Astro A40 for Xbox One Review
April 24, 2015
The Xbox One-specific edition of the Astro A40 + MixAmp M80 gaming headset is a bit like Dante from Clerks: It’s not even supposed to be here today. But because Microsoft changed their entire voice chat protocol for the new Xbox as well as the type of headset port on the controller, Astro Gaming’s had to make a special version of their most well-known cans.
At first glance, the A40 + MixAmp M80 headset appears to be an elegant variant of the much beloved A40 line. The headset is the same comfortable, lightweight, well-constructed, nicely padded unit that Astro has offered for years (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). The integrated microphone arm easily flips up and out of the way when you don’t need it (or detaches altogether). And the mini M80 MixAmp—a device that’s a fraction of the size of the standard A40 MixAmp—is as plug-and-play as it gets. Just snap it into the controller’s only port and you’re all set. The M80 MixAmp is also extremely easy and intuitive to use, with a large volume knob, mute button, equalizer, and voice/game sound balance buttons right within thumb’s reach.
But sadly, the experience of using the A40+MixAmp M80 begins to go south as soon as you turn on your Xbox One. Most notably, the Xbox One A40s suffer from short, intermittent audio dropouts. They’re extremely brief (one second or less), but they’re eminently noticeable and decidedly annoying. After experimentation (read: jiggling the wire a lot), the issue seems to lie with the ribbon-thin, cheap-feeling audio cable that connects the A40 to the M80. It’s a fixed wire, so there’s no swapping it out for a heavier-duty one. And no matter how still I tried to sit, I couldn’t avoid the sound-dropping problem. For what it’s worth, the firmware for the controller and headset I used are the latest versions, and I also tried two different headsets—but the issue cropped up in those units, too.
Furthermore, while there’s nothing explicitly wrong with the audio quality otherwise—the stereo is crisp and clean—it lacks the deep bass and rich surround-sound audio of the standard A40s, which I’ve used for years. It turns out that the Xbox One A40s aren’t Dolby Headphone capable. This is a stereo headset, transmitting sound wirelessly to the M80 via the gamepad. Laudably, though, this set sports crystal clear chat audio on both ends, making multiplayer strategy sessions sound great.
To be fair, nothing on the box claims the A40 + M80 is Dolby-capable, and it is $50 cheaper than the PS4/PS3/Xbox 360 A40 models (which are Dolby headsets)—but because this unit carries the A40 name, it creates a reasonable expectation for those familiar with Astro Gaming’s products that you’re getting a Dolby set. Perhaps a different model number designation would’ve helped.
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