Creative is known amongst the gaming community for their top quality gaming headsets.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at their Sound Blaster ‘Blaze’ gaming headset.  Now, this is a budget gaming headset, available for around £33 at the time of writing this review (on Amazon UK) – will it be worth the buy?

 

 

First up, as always, the packaging, and, what’s in the box.  The box is nicely designed, sporting both, the Creative & Sound Blaster logo’s.  The red and black design works really well, and there is also a transparent plastic window that gives a nice preview of the headset.  On the front and back of the box, is a great deal of information about the Blaze, and is also available in different languages.  When you slide the headset out, it sits nicely in a red plastic housing, secured with a couple of cable ties.

 

 

 

Upon removing the headset from the box and plastic insert, the first thing that I noticed was how light this headset is!  The colour theme works really well – the red SB logo sits nicely on the matt black earcups.  The material on the earcups is a nice velvet material, which is very soft; this material is also found on the underside of the headband, which makes the comfort levels soar.  The left earcup sports a 3.5mm port to plug in the detachable microphone, as well as the cable that runs from the headset to the source you wish to plug it into.  Also found on this cable are the in-line controls.  This allows you to control the volume levels, as well as muting and unmuting the microphone.  At the end of the cable, there are two 3.5mm connectors – green for sound and pink for the microphone.  I had a 3.5mm splitter cable so hooked it up, and I can now use the headset with my Xbox One & PS4 controllers, as well as connecting directly to the PC.  Lastly, the headband.  As mentioned above, the material and padding on the headband is extremely comfortable. On the outer side of the headband is the Creative logo in a silver/grey colour, which is a nice touch.

 

 

The Blaze headset contains precision tuned 40mm drivers, which provide crisp and clear sound.  In games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, the game sounds are easily distinguishable, especially when it comes to listening out for enemies approaching, weapons reloading, and hearing which direction enemy fire is coming from.  In games such as Forza Horizon 3, the engine sounds really make you feel as if you are actually sitting in the car, the crowds cheering is as you would expect it to sound, almost like they truly cheering you on.  The microphone quality is also spot on.  People who were in party chat while I was using this headset commented on how clear my voice was, and it was coming through at a comfortable volume.

When it comes to other audio sources, such as movies and music, the Blaze does not disappoint.  I tried watching one of the many Transformers movies to see how well the headset handled the bass and volume levels, and I am extremely happy to say that, again, the headset provides quality audio.  The bass, while not as bassy as high-end headsets, there was enough in the bass levels to make the explosions sound as they should, which added to my viewing pleasure.  Listening to music was just the same – enough bass to enjoy the music, yet not too much to make the music sound distorted, even at max volume.

 

 

 

I feel that the Blaze headset is definitely worth the lower end price tag.  It has style, feels very nicely made, and the comfort level is outstanding.  I would happily recommend this headset to anyone who is on the lookout for a decent gaming headset.  It really has exceeded my expectations.

With most smartwatches costing an arm and a leg, it’s quite tempting to go for a cheaper option.  There are plenty of cheaper options available, but are they worth it?  After using the HAMSWAN U80 smartwatch for a little while, here are my thoughts.

First up; the packaging.  It is very minimal.  The box that the watch arrived in is relatively small, with an image of the watch on the front, as well as a brief look at a few of the features.  Below is a list of the watch features and specifications.

• Stopwatch and pedometer, sleep monitoring, anti-theft alarm supported
• Screen size and resolution: 1.44 inch, 128 x 128
• Battery type and capacity: lithium-ion polymer battery, 3.7V/230mAh
• Keys: POWER ON or back software feature
• Rest alarm: support, remind you to stand up, physical activity
• Drink alarm: support, is a reminder that you need to drink more water
• Phone call: support (Load Speaker and Receiver Mode)

Product Specification

• Type: MTK6260-ARM7 360MHz
• SRAM: MTK6260 (built-in)-32mb NOR
• Flash: MTK6260 (built-in)-32mb
• Camera: No
• Touch module: yes
• Speaker: 8/0.7W speaker x 1
• MIC: yes, G-sensor: yes, GPS: no, BT: yes
• Bluetooth: MTK6260 (Built-in)-BT3.0
• Operation system: MTK
• Phone book: 1000
• SMS: support (need APP)
• MMS: push icon (need APP)
• Set time/date: user-defined
• Alarm: support five set

Package List:
• 1 x Smart Watch
• 1 x Charging Cable
• 1 x User Manual

One side of the watch has a button that activates and dims the screen, and the other side has the speaker, microphone, and the charging port – which is covered by a rubber cover that clips into place when not in use, preventing any dust or anything getting into the port.

