Astronomical in every sense.
Noise sucks! Between my daughter's Hannah Montana impressions, the neighbor's unforgivable Celine Dion obsession, and my wife's lack of empathy for my inevitable gaming glory... I found it very hard to frag or grind in peace. But those days have gone the way of most gami"ng print publications, thanks to the fine folks at Astro Gaming.
[image1]The company's Astro A40 Audio System is a treat of champion sound. Plus the design of the Mix Amp and headphones just ooze style. Sadly they also devour money, specifically $249.95. Nearly as much as an entire Xbox 360 or PS3! New gaming system or new 5.1 headies? Come, suckle from the teat of useful information to douse that feverish curiosity... Wait, come back!
The A40 system is a large robust package full of doodads and accessories. You get the headphones, Mix Amp, removable mic, and a host of cords - including digital and analog for PS3, 360, PC, and MP3 connectivity. Gamers will also find a set of three speaker tags, which lock into place with magnets. The detachable mic can be placed on the left or right side by switching the speaker tags, with additional or replacement speaker tags purchasable from Astro Gaming. There are several options, adorned with all sorts of cool art - both original or branded works. The speaker tags are kind of neat and very original to Astro Gaming.
But it's the Mix Amp that makes this audio system sing. Setup is easier than that third shot of whiskey. No drivers. No software suite. What you would like to do with the amp is a better question than how to get it up and running. A Portuguese winery has less "ports" than this thing and we should be thankful. You can connect it directly to a PS3, 360, or PC via the included analog cable or optical cable for 5.1 Dolby Digital - either way yields clear, distortion-free sound in games, but also in movies and music.
That's not all. Astro has tossed in some bonus features, which may drown out the death cries of other competing offerings. Two volume dials allow you to adjust the voice chat volume against the game world sounds. The user can actually dial down the voice chat volume while increasing the game sounds or vice versa.
[image2]Players can also mix in their favorite music directly from their MP3 player du jour. With a 3.5-to-3.5 cable, you can plug in your Pod, Phone, Zune, or any other monosyllabic digital music doohickey of choice. The music player's volume is independent and controlled on said music player. So you never miss those inspiring wall hacking accusations or the pitter-patter of knife wielding individuals sneaking up behind you.
And in true pro gamer fashion, your clan can game in one room with complete privacy. Multiple Mix Amps can be linked together to provide a dedicated voice channel with full duplex voice communication and zero lag. That's something not even Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, or Xfire can boast.
Headset durability was repeatedly tested with each accidental drop and one belly-flop from a six-year old. Mind you, she's not very heavy. (Hey, my clumsiness is your gain.)
The same goes for the headphones. They are on the larger end for gaming headphones, unlike what you will find from Steel Series (which I will tear into next week) or Razer. Still, the comfort for prolonged gaming sessions is commendable. I went for four hours straight, listening to music, playing Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. BFBC2 is an auditory smorgasbord - perfect for sound testing - and the A40 system sang its way to the head of the class.
The price tag is exorbitant, and because of it, the features may not be deemed necessary for everyone. But there is little doubt this is a premium unit for the discerning gamer.