Review: HyperX Cloud Alpha Gaming Headset
The Cloud Alpha is the latest gaming headset in HyperX’s line-up that’s geared towards the serious gamer. Serious enough that is, to be in use by pro e-sports players in league competitions.
The moment I took the Cloud Alpha out of the box, I couldn’t stop touching the earpads. They are one of the most -and you can quote me on this- comfortable pads in existence, and really feel like a baby’s bottom or a lady’s… you know. If it was an actual person, they’d likely yell at me to keep my hands to myself. Luckily, I’m a complete gentleman and no such yelling has occurred. At least not yet. The only yelling I’ll hear is the screaming of zombies during gameplay, with the plush earpads nestled directly against my head.
The extreme plushness is the result of what HyperX calls premium red foam and what I call the softest faux leather that I can’t get enough of. The material under the headband is a bit thicker and stiffer, but still very comfortable.
It’s a stark contrast to the industry tried-and-true Sony 7506 monitors I use. For me, they give me a splitting headache after an hour or so because they clamp around my head without mercy. The funny thing is, I’ve spread the headband apart so much that they won’t hold together when I fold them in for transport. And they STILL hurt! The earcups of the Cloud Alpha push against each other when I take them off, but at no point do they give me a headache. That’s a +1 for the Alphas.
STYLING / DESIGN
The color scheme is very pretty with it being mostly black with red highlighting. There’s even red stitching around the headband which is a nice, premium touch. There are hardly any moving parts; no swivel earcups, no folding mechanism. It’s a static piece of gear with slight earcup movement to comfortably fit around the head plus height adjustment.
There are also two things worth noting in the earcups and the frame.
The circumference of the earcups and the part holding the adjustable red frame feel like high end, smooth silicon. On the topside of both are some curious holes, which I also found in my review of HyperX’s own Cloud Stinger headsets. I’d speculated they were air holes to release trapped heat, but it’s just that – speculation. The holes could have been put anywhere, but the fact that they’re on top (since heat moves upwards) tells me that the design team may have considered the sweaty ear thing a no-go on their list.
Back to the high-end silicon, this material gives the Cloud Alpha a pass for entry into the upper echelon of headphone material design, but the pass is then revoked by the cheap’ish plastic used on the outside facing part (with the HyperX logo on it). This seems like a cost decision more than a design one.
Then there’s the red metal frame that isn’t anything like we’ve see on any headset. It’s designed for instant recognition with cutouts inside the frame, around the u-shape of the earcups. It not only gives off a unique look, but shaves off a few grams of weight while giving it strength. The next time you watch an esports competition, you won’t need to wonder what headsets the players are using – *if* they have on a set of HyperX Cloud Alpha.
The headphones come with a braided, 1.3 meter long TRRS 3.5mm cable with an analog wheel for volume level and a mute switch built into it. You also get a noise cancelling mic and a splitter cable that gives you an additional .7 meters of length (2 meters in total) for devices using separate audio and mic ports. All of these additions are detachable when not in use.
USABILITY / FUNCTION
Across the board, I’ve noticed HyperX uses the KISS philosophy in their gaming gear. Everything is more or less optimized straight out of the gate so you don’t have to fiddle with anything.
This point is especially crucial for serious gamers at competition level. I mean, how many of them have the time or patience to futz around with software settings, or even want to turn a swiveling earcup every time they want to put on a pair of headsets? There’s real work to do, and accessories should be easy and quick to use at all times – not slow you down.
In that way, the Cloud Alpha is very simple where it counts. It’s a modular design with separate cable and mic so that if something goes wrong with one part, you can swap it out with another. Otherwise, there are no unnecessary moving parts which means less chance of something going wrong.
Where it’s not very simple is the engineering and internal design. Much like how speakers are designed with separate a tweeter and woofer, the Cloud Alpha separates frequencies with dual chamber drivers – one for bass and another for mid-range and highs. This makes for better clarity in those frequencies without the sound getting muddled.
The sound is very good. To my ears, it’s not as bass heavy compared to the Cloud Stinger, and I felt a great clarity in the midrange. When listening to music, I heard sounds I hadn’t noticed before (in the midrange) while the bass was put in its place – it was present, but not overly so.
Certain instruments and sounds made my skin tingle. Things like strumming of a metal string guitar or a person whispering sweet nothings in your ear. I also heard the impact of drumsticks the moment it hit the drum. You do of course need good source recordings that have these details, but good headphones can show the depth of those recordings.
When gaming State of Decay, I could hear the start of subtle grunts and movement from distant zombies as I moved ever closer to their location. The slightest noise can mean life or death in a game like this. To get trapped with a horde of zombies can mean losing the character you’re using permanently when s/he dies (at least for the rest of the game).
Since you can’t see your enemies half the time, a good portion of your survival depends on what you can hear. And that means a big dependency on the headset’s capabilities. Imagine how crucial this is when you’re competing in an e-sports tournament for real money?
The Cloud Alpha uses 50mm drivers with a frequency range of 13 Hz to 27,000 Hz; well beyond what humans are capable of hearing. We obviously won’t be taking advantage of those extra 7,000 Hz on the top or the 7 Hz below, but it should be able to do it – if you really care.
The 65 ohm impedance makes the Cloud Alpha very easy to drive. It’ll work well with most consumer electronic devices like gaming consoles, laptops and music players (but you risk blowing them out if you plug them into DJ mixers or pro studio equipment.)
They’re a closed back design to muffle outside noise and have a THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) of less than 1%. Since the distortion rate is so low you shouldn’t hear anything weird like humming or electrical noise. If you do, it’s probably a sign for you to check your other components introducing the unwanted noise.
The mic is a noise cancellation type with a frequency response of 50 Hz to 18,000 Hz. To be honest, the speech sounds like it’s missing a tiny bit of each word in the beginning and end. It’s odd for a mic with such a wide sound range, and could be the result of an overly aggressive level of noise cancellation. That being said, the voice range is clearly heard.
I also like that the mic is detachable. You can take these out in the real world for your music listening without looking like you can’t afford headphones for the street.
No software is included (see above for rant on unnecessary software). But the headsets have been certified for the following:
- Mumble and
If there’s one thing I miss, it’s the mic-mute function found in the Cloud Stinger. You basically raise the mic to mute it and lower it to unmute. I wonder if this is possible to do in a detachable mic (I’m sure it is somehow).
Along these same lines, I’m also uncomfortable with putting the headphones down. With everything attached – cable, mic and all – it’s difficult to put headset down without “crushing” the mic or bending the braided cable. I don’t want to constantly think about how I’m going to put my headphones on a table because the thought of damaging the cables or mic (over time) is a worry I shouldn’t have to have.
BUT… if the mic was designed in such a way that allows it to be raised upwards to fit along the earcup (and mute at the same time), I’d be less worried about harming my beloved Cloud Alpha headphones when I toss them on a table after losing a match. Perhaps HyperX would consider this suggestion for a future version of their headset line?
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is one of the most comfortable fitting headphones that offer great sound for under $100. It’s got a unique look that’s sure to turn heads (and arguably instant recognition by gamers in e-sports) while the clarity it offers will give you the edge you need during gameplay. Be sure these headphones are on your list of products to check out immediately.
For those on a tighter budget, you may want to consider the $50 HyperX Cloud Stinger.
More Info: http://www.HyperXgaming.com
(Test unit provided by HyperX for this review)
Check prices: http://amzn.to/2qwy1P8 – Amazon affiliate link