Greetings everybody! So I have just borrowed my friend’s newly bought Kingston HyperX Cloud II, temporarily exchanging my dear Sennheiser HD 238 (modded) in the process. Both are highly valuable for their prices, in our respective opinions, and price-wise, the two are pretty much the same here, especially since the HD 238 was modded, so the exchange went pretty smoothly. Anyway, now that I’ve got the headset, I thought I would do a review on it, marking my first review on this site. So, let us begin.
Aesthetics, Build Quality and Comfort
Since my friend didn’t lend me the product’s packaging, let’s go straight to the headset itself. Compared to my HD 238 (which is tiny even by on-ear standards, let alone full-size), the Cloud II looks HUMONGOUS! But still, I guess for a full-size headset, that’s still not overly large. Also, it works pretty well with glasses, but unlike the HD 238 you’d still be much better off with glasses off (which I did because my eyes are still pretty good), as using it together with glasses gave me some headache over time.
Anyway, the headset has a very traditional, even somewhat industrial look, with plain, round earcups and a traditional boom mic. The mic is also detachable, which is nice. I personally find this design very confident and manly, but it may not be the cup of tea for people who want a more edgy or flashy look.
The headband of the Cloud II is made with a high-quality pleather, with the HyperX logo nicely embroided on top. I personally find no problems with the headband, which is surprisingly cool and comfortable for the price. It also feels very sturdy, since the rims of the headband has been reinforced for extra durability. The pleather doesn’t look like it will come off anytime soon, too.
The earcups are made of hard plastic, with the logo plates and cup holders made of brushed aluminium. Again, this made the earcups look very sturdy and hard to break, but I did have some problems with their flexibility. It was not exactly easy to bend them as needed, which leaded to some difficulties getting them to rest comfortably on my ears. The headband is pretty flexible, though.
The earpads however, are made of some very good foam (though sadly it’s not velour like my pre-modification HD 238) and, true to its name, they were quite cloudy and comfortable at first try. However, because of the headset’s size and weight, it may still get quite heavy after a while (then again, I have a pretty small head), leading to some dizziness. The earpads can also get a bit hot, but still cooler than most other full-size gaming headsets or sports headphones I’ve tried (haven’t got the chance to try any “audiophile” pair of full-size headphones).
I think the headset’s adjustment mechanism could do some work, though. Even though each nudge is marked with a small circle on the cup holder, which is nice, the mechanism itself is quite shoddily done. It was hard to correct stabilize the earcups at each nudge (the mechanism is too “slippery”), and as a result it’d either be at the shortest length or the longest length most of the time. I myself had to extrude it all the way to the max even though, like I said, my head is not so large.
Aside from the detachable boom mic, the package also includes an inline volume control module, which again has a nice design. The module is also integrated to the USB connector (officially called the “USB sound card”), while the headset itself also has a regular 3.5mm jack built in. Plus, aside from volume, the module also takes care of activating and deactivating the 7.1 channels surround sound. The 7.1 button and the HyperX logo will glow brightly red when activated, but sadly my camera went out of battery by the time I found that out.
As a last note on this section, every cable in the package (on the headset, on the mic, and on the control module) is nicely sleeved, which is always a plus.
The headset doesn’t have active noise isolation, and despite its huge size, the earcups surprisingly don’t block sound very effectively at all, but still able to block most background noises effectively, better than HD 238 (which is an open-back pair of headphones though).
Gaming Audio Test
Since the Cloud II is a gaming headset, let’s start with some gaming audio tests before getting to the more critical music tests (I won’t do movie audio tests here since I’m only borrowing it for a day and thus haven’t got much time to review it, and I also won’t execute the gaming audio tests with my discrete sound card, because it doesn’t have virtual surround). The game I’d like to use to test the sound is War Thunder (since I need to level up my account there sometimes, haha… ._.) , and first, I’d like to test it without the 7.1 channels surround sound activated.
