Accessory Review: Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset

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Successor to the original HyperX Cloud, Kingston’s new HyperX Cloud II gaming headset rocks the house with the addition of 7.1 virtual surround sound (plus some other subtle touches) on top of everything else that made the previous model a winner. Kingston Technology does more than just data storage and system memory, y’all!

That 7.1 virtual surround sound, in addition to enhanced echo/noise cancelation during voice chat, is delivered via a USB audio control box that features its own built-in sound card. The standard 3.5MM stereo jack plugs into the top of this tethered remote control, which then plugs into your Windows PC or Mac on the other end via USB. The headset can be used with PS4 (through the headphone jack built into the DualShock 4), Xbox One (with an extra adapter), portable gaming systems, and mobile devices using the stereo connection, but the only way to get the full experience is to have the USB sound card sandwiched in the middle.

The control box, which sports red LED backlighting for added cool factor, features independent volume control for both audio and the detachable microphone, a switch to mute the microphone altogether, and a central button for seamlessly toggling the emulated surround sound on and off. There’s even a clip on the back of the remote unit should you want to secure it to an article of clothing or some other object. In my case, I found that I could latch the unit onto the handle of the top-right drawer of my PC desk just a short distance away from my main mouse hand, which has helped keep the extra cable length from dangling and getting in my way.

I did try connecting the whole USB chain with my PS4 just to cover all bases, and audio did come through just fine, but the surround sound, volume and mic controls, and voice chat enhancements didn’t work. Actually, when I first plugged it in, I hit the surround sound button and magically it did activate. The red light came on and I could detect a change in the audio levels as I toggled it off and then back on. However, when I went to try the volume controls the unit locked up and from that point on, even after rebooting the PS4 and reconnecting multiple times, I haven’t been able to get the surround sound to switch back on. It’s almost as if my attempt to increase the volume made the unit remember that it’s not supposed to be working on this device. (Just to be clear, Kingston’s product specs plainly state that the USB sound card is compatible only on PC/Mac.)

Contents include: Headset, USB remote w/ built-in sound card, removable mic, dual 3.5 adapter, two different types of ear cushions, and mesh carrying case.

Contents include: Headset, USB remote w/ built-in sound card, removable mic, dual 3.5 adapter, two different types of ear cushions, and mesh carrying case.

With or without the sound card benefits, the audio quality is fantastic, every bit as good if not better than other standard headphones I have that don’t feature any emulated surround sound capabilities. (And I have amassed a number of premium headphones in my years of gaming, including Astro Gaming A40s, Afterglows, and a high-end pair by Sony I bought many years ago that are battered on the outside from wear and tear but still pump out rich sound.) But, of course, the 7.1 surround sound only amplifies the immersion to another level. I tested these puppies across a wide range of games, and the performance was universally impressive.

Outlast definitely stood out the most; it does have some of the most atmospheric audio after all. The directional audio made it possible to sense danger by sound alone, particularly during the chase sequences. When walking near rotting corpses, I became enveloped by the swarm of flies as if they really were buzzing all around my head. Miles’ shaky breathing, the residual head-ringing pain after getting walloped by a club-flailing inmate, and all the other horror-game creaks and groans became so much clearer and distinguished with the push of a button.

I also revisited Ryse (screw the haters, I love that game!), and I was not disappointed by the booming chaos of the bloodthirsty crowd’s cheers assaulting my eardrums when battling in the colosseum, or the harrowing battlefield ambiance of the campaign’s epic set pieces. The recently updated Steam edition of Red Faction: Guerrilla produced great results as well–and not just the explodey bits. It was the little nuances, like the realistic sound of a car’s motor getting louder and quieter as it approached and then passed by, that made a noticeable difference.

Microphone plug-in close-up.

Microphone plug-in close-up.

The HyperX Cloud II’s earn high marks for more than just audio performance. The product itself is so well made, and offers so many thoughtful features and accessories. The cushioned headband and over-the-ear pads are comfortable and show fine craftsmanship in terms of stitching and design. There are even two sets of interchangeable ear cushions–a pair in a velour texture and a pair surfaced by a soft faux leather material–to give users the choice of what feels better resting over their head’s sound holes.

I love how soft and smooth the detachable boom mic’s flexible shaft is. I love that all of the cables are braided rather than the typical plastic/rubber-coated material. I love the included carrying pouch, with its thick netted material, drawstring closure, and Velcro side pouch for storing all the other accessories when not in use. I love the logoing and overall design aesthetics. And I even love the slick packaging, which you can take a peek at in the gallery of personal unboxing photos I took at the bottom of the page.

The only thing I don’t love so much is the lacking out-of-box documentation. A simple quick-start diagram shows how to connect to different devices, but there isn’t an actual manual. It would have been nice to have more detailed instructions for certain things. For example, I wasn’t sure how the ear cushions came off, so I had to cautiously fiddle around until I realized how to do it without breaking something. At first, I didn’t even realize that the 7.1 emblem at the center of the remote control was a button. I just sort of assumed that having the headphones plugged in through the USB sound card automatically activated the surround sound. Yes, these are little things that make you feel dumb when you can’t immediately figure them out, but that’s what manuals are for.

It really is hard to believe that this headset sells for only $99.99. Between the sturdy build, comfortable ergonomics, impeccable audio fidelity, and the included sack of accessories, the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset delivers powerhouse performance in a surprisingly affordable package. It’s probably not the number one option for console gaming since the PS4 and Xbox One are not capable of taking advantage of the main USB sound card features, but for PC gaming I’m not sure there’s a better combination of value and premium quality.

Disclosure: The HyperX Cloud II gaming headset is available now from Amazon.com and Kingston Technology. A free review unit was provided to VGBlogger.com for review by Kingston Technology.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!