Tom’s Guide Reviews the A40 Audio System

Ever since the original launched back in 2008, the A40 Audio System from Astro Gaming has been considered one of the best, if not the best PC and console gaming solutions available. Now it’s 2009, and the A40 is back with some adjustments and improvements that make it even better.

The A40 system comes in two large black boxes. In one box, there is the A40 headset, its hard-shell case, detachable mic, three speaker tags (plates that go on the outside of the cans), sound-dampening padding, a quick-release to stereo connector, and a quick-release to 3.5 mm audio/mic cable. The USB MixAmp comes with a daisy-chain connector, RCA cables, an Xbox-controller audio cable, and a USB cable (regular to mini-B). We also received a six-foot TOSlink optical cable ($19.95) and a rechargeable battery pack (also $19.95), but neither of these are included with the headset or MixAmp.

The design of the A40 system hasn’t changed greatly since the original came out. The headset looks identical, but has improved wiring and a different kind of driver in each can. The headset still comes with brackets that attach the cans to the headband, while the rest is wrapped in plastic (in this case, a clean matte black). The cans still leave plenty of room for your ears, which is conducive for long gaming sessions with no worries about sore ears or migraines. Astro has also added a limited run of red, blue, and green color options for its A40 headset.

Like the A40’s design, the MixAmp is also largely unchanged, expect that its USB connection now sends and receives audio as well as power. This is how the A40 MixAmp is PC- and PlayStation 3-friendly right out of the box. The button layout on the MixAmp is simple and intuitive. There are two volume knobs, a power button, and a Dolby Digital-control knob. Once the MixAmp is powered on, the Dolby decoder immediately activates without any tinkering. In short, the MixAmp is simple and effective.

The A40 isn’t as comfortable as some of our less expensive headsets, but it beats out the AX 720, its primary competition. The A40 is light, but sturdy, and even if the Siberia v2’s are more comfortable, the A40 isn’t a bad experience for your noggin by any means.

The detachable microphone can be fastened to either can and is completely bendable. The action on the mic is very fluid, but not to the point where the mic won’t stay in place. This means there’s no hassle when you need to move the mic away from your mouth while you’re cursing out the teammate that just got you killed.

The A40 system comes with an easy-to-read diagram mapping out the different ways you can set up the A40 system with the 360, PS3, and PC, while each system has a “good,” “better,” and “best” connection method. The included accessories ensure that you can connect to both consoles and your PC in some way, but the lack of an optical cable in either box means you have to dish out some extra cash for the pleasure. The rechargeable battery pack might be a luxury, but when you’re talking about a $250 gaming headset and mixer, an optical cable should come free of charge.

Once you connect your A40 system to a console, you will understand why the A40 system costs over $200. The sound quality in this headset and mixer are amazing and second to none in the headset market. The bass/lows are right where they should be and are thunderous but not overwhelming. The mids and highs are crisp and clear. All told, the audio capabilities combined make ODST and Killzone 2 sound fantastic.

Much like the AX 720, the A40 MixAmp wouldn’t agree with our onboard sound. Sparing ourselves another several hours of troubleshooting, we went right to the 3.5 mm connector adapter and plugged the A40 headset directly into the motherboard. Yet again, the A40s did not disappoint.

What else can we say? The Astro A40 system is easily one of the best headsets/gaming audio systems we have ever tested. Expensive? Yes, but if you plan on using it with your PS3, 360, and PC, then it’s a sound investment. Overall: 4.5/5

If you want to check out the A40 Audio System and all other things Astro Gaming, head over to their website for pricing and purchase.

To read the original review, please click here.