Growing up, I played a lot of Call of Duty, and I watched a lot of e-sports, or as we called it back then, “competitive”. The Pros were always wearing these fancy Astro A40 headphones, and watching them make play after play with them, they became a sort of icon for competitive gaming. Bear in mind, that was back in 2012-2013. Years went by, and as I phased out of the Call of Duty scene, or rather, as Call of Duty phased out of the spotlight, I didn’t really hear much of Astro since. In my time at BGeek, I have tested a lot of headsets; some of the greatest headsets our ears had the pleasure of experiencing, and others with clear room for improvement. Still, no Astro headset. This changes today, as I hold in my hands not only the Astro A40 TRs, but also the infamous Mixamp Pro.
For this review, we tested the Xbox version of the Astro A40 TR and the Mixamp Pro TR. The Xbox version works perfectly on Xbox Series X, Series S, Xbox One, and PC. The A40 headset can, of course, work on a PS5, since it uses a standard 3.5mm connection. The Mixamp can also work on the PS5 through a neat little workaround, if you’re fine with not using your headset’s mic.
Please also note that the intended use of this headset and the Mixamp is primarily for e-sports. TR stands for Tournament Ready, and that’s exactly what the A40s are.
In the box
We have already created one of our signature Rapid Unboxing videos for the Astro A40s and the Mixamp. The unboxing experience is one of the best we have come across thus far on a gaming headset. Most companies nowadays opt for using paper and simple cardboard boxes for environmental reasons, but we can still appreciate the few who didn’t change their packaging.
The Astro A40 TR and Mixamp Pro TR box contains:
- A40 TR Headset
- Mixamp Pro TR
- 3.5mm connection cable
- TOSlink Optical cable
- Micro-USB cable
- Daisy Chain cable
The A40 is a bulky headset. It looks big on your head and there’s no way around it. It is, however, extremely comfortable. The headset is mainly made out of plastic, but the bar that connects the earpieces to the headband is constructed of metal. They are on the heavier side, and the construction feels hefty in the hand. Weirdly enough, you can’t really feel the weight on your head, if you adjust them correctly. There’s very comfortable padding on the top of the headband, where it rests on your head, that matches the feel of the ear cushions.
Keep in mind that adjusting the height of the headband can get a little tricky. You can’t really adjust the height while you’re wearing the headset because the adjustment bar is very tightly fit. It’s made to hold your adjustments in place, and it does so very well. If you get it right, you’ll hardly ever need to re-adjust it. When I set it correctly, I was barely able to feel the headset on my head. If you need to fix the height you’ve set it to, you’ll feel a slight pinch on the back of your jawline, at the bottom of your neck if it’s too low, or on the top of your head if it’s too high.
The A40 TRs come with fabric ear cushions that are designed to be breathable and comfortable for long gaming sessions. They feel very cozy for hours on end, and they help with not getting sweaty even on the grindiest sessions. If you do end up sweating, the cushions are detachable and you can take them off to clean them whenever you need to. Keep in mind, that with the fabric cushions, you are sacrificing sound isolation.
The most customizable headset ever, probably
The A40s is a very customizable headset though, and if you’re not feeling the fabric cushions, you can change to a pair of pleather ones by purchasing an A40 mod kit. The mod kits come with a pair of speaker tags, which are interchangeable, a different headband design, and a pair of pleather ear cushions. You see, the A40s are extremely customizable. You can change everything on the headset, except for the main body and the drivers. The speaker tags that cover up the open-back design of the drivers, the headband, and the microphone can all be changed. Astro has tons of different speaker tag designs on their website, and even a Blue mic which you can purchase either separately or as a part of a mod pack.
The Astro A40s are on the heavier side for a gaming headset. Most headsets around this price point (and weight) are made mostly out of metal. But not this one. While I was somewhat concerned about the rigidity of the headset at first, since it’s made out of plastic, it feels incredibly sturdy in the hand. To be exact, the build quality is on par with the best gaming headsets you can get your hands on. The plastic can bend a lot, way more than you’d expect, and there are absolutely no cracks to be heard. The earpieces are somewhat adjustable and can turn left to right, or swivel back and forth in order to fit perfectly.
