As a gamer, every little advantage you can get, you’ll take it. In the past, it didn’t really matter what kind of headset you were using or what kind of audio system you were using with you gaming system because games in the just weren’t as audio-immersive as games are now in the present. You used to be able to get away with just experiencing your games in stereo, but no more.
In an age when everything is about being immersive, stereo output is no longer an option. In-game audio these days are usually all coded in 5.1 Surround Sound and now with online gaming being even more popular then ever before, if you aren’t using a headset that has at least 5.1 Surround Sound, you will find yourself at a serious disadvantage. Up until a few weeks ago, I was using a pair budget headsets that only outputted in stereo and thought they were “good enough.” I won’t mention what they are in this review but when I had first bought them, I thought they made my gaming experience much better as I could finally hear things that I could never hear before through my television speakers. Well, that was then and this is now. About 2 weeks ago, I received what is now my go to headset for everything, not just gaming.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to try out Astro Gaming’s newest “budget” headset, the new Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset. When I say budget, I mean that in the loosest of terms because these really don’t seem like budget headsets. At MSRP $149.95, the quality of the build is top notch and materials used are do not seem cheap at all. On top of that, these are some of the lightest and most comfortable headsets I have ever used.
SPECS & FEATURES:
- Balanced, Dynamic Audio Quality: Tuned for a variety of usages including gaming, music and movies, with crystal-clear voice communication and precise surround-sound performance.
- Dual Mic System: Removable boom mic for console and PC gaming and Skyping, wired inline mic for taking calls on-the-go.
- Incredibly Stylish and Comfortable: Lightweight, on-ear design fashioned to move easily from the office to the living room to the street.
- Quick Disconnect System: Ships with 3 swappable cables for mobile, console or PC setups. Mobile cable features a control button to answer or end calls and also works with iTunes to start, stop, jump forward and jump back.
- Interchangeable Speaker Tags: Choose from a variety of collaborative tags or create your own with the online ASTRO customizer (sold separately).
- Carrying Case: Every ASTRO headset purchase comes with a complimentary, high-quality ballistic nylon travel case to protect your investment.
- Optional Upgrade: The A30 headset works great by itself on PC and mobile devices, but needs to be teamed with a MixAmp for online console play.
Unlike Astro Gaming’s A40 Audio System, the Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset is simpler in design. That doesn’t mean it is any less functional. It just means that Astro Gaming probably did this so they could offer a more cost effective headset that still doesn’t skimp on audio quality. I”m glad they took this route instead of offering a cheaper A40 with only stereo output. The Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset I received came in “Astro White.” Don’t fret though if you aren’t into white. The Astro A30 also comes in a nice shade of “Astro Black.”
The way the Astro A30 is designed, all the wires are hidden within the headset except for the initial 1 cable coming form the left of the headset. This is also the side you would attach the removable boom mic when you are using the headset for online gaming or PC online chat. The headset is very minimal in design much like the Astro Scout backpack. There are only a few points of adjustment on the Astro A30 still makes for a pretty configurable headset. The earphones are able to rotate a full 90 degrees on the y-axis and about 5-10 degrees on the x-axis. This allows for a pretty wide range configurations right there and because they also rotate to 90 degrees, it allows for easy storage later. Where the earphones attach to the top of the headset there is also an adjustment for height, about 8-clicks for each side. On my head I have to extend the headset out to the full 8-clicks per side. At that point, they fit just perfect. I’m wondering however if someone with a bigger head then I would find that there is not enough height adjustment. I almost wish maybe that Astro would add another centimeter or so per side just to widen the range a bit more. That is just a small issue some might have although I did not.
As with the Astro A40, the A30 also allows for custom speaker tags. This is one of Astro Gaming’s biggest selling points with their audio systems because it virtually allows anyone to really have their own unique pair of the Astro A30. The Astro A30 comes with a default pair of speaker tags but you can order a custom set for as little as $19.95 for pre-made designs or a little bit more for custom one-of-a-kind designs.Â This is a great option for those who maybe want to display their clan logos on their headsets. In fact, because the speaker tags are detachable from the Astro A30, you could in essence modify your existing speaker tags and customize them yourself if you are brave enough or confident enough in your skills.
The Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset also features the same break-away cable system as the A40. My Astro A30 came with a variety of extra cables that allowed for it to be hooked up to almost any device. I am able to use the A30 on anything from iPhones, BlackBerry devices, Computers, and video game systems, although in order to connect it to your gaming console, you will need to purchase the optional Astro Gaming MixAmp either in a bundle with the A30 or as a separate unit. The break-away portion of the headset, which Astro calls the “Quick Disconnect System” sits only a few inches away from the left speaker. This is because there is an inline mic that is part of the “Quick Disconnect System.”Â This portion has a handy mute switch as well as an A/B switch which selects your mic preference. “A” is for the boom mic and “B” is for the inline mic.
Great audio quality is worthless without comfort. If you can’t keep a pair of headsets on for longer then 30 minutes before they become unbearable, then they aren’t worth the money you paid for them. So how does the Astro A30 stack up? Well, unlike other headsets I’ve used in the past, the cans on the Astro A30 are a bit smaller than some of the others. While most other headphones have the foam padding that goes completely over your ears, the A30 is smaller and the foam pads actually fit right on top of your ears. Does this make them any less comfortable? No. The A30 is padded with probably some of the softest material I have felt on any headset. They also seemed wrapped in the same soft suede-like material as the Scout backpack. I had the Astro A30 on a good solid 2-3 hours per game session and never once did they ever feel uncomfortable or painful. In fact, with my old gaming headset, my ears used to get really sweaty and hot because they would enclose my entire ear. Now, I’m not sure if its because these sit on your ear instead of around them or if its the material that is used, but I never feel as if my ears are getting hot or sweaty. Just a small observation.
Also, the A30 is not overly tight around your head. Some headsets are so tight that after a while, they really start to get uncomfortable. On the Astro A30, there seems to be just the right amount of springiness where they are not very tight or overly loose. In fact, there were times when I would forget that I was even wearing them when I would disconnect them to go somewhere else away from my TV.
I am basing my audio impressions here mainly with my experiences I’ve had using them for gaming. To be exact, most of my time spent with the Astro A30 was used playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the Xbox 360 in combination with the Astro Gaming MixAmp which we will cover in a separate review.
When it comes to online gaming, being able to hear everything around you is a big key to winning. Not only must you be visually aware, but you must also be aware of your surroundings based on your sense of hearing. We will use Battlefield: Bad Company 2 as an example here. Using only the speakers from the television, I am only really able to hear background music from the game as well as the usual weapons fire, explosions and noises my character makes as I run from point to point. This might have been sufficient in the past, but not if you are a competitive gamer and especially in game such as BF:BC2. Next up was to test out the game with the Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset. What a world of difference this makes. Because the Astro A30 outputs in 5.1 surround sound, not only are you able to distinguish left and right channels, you are also able to tell where noises are coming from in a 3D environment. To test this, I had a friend of mine circle me in the game while i closed my eyes and I could literally hear him running around and could tell exactly which direction the noise was coming from.
In actual game play, this is a huge advantage. I could hear where shots were coming from at a distance. I could hear when enemies would sneak up behind me or if they were any where near me from the rustling of leaves or disturbance of grass. It really is something that everyone should experience, especially if you want to experience full immersive gaming. Nothing beats having 5.1 channels for gaming.
I should mention that audio quality on the Astro A30 is excellent. Audio is clear and crisp. There is just the right amount of treble without it being piercing and the bass is nice and deep. It’s hard for me to describe just exactly what my listening experience is to you because everyone’s tastes are different but in my opinion, what I heard was very clear and clean. I did not notice any distortion at all in any of the audio.
There is really so much I could continue saying about these that I could really go on and on but to get straight to the point, you can’t go wrong purchasing the Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset. Each Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset comes with a ballistic nylon travel case that helps protect your A30 during transport as well as a bundle of cables that will allow you to connect the A30 to a myriad of devices. The Astro A30 also lets you to connect them to a mobile phone while allowing you to chat with them which is something I have not seen before on anyone else’s headset.
