HyperX Cloud Alpha Gaming Headset

HyperX Cloud Alpha Side ViewWhen it comes down to it, for any PC or console gamer who is interested in playing multiplayer games, a headset of some type is not just recommended, it borders on a necessity. Communication with your team will be ruined if a proper headphone and mic combination isn't used, as sound from standard speakers or television will create feedback over your mic. In short, unless you want your teammates to be upset and your housemates to hear all the lovely things your opponents have to say in response to you fragging them, a headset is a very wise investment. With so many options out there in the $99 range, which headset is worth your money? Today, we're looking at the latest headset from a brand, that over the past few years has become a major player in the gaming headset market, HyperX. Beginning life as a division of Kingston in 2002, HyperX is a very popular manufacturer of products aimed at the PC enthusiast, including high performance SSD's, DDR4 memory and various peripherals. In 2014, along with with QPad, HyperX produced their first gaming headset, which is known as the Cloud (Model Number KHX-H3CL/WR). If you take a look at Amazon reviews for the original Cloud, you will see that HyperX has sold thousands of units and that they carry a 4.2 star review average. HyperX has produced other successful gaming headsets such as the Cloud Revolver, but the original Cloud, or the Cloud Stinger for those on a budget, have remained steady personal recommendations of mine for those looking for a solid gaming headset at a great price to performance ratio. The HyperX Cloud lineup have received countless recommendations and awards from tech sites around the world and long term consumer reviews tend to back up the greatness proclaimed by professional reviewers. In short, HyperX knows how to make a great gaming headset and have done very well in the crowded, hyper-competitive arena of PC gaming headsets over the last couple of years. Not wanting to rest on their laurels in the face of competition, HyperX went back to the drawing board and have designed their newest headset, the Cloud Alpha, from the ground up in an effort to address the major concerns that users had with their previous headsets and deliver the absolute best gaming headset in the market for $99. The original Cloud, Cloud Core and Cloud II are all based around the Takstar Pro 80 and HyperX could only do so much with the original design. Notably, HyperX has made major design changes to the drivers of their latest headset in order to separate bass from the midrange and upper frequencies, in addition to several design changes to address user comfort. Can HyperX succeed and deliver on a promise to improve on an already-great product, or will their redesigned HyperX Cloud Alpha deviate too much from a great thing? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk1HNPtIgUg

HyperX Cloud Alpha Specifications

HyperX Cloud Alpha Headset Specs (Model Number HX-HSCA-RD/AM)
Driver: Custom dynamic, 50mm with neodymium magnets
Type: Circumaural, closed back
Frequency response: 13Hz–27,000Hz
Impedance: 65 Ω
Sound pressure level: 98dBSPL/mW at 1kHz
T.H.D.: < 1%
Weight: 298g
Weight with mic & cable: 336g
Cable length and type: Detachable headset cable (1.3m) + PC extension cable (2m)
Connection: Detachable headset cable - 3.5mm plug (4 pole) + PC extension cable - 3.5mm stereo and mic plugs
Microphone Specs
Element: Electret condenser microphone
Polar pattern: Noise-cancelling
Frequency response: 50Hz-18,000Hz
Sensitivity: -43dBV (0dB=1V/Pa,1kHz)
 
