High end gaming headsets are becoming a popular commodity. Just like high end headphones designed for music, once you try a pair out it’s extremely hard to go back. High end audio equipment provides incredible resolution, pristine detail, and a whole new level of clarity that you never thought possible.
In competitive gaming, these effects are even more pronounced. The sound of enemies approaching, shots being fired in the distance, and even a stealthily hidden opponent reloading his weapon in the distance can all be the cues you need to take action. If you’ve already got a high end graphics card to improve your FPS, and you’ve already got a mechanical keyboard to increase your accuracy, than a high end headset is the very thing you need to take your gaming to the next level.
Kingston is already a well respected manufacture of high end computer memory, as well as cases, power supplies, and other gaming peripherals. When they first broke into the headset marketplace, consumers were surprised to see a familiar name plastered on a unique product. But the HyperX series was one of the most highly regarded pairs of headsets on the market, and sales went through the roof.
Today, Kingston is still behind the HyperX line even if their name isn’t featured so prominently. We’ve already taken a look at the revolver and stinger lines of headsets, but the Cloud Alpha is the new kid on the block. Can this stylish new headset keep up to the high standards set by earlier models? To find out, we decided to try them out for ourselves.
The Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro is one stylish looking headset. It’s got the retro-styled headband with loose mesh-style grips that mount the ear cups to the band itself. The headphones have a solid balance of smooth plastic and plush form, ensuring that every component that touches your head is as soft as can be.
The aggressive contrast of the black background with red highlights definitely makes them stand out, something that many gamers look for. But in addition to good looks, Kingston has plenty of features that help this headset set itself apart from the plethora of bargain brand solutions on the market. This includes dual-chambered drivers for superior accuracy and reduced distortion, as well as a noise-cancelling microphone to keep your voice crystal clear.
This is a wired headphone, so it’s compatible with almost every console on the market, as well as computers. Do all of these features actually make for a better headset, or are they simply marketing? To find out, we had to try it out for ourselves.
Kingston advertises compatibility with the PC, the PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Although this is true, there are a few things to consider.
As a wired headphone, it communicates with your console via a 3.5mm port. This is a special three node connector that includes stereo output and mono input. On the PS4, using the headset is as simple as plugging in your headset to the controller in hand. On most Xbox One consoles, the same is true. However, there are a few Xbox One controllers on the market (mostly 3rd party models) that do not have a 3.5mm port. Controllers that are backwards with the Xbox 360 almost all have 2.5mm ports. You can tell the difference because they are a little smaller. If this is the case, you’ll need to buy a special adapter which is not included with the headset. But as long as you’re using an official Microsoft controller, you should be good to go.
PCs are almost universally supported. The Nintendo Switch is supported, but we’d recommend using this headset with that console only in tablet mode. The 3.5mm port isn’t located on the controller, but on the tablet itself. When you’ve got it mounted next to your TV, you’re going to have to run the wire a long way. But when you’re holding the switch in your hand, it’s much easier to use.
It’s also worth noting that you can also use this headset with Android devices and older apple phones. Although not officially supported, the three prong standard is available on most portable devices that have a headphone jack.
When you’re just trying on a headset quickly at a retail store, it’s hard to get a good feel for comfort. Something might feel very plush and comfortable at first, but it only takes on 8-hour gaming session before your ears start to hurt. (Admit it, we’ve all done it.)
While these aren’t the most comfortable headphones we’ve ever tried, they’re definitely up there. The most luxurious part is the memory foam padded earcups. Memory foam is fairly springy when cold, but gets incredibly soft as it warms up. Once you’ve been wearing the headphones on your head for a while, the foam almost melts into a mold that perfectly fits your head. When combined with the wide, padded headband, you’ve got a headset that can easily be worn for an entire day.
This headset is a circumaural design, which means that it goes around the ear. This doesn’t put any pressure on the delicate cartilage of your ear. This makes them quite large, but also a magnitude more comfortable than headsets that sit on top of your ear.
One of the most important aspects of any headset is how good it sound. The biggest selling point for the HyperX Cloud Alpha is this special dual-chamber design that supposedly improves accuracy and reduces distortion. At first, this might sound like a marketing gimmick, but there is a very good reason for this design.
