Hardware Review

Astro A40 Headset and Mixamp Pro 2013 Edition | Hardware Review


Astro are gaming audio specialists, manufacturing a range of headsets for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Known for their dedication to producing quality sound, Astro are perhaps best known for their headset/Mixamp combos. I’ve had some time with Astro’s premium wired headset – the Astro A40 – and the 2013 edition of the Mixamp Pro, and have prepared thoughts for you, and shaped them into words. And they are below.

Technical Specifications:

A40 Headset
Ships With: A40 Headset and Astro Speaker Tags
Headset Cables: A40 Media Controller Cable; PC Splitter/Adapter
Transducer Principle: Dynamic, Open
Frequency Response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 50 ohm
Weight w/o Cable: 324 grams
Characteristic SPL: 104dB
Ear Coupling: Circumaural
Headband Pressure: 2.6 N
Distortion: Less than 0.1%
Microphone: 6.0mm uni-directional noise canceling

Mixamp Pro 2013 Edition
Ships With: Astro MixAmp
MixAmp Cables: 3M Optical TOSLink, 12′ USB-USB Mini, 6′ Xbox Live Chat Cable, 6′ 3.5mm Audio Cable, PC Headset Y-Adapter, Daisy Chain Ports
Power Supply: USB mini-B (USB 2.0 compatible)
Power Output: 70mW 32ohm per channel
Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
Inputs (front): Headset Port, Xbox LIVE controller port, Daisy Chain ports
Inputs (rear): 3.5mm Optical in, 3.5mm Aux in, USB Power/ Voice (mini-B)
Outputs (rear): 3.5mm Stream Out

A40/Mixamp package

Ships With: A40 Headset, Astro Speaker Tags, and Astro MixAmp™
Headset Cables: A40 Console Cable; PC Splitter/Adapter
MixAmp Cables: Optical Cable, USB Power Cable, 1.5M Xbox Live Chat Cable, 2M 3.5mm Audio Cable
Transducer Principle: Dynamic, Open
Frequency Response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 50 ohm
Weight w/o Cable: 324 grams
Characteristic SPL: 104dB
Ear Coupling: Circumaural
Headband Pressure: 2.6 N
Distortion: Less than 0.1%
Microphone: 6.0mm uni-directional noise canceling
Power Supply: USB mini-B (USB 2.0 compatible)
Power Output: 70mW 32ohm per channel
Frequency Response: 35-20,000 Hx
Inputs (front): Headset Connector, 2.5mm Xbox Live voice communication connector, Two daisy chain 3.5mm ports
Inputs (rear): 3.5mm Mini TOSlink, 3.5mm mp3 connector, USB mini-B (audio/power), 3.5mm Stream Output

The A40 and Mixamp combo comes in a big, fold-out box. It’s pretty snazzy, actually, with the top half folding out to the sides, revealing the headphones in a plastic blister support pack, the Mixamp, and a magnetically closed section that holds the requisite (and extensive) cabling. It’s a stylish start that emphasises the premium price. It’s quality boxing, to go with the quality product.

The headset is all straight lines, slopes and sharp edges. The black cups are rounded rectangles, rather than the traditional circular shape. The white tops of the cups slope dramatically inwards at the cylindrical headband adjuster. The headband has straight edges, with sharply sloping plastic edges. There is gently embossed Astro branding on the top of the foam section in the middle of the headband.

Beware of sharp edges.

Beware of sharp edges.

It looks modern and aggressive. Unfortunately, that makes it a little hard to handle. The white plastic’s edges are actually quite sharp. Not sharp enough to cut yourself on, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable objet to squeeze tight. The plastic frame is little more than a skeleton, with a large amount of the plastic cut out. I hesitate to say the A40s are flimsy, since I haven’t been able to test them for too long, and the plastic certainly feels strong, flexible, and durable enough, but the cutaway construction of the plastic frame gives me pause – it just doesn’t look too sturdy.

On the plus side, this eliminates a good deal of weight from the headset. The A40s are light and comfortable to wear. The fabric and foam padding is soft on the ears and scalp, making the A40s a very pleasant wearing experience. I felt I could wear these for hours no problem. Perhaps my only issue with wearing them is that they are slightly loose, slipping when I would nod my head.

The sides of the cups are customisable, with a simple plastic rounded rectangle held on by four corner magnets. These covers are replaceable, allowing you to customise the look of your headset, adding game logos or clan tags or what have you, if you have the time, money, or inclination to do so.

Bottom centre of the left cup houses the microphone attachment. This is the plug for the detachable microphone boom. It’s nicely recessed within the cup cover, offering it some measure of protection from bumps and grime. The mic boom itself is sleek and black, with several cutouts on the outwards side, and a metal cover for the microphone receiver.

I don’t particularly like the placement of the detachable connector cable on left side of the headset. It’s towards the rear of the left cup, hanging directly above the shoulder, rather than in front of it. The way it hangs is a little awkward, but it’s not a huge issue.

It also comes in black.

It also comes in black.

Sound is, as expected, great. Sounds are clear and balanced, with the headset delivering even sound across the frequency range. Bass is pleasingly heavy, without being dominating. The headset’s semi-open construction leaks sound quite a lot, and the isolation is not fantastic, but it does give a width to the soundstage that works well – especially with the simulated 7.1 surround.

