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Astro A30 Audio System Review

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Mellow, Nov 26, 2010.

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    Mellow @MellowLive

    Very few people would dispute that the reigning champion of the headset world is the Astro A40 Audio System. After the headset gained notoriety as one of MLG's sponsors, any serious gamer with a bit of cash sought to purchase the in demand headset. And for good reason, the A40s weren't just well publicised, they were also worth their weight in gold. Offering LAN compatible high quality sound, as well as the revolutionary daisy chain system, seemingly the only downside to the A40 audio system was their lack of availability. Nowadays, Astro have got suppliers this side of the Atlantic, and anyone with a bit of cash can make the investment and pick up a pair of A40s for their gaming pleasure.

    While the A40s were still dominating the headlines, Astro Gaming released their second headset: the Astro A30. The A30s still offered a lot of what made the A40s so successful, but, with a few significant differences that make the A30s a great headset in their own rights. IGN reviewed the A30 Audio System and awarded it a staggering 9.7 out of 10, which made the A30s IGN's highest rated headset on the market today. Despite all of this, I didn't know a single gamer who owned a pair of Astro A30s, so I took it upon myself to find out how good this headset truly is and with the help of the lovely people at Astro Gaming, I was given a pair to review.

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    Anyone who has ever laid eyes on an Astro product will tell you that aesthetically they look great, and this transcends right through to their immaculate packaging; with each part of the Audio System packaged separately with Astro Gaming's unique box design, I almost felt guilty opening the boxes. The Audio System is split into three parts – the headset, the MixAmp and the speaker tags. The headset comes boxed in a protective case which, considering the price of the headset, is a more than welcome addition to the party. One immediate criticism I have of the A30 case is that it is not large enough to house the MixAmp also, but this is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

    The headset also comes equipped with a variety of quick fit connectors to allow simple connection to your console, PC or MP3 player. How useful is this? Very. Currently it takes me about 10 seconds to swap from my 360 to my PC. Anyone who has listened to the latest podcast will notice the huge improvement in my mic quality versus previous episodes and this is all thanks to the Astro A30 setup.

    The A30 Audio System comes with the latest MixAmp, which has had a bit of a makeover since its first release, although functionality remain identical as far as I'm aware. The MixAmp comes with a range of different wires for almost all your connection needs, including a USB cable to power the MixAmp, stereo headphone jack, COAX, and RCA connectors.

    The final part of the system was the speaker tags. Now synonymous with the Astro Audio System, Astro's speaker tags give the gamer personal customisation of their headset. Attached simply by magnets, the speaker tags are interchangeable with relative ease. The A30s come with one pair of speaker tags but at only $30 for a custom pair (including delivery) they're good value for any serious gamer. The A30 speaker tags also come immaculately packaged much like the rest of the Audio System so owning multiple pairs is possible if you're that way inclined.

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    A side by side comparison of the A40 and A30 headsets shows a significant difference in size between the two (picture is no longer available). The A30s are also significantly lighter than the A40s. As well as boasting the trademark Astro speaker tags, the ear cups are actually smaller than that of their predecessor. The cups don't fully cover your ears but rather sit on top. Despite this, there seems to be no problems with comfort, or with sweaty ears. The ear cup padding is not interchangeable on the A30s, unlike a few other headsets on the market. To me, this isn't a problem but for a fussy few, this might be an aspect of the headset that they miss.

    The frame of the headset comes in either white or black, as chosen during purchase. Personally, I have a white pair and think that the white frame and black padding compliment each other particularly well. The frame is adjustable and will easily fit the largest of domes, and on top of the frame is the trademark 'Astro' text. Below the left ear cup you will find the microphone port. Unlike the A40s, you're restricted to plugging the microphone in on the left side only, not that this is a problem at all really. For me, the mic being removable is more than enough for when you're listening to music or watching a film on your PC or laptop.

    One feature of the Astro A30s that I believe could be easily missed, is the built in microphone. This can be found on the connector that plugs into the various cables about 12 inches down from the left speaker cup. Simply switching the audio channel to B introduces this built in mic. While the sound quality and ease of communication is definitely not as good as using the primary mic, mostly because the mic is quite a way away from your mouth, the idea is a good one, especially since the A30s are designed to work with a mobile phone.

    Most people reading this will have already been introduced to the Astro MixAmp. For those who haven't, the MixAmp is without a doubt one of the best pieces of kit that is available for the Xbox 360 to date. Powered by batteries, or through your console's USB port, the MixAmp takes Dolby Pro Logic II and Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding and feeds it into your favourite Dolby headset. Astro Gaming describe their MixAmp as 'a home theater in the palm of your hand'.

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    With an extremely simple design, the MixAmp has almost become an icon within the MLG scene. The MixAmp combines functionality and discrete design. Presented as a small box with various input and output ports, two dials and two buttons. The larger dial allows you to easily control the volume of your sound, while the smaller dial helps you strike up a balance between the voice levels of and the game volume levels you're subjected to. The left button is a small power button while the right button enables digital surround sound, with stereo sound enabled when the light is not illuminated.

    The MixAmp also has a range of inputs, as previously described, with the optimum input being an optical cable, which is sold separately. The headset connects to the front of the MixAmp, and for Xbox Live communicator use, there is a separate port which connects from the MixAmp into your pad. Simple stuff. The MixAmp has also been designed with competitive gaming in mind. With the ability to daisy chain the MixAmp, either using the small red block provided or a separate cable if your MixAmps are further apart, this allows teams to communicate with close to zero latency on their communication, for when milliseconds matter. Even more impressively is that another MixAmp can be daisy chained in, for the benefit of a coach, without another Xbox 360. As coaches are becoming an increasingly game changing part of your average team, Astro are already providing the solutions.

    In the most important area, sound quality, the Astro A30s have been born into an incredibly competitive field. No one can question the sheer brilliance and innovation of the Astro MixAmp, which in itself has generated newer, more fierce competition for Astro Gaming's own headsets. Like the A40s, the A30s are designed to give you simulated surround sound using the Astro MixAmp, meaning that there should more-or-less pinpoint directional sound. The headset was a resounding success, games like Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops were made far more involving with my A30s on, and my headset didn't miss a beat. While Ninja Pro makes your character on Black Ops run around quieter than a ballerina cat burglar, every other in game noise can be fully appreciated, from explosions, to reloads, and the dramatic music that is played when the round is reaching a close. On Halo: Reach, the sound of DMRs, lifts, bouncing frag grenades and even panting Master Chiefs fill the air, and all of them are enjoyed in extremely high quality and directional precision, enhancing your experience and your awareness.

    The voice clarity created by the Astro A30s is also extremely good. To compare the quality to a regular Xbox 360 microphone would almost be laughable, because the Astro A30s are so much better, your regular Xbox 360 communicator will immediately find itself discarded somewhere. In fact, the Astro A30s stack up extremely well against any microphone I have ever used before, so much so that they have become an essential for me as a regular Skype user, to ensure the best quality voice communication.

    When it comes to music, the Astro A30s are no slouch either, and will satisfy the audiophile side of the average gamer. Removing the microphone means that your A30s are ready to hit the streets plugged into your iPod, or at least, are ready to take on your iTunes library plugged into your computer. While your clan emblem on the side of your A30s might be worth swapping out before a long train journey, the rest of the A30 design would not look out of place among other headphones designed purely for listening to music. A great credit to the stylish design of the A30s and the true versatility of the headset.

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    It isn't all positive though. One minor irritation is the bug that exists between the pad and the MixAmp, whereby, if you have volume levels on the 360 too high, your pad can end up throwing grenades or shooting by itself. This is annoying because a lot of people are completely unaware of this glitch, and as a result, do not know how to resolve the issue. Thankfully, the resolution is as simple as changing the sound levels in the Xbox guide, and turning them down to around 3.

    The single most annoying feature of the A30s is the Xbox voice echo. This feature is intended so that you can hear your own voice while playing, so you can regulate your voice while you're focused on the in game sound. While this can be useful, a lot of the time, it's actually rather annoying. If you breathe on the mic lightly, it actually sounds like you're in a hurricane through your headphones, yet the people you're playing with can't even hear the light breathing. While this isn't a deal breaker in the slightest, the ability to turn this on or off would be greatly appreciated. Even more strangely is that this does not happen when you connect the headset to your PC or laptop. Again, the ability to regulate this on or off on your home computer would be preferable.

    Other than a few very minor faults, the Astro A30 Audio System is an exceptional piece of kit and a welcome addition to any gaming set up. A great addition to anyone's Xmas list. I read a lot of people talking about headsets being pointless because you cannot always hear footsteps on games. To these people, I would strongly recommend that they try a headset before they pass this judgement. While days of surround sound being a ridiculous advantage may be somewhat behind us, the benefits of a headset still justify the purchase. Not only do they increase your awareness, but they also increase your concentration and focus on the game, drowning out outside distractions and making your team mates easier to communicate with. A headset also makes your gaming experience even more immersive and involving than you will experience with regular stereo sound, ultimately making your gaming experience more fun. Try it, you won't be disappointed.