 


After the initial first charge, I got to grips with the watch.  Connecting to my phone via bluetooth was a simple process, as it should be.  Now it is worth mentioning, to get the full use of the watch, you have to download a selection of apps from the app store.  (For text and other notifications.) If your smartphone has limited storage space, and/or you can’t utilise an SD Card, this is something that you should know from the off.  While the apps themselves aren’t huge in file size, having to have several different ones installed may be enough to put people off.  While on the subject of apps, there are no additional apps to download on the watch itself, so there isn’t anything extra to personalise the watch, just the pre-installed apps.

I wanted to give the pedometer function a proper run, so I did the initial setup (height, stride length*****,) strapped on the watch and ventured out to the local beach.  I had my Fitbit on to test the count number once I had finished walking the dogs.  Once finished, I opened the pedometer app on the watch, only to find that it had not registered a single step.  I restarted the watch and tried again .  This time around, it counted the steps, but there was a huge difference when I put the numbers alongside what was registered on the Fitbit – a massive 147 steps less!  This was off-putting, as well as a disappointment.

 

 

Another thing I found was, because of the silicone strap on the watch, it became quite irritating to wear due to sweat.  I know this is to be expected due to the material, but I thought it was worth a mention.

Next up, I tried a phonecall to my sister from the watch.  Now, while the volume of the watch speaker was loud enough to for me to hear in the middle of a busy supermarket, the quality of the call was disappointing.  The voice came through sounding like a robot- that’s the best way for me to describe it.  Initially, I didn’t even think it was my sister who answered the phone.  I then tried accessing my text messages.  Even though I had installed the apps that I needed, I was still unable to access my messages.

The responsiveness of the touchscreen was actually pretty good.  whether I was swiping from right to left, or selecting an app to go into and check stats, every click and swipe registered as it should.

 

 

The drink and rest alarms worked as they should, notifying me when I should have a drink of water, and also when I should get off my rear end and do some physical activity.  The bluetooth camera control seemed to work ok, but to use that feature, your phone needs to be unlocked and on the home screen.  A press of a button then triggered the phone to take a picture.  I guess this would come in handy if you are stood in front of the phone trying to get yourself into the picture.  The thing I noticed though, is that once I Had taken a picture, it was not anywhere to be found in my phones gallery.  I have no idea what happened to the random pictures that I took.

Is this watch worth the money?  Well, at the price of £15.99 on Amazon UK (at the time of writing this review) I would say yes, but only if you are after a very basic smartwatch.  The features don’t all work as they should, which I guess isn’t surprising when you see the price tag.  This is ultimately a gadget that doesn’t perform 100% as it should, the best bit being that it tells the time accurately, and that it has a good look about it.  I’d advise saving a bit of money and going for something with a higher price tag.

With so much selection as far as gaming peripherals go, it can be hard to choose between them all. Today I have the PDP (Performance Designed Products) Afterglow Prismatic Controller for the Xbox One to review, and this is one product that I am looking forward to getting to grips with. Alongside the controller review, I also have the Afterglow LVL 5+ Wired Headset review included.

The first thing you see is the eye-catching, high quality packaging. The front of said packaging shows a holographic type image of the controller that changes colour as you move the box around. The back of the packaging has information about the “Signature Prismatic LED Lighting” which informs you that you can change the colour and brightness of the LED lights. Also included is a brief description of the Dual Multi-Function Wheels, as well as the 3.5mm Audio Jack and controls.