To understand how this works, consider an older style of floor standing speakers. These things used to be massive, right? In fact, high end stereo equipment is often pretty large in size. The reason is that sound quality relies both on the volume of an enclosure as well as the driver. If you cram a massive speaker into a tiny box, you’ll generally get pretty poor sound.
There are ways around this. On subwoofers, you can put ports (those little holes) in specific places of the box to improve the theoretical volume. But a much more modern and popular option is to use chambers. Just like the horn of a wind instrument, chambers are specifically shaped to resonate at the most prominent frequencies a driver does. When you only have a single driver, you only need a single chamber.
But the drivers on headsets are a little different. They’re designed to have several different primary frequencies. This is how single-driver headphones can reproduce 7.1 audio. The problem is that we’re still using these drivers in headphones that only have a single chamber.
Until now. The HyperX Stinger has multiple chambers all with different resonant frequencies. This can balance out the drivers natural weak points, and give a more balanced, precise sound.
Does it work? Absolutely! The Cloud Alpha Pro is one of the more balanced headsets we’ve used. You still get deep thunderous bass, but you’ll also find an incredibly level of articulacy that you don’t see with other drivers. Very subtle details are brought to light, but this doesn’t come at the sacrifice of performance. Overall, this design is extremely impressive.
One of the cool features about the microphone is the fact that it has noise cancelling. If you’ve ever tried to game out while your roommates cooking dinner or having a few casuals with their friends, you know that a ton of background noise can drive your team mates nuts. Impressively, this headset actually uses a form of active noise cancelling. Over the course of a few minute of use, it learns what tones are your voice and only plays those back. This ensures that your microphone stays muted unless your talking. It might not be something that you will directly benefit from, but surely all of your teammates will thank you.
With the noise cancelling enabled, your voice is crystal clear. It’s very smooth and crisp, but doesn’t come out as harsh or shrill. If you’ve ever been teamed up with somebody who has a cheapo headset, you know how important this is.
Another neat feature about the microphone is that it’s removable. It just plugs right into the side with a standard plug, so taking it off is a simple process. If you want a break from gaming and just want to zone out to some campaign action, taking the microphone off improves the comfort of the headset considerably.
Kingston has always been known for producing hardware that is well made, and lasts a very long time. The Cloud Alpha Pro is no different. All of the moving parts are made from metal. While steel is the cheapest material available, Kingston instead chose to use aluminum. Aluminum is very light weight, but still has the tensile strength necessary to help all of the moving parts last a very long time.
One neat thing we noticed is that it’s not just the braces and mechanisms that are aluminum. More metal can be found inside of the headband, and the receivers for the metal parts are also made from the same material. Since plastic can wear down over time, this should do a lot to help extend the life.
Aside from the moving parts, the cable is another component that commonly wears out or gets tangled. Kingston used a braided sheath for the cable, which helps to prevent cuts, kinks, or tears. Obviously, you can still cut through it if you’re determined. But for regular wear and tear, this design is much more powerful.
Kingston makes a big deal out of this headset being Discord and Teamspeak certified. In the real world, this has no actual benefit. It’s all just a marketing ploy. Virtually any headset on the market will work with Discord and Teamspeak. There are a few unique wireless models that don’t work, but these are extremely rare and only found in very specific applications. There are many reasons that you might choose this headset over another model, but these certifications shouldn’t be one of them.
As Kingston’s ‘middle of the road’ headset, we couldn’t help but be impressed with the HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro Gaming Headset. The build quality is top notch, and the sound quality is excellent. But what we like most about it is how well balanced it is. Generally, you have two types of headsets on the market. Models designed for high accuracy are desired by competitive gamers. The sound signature is a little more flat and boring, but the level of detail is unparalleled. On the other hand, you’ve got the fun headsets. These have an engaging, explosive sound, but lack detail.
The HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro gives you the best of both worlds. It’s incredibly fun to listen to, but still has plenty of detail. For the money, this is one of the best options on the market.
In spite of these advantages, this headset isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s firmly in the midrange tier, and consumers with a little extra cash to burn can still find something that sounds even better. One example would be the HyperX Cloud Revolver S Gaming Headset. This model has a premium price, but takes everything we like about the Pro and makes it better. On the other hand, if this headset is a little rich for your blood, consider the HyperX Cloud Stinger. This models is a little more basic, but comes in at half the price of this option.