The Box and Goodies -
The Cloud II box is very similar to the one that the Cloud one came in. It uses the same style of graphics, etc. to show off the product. There are some new things to see on the Cloud II’s box like the addition of the USB amp/control box, larger drivers (53mm), support for the PS4, and more.
Since the box is not really what you want to hear about we will just leave a few pictures of the outside for those of you that might want to look at them. Instead we will move on to what is inside and then to the design and build of the Cloud II.
As we mentioned, Kingston wanted to add a USB audio controller, but they also wanted to give you the same high-quality headset that you had with the original Cloud. This is very clear from the way everything is packed into the box. It does not look like an $100 headset, but something much more expensive.
The USB audio controller is very slim and compact. In fact it really looks like any other USB audio device on the market with the exception of the Asus U1. It does have a much longer cord that most and also some interesting additions to the controls (like the 7.1 button in the center). The separate volume buttons for the mic and headphones are a nice touch.
The HyperX Cloud II -
Like the Kingston HyperX Cloud Pro the Cloud II is designed with a retro feel to it. You get the same solid-aluminum construction combined with leather pads and real stitching. However, there is a difference to them as well. When you hold both the Cloud and Cloud II in your hands the Cloud II “feels” smaller, but also heavier. This is more of an impression than a reality though as when you put them side-by-side you can see they are almost identical with some very minor differences and the Cloud II is slightly lighter.
The Cloud II headset shares the same over-the-ear design and two ear pads leather wrapped around memory foam and the “plush cloth”. You get the same 53mm closed driver with Neodymium magnets (which we talked about in the original review). The closed drivers should, once again, allow for very tight sound reproduction.
For the specs junkies, the Cloud II has the same 15 Hz to 25 KHz frequency response coupled with an SPL of 98dB and a T.H.D of less than 2%. This is one of the better ranges on the market right now and with the design of the driver is sure to give you some solid sound reproduction.
Connecting the ear piece to the cross bar is a solid piece of aluminum. This gives it a cool look and also should help extend the life of the Cloud headset. Kingston decided to keep the speaker wires running externally from the cross bar to the ear piece. Very nice look, it also raises the chance of damage to the cable by simply getting it caught on something. With the right amount of force, even the braided cable will not hold up.
Looking at the crossbar we find everything almost the same with the exception of the depth of the memory foam. On the Cloud II the memory foam is visibly smaller. This could factor into comfort when you wear them for a long period of time. The leather has black stitching to enhance the appearance and the added touch of having the HyperX logo embroidered into it. The overall weight of 320g should make for a comfortable fit on the top of your head.
As the Cloud II is a gamer’s headset (Pro Gamer) they have also included the option for a removable microphone. The port for this is on the left hand ear piece and protected by a cover. This is a nice touch as it not only maintains the look of the Cloud, but makes sure that the port stays nice and clean.
The mic plugs in very securely and looks like a solid piece once attached. The boom is flexible so you can adjust it to suit your needs. The business end of the mic is covered in foam to help reduce noise from air moving around it and also your breath.
Again for the specs guys we have the following for the microphone. Max SPL 105dB, THD of less than or equal to 1% an output of -39dB (plus or minus 3) and a frequency response of 100Hz to 12 KHz. It is a solid choice of microphone.
The audio control device (USB) –
When we talked with Kingston during CES 2015 about this little device they were very proud of it as they have a very large hand in developing and designing it. It is really not much more than a USB audio device, but it is one that does not need any extra drivers to work. In the Windows device manager it simply shows up as the HyperX 7.1 Audio and works as a Generic USB audio device (Microsoft Drivers). You get separate volume controls for both the headphones and the Microphone with a full mute switch on the side for the mic. The audio controller can also clip to something so it is out of the way if you want.
In all the HyperX Cloud II is a very well thought out and built product just like its older brother, but there are some differences that worry me a little. So let’s move on to see how well it performs.
With audio gear it is hard to be objective. After all different people like different music and even people that like the same music might like to listen to it in different ways. To make sure that I cover the audio products that we get here at DecryptedTech I like to have more than one opinion. Usually I gather 5 other people to listen to different audio types (gaming, movies, MP3 and CD-Audio). I then ask for a rating of one to five with one being the worst and 5 being the best for each category. I then follow up with my personal feelings and observations. The Cloud II headphones are intended to be a gaming headset so while we wanted to make sure we cover the gaming end of things we also wanted to find out how well they operate with other audio content. We will also add in a few words about what you get when you enable the 7.1 feature.
Music (MP3 and CD-Audio) -
For Music I have a few favorite tracks that I like to use. These are not always other people’s favorites but they serve as a baseline and have some impressive audio features to them that can distinguish between good audio and bad. One of them is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing. It is an amazing track. Others are A Day in the Life by the Beetles, Are you Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, and Cage the Elephant’s Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked. To this listing we added some jazz, funk, and of course Reggae. The numbers for this are below.