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Upon removing the controller from the box, I was instantly impressed with the build quality. Made from a transparent plastic, you are able to see the circuit board and the internal parts of the analogue sticks, rumble packs, etc. The actual controller itself feels very close in quality to the official Microsoft Xbox One controller, as do the A, B, X, Y buttons and the bumpers and triggers. Also included in the box is the user manual, and a 10 foot USB cable.

Now, I will admit, I was expecting my first time using the controller and setting the LED colour, programming the rear wheels, and generally getting to grips with things, to be a bit of a daunting task. How wrong was I?! From the moment I had the controller powered on, I found it very easy to assign the wheels to buttons, as well as changing the LED colour to one that suited me, and lastly, putting the controller into Prismatic mode (I will admit that I found this by accident and it took me a few button presses to figure out what it was that I pressed initially).

There is a small button on the back of the controller, located in the middle between the two wheels that is basically your gateway to fully customising the controller to your needs and preferences. Simply click the button once so that the LED on the front of the controller changes to blue. You can then use the left analogue stick to control the brightness of the LED and the right stick to cycle through the colours. Once you have chosen your preferred colour, press the button on the back to store your colour choice. If you would like to use Prismatic mode, press the button on the back to get the blue LED on the front and click Up on the D-Pad. To set the rear wheels to your preferred buttons, press the same button on the back of the controller twice so that the LED shows as green and then press the wheel of your choice (the LED should then flash green) at the same time as the button you wish to map it to, then simply release the rear wheel. The wheels on the back each have three different functions – scroll up and down, and also press the wheel inwards – so six in total! Lastly, if you would like to turn off the rumble packs inside the controller, press the rear function button three times so you see a yellow LED on the front and click Down on the D-Pad. To turn them back on, press the function button three times and click Up on the D-Pad. If the rumble is on, when you get to the yellow LED light, you will see red LED’s on either side of the controller – if they are off, no red LED lights are visible.  Lastly, to mute the mic when you have a headset connected, press the button that is located beside the right analogue stick, and press again to unmute.

As previously mentioned, the controller quality is pretty amazing. I love the feel of the analogue sticks, maybe more than I like the sticks on the official Xbox controller. They seem to have more grip to them than the original controller sticks, meaning that the usual add-ons that I use for gaming are no longer needed! The controller itself is very light to hold, but it is still very comfortable to have in your hands. I feel that for my size hands, which I would probably say are medium-ish, the buttons on the back of the controller are in the perfect position. The only drawback that I have with this controller is the fact that it is wired. Now this may not be an issue for many people, but for some, maybe with young children or pets, a wired controller may not be the suitable choice.

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Now to move on and cover the Afterglow LVL 5+ Wired Headset.

I’m a stickler for headsets and always enjoy my game more when I have loud game play coming through a headset rather than a TV. To be able to do that, I need a headset that isn’t going to disappoint.

The LVL 5+ headset packaging, much like the Prismatic Controller, is very informative. The front of the box sports a nice side profile image of the headset. The rear of the box gives ample information on the back of the packaging, which includes additional bass impact drivers, easy accessible volume controls, and also the fact that it is compatible with the newer 3.5mm Xbox One controllers.

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In the box you simply get the headset, 2 x AAA batteries, and a user guide, though you really don’t expect to find more than that. The LVL 5+ headset has a long cable that comes down from the left ear cup with a 3.5mm jack on the end. It also has impressive 40mm Neodymium drivers. The volume controls are also located on the left ear cup, and so is the fully adjustable and flexible microphone. The Afterglow branded headband feels nice and comfortable due to the soft material used – this material is also on the ear cups, which only adds to the comfort. Lastly, the bottom half of the ear cups contains the LED lighting that we have become used to seeing on PDP products.

Getting started is really simple. While the provided batteries are not required, using them allows you to use the headset to its full potential. Simply slot in the batteries provided, plug-in the 3.5mm jack (please note; you will need either the Xbox One chat adapter, or a newer Xbox One controller with the 3.5mm port), and you’re good to go. Once the batteries are inserted, the LED lights come to life (green for Xbox One, blue for PS4). You also have the option to enable the Quad Boost function.

Sound quality on this headset is actually pretty good, especially for the price that you pay. I was told that the sound of my voice when using the microphone was clear, though the volume was a little on the low side unless I had the mic close to my mouth. The sound of the game play, however, was really good. I was able to notice the direction of explosions and gunfire, yet was able to sit back and take in the sounds during more relaxed game play. It is worth mentioning that the headset volume control does not work without the batteries. Whereas other headsets draw power from the controller itself, this one does not.

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I feel that with the Prismatic controller, PDP have covered all bases. While some features may take a bit of getting used to, or may even be seen as a bit of a gimmick, the controller is a pleasure to use and in some ways, I actually prefer it over the Microsoft controller. When coupled with the LVL 5+ headset, you really are good to go! The easy access volume controls, on-the-fly button re-mapping, and the impressive LED lighting on both products definitely sets them apart from competitors.  Both products compliment each other really well, and for the price you pay, I would highly recommend both the headset and the controller.

You can pre-order the Prismatic Controller from Amazon UK due for release on November 27th (£49.99).  You can pre-order the LVL 5+ Headset from Amazon UK due for release on November 20th (£37.99).  Both prices correct at time of posting.

Thanks to PDP for supplying both products for review.  Be sure to head over to their website, visit their Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages!

When it comes to choosing a new headset for your gaming needs, there is definitely a lot of choice about.  As well as having a large selection of headsets, there are also many different price ranges to choose from.  Do you buy something cheap and cheerful, something in the middle, or splash out on top of the range gadgets with 5.1 this and 7.1 that? Well, I’m hoping that the Afterglow Prismatic Wireless headset from PDP (Performance Designed Products) will show that you don’t have to spend huge amounts of cash to get decent, all-round quality.

As always, with any product, the first thing you notice is the packaging.  The box for the Prismatic headset is easy on the eye.  The front shows a view of the headset from the side, showing the different colours available for the illuminated earpieces.  It also gives you a list of devices that the headset is compatible with.  In this case, you can use the Prismatic headset with the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii & Wii U, PC, and mobile devices.  It’s worth noting that with the Xbox One chat adapter, you can also use this headset with the Xbox One console, and I’m assuming that it works in the same way for the PS4, although I am unable to try this as I do not own one.  The sides of the box has a feature comparison chart, as well as a run down of the custom audio profiles (see images).  Lastly, the back of the box shows a list of what the headset can do – from extraordinary sound, to the easy slide microphone.

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Now for the box contents.  To state the obvious, there’s a headset in the box!  As well as the headset, there is a large collection of wires – 2.5mm to 2.5mm (chat cable for Xbox 360), 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, RCA cable with a 3.5mm connector, mini USB cable, and the wireless USB dongle (which is connected by default to the RCA cable via the 3.5.. connector).  As you can see, there is a cable for every occasion!  It is recommended that you charge the headset before using it for the first time, something that I did not do.  I soon charged it once I noticed a low hum while wearing the headset.  To charge, simply hook up the included mini USB cable and watch the lights in the earpieces flash away until the charging is completed, in which case, the flashing stops.

The headset itself seems to be very well built and sturdy.  The earpieces are made of a polyurethane leather type material, which only adds to the comfort of the ‘around the ear’ design.  The earpieces themselves are a decent size, but could possibly be a little bigger for those people with bigger ears.  The headset has a nice amount of flexibility, and is adjustable, although the earpieces do not rotate. The headband is made of plastic and sports the Afterglow branding and when adjusted, you can see the thin metal reinforcement strip that foes through the headband to the earpieces.  Lastly, the inside of the headband has a very nice padding which adds to the comfort factor when in use.  The left ear cup is where all controls can be found.  On the outside of the earpiece itself, there is a transparent plastic design.  Being able to see through to the inside allows you to see the circuit boards, etc, which actually looks quite nice! On the outer side of the earpiece is where the volume wheel is, as well as the mixer slider for voice and game sounds, connections for the 2.5mm Xbox 360 cable input, line in, and the mini USB port.  The front of the left earpiece is where the microphone can be found and pulled out for use, next to which is the Mode button that allows you to choose which lets you select the audio profile that you wish to use.  Lastly, on the outer left earpiece is where you’ll find the power/mute button.

