I’ll be honest: I’ve never been one for the traditional gamer headsets. Usually they are gaudy pieces of cheap plastic designed to “look cool” but oftentimes skimp on what’s important: the sound quality. Over the years I’ve used quite a few brands, but one that I’ve never had the opportunity to really use other than at press events were the Astros.
Typically thought as one of the better-quality headset makers on the market, the Astro line has become almost synonymous with gaming audio in many circles. The Astro A40 Tournament Ready seeks to capitalize on a growing segment of players looking for high quality audio as well as servicing the esports community. The A40 TR seeks to give esports athletes and organizations looking for the best sound quality as well as clear, issue-free communication.
This isn’t a new niche either - Victrix’s Pro AF headset was also designed to solve this very issue last year, and Astro has carried at Tournament Ready solution for at least a few years, iterating on both the headset and the mixamp since at least 2015. So how does this year’s model stack up against similarly priced competition? Specifications
- Drivers: 40mm Drivers
- Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
- Distortion: THD <0.1%
- Microphone: 6.0 uni-directional
- Nominal Impedance: 48 ohms
- Ear Coupling: Over-Ear
- Weight w/0 Cable: 369 grams
- Connection: 3.5mm Mini-stereo
- Frequency Repsonse: 20-24,000 Hz
- Power Output: 100 dBSPL
- Input: Optical In, USB Game and USB Voice, Aux port line in
- System Requirements: 3.5mm audio port - Headset; Optical[S/PDIF] - Console Only, USB 2.0 Port - Console/PC
- Price: $249.99
First impressions were great. The packaging feels premium, which it should given the cost of the headset and mixamp combo. Additionally, while the headset is made out of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap like some plastics do. While I’m still not a fan of the overall look of most gaming headsets, the Astro A40 doesn’t evoke that “gamer aesthetic” you typically see with many companies. The headset itself is stylized, not in an overly gaudy way. And while it’s not the minimalistic design I typically like, it’s not bad at all.
The A40 is also extremely lightweight, meaning wearing the headset for extended gaming sessions hasn’t been an issue. I don’t have an overly huge head, but I did feel at first the A40 was a little small. However, after some more adjusting I was able to get the right fit. The standard ear cups haven’t exactly made me an Astro convert, though. While the material itself is breathable, the cloth material used on the standard ear cups becomes itchy over time. Astro does sell mod kits, but it’s a shame the standard ear cups on the headset aren’t higher quality overall.
The sound quality, though, is outrageously good. I’ve been using a stereo headset with Dolby Atmos on my PC lately, but there is such a huge difference in having it built into the headset itself. When combined with Astro’s stellar MixAmp, the sound quality just takes a huge leap.
While my stereo Victrix Pro AF headphones aren’t bad by any stretch, even when paired with either their own TeamAmp or Astro’s fantastic MixAmp, the difference back to back is huge. The drivers are smaller, but the way they are utilized gives off such a huge sound. The highs and backgrounds in Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” shined through, but it was how the Astro A40 treated the bass that really impressed me. Listening to Holst’s masterpiece “The Planets” felt like I was listening to it for the first time. Each note stood on its own, and in games it’s even better.
Hearing enemies in Overwatch was made even easier thanks to how clear the surround sound was. One game which I truly believe is an audio tour de force is Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. This game only works due to its audio quality. Having the perfect audio solution helped make this game even more impactful. The background atmospheric sounds - specifically the music - really shined through in a way I’ve never heard in my 4 or 5 times playing through this game.
Games such as The Elder Scrolls Online felt more alive with the ambient sounds in cities and caves. The Astro A40 really makes each game more impactful thanks to the superior sound quality over both the LucidSound LS40 and the Victrix Pro AF.
However, the audio fidelity in game is only one aspect of the Tournament Ready A40. The communications need to be crystal clear in all circumstances, as muddled or muffled audio could cause a break down in a team during the height of competition.
Obviously, I don’t have a tournament setting to accurately put this headset through the paces, but I will say in terms of an on-headset microphone it is one of the clearer, higher quality solutions out there. The LucidSound LS40s simply don’t have enough oomf to make it impactful in high stress environments. The Victrix Pro AF are designed for tournament quality audio - and in my testing at both EVO 2018 as well as Smash tournaments around Las Vegas, the headset delivers in loud environments. However, the microphone can be a bit on the tinny side since the Victrix emphasizes the highs in the frequency.
The Astro A40 microphone sounds decent. For a console player using your standard variety headset, it’s a step up. It does seem to prioritize the low end of the frequency, which could help cut through some of the noise in a tournament setting. It’s nice to be able to mute it by either swinging the microphone up on your headset or using the in-line controller to do so as well.
The MixAmp is really where this set up shines. The MixAmp lets you pump an optical signal into the headset from your console, giving surround sound if you choose from either your Playstation 4 or Xbox One (depending on the package you buy). The addition of a stream jack in the back lets you push the party chat from your console onto your stream easily, allowing the audience to hear everything that’s going on without hassle on your end. Additionally, being able to swap between equalizer profiles on the fly with the MixAmp lets you customize your own audio experience based on what you’re using: a profile for classical music would be different versus something set up to help make Call of Duty’s audio pop. Astro’s software to help facilitate these profiles is easy to install and even easier to use, allowing even a novice user to unlock its full potential.
The entire package does seem pretty generous - a fantastic headset with a killer MixAmp for $249? Sure, the price is expensive for many - $249 is a lot of money. But compared to other similarly priced headsets, it feels like a steal. Compared to the LucidSound LS40, which costs less and sounds worse overall, or even the Victrix Pro AF, which is more expensive for their full package, yet is only a headset, the Astro A40 TR with the MixAmp Pro seems like the best deal.
At the end of the day, not everyone needs this headset - it’s a higher end product with a focus on streaming and esports athletes looking for a headset to work in an esports environment. However, just because it’s meant for esports doesn’t mean it can’t be used in everyday use. I’ve used it for a week now and I’m not sure I’m going back to my Victrix at this point. And while I really wish the standard ear cushions were a different material, the Astro A40 Tournament Ready with MixAmp Pro is a fantastic package for those who are looking to buy one of the best headsets in the higher end price range.