The HyperX Cloud Alpha (HX-HSCA-RD-AM) is available as of today on Amazon for $99.99, putting it in competition with wired gaming headsets like the Creative Sound BlasterX H7 and Logitech G433. The Cloud Alpha are covered by a two year warranty, which is comparable to Logitechs warranty on headsets, with companies like Creative, Razer and SteelSeries only providing a one year warranty. We feel that a two year warranty on a gaming headset is fully adequate and should cover any defects that are related to manufacturing, as beyond a certain point, wear and tear on a headset that gets normal use should be expected. With competing headsets offering just a one year warranty, the additional year offered by HyperX may give consumers a better sense of overall value and peace of mind that they are getting a well-made product. The HyperX Cloud Alpha feature a very respectable frequency response specification, with the ability to dip down into the 13Hz range on the low end and topping out at 27Khz, where the competing SteelSeries Arctis 5 and Logitech G433 are capable of producing at 20Hz-20Khz. Whether you will notice the difference in frequency response capabilities when listening to these headsets is debateable, but the ability of the headset to cover a wider range of frequencies than competing units is impressive, on paper. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Sound Chambers With 50mm drivers that have been designed from the ground up by HyperX to feature custom sound chambers that isolate bass from the midrange and upper frequencies, the Cloud Alpha definitely interested me when I first heard about them about a month ago. The previous HyperX Cloud has 53mm drivers, so the Cloud Alpha are actually slightly downsized. Like their predecessor, though, the HyperX Cloud Alpha feature a closed back design with brushed aluminum outer earcups that have been stylized with the HyperX logo. The closed back design of the HyperX Alpha means they will isolate you from outside sound better, but compared to open-back sets, the soundstage will be reduced. This hasn't been an issue for me in testing various gaming headsets, as closed-back designs have grown on me thanks to their ability to shut out outside noise and thus provide better isolation.
The HyperX Alpha have a 65 Ohm impedence, but aren't the type of headset that a high end DAC and amp combo are going to wake up, so extra budgeting won't be necessary to get the most out of this headset if you're already using a midrange or higher motherboard, given the improvements to onboard audio over the last few years. As long as you have a decent onboard audio solution, the HyperX Cloud Alpha should work well with your setup. Users who budget for a higher end audio setup with DAC likely will choose to go with a set of premium headphones and dedicated mic setup, at any rate. Weighing in at 336g (about 11.85 OZ) with the mic and cable factored in, the HyperX Cloud Alpha are pretty lightweight, which for many people is a top consideration when considering a headset, though there are plenty of plastic-based units that weigh less. The Logitech G433, for example, are a little bit lighter than the Cloud Alpha headset, but also feature plastic construction and 40mm drivers, so the tradeoffs are there for consideration. Let's take a closer look and see how HyperX has packaged their latest premium headset. HyperX Cloud Alpha Retail Packaging They HyperX Cloud Alpha box is very attractive and carries a premium feel about it, with an outer sleeve surrounding a box that pulls out. The graphics of the headphone are in a glossy, high resolution form that lets the headphone really pop and stand out from the background. Compatibility of the Cloud Alpha with various platforms clearly headlines the front top of the packaging and HyperX has even made sure to note support for the Nintendo Switch console. As HyperX has noted on the lower left front corner of the box, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is certified for Discord and Teamspeak, both very popular programs, with LegitReviews staff relying on Discord for in-game chat when we play together. HyperX has also wisely made sure to point out the 2 Year Warranty of the Cloud Alpha next to the Discord and Teamspeak certification logos. HyperX Cloud Alpha Retail Packaging -Rear of Box Touting compatibility with software or games that are popular is something manufacturers have done for quite some timem, since it definitely can't hurt sales. HyperX has made sure to note support for just about every major chat client, from Discord to Ventrillo, on the back of the Cloud Alpha box. The detachable cable with inline controls, memory phone earcups and the aluminum frame are other points of interest that HyperX points out on the box. The HyperX Cloud Alpha Clamshell HyperX Cloud Alpha (Instruction Manual) When you open the box for the HyperX Cloud Alpha, you are greeted by a user guide and product pamphlet for other HyperX products.  The user guide is basic, but it covers how to install the headset on various platforms, including PC and XBOX One. HyperX Cloud Alpha Headset In It's Packaging We come away with a great first impression with the Cloud Alpha, as they have been packaged very nicely in their clamshell. The headphones themselves are surrounded very snugly with a plastic clamshell over their cardboard packaging, to prevent things from moving around. The microphone is also packaged snugly and is kept in place during shipping.   HyperX Cloud Alpha Box HyperX Cloud Alpha Accessories Beneath the HyperX Cloud Alpha is a branded box containing the cables for the headset, along with a carrying bag. The cables have been cleverly designed, with inline volume control and a mic switch on the cable that connects to the main headset. This gives the headset the ability to be plugged into console controller while ensuring the cable isn't too long and cumbersome for console users. The other cable included with the HyperX Cloud Alpha is designed for use with a PC, as it splits the microphone and audio signals. The cables included with the HyperX Cloud Alpha are braided, look good and have a nice build quality about them. The ability to use your own cable with the HyperX Cloud Alpha was a wise move, as many users who have suffered a severed headphone cable that can't be replaced will attest. The HyperX-branded carrying bag is made of a polyester material and should do well to protect the headphones from scratches and dings during transport. Packaging is the first impression we get with the Cloud Alpha and HyperX certainly hasn't disappointed. Let's take a closer look at the HyperX Cloud Alpha headset and its design elements, now.  

