Playing video games with the old surround-sound stereo system volume dial cranked up to “tinnitus” is fun and all. Sometimes, though, you just gotta enjoy your audio gaming bliss by your lonesome — a realization often followed by the words “Yes, dear.” The good news is that gamers have several headset options these days. One of the more interesting ones is the Astro A30/MixAmp 5.8 crossgaming package, which includes a headset as well as a portable mini-amp to help extend your listening pleasure. Is this the complete package or something much less? Read on for my thoughts on the product.
A30 is light: Unlike its higher-end Astro brethren, the A30 is quite light for a headset. This means less ear strain as well as head and neck fatigue during extended gaming sessions. The lighter profile also means the A30 can double as a standard set of headphones for MP3 players minus its other attachments when you’re out and about.
Versatility: This is easily one of the hallmarks of this headset package. In addition to being compatible with a PC, the package also comes with everything you need to use it with the Xbox 360. That includes a detachable microphone for chatting with other players online. The headphone itself will work with the PS3 but you’ll need some extra stuff for voice chat. You can also easily use it as regular headphones for your MP3 player.
Clean sound: The A30 sports a clean sound that has just a slight hint of bass. Pair it with the Dolby 7.1-capable MixAmp 5.8 and you get a great audio gaming experience, including the ability to more accurately discern the footsteps of sneaky enemies in online shooters.
MixAmp: The inclusion of the MixAmp 5.8 is what really makes this whole package. In addition to adding surround sound and the ability to connect with consoles and other audio sources with a compatible connection, the MixAmp also can be used with regular cans such as the V-Moda Crossfade LP for an extra kick of bass or even the iLuv Tatz or Coloud headphones — provided you don’t need a mic, of course.
Volume balance: The MixAmp comes with a master volume control that allows you to easily balance levels for in-game volume and chat volume.
A30 bass levels: The bass for the A30 headset isn’t that strong. That’s great for folks who prefer a cleaner, light sound but not for gamers who yearn for head-crushing bass. Also, while the A30’s light weight is great, it also comes at the cost of ear coverage. The good news is that you can swap in your preferred headset when using the MixAmp as mentioned above.
Battery life: The MixAmp goes through three AAA batteries pretty quickly. In my case, for example, the batteries ran out after about three days of gaming which adds up pretty quickly if you don’t have rechargeable batteries. Astro provides a rechargeable battery pack but it’ll cost you extra. Otherwise, you can use a USB cable to plug the MixAmp to a USB outlet but you lose some of that wireless capability.
Still uses wires: Speaking of wires, the whole system itself is not completely wireless as you still need to plug several cables from the headset to the MixAmp, especially when also using the mic functionality.
Needs PS3 adapter: As mentioned above, you will need to buy an extra peripheral if you want to use the A30’s microphone attachment when gaming with a PS3.
Cost: At $230, this package isn’t the most expensive out there but can still be quite pricey for certain gamers.
Excellent versatility makes the Astro A30/MixAmp 5.8 package a great combination for gamers. The A30 headphones sound nice and clean but may not completely satisfy folks who desire a more powerful headset soundwise. But even those folks would appreciate what the MixAmp brings to the table. Otherwise, plugging in your own headphone of choice or — for folks who want chat functionality — stepping up to one of Astro's higher end offerings is an option as well. Overall, the Astro A30/MixAmp 5.8 combo is a noteworthy package for gamers.