufacturer. Also, the topic is timely as some of you might be in the market, it being Xmas and all.
First things first. Why headphones?
For most people, the television is good enough. For others, they’ve invested their geek cash in a finely-tuned surround sound system. Maybe you live alone. Maybe volume isn’t an issue for you. Maybe you just don’t give a jolly good damn about whether or not your hobby encroaches upon the lives of your significant other, children, cabanna boy, live-in mother-in-law or your neighbors.
I can only give you my reasons. Reason, really. My wife loathes the sound of my games. Halo, Gears, anything that’s loud and obnoxious with gun reports and explosions makes her want to trash my hdtv and gouge out my ears with a screwdriver. Yeah, I made that up. She’s not really violent. But she does get cranky, and you wouldn’t like her when she’s cranky.
There’s an added bonus, obviously. If I game elsewhere, I get to take my surround sound with me. And by else where, I mean places like the Chitown Lan or the in-Laws. Awfully convenient to actually hear the game at the lan when all the music game nerds are trying to crush your soul with the same three songs over and over and over and over and over again. Just sayin’.
I’ve owned the Tritton AX360s, but I currently roll the Astros. I gave up the Trittons for a number of reasons. First, they just didn’t sound great. Good, but not great. The AX360s also suffered by not having true bass, instead opting for a rumble feature, and the inline volume control just wasn’t all that great.
And then there was that whole issue with the mic. The mics on the AX360s short out. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I don’t know anyone who has a pair who hasn’t had a mic crap out on them. Tritton’s customer service is pretty good, however, and they’re quick to provide you with a replacement.
I can only imagine the company was highly motivated to redesign the mic as Tritton is not very big, and Mike, the customer service guy, is probably damned tired of getting calls/service requests about mics.
Anyway. Enough of the past. Don’t buy the old ones. Save for another five or six weeks and upgrade to either the Tritton AX Pros or the Astro A40s. Preamble finished, let’s get to the scrap.
AX Pro vs. A40
We’ve reviewed both these headsets already. Tank’s review of the Trittons is here, and NeksOne’s review of the Astros is here. I’ll try not to retread too much of Nek’s and Tank’s ground, but in case you’re A.D.D. or link adverse, I’ll hit the high notes.
Tritton AX Pros
These are an upgrade in every way over the previous, lower-end model.
The sound quality seems vastly improved. The bass is awesome and the overall speaker sound is crisp, clear and full. The old Trittons tended to get tinny and distort, and the rumble was kind of lame, really. I turn the rumble off on my controller. Why the hell do I want it on my head?
It appears the mic is going to be a helluva lot more reliable (it’s not flexible and uses a standard 3.5mm plug). And the way it works is much better this time, as well. Instead of plugging into the side of the cans, the Xbox mic plugs into the in-line volume control and gives you an individual volume control for the mic, allowing you to finally get some real boost to the mic sound.
Comfort is also and improvement, as the Pros are significantly lighter than the 360s. That said, they squeezed my head a bit. And they are rigid to the point where when you take them off, it’s like you’ve removed a helmet. There’s no flexibility in the form of them, which makes me think it’ll be a really bad idea to accidentally sit or step on these bad boys.
The two AC adapter situation is a big deal to me. In my living room, which doubles as my mancave as I don’t have an office to absorb and convert into a bastion of nerddom. In and around my HDTV, I have this list of shit plugged in: router, cable modem, Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit, an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, a 600-watt Pioneer receiver, a Motorola HDDVR and the HDTV itself.
The last thing I want to do is plug in not one, but two AC adapters to power one tiny freaking headset. They did take advantage of the added power by adding internal LEDs to illuminate the double T Tritton logo. Tell me again why I need lights on the side of my head? I’m not, in fact, the Master Chief, and gaming is not spelunking.
Sure, they cost more, but it’s still less than the Astros and I’m betting you can find these cheaper at Frys or TigerDirect.
The Astro A40s
Not sure where to even start here. I own the Astros. Paid a fuckton of money for them. Sorry, Astro guys, but $250 is a lot of scratch for a headset. You can get a 360 for less than that. At the time I bought them, there was only the Tritton AX 360s and whatever the hell Turtle Beach has on the market, and my AX 360s weren’t getting the job done.
