Review: HyperX Cloud II gaming headset
If it's not broken, don't fix it.
This is the design philosophy behind the next iteration of Kingston's gaming headset, the HyperX Cloud II, and it works well.
Our previous review on the original HyperX Cloud headset highlighted its superior comfort and performance, two qualities its successor, the HyperX Cloud II, also excels in. Of course, as a successor, it's not enough for the HyperX Cloud II to be as good as its predecessor to receive the same grade; it also has to be better.
The HyperX Cloud II ups the ante with a hardware-driven 7.1 surround sound environment, a USB audio control unit with an integrated sound card, and memory foam padding on both the earcups and the headband.
Kingston hopes that these features, combined with the affordable $100 price tag, are well worth the investment when the headset hits the shelves next month.
Unboxing and Setup
Kingston is no stranger to fancy boxing, and the box that the HyperX Cloud II comes in is no exception.
Removing the headset feels as good as it looks, and keeping the sturdy box around for long-term storage is a good idea. The HyperX Cloud II also comes with a padded carrying pouch, allowing you to keep your headset dust-free when it's not in use.
As far as setup goes, Kingston has done something really unique with the HyperX Cloud II.
Instead of relying on software and drivers, which run the problem of compatibility issues between different operating systems, the HyperX Cloud II uses the built-in hardware in the USB audio control unit to manage the device, making it one of the easiest headsets to setup in the market.
One of the most unique things about the HyperX Cloud II headset is the integrated sound card in the audio control device. The external sound card allows the headset to better handle the signal and amplify both the audio and voice quality of the HyperX Cloud II.
What the built-in sound card, or DSP (Digital Sound Processing) unit essentially allows for is more redundancy in terms of controlling and manipulating audio input and output. In the HyperX Cloud II, this translates to better bass levels and a more balanced listening experience.
In addition to keeping the same 53mm drivers as those found on its predecessor, the HyperX Cloud II also comes with virtualized 7.1 surround sound, which is also powered by the external sound card.
The semi-backlit USB control device itself has volume toggles for both the headset and the detachable microphone, a mute switch, and a button to turn the 7.1 virtualized environment on and off.
The HyperX Cloud may be used in both USB and 3.5mm configurations, and is compatible with PCs, Macs, the PlayStation 4, mobile devices, and the Xbox One with a dedicated adapter.
Gaming peripheral manufacturers like SteelSeries are pushing hard to extend RGB-lighting beyond keyboards and mice to headsets.
Choosing to forgo this trend, Kingston has kept the HyperX Cloud II headset LED-free, instead placing emphasis on the brushed aluminum hinges and earcups, stitched headband, and two-color design, which is available in gunmetal, pink, and red colors.
The overall impression of the HyperX Cloud II headset is one of understated simplicity. The colors and round design work well with the sturdy-looking hinges, giving the headset a more serious, professional look.
While intended for gaming, the HyperX Cloud II doesn't carry the usual flash and pizzazz of other gaming headsets, making them equally suitable for gamers as well as professionals.
While visiting the Kingston booth during CES last week, I was told by one of the booth representatives that the reason why their headset line is called 'Cloud' is because when wearing the headset, it feels like as soft as a cloud.
Corny I know, but the naming of the HyperX Cloud II headset couldn't be more accurate--it's one of the most comfortable headsets I've had the pleasure of wearing.
The memory foam padding on both the earcups and the headband allow the HyperX Cloud II headset to mold according to the user's head, evenly distributing weight across your cranium.
As someone with a larger-than-average head, I noticed no discernible discomfort while wearing the HyperX Cloud II headset, even during extended multiple-hour sessions. The headset also comes with a very long braided cable, allowing you to move around your desk without worrying about the headphones being yanked off your head.
Prior to wearing the HyperX Cloud II headset, I was convinced that the SteelSeries H Wireless was the most comfortable headset around, but I think we may have a new contender.
The lighter frame (the headset is about an ounce lighter than its predecessor) and comfortable earcups make the HyperX Cloud II a great choice for those who like to game for hours on end.
During the week that I tested the HyperX Cloud II headset, I used it for listening to music, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, and conducting several Skype test calls.
The 53mm drivers do an excellent job of providing ample depth and clarity to music. While not as large as the 60mm drivers on the Turtle Beach Earforce Z60, the HyperX Cloud II drivers were able to produce satisfying bass levels, which were further accentuated by the 7.1 virtualization.
I experienced little to no distortion and very little resonance when using the HyperX Cloud II headset to listen to reference tracks--a quality that is likely owed to the external sound card on the USB control module.
The most impressive performance aspect of the HyperX Cloud II headset is the sheer level of noise isolation provided by the circumaural earcups. While wearing the headset with no sound on, I can barely hear my coworker sitting next to me, and putting on music at as low as 30 percent is a guarantee to wash out any surrounding sound.
To test in-game audio, I played several matches of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. To replicate my usual playing environment, I turned off the in-game music, turned the in-game volume to about 40 percent, and put on a playlist from a music streaming service.
The HyperX Cloud II headset was able to accurately produce the in-game sounds that I've grown accustomed to over the years, and the balance between the game's sound effects and background music was phenomenal.
Unlike the retractable microphone on SteelSeries headsets, the HyperX Cloud II comes with a fully detachable microphone complete with a windscreen. Though somewhat unsightly, the microphone is one of the best I've used on gaming headsets.
With both noise and echo cancellation provided by the external sound card, the microphone stands above what you would usually get with today's gaming headsets. During several Skype calls, my respondents were able to hear my clearly, and described no tinniness or hollowness in my voice.
Improving on its predecessor, the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset comes with a USB control module that also doubles as an external sound card, allowing for greater handling of audio processes and controlling music on-the-fly.
Going for a subtlety, the HyperX Cloud II has an understated design that fits both professional and recreational environments.
There is a reason why Kingston has given this headset the 'Cloud' moniker, and that reason becomes quite obvious when you first wear them. The memory foam earcups and headband and zero-pressure design lend credence to their tagline "Game without pain."
Able to accurately reproduce audioscapes I've grown accustomed to over the years, the HyperX Cloud II sounds just as good as other headsets that cost hundreds more. The well-designed microphone will make talking to others a breeze, and will make for a great addition to those who stream regularly.
Overall Score: 9.3/10
Sacrificing neither comfort or performance, the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset improves on its predecessor with a dedicated USB control module and 7.1 virtual surround sound. For $100, the HyperX Cloud II is one of the best value propositions on the gaming headset market today, providing an audio experience comparable to more expensive headsets.
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