Choosing a good gaming headset can be an awfully complicated decision, given the many different areas where you might use it. While headphones for music just need good sound quality and comfort, gaming headsets need some additional attributes. Kingston's HyperX Cloud headset delivers a pretty compelling package that is well suited for gaming use and strikes a solid balance between quality, price, and performance.
The overall design of the headset is quite minimalist and lacks a lot of the bulk and heft of other units. This makes it feel a bit lighter but not at the expense of areas that enhance the headset's comfort. The leather that rests on the top of your head feels plush, as do the leather ear pads. A problem I've traditionally had with headsets is that many of them tend to apply too much pressure to the arms of my glasses, but there was none of that here. Indeed, between the give of the leather and the adjustments available for head size, the HyperX Cloud is one of the more comfortable headsets I've felt. For those who want to, cloth ear pads are also included and can be easily swapped.
The minimalist design is striking to look at, with an overall black finish only broken up by the red HyperX logos on the sides of the ear pieces. The metal frame is wrapped in leather where it makes contact with your head and is finished in softly textured plastics. The signal cables for the ear pieces are separate wires coming from headband to ear piece rather than integrated into the band itself, though this means you'll want to be careful the cables don't snag on anything when you have the headset on the go. For as slight as the design looks, it is certainly not delicate and feels like it's intended to be carted around from one LAN party to the next.
The microphone is detachable from the headset, and the headset comes with a tiny rubber stopper that can be used to cover the hole when the microphone is not in use. The microphone is rigid enough to keep its position quite well, but it's also easily bendable. The audio quality is pretty good and better than what some desktop mics can achieve. Recorded speech sounded clear upon playback with minimal background noise, and the immediate response I'd gotten from people I regularly chat with was, "Did you get a new mic? You sound better."
The headset comes with a bountiful accessory kit that includes a five-foot long extension cable, a volume/mute module (with its own length of cables), the cloth earpieces, a cell phone/aircraft adapter, and a PlayStation4 adapter. The volume module lets you easily adjust the headset volume and has a toggle switch to enable/disable the microphone. If the microphone is enabled, there is also a soft button that lets you temporarily mute it for as long as you hold it. I tend to use push-to-talk, so these features weren't as useful to me, but I can easily see their use for those who like to leave their mics live. The use of this module isn't necessary, though. You can just plug in the headset directly with its built-in cables or use it and its extension cable.
The sound quality of the headset varies a little bit, depending on your intended use. For gaming, the 53mm drivers deliver an ample but nuanced amount of bass, great for the explosions of TitanFall or the staccato gunfire of Battlefield 4. The bass also does a good job of not swamping out the soundscape, so it's not as though you are only getting that one element when it kicks in. The headset also delivers good performance with mid-range sounds but tends to struggle a bit with the higher frequencies. It's not enough to make it a genuine problem, but it makes the headset struggle when listening to music. For example, listening to a rather subdued acoustic track just didn't have the same warmth that it does when reproduced more accurately.
The main detractors may or may not apply to you, depending on your usage. The headset cannot collapse flat, which means you'll need to exercise more caution when packing it for a trip in your luggage or backpack. The carrying bag doesn't offer much in the way of protection, and the accessory pouch doesn't do the best job of containing the accessories. Since it only closes with a short strip of Velcro, the smaller adapters can easily slide out. If you plan to use the headset primarily at home or with minimal travel, these issues are a bit moot. Note that while the build quality of headset is solid, it isn't the best for travel unless you carefully pack the headset or stow the accessories someplace else.
Given all that the headset does right, the MSRP can come as a bit of a shock. At $99, it's impressive that the HyperX Cloud headset packs in as much value as it does. The build quality certainly gives the impression of a weightier cost, and the headset's accessory package and overall comfort beats out headsets that are triple the price. There are some minor issues with the sound quality, but this isn't a headset for savoring the finer points of nuanced music. Instead, this is a headset that shines in its use for gaming and has a level of comfort for even the longest of gameplay sessions.
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