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Posted on May 25, 2011 in Electronic Games

Astro A40BXR 2011 Edition Gaming Headset – PC/Console Hardware Review

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Astro Gaming A40 BXR 2011 Edition Headset.  PC/Console Peripheral Review.  Manufacturer: Astro Gaming. $199.95

Passed Inspection: Professional grade headset. Superior sound, mic, and ergonomics.

Failed Basic: Quality comes at a price.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a Gamer

The other day, as my 12 year old daughter’s tennis lesson was about to start, the tennis pro was approached by a parent who had borrowed a racket. The conversation was open and as the parent received an answer as to the price of the racket, my daughter wondered aloud, “Who would pay $160 for a tennis racket?” The response was fast: serious tennis players.

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The same rule applies for gamers. I recognize I’m not the average gamer. Further, not all gamers are audiophiles. I am a professional writer who writes about games and the hardware used to play them. One thing I have learned is that when it comes to gaming peripherals, you get what you pay for. I bought a $130 mouse because it does things that a $10 mouse cannot.

Headsets work in a similar fashion. I have bought an $80 headset because it has features and quality that a $20 does not. However, when the opportunity arose to test the brand new A40 BXR 2011 Edition gaming headset I jumped at the chance. The price tag is a bit heavy, but once again a $200 headset does things that even an $80 headset cannot.

First and foremost is the sound quality. Hearing thunderous explosions is well and good, but when I’m playing Hardcore S&D Call of Duty Black Ops where stealth comes at a premium, audible cues are my radar. The alert gamer with quality gear receives sound inputs that can tell him where opponents are. That’s vital in a one-shot-one-kill one-life-per-round of S&D. Deep thunderous bass is crystal clear, but equally important are the high notes that give away telltale clues as to the positions of other gamers. It should be noted that this review is of the A40 BXR headset itself and was not paired with Astro Gaming’s MixAmp which upgrades the headset to Dolby 7.1 surround sound, which I expect to improve audio quality even further. The mic is also superior with excellent noise dampening quality. A noticeable quality difference exists with a deeper, richer, more natural tone being exported.

Lacking the cheering crowds that normally follow me around, instead I chose the next best thing as an experiment. My family was watching the finals of a singing contest on TV with roaring crowds, so I cranked the sound on the soundbar, plugged the headset into my phone (more on that in a moment) and called some folks. Even with the mic an inch away from the speakers with crowds roaring, my voice came through perfectly. The A40 BXR was advertised to give crystal clear fidelity to voices even over cheering crowds at a Major League Gaming event, and in doing my best to recreate that scene it works as advertised. Audio quality is is great and will please audiophiles, the mic is great and will please teammates trying to hear you in a noisy LAN party or competition.

But the quality is just getting started. The A40 BXR is the most comfortable headset I’ve ever worn. It is a modestly heavy headset but the overhead band has comfortable padding and the interior of the headphones has a deep channel to encase the ears causing it to rest almost weightlessly. Each ear is labeled to clearly distinguish left from right. “Speaker tags” are plates that fit on the exterior of the earpiece to dampen noise (or let it in) and foam inserts are also included to additionally close the noise out. The difference isn’t huge – the manual states it’s about five decibels – but it is noticeable. Sometimes you want to hear some of the world around you, sometimes you want to shut it out. The A40 BXR allows you to do both. Even cooler? For $24.95 you can send artwork to Astro Gaming and they’ll make three custom gamer tags for you or your clan.

Opening the box. N.B. the three gamer tags at the foot of the larger box.

The mic is ambidextrous and can be plugged into either the right or left earpiece as you prefer, and there are three gamer tags: one with a hole for the mic, and two without; just in case you want to use the headset for listening only. The gamer tags are attached by small but powerful neodymium magnets (that don’t affect sound quality) that easily pop on and off. Another feature is a quick disconnect (or QD) cable that allows the long cable to remain plugged into the computer but the headset to be disconnected with about a foot of cord hanging from it. It’s perfect if you want to keep your headset on but want to step away from your gaming rig for a moment and not have to fish around to find the audio jacks again. Two connector cords come with the A40 BXR. One cord has two 3.5mm jacks, audio and mic, for connection to a PC, and the other has a single 3.5mm jack which handles both audio and mic for connection to a console, MP3 player, or mobile phone. With the QD jacks, it’s a simple matter to step out of a game, plug the headset’s cord in the phone and use the headset for the phone, then disconnect and repeat to return to gaming. For hardcore gamers who spend lots of time gaming (like I do) this is a really well-thought out feature that indicates Astro Gaming is examining every detail when they create a design. Oh, and there is a 1/4 inch adapter jack for audiophiles who have old school audio jacks.

Perhaps my favorite feature, however, is the positioning of the volume and mute controls. These are mounted on the QD jack, and thank God someone finally figured out how to place the sound control in an accessible, reliable location. I need only move my right hand over to my chest, about pocket high, and feel up or down slightly to find the volume and mute control. No longer do I have to reach all over to find it clipped somewhere on my chest. Thank you, Astro. An additional help is the small bump at the end of the volume dial which tells me THIS WAY IS LOUDER. Seriously, how hard is it to give gamers a tactile cue for the volume? Thank you, again, Astro.

Three other items of note: the A40 BXR comes in three colors: red, blue, and military green, which most of us would recognize as olive drab. The A40 BXR also comes with a travel case. When I travel I have something called my “electronics bag.” It’s a Swiss Army backpack capable of holding my 17” gaming laptop, all the periperhals and accessories for it, and all my other electronic “stuff” like charging cords, surge protector, miscellaneous items like a flashlight. Quality gaming peripherals are typically built sturdily, and I am impressed with the A40’s durable construction, but it is always a worry that hardware could possibly get beaten up in transport. The A40 BXR’s travel case ensures that it is well protected while on the go.

The A40 BXR unpacked.

Lastly, there is an unavoidable statement about the A40 BXR. It wears the official seal of Major League Gaming which indicates hard core gamers are the target audience. Gamers who know their peripherals know quality, but there is also the "wow" factor. It’s like driving up to a party: you can drive up in a Chevy or drive up in a BMW. Whether you break the Astro A40 BXR out to intimidate your buddies at the Friday Night LAN Party, or it’s just resting in your Man Cave when a pal comes to visit, the A40 BXR says, “This is a big boy’s toy.” It’s not the bargain headset your slacker buds picked up in the electronics aisle at Wal-Mart.

 The A40 BXR sans gamer tags.

Summary

Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that’s definitely the case with the A40 BXR. Everything about it delivers a superior audio experience. Extremely comfortable to wear, amazing sound quality, and well-designed ergonomics the A40 BXR is a serious peripheral for serious gamers. Before this review it wore the seal of approval from Major League Gaming, but now it can add the Gaming Editor’s seal of approval from Armchair General.

Armchair General Rating: 99%

 The official website of the A40 BXR: http://www.astrogaming.com/headsets/a40-headset-bxr-edition

About the Author

Jim Zabek has been writing and editing about games and gaming hardware for the last decade. Whether it’s dice, cards, miniatures, counters, or pixels he takes his fun seriously…and seriousness with a healthy dose of fun.

2 Comments

  1. Nice review Jim. Since my $50 headset could qualify as a medieval instrument of torture, the A40 BXR is definitely of interest to me!

  2. Heya, Shelldrake. Yeah, you need one of these and then we can play some Call of Duty together like the old days :)

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