The Astros were like headset porn, all wrapped up in strippers and bacon. Had to have them. Fortunately, they deliver. From the first moment you see the frickin boxes, you’ll be smitten. Of course, that also means that part of the high price is wrapped up in these pretty damn boxes you’ll put in the top of your closet and never see again.
The Astros sound amazing, but honestly I’m not sure which of the two headsets sounds better. Obviously, the discrete sound of each channel has to be better in the Trittons, but my ears are shot from too many years of heavy metal concerts. I can’t tell a lot of difference between real surround speakers and the simulated Dolby Headphone surround of the Astros. Both sound good. If anything to me, the Astros are crisper, but lack the Trittons’ bass.
One feature I love about the Astros is the ability to move the mic to whichever side you prefer, or to remove it entirely. Both sets of cans feature removable covers, but you get the idea the Astros had a plan for this from the beginning, whereas with the Trittons, it’s just something they do but serves no real purpose.
The Astros also win in the lighter/more comfortable category. Not much to elaborate on here. The ‘Stros weigh less and feel better on my head. Might be different for someone with a differently shaped melon.
Though the new Trittons handle game sound and voice volume really well, I still love the A40 MixAmp (the sound processor for the Astros). I love the ability to change the voice vs. game volume mix with the turn of the dial. I love that I can plug my Zune into the MixAmp and play Seek and Destroy through the headset while I’m in matchmaking and still hear the game and my teammates.
Furthermore, and this was something that always pissed me off about my old Trittons, I can use my Astros with anything that takes a normal headphone plug. I can use my Astros with my Zune. With the Trittons, I could only use them with their amp. The new Trittons come with an adapter that lets you use them with your PC, but nothing so simple as your MP3 player.
Let’s be honest. I spent $250 on the Astros. I sure as hell didn’t want to like the Trittons, but I did. That said, I still wouldn’t trade my Astros for the Trittons.
In the end, the things I dislike about both systems are all the damn cords. With the Trittons, you have the two AC adapters, the 12’ cable and the connector going from the in-line controller to the 360 controller. With the Astros, you’ve got basically what amounts to a much longer toslink cable in place of the Trittons 12’ connector cable, in addition to the cable to the cans and the cable to the controller. You might also have the usb power cable, if you don’t buy the optional rechargeable battery pack.
All the cables amount to a damn mess no matter which set you’re rolling.
Which brings up another topic of conversation. Tritton is getting ready to unveil their wireless headset, and it’ll rock the Dolby Headset tech that’s featured in the Astros. If the sound quality for the Tritton Wireless headset is as good or close to as good as the Astros, I’m trading in my Astros. Of course, that’s with the understanding that there’s a mic involved that works with my 360 controller.
Sound: Tie (Astros sound crisper, Trittons have much better bass and spatial differentiation)
Style: Probably a matter of taste
X-Factor: The Astros come with that badass hardcase for transporting your gear. The old Trittons came with a felt bag. The new ones… nada, zero, zilcho.
Winner by a slim margin: The Astros
The margin is slim. In cases like this, the actual decision making often comes down to money. You can get the Trittons for damn near $100 less than the Astros. I’m saying if you don’t have the cash for the cooler set of cans, feel good about getting the Trittons. Just be ready for us to make fun of you for wearing something metallic brown on your dome.
We can add other headphones to this discussion. There are other options. You can use standard headsets from Sony or Sennheiser or any number of companies, and go ghetto with your mic. Biorod has a decent pair of Sonys and wraps his cheapass stock, white 360 headset ‘round his neck when we’re gaming. I assume that’s what guys like Caesar do when they’re using their Senns.
Not going to comment about the Turtle Beach cans because I’ve never used them. I’ve read a slew of negative reviews about them, which I’m prepared to discount if Turtle Beach finds it in its heart to mail me a set for review. Doesn’t mean I won’t tell it how it is, but I’d be happy to give them equal time. I will say I’m biased against them as all their stuff looks like cheap crap. That said, I covet down deep in the cockles a fine pair of wireless cans that work properly with my 360 set-up.
Past that, why can’t someone integrate the tech from the wireless Xbox headset into one of these gaming rigs. How hard would that be? That’s something I’d definitely pony up for.
We’ll be back whenever Tritton sends me their wireless cans for evaluation. Maybe we’ll even try to get something outta Turtle Beach.
See the original review here.