Our take -
Much like the original Cloud, you get very tight sound from almost all of the audio you listen to. The bass is clean and the mid and high end have no mud in them. You can hear great separation in the tones so you are getting a really top notch audio experience even before you plug in the USB audio controller. Once you do this there is a slight hint of distortion in the audio at higher playback levels. More than likely this is simply due to the extra amplification in the controller over what you usually see in a laptop or desktop. Still it was there and was not really expected.
When we kick on the 7.1 feature we found that we did not really get surround sound. Instead the audio... expanded. There is not really a good way to describe this effect. As an example on the Avenge Sevenfold track “Hail to the King” has a guitar riff in the beginning that is normally audible in the left ear when listening in stereo. When listening in 7.1 it was everywhere with a slight echo to it. The audio was still very clean, but it was certainly not really surround and added an unexpected “item” to the songs.
So for this test we did something a little different. In addition to our normal testing with desktop games, we decided that we would also throw in a couple of games on our Galaxy Note III just to see how good the audio reproduction is there. Our normal games are Medal of Honor, BioShock Infinite and Modern Warfare 3. These games have different audio qualities that can push a headset nicely.
Our take -
Both the Cloud and Cloud II have more than enough power and sound to make your gaming experience great. With the Cloud II plugged directly into the audio card we found the sound to be (once again) clean, tight and vibrant. The sounds in Medal of Honor when you are playing the AC130 mission are very impressive with Cloud II on. With the USB audio adapter the extra power can be heard in the audio especially when the game developer takes the time to put together an immersive audio package.
The 7.1 button brought more volume to the sounds (space not measure of loudness). In outdoor environments this made the audio seem more realistic and open. It was an impressive experience. The size of the drivers combined with the close cabinets also allowed the Cloud II to push sound in a way that made it seem more alive than what we have heard from other virtual surround systems. It was very different than what we noted with simple audio tracks.
Movies was an easy one also, I have several Blu-ray titles that are great for this including Pirates of the Caribbean. So I loaded up this title and then dropped in a couple of other movies that have good surround effects. The numbers are shown below.
Our Take -
The HyperX Cloud 2 held its own against the original cloud when you plug it straight into your system. It has the same power and acoustic performance that you would expect. When you plug in the USB audio adapter you get a little more power behind the audio and it shows in the vibrance of the sound. Once we turned on the 7.1 we saw similar performance to what we had in gaming, the audio expanded to fill up more volume, but it was not really surround sound.
Microphone Performance -
The Mic on the Cloud 2 is just as good as what we saw on the original HyperX Cloud. You get solid voice reproduction without a ton of background noise. This is good when you are using the Cloud 2 in a noisy environment (like a LAN Party). We tested it with Skype and it was more than acceptable. The ability to remove the mic, mute it or just adjust the volume independently of the speaker volume is a nice touch as well.
The Cloud 2 is sadly not as comfortable as the original. The thinner crossbar padding makes it feel more solid and less “light”. The Cloud 2 also has a very short cable for use without the USB adapter. Now, this might not be a major issue, it can be if you do not want (or cannot) use the USB audio adapter. This is ok if you have your system close to you (like a laptop) but it really does not work for a desktop. Again this is not a deal breaker, but it is something to be aware of when you are looking to buy.
Value is another very subjective topic. What is expensive to some might be a deal to others. You can look at this topic in multiple ways. One is raw price and the other is what you get for the money. Each is accurate and both are correct ways to look at price/value. We tend to look at features, performance and real-property when we discuss value. However, we also take into account the raw cash cost of the item. The Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset will set you back around $100 from the majority of online stores. This is not a bad price point when you consider you are actually getting a sound “card” with it that gives you the option of virtual surround sound and a small headphone amp. The $100 price is also much less than many other headsets on the market that do not have any surround option and that feature much smaller drivers to boot.
We put the HyperX Cloud II head to head with the original to see if Kingston was able to outdo their first stab at the audio market. For the most part we can say that they have done so. The new design does have some issues that were disappointing (the head strap padding and short headphone cable), but it also makes up for that with nice improvements in other areas. The audio quality from the Cloud II is excellent if you are using the 7.1 feature or not. You are still getting the clean and tight audio that is very hard to find from other manufacturers. Kingston is moving in the right direction with the Cloud II, and we expect to see some great things from them in their next product. We have heard from them that they will be taking a more active lead in design and actual manufacture of the next generation which can only be a good thing for the consumer.
With their combination of build quality, audio performance and price we are awarding the HyperX Cloud II our Editor’s Choice award.