Turns out, most of the weight comes from the removable parts. Once you get rid of the ear cushions, the speaker tags, and even the removable part of the headband, the Astro A40s get surprisingly light. There is a price to pay for high customizability after all.
If you love headphones with a flat sound signature; welcome to heaven. The Astro A40s offer minimum enhancements to sound right out of the box and offer an audio experience exactly as the developers of the game envisioned it. This is one of the main reasons that made me love the SteelSeries Arctis Prime, and it’s one of the main reasons I really like the A40s too. The only thing that feels enhanced is the lower-end frequencies; the bass. But somehow, it doesn’t drown out all the other sounds. It doesn’t feel boosted, just broadened, something that’s probably the result of having an open-back design. Other than the bass, mids and highs are crystal clear, although I would like the treble to be a little more pronounced.
Positional accuracy is simply exquisite. This is a headset meant for use mostly with FPS games and thus, subtle sounds like footsteps or grenade pins are clearly audible and can be pin-pointed easily. The best thing is that they just like the lower frequencies, they don’t feel boosted. What I mean by that, is that even though they feel more audible than with most headsets, they don’t lose out in quality to gain in volume. All the different frequencies are easily distinguishable, you can always tell what’s going on in the game. As with most headsets we’ve tried out recently, I tested the positional audio with Black Ops Cold War, and then got them for a quick spin in Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City.
This is based on the experience I got from just plugging the Astro A40 straight into my Xbox controller. No Mixamp, no Dolby Atmos, no enhancements. When plugged into the Mixamp, this headset is a whole different beast.
What makes the Astro Mixamp so good?
Don’t get me wrong, the A40 is a damn good headset, even on its own. But when paired with the Mixamp is when it really gets to shine. The Astro Mixamp isn’t only for controlling the game and chat audio, but it also contains an immensely powerful DAC. It features full Dolby Atmos support if you’re into surround sound, and also comes with some neat EQ presets if you prefer the stereo sound.
The Mixamp is nicely crafted
The Astro Mixamp has a very sleek design. Two large metal knobs and a button is the only thing you’ll see when first taking it out of the box. Just as the headset, the Mixamp has some nice weight to it, indicative of its sturdy build. On the bottom, most of the surface protrudes a little and is fitted with a rubber coating to keep it steady when you’re adjusting the volume. On the back, you can see all the available ports; two Daisy Chain ports on either side which are used to link multiple Mixamps together, an Optical port (mostly for last-gen consoles), a Micro-USB port, an AUX port, a Stream port, and a switch that’s used to switch the headset from console mode to PC. You can connect your headset to the Mixamp through the 3.5mm port on the front.
The volume knobs feel very nice when adjusting the volume. They both look and feel premium. There are LED indicators on them that light up when the Mixamp is on, making it easy to find them in the dark. The bigger knob on the left is set to adjust volume, and the one on the right mixes game and chat audio. The chat mixer satisfyingly clicks in place in the middle, offering a precise 50% game, 50% chat mix.
The Astro Mixamp helps brighten up the Astro A40
Now, the A40s are a damn good-sounding pair of headphones, even out the box. The Mixamp Pro TR, however, isn’t just for adjusting volume. There’s actually a very powerful DAC inside of that little thing, that can do wonders in terms of sound quality. It even offers full support for full-on Dolby Atmos surround sound, in addition to Astro’s custom-made presets. Don’t worry about the subscription, Astro offers you a 2-year subscription with every Mixamp Pro purchase! You can cycle through the 4 presets by pressing the button in between the volume knobs. You can create new presets through the Astro Command Center on PC, and replace the pre-built ones.
