Performance and summary
The realm of gaming headsets is populated by many dubious quality and overpriced offerings shielded by the 'gaming' facade. The need for prospective buyers to do some research before they buy is particularly important for a gaming headset. Traditionally, the average gaming headset is bass-heavy, and the rest of the frequency range can often get lost or overpowered by that bass-centred design.
Refreshingly, the Cloud II Pro differs from much of the competition in the sound quality department; we stacked it up against the renowned Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro headphones in our testing and were surprised by how strong the HyperX performed. Making use of the USB soundcard delivers punchy bass tones but, importantly, the mid and high ranges remain well-rounded and balanced with the rest of the sound profile. In a gaming scenario the depth of the audio isn't lost to bass-heavy explosions or gunfire which improves the listening detail and overall experience.
That balanced audio profile extends to media consumption where the headset delivers clear instrumental separation in music. There's very little distortion detectable in most listening scenarios except at the highest volume levels which are, for most people, too loud for safe listening.
The PU leather ear cushions deliver impressive internal and external noise isolation but are less breathable than the velour ear cushions which sacrifice some noise isolation for additional comfort. The Cloud II Pro is very comfortable with either set of ear cushions thanks to the easily adjustable height and width.
Moving on, the virtual 7.1 surround-sound feature, activated on the in-line module by pressing the dedicated hardware button, can be the star of the show for gamers. When activated the mode drives a virtual 7.1 surround sound using a hardware-level processing chip built into the in-line module. Though well-received by the community, we feel the advantages of it are more context-dependant than are made out.
Activating the virtual 7.1 surround sound adds some background noise which is not typically noticeable in action-packed gaming scenarios such as an online multiplayer game of Battlefield 4 or a quick race in Dirt 3. The result is that these action-packed games deliver a significantly richer and more immersive experience. We found it's even possible to detect some directionality of audio that simply wasn't there before the 7.1 mode is activated.
However, in games that are story-based and that rely on cut scenes and conversation the background noise surfaces, and we feel is sometimes distracting. The virtual surround sound can cloud out parts of the mid- and high-ranges when listening to music or watching films. Notably, we think the virtual 7.1 surround sound works best in gaming where a particular title is capable of providing 7.1 channel audio with directionality. Media consumption benefits less since most audio and video content is often mixed for 2.1 channels.
Microphone performance is reasonable enough for most gamers' needs, and it delivers above-average voice clarity and is capable of eliminating most background noise. By default the microphone is a little sensitive but that can be manually adjusted using the in-line control. There's also a helpful mute-slider on the side of the control box. The flexibility of the detachable microphone mount allows it to be positioned in a way that delivers the best recording.
Kingston's HyperX Cloud II Pro gaming headset has an MSRP of £79.99 ($99.99) making it an expensive piece of audio kit for the average gamer, though there are a number of pricier gaming headsets out there. Cynics of the gaming-headset concept would do well to give the Cloud II Pro a try, because it may change many peoples' perception of the new breed of gaming headsets.
Premium build quality, a range of colours, and a strong balanced audio profile make the HyperX Cloud II Pro a refreshing headset for gamers. The addition of the USB soundcard and virtual 7.1 surround sound are the main differences between this and the original Cloud Pro, and such extras give this headset increased versatility that is impressive for the price point.
Kingston HyperX Cloud II Pro
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