As we have said many times before the peripherals market seems to be one of the PC related markets that continues to grow at a very rapid pace. Everyone wants to get in on the gravy train these days and we are starting to see peripherals from companies that you would not normally think of when it comes to keyboards, headsets or mice. Today we are taking a look at a new product from a company that, until recently, was known for their memory, SSDs, and flash drives. We are talking about Kingston and their HyperX Cloud gaming headset. Now the question we have to find the answer to is: can a memory maker make a product that gamers, PC enthusiasts and audiophiles will like? Let’s dive in and find out.
The Box and Goodies -
The packaging and the accessories that ship with a product can say a lot about what you have purchased. In some cases a manufacturer might go light on the decorations and goodies to show you they are focused on the core product, in others you might see the reverse for exactly the same reason. The trick is knowing when this effort is meant as window dressing or it is really to accent the product.
In the case of the Kingston HyperX Cloud we feel that the extra effort is to highlight the product and to how that this new entry from them into the audio market is not just an afterthought, but a well-planned and built product.
The outer shell is attractive in its simplicity. There is a very clean picture of the cloud on the front along with small text to describe some of the major features of the cloud. The sides of the box shows these in more detail and also describe some of the effort put into designing the Cloud.
The back of the box has a more artistic picture of the Cloud along with highlights of the major features. Now if that was all that Kingston had done it would have probably been more than enough, but they did not stop there.
Inside the outer shell we find a black box with silver lettering. This is a much more stylized and sexy packaging for the Cloud. To be honest we sort of wish that Kingston had of just use this box. It would have made a big impact on someone buying it. I know I was impressed with it once I pulled it out.
On the inside cover of the black box there is a short welcome letter that explains what you can expect from the Cloud and signed by the HyperX General Manager, Anders “G8V1k1ng” Willumsen.
Speaking of accessories, Kingston gives you a ton of them. You get a mobile adapter, an extension cable, a control box on a removable cable, an airplane adapter, different ear pads, and a carrying bag. Out of all of these the fact that the control box is removable is one that I personally like. On many other headsets these are hard mounted to the cable and can be awkward. Not everyone wants volume and mic controls on the headphone cable and this gives you the option to use it or not.
Like we said, you get a lot when you pick up the Cloud Pro Gaming Headset.
The HyperX Cloud -
The Kingston HyperX Cloud Pro Gaming Headset is designed with a retro feel to it, but you can see the modern touches in it. You get solid-aluminum construction combined with leather pads and real stitching. When you first pull them from their protective cocoon you will feel the difference in design. I was surprised at how light they are even though they look very solid.
The Cloud headset is an over-the-ear design which means that Kingston had to make sure the ear pieces gave enough room to cover most ears comfortably. As we mentioned before you get two ear pads when you get the Cloud. One is leather wrapped around memory foam and the other is well, let’s say plush cloth. At the center of these ear pieces Kingston has dropped in a 53mm closed driver. This is roughly 13mm larger than the standard (40mm). The use of a closed driver should make for an interesting sound. Although the argument for open (ported) vs. closed is still in debate, in most cases by enclosing the driver you can get tighter audio reproduction. This is important when you only have one speaker trying to reproduce all of the different frequencies thrown at it. You want the driver to quickly respond to changes in volume or audio input. If the HyperX team also dropped in a decent filler they can significantly increase the effective volume of the audio you are listening to (up to around 40%). It is an impressive move on the part of the HyperX team and one that you do not normally see for PC audio. As an additional bonus the close driver setup also helps to reduce outside noise and enhances the sound that you hear.
If you are a specs junkie then the 15 Hz to 25 KHz frequency response coupled with an SPL of 98dB and a T.H.D of less than 2% should get your attention. 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. Sadly we find something that I take issue with. Kingston decided to continue the retro feel by running the speaker wires externally from the cross bar to the ear piece. Although this is a 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.
Moving up from the ear pieces to the crossbar we see that the HyperX team did a good job of setting up the adjustable rails. With headphones you seem to either get them too stiff or too loose, that is not the case with the Cloud. For the padding along the crossbar the Cloud has a combination of leather and memory foam. The leather has red stitching to enhance the appearance and the added touch of having the HyperX logo embroidered into it. The overall weight of 350g (.77 pounds) makes for a comfortable fit on the top of your head.
As the Cloud 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.
In all the HyperX Cloud is a very well thought out and built product. 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 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.
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.
Our take -
If I were to come up with a single word to describe the audio quality with the Cloud headset it would be: clean. Another one that would work well is tight. The closed drivers created a crisp audio environment. The sounds seemed to snap out at you without mud or distortion. I was impressed with almost all of the selections we use for testing.
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 -
The same tight, clean sound does well in gaming. You can feel the low end punch at you instead of just being there. In BioShock Infinite the explosions are much more impressive than what we have heard from other headsets, but did not over power the other sounds happening.
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.
Our Take -
Once again the design of the Cloud headphones (closed 53mm drivers etc) makes using them for watching movies a pleasure. The clean and crisp sounds combined with the lack of outside noises brought a new level of quality to the sounds we have heard from the movies we use for testing.
With their weight and padding the Cloud gaming headset is one of the more comfortable ones we have worn. Even after several hours and when wearing glasses they were not uncomfortable.
The Microphone -
This is an important part of a gamer's headset and Kingston's HyperX team did a great job with the one that comes with the Cloud. During our tests the microphone produced clean and understandable audio. Our voice did not pop when speaking hard consonants or produce hiss for softer ones. Like the rest of the Cloud hardware it is very impressive.
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 price of the Cloud will come as something of a shock once you read it. With their solid aluminum construction, closed 53mm drivers, large array of accessories, and even the stitched leather you might expect a price tag close to the $200 range. In looking for other headsets with similar features that was the price point we saw most commonly. However the Kingston HyperX Cloud Pro Gaming Headset will only set you back $100. This is a very aggressive price point from Kingston and one that is sure to attract some attention from the gaming community.
When we first saw the Cloud headset at CES we had our concerns. Kingston is a memory company and did not strike us as a company that would be able to get into the gamer’s head for something like a headset. However, it appears that they not only got into the gamer’s mind, but then took a tour around the head of an audiophile. They have produced a headset that is at home with games, movies and high-end audio and at a price point that is excellent. The Cloud Pro Gaming headset brings a new standard for PC audio reproduction. You might actually need to upgrade your sound card to do them justice. If you are in the market for a new set of headphones then we will highly recommend the Cloud…. In fact we think you should go ahead and get them now.
With their combination of build quality, audio performance and price we are awarding the HyperX Cloud our Editor’s Choice and Must Have awards.
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