HyperX Cloud Alpha Headset - A Closer Look

HyperX Cloud Alpha -Complete Headphone/No MIc The Cloud Alpha look a lot like the original Cloud with a few positive tweaks, notable in the aluminum band and earcup design, which have changed pretty drastically, despite having similar aesthetics to previous HyperX headsets. I personally love the look of the HyperX Cloud Alpha, as the red aluminum and leather material really complement each other quite well. There is an excellent build quality about this headset, with the band able to be flexed from side to side and bent without any creaking or issues bouncing back. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Outer Earcup The outer earups of the Cloud Alpha will be instantly recognizable to those familiar with earlier HyperX headsets. Rather than radically change a popular design, HyperX has made subtle, yet effective changes to the design of the Cloud Alpha. An aluminum band featuring stylized cutouts is being used, now. The HyperX logo is prominently displayed on the earcups, which feature a matte aluminum design that the logo stands out quite nicely on. The original HyperX Cloud had a brushed aluminum design that was more susceptible to fingerprints, with the design of the Cloud Alpha much easier to clean and looking better, to boot. The new swivel design and band were actually designed to reduce clamping force from the original Cloud. The original Cloud are already a very comfortable headset, so HyperX advertising an improvement in comfort and being able to deliver on it is impressive.   HyperX Cloud Alpha Leatherette Earcups The padded leatherette ear pads of the Cloud Alpha are replaceable and have a great build quality to them, with quite a bit of padding that is soft and forming, while not giving way completely. These ear pads are an around-ear design and had no problems containing my ears without putting any pressure on my outer lobes, an issue I tend to run into a lot when testing headsets and headphones. HyperX has made ear pads available with different materials for their other headsets, such as velour cups for the original Cloud/Cloud II/CloudX, so I hope that the Cloud Alpha receives the same treatment and we get some options down the road for when it's time to replace the originals. Thankfully, the included ear pads are awesome, so there isn't an immediate need or want for replacements. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Bass Ports HyperX have placed a group of ports on the bottom of both earcups. This type of design moves the headset from being completely closed to having some open-back properties and should help a bit with widening the soundstage of the headphone. To which degree these ports are effective is something I can't possibly measure, beyond a subjective listening test comparing the Cloud Alpha to the original Cloud, but seeing this design element in place definitely got me interested and I have to think there is going to be some benefit, unless HyperX was just into doing some extra tooling on the headset for no reason. HyperX Cloud Alpha -Headband swivelsSince the earcups for the HyperX Cloud Alpha are suspended on the aluminum frame, they connect to the base of the unit through a short cable that connects at the swivel mechanism. This cable is long enough to allow full extension of the earcups from the base, as there are eight points of ratcheting adjustment on each side that allow the headphone to extend quite a bit. The area where the swivel connects is well-made, with excellent materials being used and two Phillips screws holding the plastic together. The area where the headband meets the plastic is done well, with no manufacturing defects or loose material. HyperX Cloud Alpha Headband The Cloud Alpha has a very attractive, well-made upper headband that covers the aluminum band holding the unit together. The stitching here looks great, with a very nicely stamped HyperX logo standing out, but not making the headset gaudy or stand out in a negative way. This headband really complements the rest of the unit and has a great build quality that I feel will hold up to years of use. HyperX Cloud Alpha - InputsThough they are on the right side on this photo, there are two non-proprietary ports on the left-side earcup of the HyperX Cloud Alpha, meaning the microphone and cable will be come from the left ear when using the headset properly. The port in the middle of the earcup is for a 3.5mm cable to attach the Cloud Alpha to whichever device you may be using it with and this port can be used with any 3.5mm audio cable. The other port, with an oval indentation around it, is for the included microphone and the indentation allows the mic to fasten to the headphone more securely and not be able to spin or fall out easily. The move to removable, replaceable cables is a very welcome, due upgrade to the original Cloud. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Mic Attached The included microphone snaps into place easily thanks to the indentation in the earcup and is very easy to adjust for optimal voice pick-up. The microphone cord is very flexible, with a nice, rubberized texture and it holds in place well once adjusted. The mic cable also does a good job of preventing unwanted pick up, as it didn't produce any unwanted noise when touching or adjusting the cable itself. With quality materials used throughout, from the leatherette-covered aluminum headband, to the excellent memory foam material in the ear pads and headband, the HyperX Cloud Alpha has a lot going for it. The build quality of the HyperX Cloud Alpha is excellent and the aesthetic appeal has been improved from the previous HyperX headsets, as well. Let's see how the latest headset from HyperX performs in a variety of subjective tests, now.