To be frank, the Cloud II’s gaming audio quality was pretty bad compared to what I anticipated, even though it’s its strength. The intro music in the hangar sounded bland, and it only gets worse in-game. There were a lot of distortions in the sound of the tank tracks and the machineguns (the tank tracks in particular sounded like… I don’t know, someone continuously shaking a tin can with a small ball inside?), and in intense periods, everything just sounded muffled and blended together. The gunshots, while indeed impactful, was still very far from realistic. However, on the bright side, there was some sense of space while the aircrafts were flying by, as their sounds obviously came from above, though not very… clear, and the ending music together with its sound effects (planes flying by, people repairing tanks, etc.) surprisingly sounded quite nice.
Overall, even though it did the job, the sound was too tinny for my taste. While I admit that I’m not too used with gaming headsets in general, I’d still game with my HD 238 anytime if “multi-channel surround sound” is not a concern. The sound is much cleaner and more realistic that way.
Next, I’ll activate the 7.1 channels surround function and…
…Ugh, it got even worse! Since War Thunder is a very explosions-heavy game, this time everything just sounded like audio crashes. Even though the positional audio got a bit better (and by “a bit”, I meant “a bit”), the amount of tin in the sound went over the top. It just sounded like metal plates rattling all around. As with the last time though, the ending music still sounded acceptable, and this time the intro music improved a bit, too, strangely enough.
Overall, despite what everyone’s been talking about it, I’ve been pretty disappointed with the gaming audio quality of the HyperX Cloud II. While it can be decent at quiet/light moments and “impactful” at intense moments (as in, you can hear some action and it doesn’t sound very bland), plus the spatial recognition (“sense of space”) is acceptable, everything else is just muffled.
To be honest, I’m scared just thinking of the musical tests for this headset… but first, let us look at the built-in microphone!
Before we get to the actual test, let’s go over the microphone itself. Like I said, it’s a traditional boom mic, but its build quality is surprisingly good. However, because of that, it’s still a bit difficult to adjust comfortably, though it’s fairly flexible for its kind.
As for the test, well… although my voice was a tiny bit distorted, there was some insignificant cutoffs (like for 1/10 of a sec) and dampening at times, and I sounded nowhere near as emotional as when I recorded with my discrete microphone (a Takstar TA-54D, a local product), in terms of cleanness and volume it did well enough. No obvious distortions or anything that broke the stream, leading to a fairly clear and noise-free recording.
Overall I feel that the microphone is decent, but still nothing to write home about. I remember that my old headset, the Logitech H390, had a terrific mic for its low price. While the mic on the Cloud II is not bad (perhaps even better than that H390 mic if price is not in the equation), I can’t say the same about it.
Music Test: With USB Connector
Light Music Test: Nawatobi
And here comes the dreaded music tests! I would like to start my tests with Nawatobi, one of Koizumi Hanayo’s character songs in the anime Love Live! (I admit it, I like anime and Vocaloid music a lot and will use quite some of it in my tests) It’s a quite light and relaxing song that’s nearly 6 minutes long, and makes great use of soft vocals and airy instruments such as crystal pads or chimes. I’d also like to conduct the first set of tests without the use of my discrete sound card.
And when I opened up the song… Wow, the headset broke everything! First off, the crystal pad at the start, while can still be distinguished as a crystal pad, sounded like a high frequency sine slowly rolling off with occasional minute variations, instead of sounding like… you know, a crystal pad. This proved that the headset is not as fast as the HD 238, but we’ll get into more details of this in a later test.
Secondly, the chimes sounded very tinny and broken, and worse off, very loud. They sounded like arrows piercing my ears instead of the relaxing, elevating, subtle sounds they usually are.
Thirdly, the piano and the pizza carto strings. While they sounded decent, they sounded pretty emotionless to me.
But you know what the worst thing is? “Hanayo’s” (in reality Kubo Yurika’s) voice. It was completely, utterly destroyed. The poor songstress. Notice how I mentioned this song made great use of soft vocals? Nope, you won’t hear it here. Instead, you’ll hear a voice full of tin.
