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USB MixAmp
Score: 100%
Developer: Astro Gaming
Device Type: Audio
Compatible With:



Function:

Sometimes, you want to play your loud racing or FPS games when others are trying to sleep in the next room. Sometimes you don't want to be distracted by conversations going on in the other room. Other times, you might want to have a LAN party and open up a lag-free local shared audio channel for chat that doesn't even use your computer's processing power - at all - while also piping your own tunes into your headset, without anyone else hearing them, while playing your games in amazing surround sound, with, perhaps, optical audio, let's say... you know... nothing too special...

Performance:

The MixAmp is something I would have to describe as professional gaming gear. Astro Gaming takes gaming audio seriously, and the MixAmp, alone, is enough proof of that.

In a small device about the size of your hand, there is a whole lot of power and flexibility to bend your gaming audio to your will, along with your personal audio. First, you pipe the audio from your console or PC into the back of the unit, using any one of a bevy of possible connections: TOSlink Optical Sound (TOS cable sold separately), RCA L/R (with included pass-thru cables) or coaxial audio. Depending on your connection, you can get as good as Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on the primary input, which sounded, quite frankly, awesome in my A30 headset.

If you desire, a second audio source can be added in via the MP3 jack on the back of the unit. This can be used for anything from listening to your personal tunes while you play to using it to pipe your iPhone's audio into your headsets, to keeping an "ear" on a baby monitor, in case you aren't playing as quietly as you thought you were. This audio signal is added in to the audio you hear, without mixing, so you'll have to use whatever device is plugged in to control its own volume, but this signal is for you alone, and won't be shared on a local shared audio chat, if you decide to set one up.

What's that? Oh, right... the built-in voice communication function of the MixAmp... It's like this: if you're gaming in the same location as your friends - as in separate consoles or PCs, but the same room - and you each have your own MixAmps, you can connect them together to create a local voice chat that has almost no lag, since the audio doesn't have to go over the Internet. If the systems are close to each other, the custom daisy-chain connector can simply be removed from one unit, moved over halfway between two units and reinserted, "bridging" the two MixAmp units and voila! Instant chatline. (For more space between MixAmp units, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable can be used instead.) And, if some players are on a LAN, while others are online, this feature can be used along with the online chat feature of games, allowing some communication to be private among players in the LAN and other communication to be shared with online players.

While everything is moving towards wireless, there is one rule that remains fairly constant: If you're going to have a device with a cord, the cord needs to be reasonably long. I'm sure there are more annoying things than having a wired controller or pair of headphones that almost reach across the room from your console to your couch, but I'm not interested in subjecting myself to them. The (many) cables that ship with the MixAmp serve as poster children for this concept, with a USB cable and RCA piggyback cable that are each thirteen feet long!

The sound quality of the surround sound playback put a strange grin on my face. I turned our home theater surround sound all the way down, hooked up the MixAmp, and dialed the volume up and had to remove the headphones to assure myself that the home theater system hadn't been turned back up. Combined with the A30 headset, I got clear, natural sounding surround sound that just happened to be originating from just outside of my head and was hard to detect a few feet away.


Features:
  • Custom Daisy-Chain Connector
  • RCA-to-RCA Piggyback Cable (4m / 13 ft.)
  • Xbox LIVE Controller Cable (1.5m / 5 ft.)
  • USB to USB Mini 'B' cable (4m / 13 ft.)
  • 3.5mm to RCA Cable (2m / 6.5 ft.)
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm Cable (2m / 6.5 ft.)
  • Dual Jack to 3.5mm 4 Pole Adapter
  • Dial Controls for Volume, Game/Voice Balance
  • MP3 / Auxilliary Input Jack
  • Works with 4 'AA' Batteries (Not Included) or Rechargable Battery Pack (Sold Separately)

Drawbacks & Problems::

I had no problems with the MixAmp. The price could be considered a drawback, at a retail price of about $130 USD for the MixAmp by itself or about $230 USD for a A30 Headset audio system that includes a MixAmp. The truth is, however, that much like a very pricey dinner at Texas De Brazil, it's worth every penny.

The MixAmp takes 4 "AA" batteries, which are not included. Or, I should say it can take them. Usually, I lower a score immediately when I get a hardware device that requires batteries and doesn't include them. This makes it something way too easy to overlook when giving a gift to someone, and many a Christmas has been made ever-so-less awesome when that really cool gadget you just got isn't going to do anything until someone goes out for some batteries. However, the MixAmp can be powered by its USB cable, assuming the configuration you've got set up warrants the USB cable being plugged in, so they're not absolutely necessary. Also, Astro Gaming offers a rechargeable battery pack for under $20 USD (sold separately) which can be used instead, and that's simply better for the environment.

In the end, MixAmp is like a fine wine or a high-end sports car; it costs a bit more, but is so much more pleasurable than the alternative. Then again, with the small size and multiple device compatibility, perhaps it's not really all that expensive, anyway.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:



Multiplatform A30 Headset Black Multiplatform MixAmp Rechargeable Battery Pack

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated