Cost: $149.99 (Amazon)/$99.99 (Newegg)
Release Date: 04/30/14
Get it Here: Amazon.com or here Newegg.com
While I’m certainly a big fan of music, in gaming or otherwise, I’ve never been much of an audiophile; that is, while I love to listen to music, game effects, and so on, I don’t own any extensively high quality equipment for listening to such things. I’d been looking to get a better quality pair of headphones recently, though, since surround sound systems are a bit excessive for gaming, so when Kingston provided us a set of HyperX Cloud headphones to test out and review, I was hopeful that my search would begin and end here. From a computer hardware perspective, Kingston has always been top notch; I’ve been a big fan of their memory cards and flash drives for years, and every computer I’ve built has used their RAM save for one (which ended up being a mistake), so the company is certainly a quality one if nothing else. While their hardware reputation is top-notch, however, they’ve not been one to jump into the audio side of things too heavily, so you’d be forgiven for being concerned about the quality of such a thing. I have to admit I was curious if the equipment would hold up to the standards I’d come to expect from the company, and with a fairly high price tag, it seemed that some extensive testing was in order. As the device purports to work with both the PC and the PS4 (though it also works with the Wii U, for reference), I put together four basic tests to run it through, to see how well the HyperX Cloud would hold up overall.
What Comes In The Box?
The HyperX Cloud actually comes loaded for bear right out of the box; you get the headset itself, a detachable microphone, a second set of ear pads (in red instead of the default black), and an attachable in-line control box that also extends the already generous length of the microphone and headset cables. Further, you also get a converter that allows the separate headset/microphone connectors to output to one stereo connector, for the PS4/Wii U functionality that’s touted, as well as extension cables for when you want to be able to get really far away from the source without an issue. Finally, it also comes with a sleek storage bag/carrying case and a dual mini-stereo connector that, while I’ve never personally seen this thing on a physical device in such a fashion, seems like it might be useful for tablet devices, based on the advertising on the box. All in all, the contents of the box are fantastic, and while it’s not perfect (for example, there’s no Xbox 360 or USB converter included), what complaints one could have about what comes in the box are so minor that they barely even merit mentioning. For those who would want these things, though, you will need an adaptor if you want to make use of the HyperX Cloud, but as we’ll see shortly, it works just fine with such things attached.
How Do They Feel?
The HyperX Cloud feels absolutely amazing on the head, even over long usage sessions, due in large part to an exceptional amount of padding. The padding design features a closed, full-ear cover that minimizes outside noise while feeling comfortable around the ear, so you won’t find that they hurt or become annoying over a long period of time. The headband is also heavily padded, so you’ll not find it to be painful in the least, and the headphones allow for a good range of adjustment, allowing for a wide range of head sizes to work with the headphones. The microphone, as noted, is also removable, so for those who want to simply listen to music or dictation without the microphone distracting them, it’s easy to remove and install the mic as needed. The actual mounting of the device is made of aluminum, also, so it’s pretty flexible and holds up well, and feels beefy enough to be convincing of its quality without weighing down the head during use. Due to the fixed nature of the microphone, there’s a limited amount of adjustment you can make to its position, and since there’s only one jack on the headset, you’ll have to have the mic on the left side of your head, if this thing is bothersome to you for some reason. Again, though, this is a minor issue, and I never found this to be problematic at any point during testing.
Test One: Communication
The first test I came up with was as much a stress test for how the headset would feel during long-term use as it was for vocal communication: I recorded an episode of the Diehard GameCAST with Sean and Matt to see how everything went. From Sean and Matt’s end, everything went smoothly; they reported that they could hear me without an issue, and that everything sounded clean and clear. From my end, as noted above, the HyperX Cloud felt great during the four hour recording and caused no issues for me physically. Aurally, everyone’s voices came through clear and clean, though it’s interesting to note that when you’re in the situation where you’re communicating with someone over the internet, you’ll find you hear the person you’re talking to far better than you can hear yourself. This, quite literally, created a situation where I ended up shouting at everyone until I adjusted to it. As such, you might not want to record podcasts or other such things where hearing yourself is important to properly maintaining your aural tone, but that aside, everything worked beautifully.
Test Two: Music Clarity
The next test I opted to put the HyperX Cloud through was one of musical reproduction; that is, given ten songs of varying genre, how well did the device handle the overall output of the music? For this test, I opted to test the device with the device plugged into the stereo outs on the PC, as well as plugged into a 7.1 channel USB converter, to see if there were any noticeable differences. For those who are curious, the testing playlist I used for this was as follows:
“Damaged Lady,” KARA – Pop
“Smile,” Ultraspank – Nu-Metal
“Swim Good,” Frank Ocean – R&B
“House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls,” The Weeknd – R&B/Rap
“First of the Year (Equinox),” Skrillex – Dubstep
“Augen unter Null,” Eisbrecher – Industrial
“Icct Hebral,” Aphex Twin – Ambient Techno
“There’s More to Life Than This,” Bjork – Rock/Pop
“Ich Bin Ein Auslander,” Pop Will Eat Itself – Rock/Rap
“Momma Said Knock You Out,” LL Cool J – Rap
While the list above is certainly fairly eclectic, that was the point: to test as wide a range of basic and complex music as was feasibly possible, to see how the headset performed. The results were actually very pleasing: every song was reproduced with top-notch quality, and all of the above tracks listed sounded fantastic through the HyperX Cloud. Layered tracks were reproduced expertly through the headphones, and while you’re not getting a full surround sound experience from the piece, this is about as close as one could get with a pair of stereo headphones, overall. Anyone looking to drop the cash on the HyperX Cloud probably isn’t looking to listen to music on it, mind you, but for the record, you totally can, and it sounds absolutely awesome, so keep that in mind.
Test Three: Gaming – PS4
With the basic tests out of the way, the gaming tests were the only ones left to jump into, and I opted to start with the PS4 test, since (based on my available library) it would be the easier of the two to get into. I opted to test the HyperX Cloud with two games: Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition, for the ambient noise and heavy gunfire/explosion effects, and RESOGUN, for the excellent soundtrack, heavy shooter effects and generally top-notch audio production. Unsurprisingly, by this point, both games sounded exceptional through the headphones, which is a testament both to how well the PS4 replicates its audio wirelessly through the controller and how well the HyperX Cloud functions in general. The headphones did an excellent job highlighting the explosive effects in Dead Nation and adding a strong, ambient creepiness that works in the game’s favor, and RESOGUN sounded simply amazing through the headphones across the board. PS4 owners likely won’t find a better set of headphones, or not a significantly better pair in any case, than the HyperX Cloud, and I can safely say I’ll be using them for review testing going forward.
I also took the opportunity to test out in-game chat with a friend while testing the game audio, and while the communication review above appropriately sums up the performance here, it’s worth noting that the HyperX also does a great job segmenting conversation and in-game audio if you’re pushing both through the headphones. For those who are looking to use the headphones only for communication, something with an open ear might be a better option, but running both through the headset works very well overall and is worth considering.
Test Four: Gaming – PC
This is likely the category most gamers will be looking toward when they’re looking at picking up the HyperX Cloud, and as you might expect from the above, the headset also performed admirably here. I opted to test the PC side of things with Payday 2, once again for the heavy gunfire effects and layered sound, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, also for the layered audio as well as for the ambient effects, and FTL: Faster Than Light, mostly just to see how well the headphones work with something more primitive sounding. With Payday 2 and Amnesia the headphones replicate the audio experience effortlessly, directing audio to its appropriate channel exactly as expected, and everything sounds complex and spot-on. With FTL, there wasn’t a lot for the headphones to do, but they replicated the effects and such appropriately and nothing sounded distorted or weird in the least. As with the PS4, the HyperX Cloud does an excellent job with PC game audio playback, both through the stereo jacks and a USB adaptor, and I can easily say I’ll be using it for review purposes going forward.
The HyperX Cloud is another top-quality piece of equipment from Kingston, continuing their general tradition of making excellent hardware across the board, and when evaluated on its own merits it’s easily worth picking up for anyone who’s looking for a top-quality pair of headphones. They’re very comfortable over long play sessions and do an excellent job with both standard music and game audio, on both the PS4 and PC, and from testing with the included equipment and a separate USB adaptor, there’s no degradation in quality at all. The hardware included in the box also goes above and beyond what you’d expect, as the detachable mic allows the headset to work as a headset or headphones easily, the detachable in-line volume controls work very well, and the added bonuses, such as the second pair of ear pads and the extension cables, are a nice touch. The only concern I can broach comes down to the price point; while Newegg lists the price for the HyperX Cloud at a fairly reasonable $99.99, which honestly seems like a solid price for the headset, Amazon lists the retail price at $149.99, which is a bit steep. As the Newegg page is the one linked off of Kingston’s website, I’d assume the $99.99 pricetag is likely the more correct one (though if both prices stay as they are come launch I’d absolutely recommend buying from Newegg in this case), and if so, the HyperX Cloud is absolutely worth the investment.
All in all, while the HyperX Cloud isn’t the ideal choice for anything where vocal recording is the primary goal, due to the external noise cancelling that makes it hard to judge your own vocal volume, in all other respects it’s a winner. Anyone looking for a top quality gaming headset will be satisfied with this one, and it does an excellent job with all kinds of audio, making it a versatile piece of hardware. Casual users may find this to be a bit beyond them, but anyone looking for a top-quality audio experience will find the HyperX Cloud will give them that, and assuming the $99.99 price point is accurate, as a reasonable price to boot.