HyperX Cloud Alpha Headset - Comfort Testing, Mic Test and Subjective Listening

For testing the Cloud Alpha, I used the audio ports on a Creative Sound Blaster X Katana, with any enhancements for audio processing turned off. The Katana runs at 24-Bit with 96,000Hz sampling. The headphone jack on the Katana isn't designed for high impedence headphones, but had no problem driving the HyperX Cloud Alpha to high, satisfying volumes that did not distort. I did some brief testing with a Sound Blaster GX5 external DAC and while it is able to push a bit more power than the Katana, the differences were very minimal. Testing with the Realtek audio provided by a Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 7 motherboard netted similar results to the Katana, with the Realtek audio actually able to output at higher volumes thanks to an internal amp designed to push up to 500Ohm headphones. So, ehile putting the HyperX Cloud Alpha on a decent sound card provides a slight improvement in sound quality, based on our experience, it isn't necessary and the HyperX Cloud Alpha will work great with decent onboard sound. HyperX Cloud Alpha - In Use The clamping force of the HyperX Cloud Alpha was perfect for my head right out of the box once the height was adjusted. I have a larger head and it can take a bit of time for headsets to break-in, with the initial clamping force being a bit too much before some stretching of the unit. I did not have that problem at all with the HyperX Cloud Alpha. As I stated before, the earcups sat around my ears perfectly and always remained comfortable, which is something I often find issue with on even expensive headphones. Thanks to the excellent materials used throughout and an emphasis on comfort, the HyperX Cloud Alpha are one of the most comfortable headsets I've had the pleasure of using. Outside of gaming and home use, we could see somebody using the HyperX Cloud Alpha on a train ride home, in the gym, or any other number of applications, given their excellent comfort and build quality.   foobar2000 HyperX really touted their dual chamber technology as the biggest improvement they made with the Cloud Alpha. Does this new dual chamber technology work, in practice, or is it just marketing hype that I won't be able to actually hear? Based on what I've experienced since receiving the headset, it works great and HyperX has actually done a great job of engineering these drivers. The Cloud Alpha do an excellent job of separating bass from the midrange and upper frequencies, to give everything a more distinct, clear sound. While most gaming headsets tend to be bass-heavy, HyperX has actually managed to get the Cloud Alpha in the realm of having tight, controlled bass. For a $99 headset, the sound quality of the HyperX Alpha is really surprising. I felt that the original Cloud sounded good, with a sound that leaned towards having heavy bass and punchy highs, with the midrange a bit more flat and subdued. The Cloud Alpha, on the other hand, has a very distinct high and midrange along with tight bass, which is excellent when it comes to separating footsteps from explosions in an intense game of Battlefield 1. One thing I did notice was that with a standard 3.5mm cable that didn't come with the Cloud Alpha, the audio output was just a slight bit stronger than when using the included cable set. I have a feeling that even when they are set at full volume, the in-line controls may be giving a small bit of resistance. The difference in output between cables was negligible and I only noticed it at the upper volume levels. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Microphone Attached Certified for Discord and featuring noice-cancellation technology, the microphone on the HyperX Cloud Alpha should allow for acceptable use in gaming scenarios. HyperX includes a pop filter/moisture guard on the microphone that can be easily replaced, as well.  I took a sample recording to help our readers get a better understanding of how the microphone on the HyperX Cloud Alpha sounds. [audio mp3="http://www.legitreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hyperxcloudalphasoundblasterxkatana.mp3"][/audio] The HyperX Cloud Alpha mic quality was good when recorded through our Creative Sound Blaster Katana mic-in port, with no enhancements being used. The mic  didn't have any cracking or unusual pops, though there was some minor sibilants that I was able to hear, which is common with these types of mics.  Finally, the mic levels were set to 100 with no gain and for these recordings, I tried to talk in as subdued a voice as possible, to let the mics do the work. [audio mp3="http://www.legitreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hyperxcloudalphaonboardaudio.mp3"][/audio] Testing with on board audio, we can tell the sound isn't as crisp and we're not picking up as dynamic a range, but it's still suitable for gaming purposes. My onboard audio is an ALC1150 codec on the Z97X Gaming 7 from Gigabyte, which is decent, but pretty comparable to what you'll find on most "gaming" boards, these days. To compare the HyperX Cloud Alpha with a decent desktop mic, here is a recording using the Blue Snowball Black under the same recording parameters. Keep in mind that the Snowball has its own built-in sound card, while the HyperX Cloud Alpha was tested using an external device, the Sound Blaster X Katana. [audio mp3="http://www.legitreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/seansinhabluesnowballbaseline.mp3"][/audio] As you can hear by the differences between the microphones, while it's certainly no replacement for a decent desktop microphone like a Blue Snowball or Yeti, the HyperX Cloud Alpha has a great mic when compared to most other gaming headsets, especially those in the $99 range. I see no reason you couldn't use this mic for professional gaming where clarity is crucial and even feel it would be acceptable for basic Twitch streaming. It worked well with our various listening and input devices and I didn't have any issues with people hearing me clearly in multiple games of PUBG or Discord chat. I tried to find fault in the HyperX Cloud Alpha and see if it came short in some areas, but it was such a versatile headset that I fell in love with very quickly and ended up using for more than just gaming. Since they have such a great base sound, the Cloud Alpha excel for music and movies and I am able to wear this headset for longer than any unit I've previously reviewed before discomfort sets in. In fact, I can't say that the HyperX Cloud Alpha have ever been taken off because of discomfort, generally I just get tired and give up. I've got a pair of Sennheiser HD598CS that the Cloud Alpha compare favorably with, with a very slight edge in comfort and soundstage going to the Sennheisers, which carry a $50 premium over the Cloud Alpha and don't include a mic or carrying case. Let's wrap up this review with my overall thoughts on the HyperX Cloud Alpha and see where it stands compared to the current offerings in the competive gaming headset market.