The emulated 7.1 surround works surprisingly well. Hitting the 7.1 button on the Mixamp toggles the emulation, immediately affecting the sound coming through the phones. Directionality and distance is emulated in the Mixamp, which is then pushed into the headphones. It gives a relatively decent approximation of 7.1 directionality. Since it is all taken care of in the Mixamp, the 7.1 works with any set of headphones you may have plugged in to the Mixamp – not necessarily the A40s. I like that it plays well with other pairs of headphones – including my beloved Samson SR850s.

The microphone is likewise great quality. Sound is crystal clear. It picks up vocal nuances well. The A40s mic is capable of handling most vocal recording tasks well, including streaming and podcasting. The mic boom itself is pleasingly flexible, yet feels durable, and it can detach from the headset. In short, the microphone is great.

As a bonus, the A40 comes with a cable that allows it to plug it into a phone. You can use it as a headset on the go. And, with the removable mic boom, this is a very real option for users. On the downside, the headset does not come with a protective carry case of any kind, and the cups only twist, rather than fold inwards, limiting portability somewhat.

But the headphones are just half the package. Astro’s A40 headset also (optionally) comes with the Mixamp Pro 2013 edition.

The Mixamp provides a lot of functionality.

The Mixamp provides a lot of functionality.

The Mixamp is a decent piece of tech. It offers the typical inline controller functionality with basic volume control in a big box, but that’s not what makes it special.

The Mixamp is a black sloped box with a number of inputs, outputs, buttons, and knobs. Along the top edge are input plugs for USB power, S/PDIF (TOSLINK/Optical/3.5mm) input from PC, and stream and mp3 in ports. On the bottom edge are 3.5mm headphone out, Xbox 360 controller out, and the daisy chain link ports. On the top face are the LED-ringed recessed power button, the EQ button, and the 7.1 surround button, as well as the volume dial and the game/voice selection dial.

Despite the variety of inputs and outputs, the Mixamp is relatively simple to connect. For PC, it’s a simple matter of plugging in your power, plugging in your line out or audio out, and plugging in your headphones – done. It also connects to your consoles through the various cables and gadgets supplied.

The large volume dial is simple, standard, and effective. More exotic is the voice balance volume dial, which gives you the ability to lower or raise the voice chat volume. It can be a little finicky to get to work – for example, with the standard line out cables on Black Ops 2 PC it didn’t separate the voice channel, but it did for my own microphone. When it works, it works well, though.

Another good feature is the ability to have two extra lines in, meaning you can listen to your entire primary gaming device’s audio stream, as well as have a stream or an mp3 player (or both) running in to your Mixamp. Three separate audio streams in is a great idea for those who like to multitask, or listen to their own tunes with little effort.

Lastly, there is the daisy chain functionality. This allows a group of Mixamps to connect to each other and create a low latency, secure. private voice network. I was not able to test this feature, since I only had one Mixamp, but the idea is a great one, allowing for private voice networks at LAN parties or the like.

Headset and Mixamp offer great functionality in a pretty package.

Headset and Mixamp offer great functionality in a pretty package.

Unfortunately, I noticed that the sound would occasionally cut out. The exact cause and fix is hard to determine, because it was such a rare and unpredictable problem troubleshooting was difficult, but forum trawling suggests it’s a rare USB power issue. But the handful of times it happened in the week and a bit of extensive use I had with it were annoying, and not at all what I would expect from such an expensive piece of hardware.

Another problem with the Mixamp is it is rather big, and it takes the place of inline controls. The only operation the inline controller can perform is muting the microphone. If you want to control your volume, you have to go to the Mixamp. I don’t see the issue with having a separate volume slider on the inline controller for additional operationality when the Mixamp is unavailable, but alas, that is not to be.

I like the A40. It’s a solid piece of tech. It’s comfortable. It sounds great. It’s versatile. It’s very good, but not really extraordinary. The Mixamp, however, elevates the package. Volume controls, EQ options, very acceptable simulated 7.1 surround, the ability to have two extra audio streams in, console compatibility, and the ability to daisy chain Mixamps together to create a separate voice comms network – all contribute to the Mixamp’s utility – when it works. If you already have a headset that you are happy with, you can buy the Mixamp separately. Or, if you don’t feel you need the utility of the Mixamp, you can get just the headset. Either way you want it, the Astro A40 and the Mixamp are both very good products, and will satisfy those looking for a good quality gaming headset.

Review sample provided by Astro. Thank you.


Build Quality – 8/10

Design – 7.5/10

Useability – 8.5/10

Performance – 8.5/10

Price – 8/10


Overall – 8/10

(Not an average)

Manufacturer: Astro

A40 Headset: $149.99
Mixamp Pro 2013 Edition: $129.99
A40 Audio System: $249.99

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Lachlan Williams
Former Editor in Chief of OnlySP. A guy who writes things about stuff, apparently. Recovering linguist, blue pencil surgeon, and professional bishie sparkler. In between finding the latest news, reviewing PC games, and generally being a grumpy bossyboots, he likes to watch way too much Judge Judy. He perhaps has too much spare time on his hands. Based in Sydney, Australia. Follow him on twitter @lawksland.

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