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HyperX Cloud Review









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Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset Review

1 August 2014 | Written by Maxxum

Kingston sells headsets. By now the news has had plenty of time to spread through the gaming community since the HyperX Cloud was first announced at CES 2014. I hadn't a chance to view one personally until PAX East 2014 when David Leong PR Manager for Kingston HyperX reminded me. As this article starts is what I thought when I put on one of the demonstration units...

"Kingston sells headsets".

Kingston Technology Corporation is foremost a memory company, and though a gaming headset is part of the theme for the HyperX gaming line of products, the fundamental shift of their core technology line to include headsets was a surprise to me. Kingston has partnered with QPAD for development of these headsets, so when Kingston offered me a chance to review the HyperX Cloud, I accepted it eagerly.

Reviewing headsets is difficult; unlike the performance of other components related to a computer that can be quantified numerically, the quality of audio output devices is highly subjective to the listener's tastes and physical limitations - the ear of an older person may not have the same range of hearing as someone younger. Some people prefer their music loud and full of bass, with others prefer to hear their music the way the studio intended. And, not least of which trying to convey a sound through text is complicated without the benefit of context.

However, the results we acquired through testing were so definitive compared to our reference headsets that we don't believe there will be much room for interpretation. That written, let's begin with the first thing you'll see if you come across this product in stores. As the picture above hopefully conveys, this is an impressive box. In fact, it is the most elaborate container I've ever seen for a technology product, and its weight is substantial even once the headset is removed. After reading the product reviewer's notes from the box, one of the staffers here asked, "Is this right? It says they're $89.99". "That can't be right", I responded. But, after checking online the price was confirmed. Kingston's marketing design team did a solid job, visually the complete package appears far more expensive than it is.

Inside the box, you'll find both leatherette and velour ear pads, as well as extension cables, detachable/external volume control, carrying case, and the removable gooseneck microphone. The complete specifications for the headset are available here.

The headset drivers are large at 53mm, and the cups which fit completely around the ear are closed. On the spec sheet you'll see that the cups attenuate (reduce) the amount of outside sound you'll hear by approx. 20 dBa which we can confirm. So now you're probably asking, "how do they sound?"

Prior to testing, we did a 200hr burn-in. We typically hear a notable, though not substantially different change in the quality of drivers after allowing them time to expand. However, in the case of the HyperX Cloud the difference was stark. Prior to using these headsets, we recommend allowing for the same 200hr burn-in period as the results will reward you for both gaming and music. We were surprised about the latter, typically closed-cup headsets don't provide for what would be perceived as a large sound-stage, but I thought the headsets did quite well in this regard. I'll explain that more later, first I'll describe how these headsets do for gaming.

The headsets were tested for gaming using a Soundblaster Zx. This card provides an amplifier for headphones, however the HyperX Cloud has an impedance of 60ohm so an amplifier isn't necessary. As the HyperX Cloud is a HiFi stereo headset, we activated the Creative Labs' surround sound function to judge directionality in-game. Our game of choice was Mass Effect 3 on-board the Citadel. We like the challenge the Citadel provides because it has multiple conversations between NPC's from various angles, and the ambient station noise is subtle enough that one can affect changes to perceived distance and direction as one moves around corners.

In the Citadel test these headsets performed well. As one moves around corners, conversation become convincingly more quiet. Moreover, echos off the walls of the station were reproduced exceptionally well. On our reference headset ambient station noise was a cacophony of sound, but on the HyperX Cloud we could hear individual sound effects such as banging metal, footsteps, and announcements over the PA system as distinct audio portions.

For the combat part of the test we ran the battle in ME3 where Shepard must reconfigure missile tanks in order to attack a Reaper. The scene involves dozens of enemies in an environment that has screaming mutant Asari, a giant Reaper, and hundreds of occlusions in the form of mangled metal, broken walls, and other structures. Here, the headsets performed as well as they did on the Citadel. There are gunshots, screams, and explosions coming from all angles, but if I stopped my character from moving and tried to listen to a particular sound, it was easy to isolate a specific noise the way one would in a room or office. Our reference headsets, in fact almost all of our headsets, are unable to produce the audio in this battle scene with the same level of clarity as the HyperX Cloud. We ran this test three times to be sure on headsets from competitors that were less expensive, equal to, or more expensive in price than the Cloud and in each comparison the Cloud was markedly better. In particular, the sound pressure from explosions were the most pleasing. As one would experience in a theater, the low rumble from the deep bass in specific types of explosions could be felt in my head.

How are they for music? Well, that depends on the decade and the genre, but overall the Cloud performed far better than I expected. As these are marketed as gaming headsets, I didn't expect music to be reproduced as accurately as headsets designed explicitly for that function. Typically, gaming headsets are configured for deeper bass, and sharp treble with only moderate emphasis on mid-range. The HyperX Cloud did exceptionally well in this section of testing, particularly with music from the 60's, and techno/electronic rock.

The post-production audio of 60's music drew a lot of influence from Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" formula, and this type of sound is expertly reproduced on the HyperX Cloud. Music produced in the 70's will also sound well, as will most 80's although the harshness of synthesizer music typical of the 80's may require some equalization. I want to highlight modern techno, because this is where the headsets dramatically demonstrated their abilities. The most difficult song we have for testing is "Bilar" by Ratatat on their album 'LP4'. This song is exceptionally difficult because it includes multiple overlapping percussion sounds, as well as high-pitched synthesized strings. It's a very difficult song for any headset to produce well, and we thought our reference headset did a good job until we listened to the HyperX Cloud. The reproduction of bass sound is such that one can hear it as a separate portion of the audio, rather than a blanket of deep noise that was apparent when we switched back to our reference headsets. I was astonished because it was almost like I was listening to a different recording of the song on each headset.

If it sounds like I'm gushing over these headsets it's because I am. When it comes to audio, especially my music, I am binary... 0 or 1, no or yes - there is no middle-ground for interpretation, no scale for approval. In that regard, these headsets are a 1. I would buy these headsets. If money is an option, wait another month - at $89.99 these are worth the price.

End of line.

Photos by Maxxum / Kingston Technology Corporation