Kingston HyperX Cloud 2 7.1 Headset Review
We never tire of testing headphones. Who doesn't want an excuse to play a great selection of music, rock through some games, watch a film or two and have all of it done under the guise of "work"?
In our introduction we said how strange it is to have a sequel to a product which was only 7 months old, and one of the best headsets we've tested. We couldn't see what exactly there was to improve, or change. As it is there really are only a couple of things that differentiate the Cloud 2 from the original Cloud.
Firstly the microphone is more sensitive than it was on the first Cloud. We never had any issues with the sensitivity of the microphone, but it's always nice to have something more subtle and nuanced and the Cloud 2 has that covered. Whether it's talking via VOIP, chatting during gaming or ranting at 'pwnt n00b' teenagers, the Cloud 2 produces excellent quality speech. The adjustable arm ensures that you don't deafen people with your plosives and fricatives and the removable nature of it helps you enjoy the audio on the train without looking like a muppet with a microphone.
The second change is the connectivity. The original Cloud has two 3.5mm jacks and used and inline remote to control the volume. All fairly standard stuff for a Gaming Headset. The Cloud 2 replaces the two jacks with a single tri-pole design you're probably used to with your smart device (how long will it be before we accept smart devices as the norm and just call them devices?) and has a USB soundcard to connect that to your computer. This USB soundcard is very much the defining feature of the Cloud 2 and will largely dictate whether you choose the Cloud 2 or the Cloud. Obviously any USB soundcard wont be as amazing as a dedicated PCIe soundcard, but you're trading extreme audio quality for convenience. You can stick the Cloud 2 into anything with a USB port and know that the sound you get is the same every time. The tri-pole jack does enable it to instantly be supported, and plug straight into, any smart device and even the PS4 DualShock 4 pad. With an adaptor, sold separately, it will work on the Xbox too. If it exists you can plug the Cloud 2 into it.
Sound quality, even via the USB soundcard, is as outstanding as it was on the original Cloud. No surprise given that the headphones themselves haven't changed. The 53mm drivers combine with the closed-back design to do an amazing job of reproducing glassy highs and thumping bass notes, without the soundscape ever becoming muddied. Everything sounds beautiful. Virtual surround is never going to be as good as dedicated surround sound but even still the Cloud 2's version doesn't really separate the sound properly. Instead it's more like putting some reverb on normal stereo. So it sounds more spacious, but wont assist you in locating enemy gunfire or enjoying a film as well as genuine surround will. It's not even as good as some virtual surround we've experienced. Probably best to just turn it off and leave it off.
When we first reviewed the Cloud it was around £90 and is now, a scant seven months later, only £60. The fact it has the twin 3.5mm jacks allow you to take full advantage of your soundcard, and even your onboard sound if you so choose. Few dedicated soundcards fully support tri-pole jacks and so the Cloud 2 relies heavily upon the USB soundcard for your sound and that, good though it is, will never be quite as good as something like the Phoebus or Sound Blaster Z. If you've got a ALC1150 onboard sound or any dedicated soundcard at all then you'd be better off sticking with the regular HyperX Cloud. But if you've been hankering for the HyperX Cloud headset but want the ease of a USB soundcard then the Cloud 2 is a great choice and you wont be disappointed and it wins our OC3D Gold Award.
We haven't got a price at time of writing so this award is based upon the Cloud 2 being around the £90-£100 mark. If it is much more than this it would slip to our Performance award, and we'd recommend buying the original Cloud and a USB soundcard separately.
Thanks to Kingston for supplying the HyperX Cloud 2 for review. Discuss it in the OC3D Forum thread.