HyperX Cloud Alpha Headset - Overall Thoughts

Going back to the drawing board and improving upon a popular design that has helped define your brand in a particular market is tough for any company. With their original Cloud, HyperX simply made some tweaks to a proven headset that was designed for the production industry. That move paid off and over the past few years, HyperX has become a very well known brand when it comes to gaming headsets. Times change and the PC gaming industry is a volatile one. Did HyperX succeed in moving the Cloud forward and making enough changes to make it a viable choice for users picking up a new headset in the $99 range? They definitely have. Will users of the existing Cloud find it a worthy upgrade? That's a bit more debatable, but I will say that HyperX Cloud Alpha improves upon the original Cloud in every way possible. HyperX Alpha Cloud - Front View The Cloud Alpha is more comfortable than its predecessor, while providing a clearer soundstage and slightly improved microphone quality. HyperX set out to separate the bass from the midrange and high frequencies and they did a great job, as the HyperX Cloud Alpha have an amazingly neutral sound, with highs and mids being very clear and understandable. The bass produced was tight and while it rarely tickled my ears, there were definite moments where the HyperX Cloud Alpha flexed a bit of muscle. No matter what, though, they didn't distort even into higher volumes on my Sound Blaster GX5 or Katana sound bar headphone output. With the microphone removed, the Cloud Alpha look like a stylish set of premium headphones that people unaware of the HyperX brand would never assume is a gaming headset. The build quality of the HyperX Cloud Alpha is excellent, with a well-built, flexible aluminum band covered in a stitched leatherette material. Often times, gaming headsets get disregarded because they offer mediocre sound and mic quality along with features of questionable quality to gamers, all while carrying a price premium and sci-fi inspired design. The HyperX Cloud Alpha has a great aesthetic, with sound that is comparable to a pair of $150 Sennheiser HD 598CS and it even comes with a decent microphone. HyperX Cloud Alpha - Front View w/Mic I can't fault the HyperX Cloud Alpha too much for anything, other than not being able to do things it's not even advertised to do. Many gamers these days want 7.1 surround sound and wireless capability. While you can definitely run the HyperX Cloud Alpha through any number of sound cards that will produce virtual surround sound, it seems a lot of consumers want this functionality out of the box and HyperX even has it available on their Cloud Revolver headset via the form of a USB dongle. I do wish that a longer 3.5mm cable without inline volume control for listening on an external DAC were provided, but that's no big deal and it doesn't fit the target audience of the Cloud Alpha. Thankfully, since the HyperX Cloud Alpha have a non-proprietery audio input jack, you can use any aftermarket 3.5mm cable with them. Wireless capability would add a price premium and often adds latency that isn't condusive to quality competitive gaming. If HyperX could take this exact headset, tweak it as little as possible and release a wireless version with latency on par with the SteelSeries Arctis 7, I think it would create a lot of interest with consumers. Given their comfort and sound signature, the HyperX Cloud Alpha have become my new primary gaming headset, replacing the SteelSeries Arctis 7 that I reviewed a few months ago. HyperX went back to the drawing board and designed a truly amazing headset in the HyperX Cloud Alpha and I'm struggling to think of a competing gaming headset for $99 that I'd consider purchasing over it. If you're looking for a new gaming headset and don't mind it not being wireless, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is going to be pretty hard to beat for $99.99. Legit Reviews Editors Choice Award Legit Bottom Line: The HyperX Cloud Alpha headset improves on virtually every facet of the legendary Cloud and offers excellent sound quality, style and comfort at an attractive price point.