Who would have thought the day would come when any sort of headset technology could come close to a surround sound theater unit. Who would have also thought that, that it could be enjoyed from home. While it’s no surprise that companies have been delivering a headset home theater experience for years, it catered to the PC market. With console gaming not only rivaling the best of PC gaming nowadays by visuals, it is also doing it by sound.
Astro gaming has been bringing hardcore and pro gaming quality MixAmps for quite sometime. For those who don’t know what a MixAmp does well your in luck. A MixAmp channels both game sounds and voice-communication into one headset while it is also the only way to listen to certain headsets via consoles. While we’ve been experiencing this for several years it has never been in a wireless flavor, or at least not a good one. Astro gaming sets to change this with their latest entry of MixAmps, the 5.8 MixAmp but does it still deliver the standard of what we get from wired ones?
The first thing we noticed when we received the 5.8 MixAmp was the packaging and design. Astro knows that when you pay for quality, they give you quality on all expects. The art and style of the packaging is some of the coolest we’ve seen around.
Here is an overview of everything it comes with.
5.8 MixAmp TX Base
5.8 MixAmp RX Receiver
AC Cable Plug-in Adapter
Mini USB to USB
Y-Adapter for 3rd party headset
3 AAA Batteries for Receiver
Xbox Live Chat Cable
RX Receiver Belt Clip
Headset (Sold Separately)
PS3 Chat Cable (Sold Separately)
Rechargeable Battery (Sold Separately)
The process of the unit works by connecting any audio source sound that can be hooked up by optical cable and plugging it into the device. The base then sends a 5.8 GHz wireless signal to be heard through the receiver for you to listen to. One important thing to note is the advantage you receive from the 5.8 GHz then the standard 2.4 GHz that all of our other device normally use. Xbox 360 wireless controls, wireless routers etc. You can only imagine how difficult it would be to push 7.1 surround sound to the receiver with no loss in quality.
When setting the unit up you don’t have to worry about pairing the TX and RX device as they come pre-paired. The back of the TX Base unit has a ac plug in, two USB ports for future configurations, PS3 chat audio in setup, optical in and optical out. The RX receiver has a mini USB port to charge the unit (if rechargeable battery is connected), one for audio mics, the Xbox 360 chat plug adapter, a master volume control knob, and a game/voice split control knob. The receiver can also plug in any 3.5mm headset for your liking as well.
We tested the MixAmp with several headsets and earbuds ranging in price to test out the quality of sound. The A Star Ear Buds which are $79 (check out our review here), Plantronics $15 headset and a brief test with Astro A40 Headsets were among some of the few. We were pretty astonished at the results when comparing this to a 7.1 home theater set up as it came to close for words. Sound was crisp and on point. Crackles of grass can be heard from yourself or another person in games like Halo Reach, while the pin of a grenade when pulled can be heard from a distance in Call of Duty Black Ops. The distance in sound between objects can be significantly recognized over any other setups I’ve seen to date aside higher end home theaters.
Don’t be surprised when you go to get a snack or even head to the bathroom with the RX unit and headset on with no loss in sound quality. This thing has some incredible range and can sometimes be startling. Not to mention that the mobility of the wireless allowed us to clip the RX unit to our belt and play games like DJ Hero 2, Rockband and even Kinect.
We’ve found that with the Y-adapter included it is also seamless to connect a PC headset which sometimes have a split audio and mic plug. When using the MixAmp to chat via Xbox live or PS3 sounds were very clear and never gave any sort of distortion. We had come across a slight hissing sound coming through the audio when putting the master volume up to get the right voice and game sound we wanted. This didn’t happen all the time but rather when we mixed in-game or out music, sound and then voice it seemed to have happened on occasions. Another thing to note is when pairing the unit with the PS3 via the XMB, you may have to remove all other paired audio setups from the system to get the MixAmp to show up.
What’s good about the MixAmp is that three other RX receivers can be pared with one base to get the same sound from the audio source, turning any living room or bed room into a home theater setup without disturbing neighbors. We’ve also found that you can plug in the 5.8 Mix Amp to Astro’s original MixAmp via the optical out from the 5.8 base into the wired MixAmp’s base. Multiple set ups may work if you tamper with them.
Of course this isn’t without some things to considered about the unit itself, especially if your in the market to buy gaming audio already. When compared to their wired MixAmp is leaves out some audio inputs for obvious reasons of space, mobility and conservation. However the MP3 audio in from the original Astro MixAmp was also left out of the 5.8. For those looking to get some personal sound in their games by not tampering with the Xbox music settings or putting them into your PS3 since most games don’t allow personal playlist music override anyway will not be to happy about this. We tested a 3.5mm splitter but it degrades sound coming in all together. An optical audio signal is the only accepted audio to the unit so multiple sources are left out like trying to connect a Wii. If you have an older Xbox 360 the only way to connect this is via a component cable set up as you can’t plug in an HDMI and component plug into the system (at least not in an official way). The Xbox 360 S has its own dedicated optical port so it does not have this problem. Sometimes when you put on the bass boost from the RX receiver we would hear a slight muffle in sound to deliver the bass upgrade. Also the batteries that come with the unit to be put in the RX receiver die rather fast, or at least it seems fast while playing.
With an introductory price of $99 the question is what you may be looking for in your gaming experience? A gaming headset will need to be purchased if not already owned (Astro has packages with headsets for the unit which save money), the optional PS3 chat cable if your looking to do so and possibly a rechargeable battery. All of this aside, this of course is possibly the best Mix Amp and sound that I’ve received from any audio source yet. Playing games while getting an edge on the competition or simply wanting to be fully immersed in a movie never came easier then this. This will have you question why you haven’t invested in gaming audio sooner if you have yet to try one out.