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Now for the fun stuff!  Hooking the headset up to the PC was as simple as it could have been.  Simply plug the USB dongle into a free USB port on the PC itself, and then connect the 3.5mm jack to the speaker/headphone port on the sound card.  Once the drivers have installed themselves, you are good to go!  To turn the headset on, simply press in the button on the left earpiece until it lights up blue and you’re good to go.  Unfortunately, because of the amount of devices I have hooked up to my PC, there is a bit of a hum – this is only present on the PC and with the sound turned down slightly, the hum is not always noticeable.  To set the colour to one that you prefer, simply hold in the Mode button for a few seconds until it starts cycling through the available colours.  When you get to your desired colour, stop pressing the Mode button in and it will stay on the selected colour until the headset is powered off and back on again, or until it is changed manually – if you would rather stay colourless, you can depress the Mode button when you come to the part of the cycle that doesn’t feature a colour. The Mode button also allows you to choose one of the three audio profiles – Pure Audio (blue), Bass Boost (red) and Immersive (purple).  It’s easy to keep track of which profile you have chosen as there is a light at the end of the microphone that changes colour as you cycle through the profiles.

Even though the Prismatic headset is primarily a previous gen headset, I was unable to try it with an Xbox 360 as I sold it literally the day before it arrived.  I did, however, hook up the 3.5mm audio cable to the headset and also to the chat adapter connected to my Xbox One controller and was able to use it for both game audio and chat.  I was informed by friends that my voice came across nice and clear, and it was the same for me whilst listening to them.  I’ve also connected it up to my phone to listen to music, and as previously mentioned, it has been used on the PC.  My partner even likes to take it upstairs at bedtime and hook it up to the TV so that he can watch without disturbing me.

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As far as sound quality goes, I have no gripes with the headset.  Game play was clear and I was able to decipher which location footsteps and gunshots were coming from whilst playing Call of Duty, and hearing the revs of engines in Forza 6 was just mind-blowing.  On the other hand, watching TV and listening to music were both impressive, even more-so with the bass boost audio profile in play – I like to think that the 50mm speakers played a nice role in this!  While on the subject of the bass boost audio profile, the bass levels are more than adequate when in pure audio and immersive profiles – having that bit of extra oomph never hurts though.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Prismatic headset.  The sound quality is great, the build quality is sturdy & makes the headset feel like it can withstand every day uses with ease, and the fact that it can be used across multiple platform makes the whole package worthwhile.  Althought the lights are a cool feature, I can’t see myself sitting here each time I use the headset and scrolling through all of the colours to choose the one I want.  A great headset that won’t break the bank as much as other gaming headsets.  You can currently grab this headset for around £70 on Amazon UK (at time of posting).

Be sure to head over to the PDP website, visit their Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages!

When it comes to gaming headsets, I’ll be the first to admit that there are more than a few to choose from.  So when it comes to actually splashing the cash, you want something that can withstand regular use, as well as providing outstanding sound quality.  Is this where the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80  Mixamp comes into its own?  I’ve had a blast finding out!

As soon as the headset arrived, the packaging was the first thing to impress.  It comes packaged in a weighty cardboard box which is mightily impressive.  The box itself has a matching colour scheme so that it goes hand in hand with the headset itself.  The box is held closed by magnets and upon opening the box (after removing the cardboard sleeve), you are greeted by the headset, which is held in place by a moulded plastic casing.  As well as the headset in the box, you have the M80 Mixamp, a 3.5mm audio cable, and all documentation.

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The A40 headset itself, simply put, looks amazing! The eye catching sky blue and grey colour scheme is stunning, and the build quality feels top grade.  The headset feels not only sturdy, but also very well made.  The build quality does not leave the headset feeling overly heavy or as if it would cause discomfort during use – something that I’ll get to a little later.  The ear pads are made of a cushioned, breathable material, which provides not only comfort, but also keeps the sweat at bay!  When you combine the cushioned ear pads with the swiveling ear cups, a good fit is pretty much guaranteed for heads of all shapes and sizes.  The swiveling cups also make it easy to sit back between games, and take some time out from the headset, making it incredibly easy to twist the cups and lower the headset down so you can wear it around your neck without being prodded by them.  Lastly, the ASTRO branded head band has a strip of the same cushioned material, which only adds to the comfort, making long gaming sessions more enjoyable.  While it felt as if the headset was hugging my head, it was in no way uncomfortable.  I felt reassured that the headset would not end up sliding off my head!