Light Instrumental Test: Kitto Mata Itsuka
Next up, Test Level 2 is Kitto Mata Itsuka, a nice guitar composition by DEPAPEPE! While it’s quite light and simple, it makes a great testing song because there are a lot of emotions and subtle guitar techniques put into it. I can remember hearing them sliding the strings quite clearly on the HD 238 with the sound card. It was very enchanting indeed.
But what about the HyperX Cloud II? Well, while it didn’t sound like an ear-piercing javelin, it also sounded pretty bland. I ended up nodding my head slightly to the beat instead of contemplating on the techniques or being shocked at how there seems to be a guitar near me. That’s not good. The slides I love so much in particular sounded like cheap sound effects instead of real hand movements. The strums are also a little bit broken, but not as bad as the chimes or the vocals in Nawatobi.
Velocity Test: Cutie Panther
Oh my, this is gonna be fun… Test Level 3, Cutie Panther! This is another song from Love Live!, but this time it’s quite an upbeat dance song with blazing fast synthesizer notes, making it the deciding song while testing the “speed” of a headset / pair of headphones in my music library. Either it’ll sound like a really hardcore rave or it’ll sound like some bland and annoying frequency fluctuations… This song also has the singers doing some pretty interesting “melodic talking” (sorry, don’t know the exact term) there with a naughty tone. With that being said, let’s see how this bad boy works!
Gah! Crashes! Not only was the synth bland as expected, one thing that surprised me is that the leading snares also completely broke it. The heavy use of cymbals and high-freq synths meant that there are a lot of crashes all around, making it a very vicious ear-piercing weapon, preventing me from enjoying the song in any way
The solo part in particular sounded utterly decapitated, which is a total shame, because it’s normally such an interesting synth solo. In this case, everything is just crashy and unclear.
Another problem, is that I couldn’t hear the singers’ alluring, slightly naughty voice in, not just the talking parts, but the song as a whole. It’s as if the words are suddenly cut off after half a second or something. The voices are also muffled and flushed out, making them even harder to notice than with the HD 238 (which the ONE AND SINGLE GRIPE I had with is its slightly quiet vocals). All in all, it was too loud and tinny for me to analyze anything clearly… Probably one of the most painful things I’ve heard.
Hardcore Test: Little Kandi Raver
Sorry for the not-so-pretty pic, but that was the closest thing I could find to an “official”-looking pic of the song. Of course, the pics on the YouTube vids are much nicer, but then again they can just be some random anime pics.
To be honest, hearing the results of the Level 3 test made me really worried about the Level 4 test, Little Kandi Raver by DJ S3RL. It’s my favorite hardcore rave song, with a lot of deep bass and high-freq synths with long sustains. It can be a very loud and complex song, and if the headset just keeps breaking the sounds like this, then my ears would be ruptured.
Ouch! This was painful… The bass couldn’t go deep enough, but that was the least of the problems. S3RL’s voice was also kinda broken, but for a heavily-autotuned-in-the-first-place voice to be able to be identified as “broken”, that kinda surprised me…Surprisingly, Sara’s voice sounded kinda acceptable, if it wasn’t drown in a sea of hi-hat and cymbal crashes. The details are pretty… meh this time around, but at least not very very bad, at least the solo sounded decent without all the drums and stuff, and the instruments are pretty clear when they are not being flushed out by the cymbals. It also couldn’t go fast enough on the “stuttering” parts, making those parts much less impactful than they should be. Synths also sound nowhere near as clean as on the HD 238.
But what’s my biggest gripe with it then?
Well, you guessed it. Crashes, and, oh, bass that crashes. Even though I was sane enough to lower the volume some before attempting to play this song, the headset still managed to assault my ears in high-tension segments.
