The Hardware Review: HyperX Cloud II Headset
The Cloud II’s are rated at less than 2% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). In simplistic terms, this is how accurate the equipment is in reproducing audio and how much the sound can be distorted (or mangled) from the source material. In the realms of audiophile equipment, that’s distinctly pedestrian with many mid-range surround receivers giving less than 1% THD, high end stuff gets into 0.01% territory.
But I’m comparing the Cloud II’s here to equipment that costs 10x the price (just for a mid-range surround receiver, source player, cables and speakers are extra!), and at the high end costs 100x the price or more. The point here is that most gaming headsets I’ve used don’t even list THD on the spec sheet! I feel pretty confident in telling you that’s not because their THD performance is excellent. The fact that HyperX even list theirs is kind of a statement of intent here. Nobody is going to be comparing these to a fully kitted out Meridian home theatre system, but at the same time, they’re significantly superior to any other gaming headset I’ve tried thus far.
That does bring me to a small consideration which some may want to take into account. I plugged the USB into my PC and expected some configuration software to be installed. None was. I took a poke around my machine in all the locations I could think of to find audio configuration settings etc. Nothing really to be found. They are recognised as HyperX 7.1 audio and they… Just… Work…
Part of me feels a small sense of loss at this. In years gone by, I’ve owned equipment made by Harman, Arcam, Meridian, Yamaha, Sonos, KEF, B&W, Bose, AKG and the list goes on. Ultimately I like to tinker a bit with things and play with settings. That’s why I’m a PC gamer. The Meridian kit was great for that, except when it wasn’t. Plug a laptop into your home theatre kit and play about with settings, until you mess it up so badly you have to sheepishly call up the place you bought it to send one of their engineers out and fix your messed up config! That’s what got me thinking. The Arcam kit was actually some of the best I’ve ever owned. No drama, no millions of whizz-bang knobs and dials and buttons etc. Just smooth understated performance that worked and you were in awe of. I’d still like some software to twiddle with audio settings for the HyperX, but in all likelihood, I’d probably play with it and make it sound worse. Still, If you want to tweak settings and fiddle with options, the Cloud II’s are probably not for you.
For reference, my normal ear/headphones are:
Razer Tiamat 7.1 gaming headset on the PC.
Sennheiser IE80’s for my normal daily listening.
Bose QuietComfort 25’s for flying.
It’s fair to say that these are all more expensive than the Cloud II’s and I’d not consider replacing the IE80’s or QC25’s with the Cloud II’s, but what about the Razer?
And here is where I’m slightly shocked at the conclusion I’m coming to. I genuinely prefer the Cloud II’s. Despite no sound tinkering options. Despite no real physical multi-driver arrays per ear. I don’t know how it works. I paid more and I got less. The Razers are decent, but multi-channel audio in headsets (at least within my experience) still isn’t there yet. Both of these headsets make a good attempt at it and positional reproduction is pretty reasonable in both, but both audio quality and comfort levels are significantly higher in the Cloud II’s.
Multi-channel audio in headphones has always been a bit of a tricky thing anyway. I’ve still yet to find anything that really recreates the soundscape of a proper 5.1 or 7.1 channel system with speakers placed around you. Some are trying to do this differently with OSSIC for example sailing through its kickstarter funding for a new HRTF headset and others attempting to do something similar with binaural audio. I’ve yet to try OSSIC and binaural audio is impressive but still leaves me feeling like it’s not there with regards to a proper surround sound experience.
So now I come back to my introduction. Just what was the point of my Calvin and Hobbes ramblings from yesteryear? Well, I was really struggling to think of the last thing I’d bought that was genuinely amazing value. Then it struck me. That comic book I bought so long ago, it was so cheap and yet I got so much enjoyment out of it. I don’t want to use the word cheap because that has some negative connotations to it, but the value it provided for the price was genuinely amazing. The Cloud II’s are the same and at this moment in time, they are without a doubt my favourite headphones for gaming and general PC usage.