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Before hooking up your headset to your controller, make sure to check that your controller is updated via the console so that you are good to go.  ASTRO even provide a Micro USB cable in the box, making it easier for you.  Once that is done, you simply connect the M80 Mixamp to your controller – that’s it!  Now, ASTRO are known for their famous Mixamp which is used by gamers all over the world.  Combining the Mixamp with the chat adapter, the M80 was born – and it’s just as easy on the eye as the headset itself!  On the Mixamp itself, there is a switch on both the left and right side – you use these to balance out the voice chat and game sound to how you like it.  There is also a volume dial which is found on the bottom of the M80 – there is also a button in the middle of the dial that you use to mute the microphone.  This button lights up red when you are muted, which helps eliminate the whole “hello, is this mic on?” phase. Between the two switches on the sides of the M80, there is the button that gives you control of the equalizer.  There are three preset EQ settings that are as follows.

  • Pro: Boosted high frequencies for competitive gameplay
  • Core: Balance for single player gaming
  • Media: Enhanced bass, for movies and music

I will admit that I tend to keep mine set to Pro (I am definitely no pro!) because I tend to play Call of Duty a lot when playing online.  IF I need to change it, it’s a simple button click, with the LED lights across the front of the M80 telling me what I have it set to.  I will also say that distinguishing sound direction, etc, while using the Pro EQ setting, is a breeze, and being able to set the mix between game sound and voice chat is a massive help!  All buttons on the M80 are very well placed and there is not much chance of you hitting the wrong one if trying to change levels without taking your eyes off the screen.  The overall sound quality from the A40 headset is beyond impressive!  I have used my fair share of gaming headsets in the past, and I can quite honestly say that the quality from this headset blows the rest out of the water.  Everything comes through crystal clear, and when watching a video or listening to music, there was no interference or crackling at all!

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Cable wise, you have the cable that runs from the M80 to the headset itself.  This is only detachable from the headset end, and with the cable running into the M80 at a slight angle, you do have to be pretty careful not to damage it as you’d need a whole new unit, not just the cable.  Also included is the 3.5mm audio cable that enables you to use your A40 headset with a smartphone, or other device of your choice.  I do this quite often, usually just through my phone, and I love the fact that ASTRO actually provide a cable for you to do this.  I am a huge fan of how well they worked while listening to music through Spotify on my phone.  Personally, I wouldn’t use them outside for listening to music on the go as they are a bit big for me to walk around with.  Lastly, there is an app available (iOS only as far as I know) that adds to the whole experience.  Since I only have an Android device, I have been unable to see what features are available.

If you are new to ASTRO products, then I doubt you are aware of the customisable speaker tags.  These tags are held on to the outer side of the ear cups by magnets, and you can design your own, or order set designs from the ASTRO website.  The ones provided with this headset match the theme, sticking with the sky blue and grey colours.  Another very handy thing to mention is that not only can you swap out the speaker tags, but also the microphone.  Simply disconnect the microphone, un-snap the tags, choose the side that you want to use the microphone and then replace the speaker tags again.  It really is that simple!

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Whilst on the subject of the microphone… Not only can it be attached to the ear of choice, it is also extremely flexible and can be moved into a position that suits you, with ease.  During my online game sessions, I have been informed numerous times that my voice is coming through nice and clear, and there was an noticeable difference when compared to my previous headset.  There was no annoying noise caused by my breathing – an issue that I did have previously – and it doesn’t even pick up the sound of the oscillating fan that has been used daily since the horrible warm weather began.

When considering all of the factors of this headset, I have to admit that the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80 Mixamp is by far the best headset I have used.  With its comfort level, mic quality, and other small features like customising the speaker tags and being able to swap the mic from left to right, it all forms a neat package that any gamer would like to have.  The price tag could be what stops many gamers from getting this headset, but you really do get what you pay for!

This headset is also available in orange & grey.