Manufacturer: Astro Gaming
MSRP: $199 with A30 Headset, $279 – $289 with A40 Headset, $129 for A30 Headset alone, $199 – $209 for A40 Headset alone
Sound Produced: 7.1 Surround (Simulated)
Frequency Response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
Type: Wireless, 5.8Ghz
Primary System: Universal, TOSLINK required (PC sound card, Xbox 360, PS3) – USB Chat cable (included) required for PC and PS3 voice communication, 2.5mm – 2.5mm cable (included) required for Xbox 360 voice communication
Connection Method: TOSLINK (Digital Optical), USB for chat (PC, PS3), 2.5mm-2.5mm cable for chat (Xbox 360)
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 Wireless 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 Wireless MixAmp 5.8 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. The unit consists of two pieces: an AC-powered transmitter (Tx) and a battery powered (rechargeable battery pack available as an accessory) receiver (Rx). For Xbox 360 use, the transmitter is solely used to route game audio over the air to the headset. Chat is handled via the controller, as usual.
For PC and PS3, you’ll need to plug the USB to 3.5mm cable into the transmitter with the USB end connecting to the computer. The Tx has only two buttons: one for power and the other for Dolby. The Rx also has two buttons. One is for power and the other is for bass boost. You’ll find three ports on the bottom of the unit for plugging in any headset with a standard 3.5mm jack, for connecting to an Xbox 360 controller and for connecting via USB for charging (with the optional rechargeable battery pack). Of course, Astro would prefer you use one of their products for optimal performance.
The face of Rx features two dials. One is your master volume and the other is for balancing chat and game audio. Depending on the game and how quietly your friends are speaking, you’ll want to know exactly where this dial is, especially when the Rx is attached to your hip via the included clip.
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 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′ TOSLINK (Digital Optical) cable
- 2.5mm-2.5mm Xbox Live chat cable
- 1′ USB-USB Mini charge cable for Rx
- AC Adapter for Tx
- PC/PS3 chat cable (used to be separate accessory)
- 3 AAA batteries
- Belt clip for Rx
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 Mixamp 5.8 is a slick piece of equipment. Both pieces are small and portable, sporting a glossy black. Having used the Mixamp extensively, tweaking volumes with the Rx unit on my hip has become second nature. I appreciate how light the unit is and, whether I’ve got it right next to me or further away on the couch so as not to get tangled up, it never really gets in the way.
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.