Editor’s note: IGN is ramping tech and hardware reviews back up, one product category at a time. We’re kicking off with deep dives into some of the best-of-the best headsets, GPUs, Mice, Monitors, and keyboards from the last few years.
The HyperX Cloud II (See it on Amazon) sits at the top rung of Kingston’s consumer-focused headset lineup, making it the company’s best all-purpose gaming headset, but one notch below the “studio” quality Cloud Revolver. It costs $99.99 and features 7.1 virtual surround sound via its USB controller but can also be used via its 3.5mm audio jack with phones, tablets, and game consoles. The vanilla Cloud model lacks surround sound as well as the noise- and echo-canceling microphone found on the newer “II” model. So how does it stack up to the competition? Let’s dive in.
Design and Features
The biggest selling point of the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset is its clever, modular design and optional 7.1 surround sound. This update to the HyperX Cloud adds a USB sound card to the mix that delivers virtual 7.1 surround sound when you want it. The sound card sits inline on the USB cable and features volume controls for both the headphones and microphone. You can then disconnect the headset from this USB module, which leaves you with a stereo headset with a 3.5mm jack that you can plug into your phone or game controller for listening to music, making calls, and console gaming. You can also detach the microphone, leaving you with a set of headphones to take with you.
The HyperX Cloud II works with both PCs and Macs as well as gaming consoles including the PS4 and Xbox One.
The headset is plug-and-play since there’s no software to install, so setup is ridiculously easy (Step 1. Plug, Step 2. Play), and platform support is broad. The HyperX Cloud II works with both PCs and Macs as well as gaming consoles including the PS4 and Xbox One. You’ll need a USB connection, however, to take advantage of the sound card and its 7.1 surround sound. The surround sound effect is done through software, and a large 53mm driver powers each earphone.
Like its predecessor, the HyperX Cloud II headset features premium materials that include an aluminum metal frame, fully padded ear cups, and a long, braided cable. Kingston offers two color choices for the headset, a black-and-gray Gunmetal model and a black-and-red option simply called Red. We received the Red model, which features a red aluminum headband frame with contrast stitching on its memory-foam padding. The ear cups also feature soft, memory-foam padding and a red HX logo on the sides. Padding can also be found on the inside to prevent discomfort for large ears that might touch the interior walls of the ear cups.
The braided cord that runs from the headset is three feet long and terminates in a 3.5mm audio jack. That connects to another braided cord that features the sound card and audio controller on one end and a USB port on the other, and it’s an additional six feet in length. This arrangement gives you plenty of cord when tethered to a computer and not an overwhelming amount of cord should you detach from the USB cord and use the headset with your phone.
The USB controller also features a clip on the back for attaching to your body to keep it out of the way while still being easily accessible. On the front it features separate volume controls for the headphones and the mic. If others in a game inform you that your voice is too loud, it’s great to be able to turn down the mic’s volume without lowering the audio from the headphones. In between the volume buttons is a button to activate the virtual 7.1 sound. A small switch to mute the mic sits on the side edge of the controller. The mute switch is more difficult to flip than it should be; so I wish there was a mute button on the front with the other volume controls.
The microphone is removable, and you just need to detach a small, easily lost rubber cover on the bottom of the left headphone to reveal the jack to attach the microphone. The mic’s arm is flexible and lets you position the mic in the exact position you want. It also offers noise- and echo-canceling for clearer speech, which is new to the Cloud II and was not included on its predecessor.
Kingston throws in a number of extra goodies in the box. In addition to the microphone and the USB cord with inline sound card and audio controls, you get a second set of ear cups; the extra set features cloth padding to go with the leatherette pair that are attached by default. We prefer the feel of the leatherette set, but the cloth ear cups might be preferable in hot environments where a particularly intense and long gaming session might have you working up a sweat. Also in the box you’ll find a dual 3.5mm headphone jack for use on airplanes. Kingston even throws in a padded bag to store all the extras so you won’t lose them, or can take them on the road with you.
I was impressed with the rich, textured sounds of the game.
I put the HyperX Cloud II through its paces, making stops on a PC, an Xbox One, and an iPhone. I first connected the headset to a PC via its USB controller and fired up Battlefield. I first noticed that the closed design of the headphones all but eliminated ambient noise, which was fantastic. Then I started playing and was impressed with the rich, textured sounds of the game. Explosions and gunfire sounded crisp and concussive, while softer sounds were still evident as we trekked through brush and over gravel. And this was before I hit the button for 7.1 virtual surround sound. With it enabled, the audio field felt greatly expanded. I couldn’t discern seven distinct channels, but I had a better sense of the direction and the distance of the sounds in the game.
I then disconnected the HyperX Cloud II from its USB controller and plugged the headset into an XBox One controller and played Star Wars: Battlefront. In stereo sound, the Assault on Endor featured lush sound with large explosions ping-ponging between the left and right channels with the dialogue between players remaining clear throughout.
After my gaming tests, I used the headset with an iPhone to test out call quality and music playback. The bass thumped on Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” while the mid and high tones stayed crisp. I made a few phone calls to test the mic and were told we came through loud and clear. In fact, I was almost too loud and too clear and was told that I sounded better after I moved the mic away from our mouth so there was about two inches in between it and my maw.
The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset has an MSRP of $99.99, which is the same price it is currently listed for on Amazon. It ocasionally is one sale for around $85, but generally holds its $99.99 asking price quite strongly: