Manufacturer: Astro Gaming
MSRP: $129 Standalone, $199 with A30 Headset, $249-$259 with A40 Headset
Sound Produced: 7.1 Surround (Simulated)
Frequency Response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
Primary System: Universal: TOSLINK (PC sound card, Xbox 360, PS3), Coaxial (PC sound card), Stereo Analog (PC sound card) – USB for power and chat communication, 2.5mm – 2.5mm cable (included) required for Xbox 360 voice communication
Connection Method: TOSLINK (Digital Optical)/Coaxial/Stereo Analog, USB (Power, PC/PS3 chat), 2.5mm-2.5mm cable (Xbox 360 chat)
Astro Gaming has taken a universal approach to their hardware, providing a one size fits all solution for gamers using any platform that outputs a digital optical signal. While universality has the potential to connote a sacrifice in quality in the name of versatility, Astro has managed to find the perfect balance. You cannot simply purchase the Wired Mixamp by itself, though, so be sure to take a look at our writeups on both the A30 and A40 headset models to determine which is a better fit for your needs.
The Wired MixAmp comes ready for game audio and chat across platforms right out of the box, with all the cables you’ll need to connect for full functionality to your PC, Xbox 360 or PS3. Additionally, the Astro Gaming Wired Mixamp is designed with LAN and team-play in mind. The ports for connection to consoles and PC are located at the top of the device, but the magic happens on the bottom.
There, you’ll see a port for any headset (though Astro has designed the device with their A40s and A30s in mind). In addition, there is a giant orange plug used for daisy chaining multiple wired mixamps together. For a LAN environment the plug itself can be used to connect two devices together, linking as many units as is necessary. Alternatively, you can remove the plug and use a cable. This routes the chat channel through the headset for coordinated team play. Having used the device in this configuration, I can attest to how well it functions. It seems that Major League Gaming agrees, as Astro has locked up the affiliation.
The A40 Headset is a rugged yet comfortable piece of gaming headwear. Featuring both a uni-directional, flexible, noise canceling boom microphone and an in-line omni-directional microphone, there are a variety of different configurations to suit your needs. The microphones can easily be toggled using the Quick Disconnect port that hangs not terribly low under the chin. This is also where the mute switch is located, which is far easier than a button or slider further down the cable, as well as a call-answer button should you decide to use them with a mobile phone.
One of the unique features of the headset is that the microphone can be plugged into either of the circumaural ear cups. While they are designed to be used in conjunction with one of Astro’s mixamps, you can plug the headset directly into a PC, gaming portable or mobile device. This is particularly neat for getting great audio out of an iPad for movies. Of course, you might not want to be lugging a large headset out of the house with.
That’s where the A30 Headset comes in. The smaller, more lightweight model has a removable, smaller boom microphone (also noise canceling and flexible). These are far less likely to draw odd looks when taken in public (complete with protective case). I used these for a long time on a daily commute from New Jersey into New York City, right along many other people with all manner of similarly sized, high end headsets. The microphone on the A30s can only connect on the left side, and rather than connecting directly into the on-ear cup, the port is lower and further toward the mouth. The A30s was originally the only model designed with an in-line microphone, making it the more portable of the two. While that’s no longer the case (the A40s have the in-line mic also now), the smaller headset is definitely more travel-friendly. Both headsets feature voice monitoring (so you don’t accidentally end up screaming because you can’t hear yourself) and are good choices. Your individual needs will likely drive a decision in one direction or the other.
What’s in the box?
- 3 meter TOSLINK (Digital Optical) cable
- 1.5 meter 2.5mm-2.5mm Xbox Live chat cable
- 3 meter USB-USB Mini power/chat cable
- 2 meter 3.5mm Audio Cable
- Daisy Chain Connector
Cables that come with A30 headset:
- 3′ Mobile (3.5mm) Quick Disconnect cable
- 6′ 3.5mm Quick Disconnect cable
- 6′ Dual Jack PC Quick Disconnect cable
- PC Adapter/Splitter
Cables that come with A40 headset:
- 2 meter 3.5mm Quick Disconnect cable
- PC Adapter/Splitter
Aesthetic and Durability
The Astro Wired Mixamp is compact piece of equipment for it’s functionality. Many other headsets require larger, more complex boxes and, if wireless, large transmitters. The simple, squarish look is unassuming, but after a bit of use, it’s easy to see why.
The knobs are large and easy to find in the midst of play, with an easy to feel “click” at the mid-point. This allows users to easily reset to default and retweak as necessary. The bright orange daisy chain plug highlights one of the Mixamp’s best features, but make sure that it’s firmly plugged in when you aren’t connected to another unit to avoid sound degredation.
The A40s are large, but not unwieldy. The default models come in white or black, though there are a variety of licensed versions with different color earcups, headbands and more. The plastic is lightly textured with the the Astro name embossed into the top of the headband. One of the aesthetic touches that I love is the visible cable coiled in the adjustment posts. This part and the speaker tags are the only glossy accents on the headset. The MLG logo is also featured discretely on the headband. The band itself is suspended in-between two thinner plastic pieces. This allows a springier, less rigid feel despite the heavy foam underside. This also cuts the weight down significantly.
The microphone boom is a flexible piece of plastic encasing the heavy duty cable. The microphone itself is covered by a brushed metal protective piece rather than a wind sock. I never noticed an excessive amount of wind or popping due to the absence of a foam covering.
The A30s are significantly smaller, and also have a sleeker appearance. This is probably so they can more easily be used in public without strange looks from civilians. Rather than an open, airy band, the A30s have a solid plastic band of the same, lightly textured material. The Astro name is embossed, with the underside made of the same light, comfortable foam as used on the A40s. The exterior of the earcups and the rest of the section beneath the adjustment point are glossy, with light metal accents where the the cups can turn to lay flush against the shoulders. The microphone port is also metallic, with the actual unit smaller, but as flexible as the mic on the A40s. Again there is no wind sock; just a metallic covering that serves to protect the element.
The biggest thing to know about the aesthetic style of the Astro headsets is that the ear tags (the external coverings of the ear cups) are interchangeable. Using Astro’s online design tool, you can create custom tags. I’ve used the design tool and purchased a set for my A30s and was extremely impressed with the speed and quality of the production. If you are really looking to make your headset your own, you might lose hours (just like I did) just playing with the online designer.
Both headsets feel durable without being overly weighty, and I’ve never had concern about fragility with either.
Ease of Setup and Use
As easy as the Astro Gaming Wireless Mixamp is to configure and move around, the Wired Mixamp blows it out of the water. Assuming your PC supports a digital optical output, all you’ll need is the TOSLINK cable, the USB cable and your headset. For Xbox 360 chat, you’ll also need the 2.5mm-2.5mm cable. That’s it.
Since power is drawn from the USB connection, you won’t need to lug around a clunky power adapter if you want to move the unit around to game in different locations. The wired mixamp was designed with LAN play in mind, which means it needed to be designed with portability in mind.
The headsets use a Quick Disconnect system that allows you to change cables and move from place to place easily. For instance, if you use the long cable with your PC and the short cable with your consoles, you can leave the cables in place when you move from room to room. It’s a neat system, especially when you have different Astro mixamps, but want to use the same headset. Granted, this won’t apply to too many people, but if you’re looking to buy into a brand and a system, you may decide to expand down the line.