Now, what the Mixamp Pro does to the sound of the Astro A40 headset, is essentially a pretty straightforward enhancing process. If you’ve ever used high-fidelity headphones, you already know what I’m talking about here. It’s like hearing in 4K. It brings out all the color in the audio, that the flat sound of the A40 can’t really do. Explosions have booming bass, the mids are heavily enhanced and the highs remain easily distinguishable. Essentially, you sacrifice the reference sound of the Astro A40 for a tailor-made experience to what you’re watching or playing. The trade-off is very worth it if you ask me, since the extra depth in the sound can prove to be game-changing in certain scenarios.
The Mixamp Pro TR is what makes this bundle a very good deal. Keep in mind, you can hook up all kinds of headsets to the Mixamp Pro, and while it might not work as well as with the Astro headsets, it will get the job done.
But first, a quick disclaimer
While hooking the Astro Mixamp Pro up on previous generation consoles was pretty easy, through an Optical cable, this is sadly not the case with the PS5 and the Series X|S generation of consoles. The absence of the Optical port will have you connecting the Mixamp to your console through the USB port. This means that you won’t be able to have both your console and PC hooked up to the Mixamp and switch between them on the fly using the flip-switch on the back of the device. But it also means that before you connect your Mixamp to your Series X|S or PS5 console, you will need to connect it to your PC first for a quick firmware update.
If you’re looking for a way to connect your Xbox Mixamp to a PS5, you can do that by setting the platform switch on the back of the device to ‘PC’. It’ll work just fine on the PS5, but you might be unable to use the chat volume mixer. If that is a deal breaker for you, you can get Astro’s HDMI signal extractor for the PS5, which will help you restore functionality to the secondary volume knob.
The boom mic included with the Astro A40 headset is one of the best in the gaming peripherals market, there’s no way around it. The recording quality is simply superb. Plenty of Call of Duty streamers used their Astro headset mic as their primary audio input in their streams back in the day, and after actually testing it, I’m not surprised at all. However, our audio standards are set pretty high nowadays, so a dedicated mic is preferable for streaming, this can get the job done.
But its intended purpose is to communicate with your teammates, and that it does like no other. Astro has found a way to perfectly isolate your voice, and capture only that while eliminating background noises. You can turn on the noise-canceling on your mic through the Astro Command Center on your PC. There are four stages of noise-canceling, with ‘streaming’ being the strongest one. It starts picking up sound only when you start talking and cuts off immediately after you finish your sentence. There’s no hissing, and no annoying -s enhancement you usually get from gaming headset mics. It’s quite surprising how well it actually works.
The mic is not only completely removable, but it’s also hot-swappable. You can plug it in whichever side feels more comfortable to you, and it works like a charm. If you’re not feeling the included mic, you can even order the Blue Icepop Mic for the Astro A40 headset from Astro’s website and use that one instead!
Astro A40 TR + Mixamp Pro TR: Verdict
The Astro A40 is the perfect example of what a premium gaming headset should offer and feel like! It’s a product that offers exactly what you’d expect it to offer when you look at its price tag. Is it expensive? It absolutely is. But it’s also a headset aimed at those who are looking to get the most out of their gaming experience. Be it casual gaming, e-Sports, or even movie watching, the A40s offer an experience second-to-none, especially at this price point. If you’re looking for the absolute best-in-class in gaming audio, this is one of your finest options.
What really sets it apart from the competition and makes it a great value, at least in my eyes, is the Mixamp Pro TR. This powerful little device untaps the potential of the Astro A40 and brings out all the different layers of sound that are hidden underneath the headset’s reference sound. What’s even more interesting is that you can hook up any kind of headset to the Mixamp Pro. That alone, makes it a worthy purchase, at least in my eyes.
You see, the Astro A40 TR + Mixamp Pro TR bundle is a package made with a specific audience in mind. Gaming and audio enthusiasts. And for that specific audience, it is one of the best deals out there.
We would like to thank BGeek partner, Smartoys.be for providing the review unit we used for this article.