The Kingston Cloud headset is very, very good
I WASN'T expecting to find a headset to review on my desk this week, but I'm plenty glad I did.
The Kingston HyperX Cloud headset is named like a business consultant having a conniption but built like the king of the $100-$150 range.
After using it for a week it's clear that HyperX isn't an audiophile's dream. This headset is a solid piece of communications equipment with a strong gearing towards gamers, though I'd recommend this to someone who does a lot of chatting over Skype or podcasting.
A lot's been made about the box this comes in elsewhere, so I'll cover it here briefly - the box is nicer than some more expensive units, and the array of extensions, adapters and replacement ear pads is something missing from many of the headsets in this price range.
While there's plastic involved in the construction, there's far less than even the $400ish Astro A50s have, and the aluminium makes up the rest of the body.
The bits that hit your body are the biggest surprise. I was skeptical after dealing with the memory foam ear pads on the SteelSeries Siberia headset and their ability to agonise the wearer after twenty minutes. The HyperX is the most comfortable headset I've worn in two years of testing.
What sets this apart as a utility and gaming headset instead of an audiophile's rig is the relatively unexciting sound the 53mm drivers produce. It's precise sound, it's balanced about as neutral as it gets, but it just doesn't inspire.
The volume won't blast your ears off, which is welcome but unexpected. The HyperX caps off at about 60% of the volume most headsets, gaming or music, can pump out, but between the truly excellent muffling by the ear pads and the clarity of the sound, it doesn't need to be loud.
The headset's microphone is detachable, which is fantastic if you're okay with wearing full-size headsets in public (it's fine, go ahead). There's a cap that goes into the plug for the missing microphone but it'll be lost within a week as it's not got an on-headset storage spot (that I could find).
Another surprise comes from the clarity of the microphone. My brother and I Skype regularly, and without knowing that I'd swapped to the HyperX mic mid-conversation, his reaction was somewhere in the region of "wow". I used Audacity to test how my voice sounded with the mic on my C600 webcam, my Astro A50s and the HyperX headset.
The HyperX was clearest with no competition.
Funny story: I did a second test with my singing voice, and discovered that the HyperX recorded my voice in a way that I didn't feel sick at my lack of talent. Unfortunately I also discovered that I'd forgotten to close my balcony door and the neighbours were laughing at me.
The one major complaint I have is the lack of a USB mode. 3.5mm jacks are fine for consoles, but for PC gamers and utility use, USB is by far the superior connection, especially for keeping things neat.
Conclusion: The HyperX is now my top recommendation for both budget gamers and mid-range Skype use. I just can't get past the comfort, noise muffling and clarity. Damn fine effort from a company that usually makes anything but headsets.