I’m always interested in finding the newest, latest and greatest headset. Audio is key to an enjoyable gaming experience, after all, and a decent headset can do a lot to keep peace within a multi-occupant household without impacting sound quality. Our latest contender is the ASTRO A40 with Mixamp M80 Gaming Headset, a boxed set containing both devices; in particular we’re talking about the Halo 5 Special Edition, which has a nice color scheme and includes some REQ Pack codes like most Halo 5-branded gear.
First, it needs to be said: this is a very pretty headset. I know, I know – that shouldn’t be something worth consideration when it comes to audio gear, but this thing’s not exactly cheap, so it really ought to look good as well. Fortunately, it does! The Halo 5 Special Edition uses that game’s blue/teal coloration, which tends to look nice on most anything, and it’s a well-designed and comfortable piece of kit besides. Apparently it’s meant to match with the Halo 5 controller, though I don’t own one of those myself.
This is a propriety Xbox One headset, but unlike many of the sets we’ve looked at boast such things, the A40 isn’t necessarily tied to your Xbox One. The Mixamp M80, essentially a fancier version of the chat adapter available for the Xbox One controller, provides the connectivity that makes this a platform-specific headset, but there’s also a plain ol’ 3.5mm jack you can use to hook this baby up to a PC or anything else that accepts that input if you’ve got the appropriate cable and possibly a Y-splitter. We’ll be focusing on the Xbox One performance for this review, though, since if you want a PC headset there are plenty of other options available.
If you want wireless output from the Xbox One, you’re going to be using that Mixamp M80. This is essentially a big plate you plug into the bottom of your controller that lets you control volume, mute, and shift sound balance between the game and voice chat. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it’s a nice bonus if you didn’t already have a device to do this on your Xbox One. I’ve seen some complaints here and there about crackling and popping while using the M80, but the issue never came up for me, possibly because I sit fairly close to my console and TV. Presumably you could also wrangle a third-party solution into providing wireless audio for systems other than the Xbox One, but I didn’t try this myself.
The A40’s sound quality is pretty solid, though unfortunately this isn’t a surround headset. It’s some of the best stereo sound you’ll hear, though, and it did justice to every Xbox One game I tried. Halo 5: Guardians was first and foremost, of course, and the awesome booming bass of that title’s many explosions came through without issue. Perfect Dark from Rare Replay was also flawless. A glutton for punishment, I even tried Funk of Titans, which sounded lovely and played terribly. The point is that if you’re fine with stereo output, you won’t have any issues with the A40’s sound.
As usual, microphone quality is a big deal in my book when it comes to headsets. There are few things worse than having buddies yelling at you over VOIP for your awful microphone feedback or whatever, and I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit fiddling with subpar mics in a desperate attempt to stop annoying everyone I’m gaming with. Fortunately, that’s not an issue here. The A40 uses a standard fold-down design for its microphone, so you can easily get it out of your face when it’s not in use; more importantly, I received no complaints about the sound quality. You can also just straight up remove the mic if you’re never going to use it, which is a nice touch…but if you aren’t going to use the mic, you should probably look into a cheaper audio-only headset.
At $200+ the cost of ownership for the ASTRO A40 with Mixamp M80 Gaming Headset is no joke, and for anyone but a dedicated audiophile a cheaper headset (or a fancy Wireless Elite Controller!) might be a better addition to their Xbox One. The lack of 7.1 sound is also aggravating; in the end, the real winner here is the microphone, which provides a fantastic level of fidelity unlike many of the other solutions available for this console. When buying a gaming headset, part of your purchasing decision is based on a price vs. quality equation, and the A40 lies far on the latter side. It’s costly, but (assuming you’re fine with stereo) you’re getting what you pay for.