Here at PS3Vault we get to play with some pretty sick technology: cutting edge games, high end displays, wicked controllers and all sorts of other gamer goodies. However, we have met the king of gaming greatness and thy name is The A40 Audio System.
The A40 is actually two devices sold together as a kit or separately. First, you have the sweetest pair of gaming (and arguably audio as well) headphones that will ever grace your brainpan. Paired with them is the MixAmp audio mixing system. Put these together and you’re in gaming nirvana.
The A40 sound system is brought to you by AstroGaming, the console designers of that other, vastly inferior gaming system from Redmond, WA. But don’t hold that against them. They’ve more than made reparations for any previous transgressions by bringing the A40 to fruition. And their design skills show up long before you even open the box. Seriously, the box that this treasure comes in is a work of art. No cheap plastic clamshell that makes you rue the day polystyrene was ever invented. No flimsy cardboard that is more worthy of a cereal box than a serious gaming add-on. No, when you open up the A40, you know a lot of thought was put into the design and product. To quote a way over used line “A40, you had me at hello”.
Setting up the A40 does require reading the directions. I know, I know, how dare they?! But trust me, you’re going to want to. And like all the other well thought out aspects of the A40, the reason is awesome. The A40 can be used on a PC, a 360 and a PS3 right out of the box. But these all require slightly different configs and the cables/adaptors you need are right in the box. No late night runs to Best Buy or RadioShack to get the 8mm to 4mm adapter. Want to switch from blasting noobies in MW2 to chatting with your girl on Skype? No problem!
The headset is truly a work of art. And we’re talking DaVinci level here. The cushions on the ear pieces feels like you could curl up and take a nap on them. The boom mic can be switched from the left to the right side. Earpieces move up and down with ease but don’t come out of alignment. If you want to drown out all other noises such as those annoying calls to do your homework, come to dinner or explain to your Mom why your kid sister is locked in the closet again, you can install a piece of included foam and blast away in an isolated existence. Or, if you want to actually be aware of your surroundings, leave out the foam and click in the stylin’ ear pieces (which according to the AstroGaming website can be customized) and you’re good to go.
MixAmp Audio Amplifier
The second half of the A40 package is the MixAmp audio amplifier. While I only had one unit to test, I can see how outfitting your whole gaming team with these is a serious advantage. With a separate voice chat channel, you can daisy chain together several MixAmps and chat with your team. Furthermore, you can switch the balance/volume level between this voice chat and the gaming audio. The MixAmp has the standard array of knobs and buttons (power, volume and the aforementioned voice/gaming mix knob) and like everything else in this package, is sleeker than a freshly waxed Ferrari.
Once I wiped up the drool from the packaging and design, it was time to hook up the system. The included instructions (yeah, I know, still sore about the instructions but trust me, you can still read directions *and* maintain your Y chromosome status) are quite easy to follow. Optical cable from PS3 to MixAmp, USB from MixAmp to PS3, and hook the headset up to the MixAmp. Piece of cake. The whole process took me about 5 minutes. Time to fire up Modern Warfare 2 and see how these bad boys sound.
In a word, “Freakin’ awesome!”. OK, two words, counting was never my strong suit. Unlike mere studio headphones, these 5.1 wonders allow you to hear directional sound. A combatant coming up behind you, you’ll know it (provided he doesn’t put a hole in your head but I digress). Gunshots sound as directionally accurate as they do with a full 5.1 speaker based system. In fact, since most of us have never done the full speaker placement testing for our home systems, I actually felt I had better perception with the A40’s on than from my normal setup. I will probably just play with these on my head and now my neighbors can sleep at night (yeah, when not fragging little punks, I do care about humanity).
So why only 9.9 out of 10? Trust me, this system is far and away the best I’ve tested. But two little nits keep it out of perfection. First, the volume control is on the MixAmp and the MixAmp has to be as close to the PS3 as your optical cable allows. Optical cables ain’t cheap so chances are, you have a short one on hand. The wire from the MixAmp to the headset is just fine but in order to change volume, you do need to adjust it on the MixAmp. This means occasionally getting up off the sofa/futon/barcalounger to adjust the volume. Or, just buying a longer optical audio cable works too.
Second, I tried to use these headphones for speech recognition software on my PC and the software did not like the fidelity of the mic. I listened to the playback and there was a definite lack of higher frequency pickup from the mic. My Plantronics mic did fine so I know it’s not my system. Bummer because these headphones are so comfortable, you could practically sleep in them. But this is no reason not to buy them on the PS3 or for gaming in general.
Overall, neither one of these is any reason not to get yourself a pair of these for Christmas or just to celebrate the first day of the rest of your life. The A40 combo is $249 and the pieces can be bought separately for $129.95 for the MixAmp and $199.95 for the headset. To learn more or buy, head over to AstroGaming’s website.
To read the review on PS3Vault, click here.