What exactly is “Cross-Gaming” that I keep mentioning and what does it mean? Astro Gaming describes the Astro A30 as a “Cross-Gaming Headset” because ” it is the first audio equipment designed specifically to move freely between mobile, console, and PC gaming platforms across all forms of digital entertainment.” Well, I can surely say that the Astro A30 does indeed live up to the title of “Cross-Gaming Headset” thanks in part to their Quick Disconnect System and the fact that Astro Gaming saw fit to include an inline mic with the Astro A30.
There are only a few gripes I have with the Astro A30. First, the finish on the headset itself. The top portion of the headset is a matte white while the bottom of the headset where the speakers are are painted a shiny glass white. Not really too sure what the reasoning is for this but I”m assuming that maybe since the top portion is so flexible, they didn’t want any of the paint to start chipping off if they had painted it as well? Also, some of you might not like the on-ear design of the A30 but I found them to be quite comfortable, even during long sessions.
One final gripe that some may have is that fact that you will need to purchase the optional Astro MixAmp in order to use these for online play with Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. There is no getting around that. The Astro MixAmp by itself is a $129.95 option that some may not be willing to spend, however, if purchased as a complete Audio System with Astro A30 the total price of ownership becomes only $229.95 which saves you quite a bit of money. I suggest that anyone who wants the Astro A30 for gaming, the MixAmp really is a necessity for anyone who is serious about their gaming and want to experience true immersive gameplay.
In the end, the price of entry really is not such a big deal especially considering the quality of the headsets and the quality of the audio. These are really the lightest and most comfortable headsets I have used and the fact that I can basically just unplug from any source quickly and easily and then take them on the go is a major plus for me. I’m the type of person who loves to take my gadgets with me and the fact that I can use the same headset on all my devices now is a huge value added plus for me. My old headsets are basically collecting dust now along with all my ear buds that I used to won for my Zune and BlackBerry. I definitely recommend these to anyone, even if you aren’t a gaming geek, to buy these.
Our very own Jason Anderson also got a chance to spend some time with the Astro A30 Cross-Gaming Headset but instead of using them purely for gaming, he had a chance to make use of them with different devices. Here is his take on the Astro A30.
Day 1 First thoughts:
Didn’t think I’d be one of those big headphone on the train wearers but I got over that. Bass on these are GREAT. I love bass and these deliver. Played songs like Kanye West Love Lockdown and the bass sounded wonderful. I really like the pause/unpause button, makes for quick stop/go when I need to listen to a train announcement.
Day 2 – Set up
Set up could of gone easier if my receiver had a TosLink. Since I didn’t, it took me a little bit to figure out. If you aren’t Tech Savvy, using the Mixamp might take you a little time to figure out. But if you are looking to Astro Gaming for your headphone needs, then I’ll assume you know what your doing, unless your a poser lol.
Got the audio to play just fine after I connected the Mixamp to the PS3 via the RCA connection. Took me a little bit to get the mic working, but only because I didn’t realize how to turn the mute off. Kept looking for a “red light” but it was just a red thing on the inline mic.
Day 3 – Game Time!
When meeting with the team from Astro Gaming, while they was telling me their history, told me one of the stories from when they first brought their gear to the gaming league. They told me how at first they got banned with the team they were working with because they kept winning because they had an advantage because of the headphones.
I’ll say the same thing when I’ve played. Currently I’ve been playing Modern Warfare 2 and these headphones have definitely given me a advantage. When playing I would literally hear people coming and turn in time to get them before they got me.
Plus it has definitely been a help when I didn’t want to hear the useless conversation of other gamers and just focus on the game. It has also come in handy when I’ve wanted to play late night or early morning without disturbing the family. They don’t hear a thing and it sounds loud to me. The Surround Sound was great. It is to the point where, I prefer to play games with the headphones, even if I’m not talking with someone else.
Final Thoughts –
These have literally become my main headphones. I use them for everything. When I listen to music to/from work on my Blackberry I’m using these headphones. When I’m playing a game on my PS3, it is with them. I haven’t done any online chat with Skype or anything, but I can imagine I’ll be using the headphones as well for that.