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Astro Gaming A40 + MixAmp M80 review

Katharine Byrne
30 Mar 2016
Astro A40 headphones with M80 MixAmp
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
135
inc VAT

A great-sounding pair of gaming headphones with handy extras for Xbox One owners, but everyone else can hear what you're playing as well

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TVs are getting thinner and thinner every year, which is great news for design buffs, but less so for audiophiles, as the sheer lack of space means less room for a big, beefy speaker system. It's particularly bad news for anyone who likes to play games on their TV, and many have turned to buying a pair of dedicated gaming headphones to help make their explosions sound louder, their gunshots more piercing, and sword swipes even more devastating.

Leading the gaming headset pack is Astro, although until recently you would have to have paid a hefty import premium to get a pair of its renowned A40 headphones, as they weren't available to buy directly in the UK. Thankfully, that's all changed now, as you can now buy them straight from Astro online, or through normal retailers like Argos, Currys and GAME.

The 2nd Gen A40 & MixAmp M80 combo on test here has been specifically designed with Xbox One owners in mind. It can be used with other consoles as well thanks to the inclusion of a standard 3.5mm audio cable in the box, but only Xbox One users will be able to take advantage of its M80 MixAmp attachment, which slots into your Xbox One controller's accessory port. This gives you direct access to the headset's volume controls, three EQ modes and two buttons to adjust the balance between the volume of in-game audio and voice chat conversations.

What's coming out on Xbox One? read our month-by-month release date guide

As with other gaming headsets, you'll need to turn down the volume on the TV as the sound coming out of the controller is separate to that being pumped into your display, but the headphones themselves don't require any additional setup, so you can simply plug them in and start gaming. As they use a wired connection, you don't have to make sure they're charged before use either, making them much more convenient than a pair of wireless headphones. Yes, there's a cable connecting your headphones to the controller, but it's so short that it hardly gets in the way while you're gaming, and only the truest of couch potatoes would begrudge having to remove them when they have to step away from their console for five minutes.

Astro A40 with M80 mixamp

The MixAmp is a much better alternative to Microsoft's dedicated Xbox One audio controls, as the buttons not only have a great touch action, but the small LED bars also give you useful feedback on which EQ mode you're currently using and how high the volume is. Of course, the extra bulk of the MixAmp might seem obsolete now that Microsoft's released an Xbox One controller with a proper 3.5mm audio jack, but it doesn't get in the way of your fingers while your gaming, and it's much better than having to dive into Microsoft's onscreen settings menu every time you want to adjust the volume.

The foam head band is comfortable for the most part, but I did find it started to press down on my head after prolonged periods of use. This is a common problem I have with over-ear headphones, though, and a small readjustment was all it took to fix any discomfort. Thankfully, the ear cushions are much comfier, and their large enclosure provided more than enough room to completely surround my ears without feeling like they were pressing up against them.

Astro A40 with Xbox One controller

The sound quality is excellent. Everything from rustling grass to sweeping battle themes was crystal clear on the A40s, and they definitely provided a more immediate and immersive upgrade than our standard TV speakers. I found the middle EQ setting provided the best balance between its bass and treble performance, particularly if a game had an orchestral soundtrack, but the third mode's emphasis on bass certainly helped give explosions and vehicle sections a welcome sense of extra grunt and brute, mechanical strength without becoming too muddy. The first mode, however, sounded very tinny no matter what kind of game I had running, so I'd recommend sticking to modes two and three for the best audio experience.

Voice chat was equally clear in multiplayer games, too, and I could hear what was being said by other players without any problem whatsoever. Those who really like to focus on the task at hand will also appreciate the Game/Voice equaliser buttons on the A40 as well, as turning this all the way down to the Voice end of the spectrum will filter out all in-game sound entirely, allowing you to freely communicate with other players without feeling like you're being drowned out by incoming enemy fire.

Astro A40

The only real downside to the A40 & M80 combo is its terrible sound isolation. This is because they're designed around an open-back system rather than a closed-back system, but it does mean that some of your game audio, particularly high-pitched sounds like gunshots and dialogue, will still be audible from across the room even at normal volume levels. Admittedly, this is a problem common to all open-back headphones, but if you're after a pair of headphones to spare the ears of your friends and family, you'll be better off looking for a closed-back system rather than make do with this particular headset.

As a result, the A40 & M80 MixAmp set comes with a rather large caveat. They sound superb and the M80 attachment is incredibly useful if you have an Xbox One, but their noticeable sound bleed will likely annoy anyone else in the room. This won't be a problem if you mostly play games alone in your bedroom, but it does rather limit their appeal for those still tied to the living room, meaning they just miss out on a full recommendation. 

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