Ferocity Test: Kokou no Sousei
The final level of my tests would be Kokou no Sousei, in the album Gothic Lolita Propaganda by Yousei Teikoku. Like every good hard rock songs, it makes HEAVY use of deep-sounding electric guitars and drums, with a very high tempo, but the reason why I picked this song instead of the likes of Through the Fire and Flames is because, as a “gothic rock” song, this song also makes heavy use of “gothic” instruments such as harpsichords, strings or choirs, and the singer is also very emotional here, with the vocals sounding “pathetic” and even sounding like begging or praying sometimes. This will be horrid, here we go…
While I am pretty used to the crashes by now (they are still continuously hurting my ears though…), what surprised me this time however, was that the vocals sounded extremely… flat. Flushed out, too. They just sounded bland, blander than anything so far, even. And it was normally a very emotional song. Instead of the passionate prayers I normally hear, this time the singer, Yui, just sounded like someone practicing a song from afar. The choirs also didn’t sound like choirs. If anything, they sounded almost exactly like the main singer, without any depth or thickness to them.
As for the deep bridge, it didn’t go deep enough nor did it rise violently enough… which made it a really bland experience instead of something that’s normally a very breathtaking and surprising mood-swinging experience.
I don’t know… for this song I ended up noticing the flaws in the vocals more instead of the heavy drums and guitars, even though they still constantly generated crashes which assaulted my eardrums throughout the songs. The vocals were just surprisingly uninteresting compared to how they normally are, while the crashes and distortions started becoming normal.
Whew, so now we are done with that aural torture at last! Now let’s unplug this headset from the control module and plug it into the sound card to see how it works…
Music Test: With Discrete Sound Card (Xonar DSX)
Light Music Test: Nawatobi
Whoa, plugging it into the sound card improved things a LOT! (Even though problems with the cable length prevented me from sitting comfortably this way…). The vocals are still broken, the chimes are still a bit distorted, and there still isn’t much instrumental separation, but at least it’s nowhere near as offensive now. It’s actually become a kinda relaxing experience, and the crystal pad sounded like a crystal pad. This made me wonder if it was just the crappy USB connection / “USB sound card”.
… Still wouldn’t put up a fight against the HD 238 though. It was just so much better.
Light Instrumental Test: Kitto Mata Itsuka
The Xonar DSX sound card made this song quite relaxing, but I still couldn’t hear the magic I heard with the HD 238. It’s relaxing, but doesn’t sound like a guitar is actually there.
Velocity Test: Cutie Panther
Ahhhhh…. I get what improved now! The sound card made the crashes much less obvious and tightened the bass a bit, revealing a bit more of everything and making your ears a little bit safer (in the HD238 there were more improvements than this though…). Good, good. But still won’t be enough to compete against more serious headphones. There still hasn’t been anything that sounds exactly clean yet, there are still a lot of distortions and the louder, faster instruments are still very clearly broken.
…And the crashes are still there, just more subtle.
Hardcore Test: Little Kandi Raver
Hooray, it doesn’t kill my ears anymore!
…That, and I can actually hear some kick drums presence now.
Ferocity Test: Kokou no Sousei
To be honest, I’m getting really tired doing this at 1:30 AM… but oh well, like usual, crashes are less obvious now, and there are now some variations in the volume of the vocals and a liiiiitle bit of emotion, but it’s still nowhere near as emotional enough yet.
Or have I just gotten too used to the flaws, namely the crashes?
Ugh, I don’t know anymore…
The Kingston HyperX Cloud II has terrific build quality and a decent mic, but its sound quality was quite bad in my book, both in gaming and especially in music. The 7.1 surround simulation also didn’t work very well, so I would recommend you to just use the stereo mode even while gaming, unless you really, REALLY need that positional audio. And, while you are at that, I’d also recommend just ditching the control module and just plug the headset into a sound card altogether, because that will drastically improve the music quality, just in case you also like some music besides gaming. All in all, it’s a brilliant choice if you want a hardy headset for your basic gaming needs, especially for the budget, but it won’t be your cup of tea if you actually care about sound.
Build Quality (15% of overall score): 8.5/10 (the earcups’ flexibility and the adjustment mechanism could use some more work, otherwise it’s perfect)
Comfort (15% of overall score): 9/10
Microphone Quality (20% of overall score): 7.5/10
Sound Quality – Games (30% of overall score): 5/10 (the stereo mode works in less intense moments)
Sound Quality – Music (20% of overall score): 3.5/10
Overall Score: 6.3/10 (Decent for the price)