    Scores

    Design – 9/10 – With interchangeable speaker tags and a sleek look, the A30s are both extremely fit for all purposes, while being customisable to boot. The headset remains light and extremely portable with a carry case also included in the price. Coupled with the extremely easy to use MixAmp, the A30 Audio System has set the bar in the design category.

    Functionality – 9/10 – The Audio System connects to your games console straight out of the box, and is not just limited to the Xbox 360. However, it doesn't end there, with connections to your home computer and even your mobile phone, the headset does it all, and does it all incredibly well. Baring the one complaint with the voice echo, this is a near perfect performance.

    Sound – 9/10 – Performs exceptionally in all areas. From use with console, to your computer, to your MP3 player to even your mobile phone. Both sound and voice communication is crystal clear and well balanced.

    Value – 9.5/10 – The A30s themselves are only £79.95, almost half the price of the Astro A40s; an absolute bargain for a headset of this quality. For the entire Audio System, you'd be looking to part with £149.95. For any serious gamer without an existing Audio System, this is the investment for you. Make this your next purchase!

    Overall – 9.5/10 – Designed for many areas of your life, it's hard to think of what else you'd want from a headset and MixAmp. For my money, at this price, this is as good as it gets on the market at this time. Bravo to Astro Gaming for improving on an already exceptional product.

    Links to purchase

    AstroGaming.co.uk - http://www.astrogaming.co.uk/products.asp?id=2746 - £149.95

    Lime Interactive - http://www.limexb360.co.uk/product/A30_Audio_System_Headset_and_Mix_Amp_A30ASB - £149.95

    Custom Speaker Tags - http://www.astrogaming.com/products/16/Custom-Speaker-Tags/
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    Emotion Administrator

    Good review, if I had to buy either I would go with the A30's simply because you can use them outside your gaming setup. Having loads of different speaker tags would be good if your a daily commuter to work, if you see the same people near enough every day there going to be interested in why you constantly change your headphones. That may be just because I'm an attention ***** tho.
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    KerrBearr xo \_/ Yeah, it's empty

    Sick review. I want some A30's ...... :D
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    SwitchbacK #1

    that glitch is beast

    i've been edging to buy these for a while, not a fan of the voice echo though. good read mar$h
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    Jones Well-Known Member

    Having both I proffer the a30's
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    Jamziy God

    Ordered mine yesterday :D
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    Sidetrack Well-Known Member

    Love my A30s, quality headset !! Only thing thats annoys me is that due to the position of the mic, breathing through you nose seem to be picked up.
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    Macrz Active Member

    Awesome review, just ordered these last night. :)
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    Sidetrack Well-Known Member

    if you have them watch this with them, its weird but sick. (use the 3.5 to 3.5 from comp to mixamp)

    Amn3ziiaH likes this.
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    Macrz Active Member

    Does it matter what type of optical cable you have, and do you get the same quality sound.
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    Mellow @MellowLive

    An optical cable is an optical cable as far as I'm aware.

    Similar to that YouTube video, always been a fan of this one..



    I was amazed when I first heard this.
    CaMo likes this.
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    Sidetrack Well-Known Member

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    Parker New Member

    Good read :happy:
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    Macrz Active Member

    Is it true that the sound quality is better than A40s?
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    Macrz Active Member

    I used to have the audio file on my phone years ago lol, well cool. ;)
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    DaZe Well-Known Member

    how many times have I answered that question on msn? your an idiot
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    Jamziy God

    Do I need to use extra wires to use the mic on the pc?
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    Ting Congress Tart!

    There should be a wire that came with it for use with a pc. Its like the normal one but splits in to 2 at the end.
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    Jamziy God

    Sorted it now, thanks anyway.
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    Numero Uno New Member

    same for the PS3 or I have to buy the ps3 chat cable to speak with it ?
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    Ting Congress Tart!

    Not sure. I think you need a usb adaptor of some sort.
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    Rexxy @_REXXY

    thinking of getting a40's but i dont know now , time will see.
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    Mellow @MellowLive

    Just seen this now. There is a separate PS3 chat cable.
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    Zilla New Member

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    Bailey Ⓐ➏➍ ¬_¬

    I was really thinking of getting these, the big thing that is swaying me is being able to hear myself, not sure why I just think it would get really annoying.