Astro's range of gaming headsets has always been well regarded: back in 2012 I was blown away by the Astro A50 series, while one year earlier my colleague Jeff Bakalar called the A40 series "one of the best virtual surround-sound gaming headset systems we've ever tested".
It's been a little while between drinks, but Astro's A40 series is back with a new look and some new features. The A40 TR Plus MixAmp Pro, to give it its full name, brings all the solid sound expertise we've come to expect and adds in a number of new customisation tricks.
There are two versions of the A40 TR. The PlayStation 4 version (which also works for PS3, Mac and PC) comes in either all black, or with a white headset and a black MixAmp, and this is the one I've gone hands-on with. The Xbox One model comes in either all white, or black with a white MixAmp. Both will set you back $250, AU$350 or £200.
Like the A50 all those years ago, I've been quickly impressed with just how comfortable the headset is, even if you've got it on for a few hours. A little bit of discomfort around your ears gets magnified exponentially during a long play session, so comfort and fit are paramount.
The MixAmp is super easy to set up -- quite literally just plug it into a USB port -- and if you're playing on a PC you can grab the Astro Command Center software, which lets you tweak the existing four equaliser presets: Astro, Balanced, Flat and Tournament. You can also create and save your own, as well as adjust the audio mix for the streaming output.
No matter whether you're using the Xbox or PS4 versions of the A40, both have a PC mode that you normally activate by pressing the power button for a few seconds until the lighting on the MixAmp turns white. In the Command Center, however, you can set the MixAmp to boot into PC mode by default, which is a useful touch for non-console gamers.
After playing for a few hours with various PC games, I'm very pleased with the quality of the presets. The Balanced mode especially offers a genuinely good soundscape across a variety of different types of games.
In addition to the A40s I had an A40 Mod Kit to look at as well. This is a new set of ear pads, speaker backs, as well as a new mic and padded headband. I quickly swapped the default padded cloth ear cups and headband for the synthetic leather ones in the mod kit. I find the material a little cooler, but that's more of a personal taste.
Thanks to the magnetic locking system it's ridiculously simple to pop off and on the various mod components. I was also quite impressed that there's a jack for the boom mic on both sides of the headset, letting you swap sides easily. It's remarkable just what a big difference a few changes to the colours and material texture makes.
It's early days, but so far the Astro A40 TR headset is wowing me just as much as the A50 did -- maybe even a little more. I'll be testing it further on the PS4 and updating this hands-on first take in the near future.