It’s risky to send me headphones for review, especially gaming headphones. I am a hard-to-please audiophile at the best of times and gaming headsets never pass muster for me. Almost without exception the mix is bad, the weight oppressive and the degree to which they clamp down on your ears borderline painful. So intense is my distaste for the vast majority of gaming headphones, I’ve taken to using a pair of Sennheiser 598’s with an external mic when gaming on PC or console. I tell you all of that, so I can tell you this: I’ve never liked a pair of gaming cans as much as I like the HyperX Cloud Alphas.
Kingston’s gaming arm HyperX have been making some really strong moves in 2017. Their Alloy FPS mechanical keyboard is one of the best no frills boards we’ve ever used (and continue to use). They’ve set themselves apart in a crowded field by focusing not on the bells-and-whistles their competitors do but on features and user comfort while keeping their price points extremely competitive — at $169 AUD, they represent excellent value for money.
Despite its position at the pricier end of HyperX’s accessory catalogue, the Cloud Alpha gaming headset may actually represent some of the company’s finest work to date. At first blush, it does appear all that different from any of the other gaming cans HyperX have launched, particularly when you’re looking within the Cloud family. They’ve got a nicer colour scheme than their lower-tier cousins, a deep metallic red metallic highlights over a black finish, but its the underlying kit that makes them interesting.
In a departure from earlier models, the Cloud Alphas implement a dual-chamber design, the idea being that they will be able to give players greater range and more accurate tone reproduction. According to the marketing materials that come with the headset, this is to allow it to better separate the bass from the mid and high frequency sounds for greater immersion. Your mileage, depending on the degree to which you are a pedant for sound quality, may vary.
What the Cloud Alpha actually delivers is 2.1 stereo audio through its 50mm drivers, equipped with neodymium magnets and at a frequency range of 13Hz-27,000Hz. I found the audio quality to be more than satisfactory, indeed the Cloud Alpha’s rank among the better gaming headsets I’ve ever heard. The bass doesn’t obliterate everything else and the treble is balanced quite nicely. The positional audio could be better but without a full 7.1 set up, it can be tougher for some to get a better idea of incoming foes are. For some, no 7.1 may be a deal breaker. For me, it feels like a feature cut from the device to keep the weight down, a hit I’m more than happy to take. The pleasant upshot of the Cloud Alpha’s less-is-more design philosophy is that it’s actually quite good for music, and compact enough to take on a plane with you. Good job, HyperX. Way to kill a few birds with a single, well-aimed stone.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that annoys me deeply about the majority of gaming headsets is that they tend to weigh a ton. This makes playing for longer sessions rather difficult as the weight on the ears becomes too much to be bear after a while. The HyperX Cloud Alphas appear to have taken this into account because they are among the more light-weight gaming headsets I’ve ever used. The headband is softer and far more pliable than the lower-tier models, the padding around the earcups is super comfortable and they don’t clamp down so hard around your ears that you can feel a vacuum being created. The headset is also wired through a simply 3.5mm aux cable which means you can use it with literally anything that has an aux port, including your PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. Tight.
If I have a design criticism to make, it would be with the microphone. A simple boom mic that uses a 3.5mm jack on the headsets left earcup, the mic seemd to permanently be in my peripheral vision. The stalk on which it rests is bendable and can be moved away to keep it out of sight but whenever I did this, my team mates would immediately complain that they couldn’t hear me clearly. Conversely, if I moved the mic too close it would start to pick up the (very minimal) audio bleed coming from the cans. Frustrating and it required a great deal of fiddling with Windows 10’s audio settings to get the mic to a point where it wasn’t driving me mad on one front or another.
It’s a mark of the Cloud Alphas overall quality that I’ve adopted them as my full-time headset on my gaming PC. Mighty comfortable and with sound of a quality that will please all but the most hardened audiophile, HyperX have made a headset that is very easy to recommend.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Nice design; Solid sound; Lightweight!
Lowlights: Lack of flashy features may turn some off; Mic needs work