The tell-tale soft footsteps behind me were enough warning to dive into an evasive roll a split second before a large scythe whooshed down hard, throwing up dust and pebbles. I blind-fired into the darkness in the direction of the footsteps, then rushed in with a killing blow from my extended weapon. Without that positional audio warning, I would be dead polygonal meat in Bloodborne, losing over 35,000 hard gotten blood echos in the process.
We all see the graphical advances in today’s games, but game creators are putting equal effort into encoding the very best sound for their games. A good surround sound headset is fast becoming an essential gaming peripheral, and Kingston has once again thrown its hat into the ring with the new HyperX Cloud 2.
The HyperX Cloud 2 is packaged smart. Rather than putting the headphone in a sealed plastic box that you have to sacrifice a few fingers to open, its box doubles up as a storage case. Slip off the cover, open the box and you’re greeted by the snugly placed headphones, with foam protection around. In the box, you also get a change of earpads in cloth, just in case you don’t like leatherette; the mic addon; and a nifty carry case.
First impressions – the Cloud 2 is very well built. It feels light, but the whole unit exudes sturdiness. Build quality for headphones is a tricky game; manufacturers cannot use too many premium materials as they make the set heavy. Yet if they use light materials, it may be misconstrued as being cheap and cutting costs. Kingston has pulled off an impressive balance. The headband is a metal frame going around and ending in the cups that are held up by a pivot, also metal. There’s quite a lot of play in the headband and yet it does not pinch the head.
Enclosing the headband is a stylish premium leather cushioning with red stitched accenting and the logo stitched into it, which somewhat ruins the otherwise understated look of the unit. The cups are made of hard tough plastic, but they don’t feel heavy. The leatherette earpads are nice and soft, with memory foam, and the mic can be plugged in easily into the slot. The cable is braided and ends in a four-pole plug.
The Cloud 2 is extremely comfortable, wIth the memory foam neatly taking the shape of your ears. Even during extended gaming sessions, I never felt the pain at the back of my ears, which is normally caused by the band pinching your head at the ears, as well as the earpads not setting well around it. The cups are circumaural and enclose your ear fully, blocking out ambient noise. Yes, the leatherette material does trap a bit of heat, but not as much as the Sound Blaster Tactic 3Ds do.
On the whole, the Cloud 2 looks good. Not as good as, let’s say, the Corsair Vengeance 1500 series, the CM Storms, the Asus Strix, or the Sound Blaster Tactic 3D, but the ergonomics are the best of the lot. This is a well balanced headset and that more than makes up for all of the above, with stellar comfort. However, that mostly applies to medium sized heads. Those with big heads may find solace in the Strix or CM Storms.
Now for the sound quality. The Cloud 2’s sound is powered by massive 53mm neodymium magnets with a frequency response of 15 hz to 25,000 hz. Also, there’s a handy DSP, which acts as a sound card for your PC. No drivers; all you need to do is plug it in to the USB port and the box does everything. With the DSP, the mids were clear, with a good balance of treble, and the bass was clean. With music, however, the bass and mids got a bit puffy. I had to fiddle around with VLC Player’s equalizer to get things right. That said, movies were a treat, with clean voice, and effects that will fill your soundspace. Gaming was undoubtedly the best with the DSP. Battlefield 3 and 4’s War Tapes sounded amazing, as bullets sliced the air in thick bursts of treble and mids, while the explosions really bloomed in bass. Positional audio worked, as I could pick out distant tank fire easily.
The Cloud 2 also has a jack for PS4 connectivity. Without the DSP, the Cloud 2 sounded great. Bloodborne was truly scary and though at first the mids seem to blend into the bass a bit, it seems to set in nicely. The atmosphere really came out, and the unit was able to pick out the surround sound as well. That was vital in a game as tough as Bloodborne, where you need every advantage in a city where the weakest enemy can one-shot-kill you if you aren’t careful.
The closed circumaural cups did a fantastic job of cutting out external noise in the form of passive noise cancellation. There was no sound leakage in our out. While isolating the sound, the headphones do a great job of creating a believable sound space that has a length and breadth to it. The sound coming out has a warmth, with a certain organic quality to it, as opposed to a treble-heavy sound that seems digitally processed even when it hasn’t been. Where the Cloud 2 really wins hands down is in wearing comfort.
The Cloud 2 will be sold in India at about Rs 7,500-8,000, putting it in the general price range of the Asus Strix DSP and the Sound Blasters. What you get though is a lot more in the box, as well as one of the most comfortable headsets in the market today. Highly recommended if you value comfort above all, sound quality second, and looks last.