HyperX Cloud Alpha S Review
HyperX is the leading brand for gaming headsets in the professional gaming world. Their most well known product in that scene is probably the Cloud II (we reviewed the wireless version of that one here) but the Cloud Alpha has certainly also made a name for itself. After receiving a couple of requests by our readers to take a look at this newest Cloud Alpha headset we've decided to let our reviewer take a look at it.
The Cloud Alpha S features HyperX's virtual 7.1 surround sound, the dual-chamber driver system that made the original Alpha so popular, and now also features bass adjustment sliders on the earcups themselves. On top of that you're also getting the build quality and comfort that HyperX are known for, so let's see if all of that adds up to a headset that's worth the purchase.
HyperX Cloud Alpha S - First Impressions
If you follow streamers or pro gaming tournaments a bit you'll probably recognize the style of this headset. It definitely has that signature HyperX look, with one distinguishing factor being the forks of the headband that have parts cut out of them. The headset that I'm reviewing is the blackout version which looks very sleek and classy, but you can also get this one with blue accents.
Inside the box you will get your headset, a carrying bag, an extra set of fabric ear pads, the detachable mic (and a little pop filter for it) and then the USB interface cable. I'm glad to see those extra ear pads because these weren't present on some of the other newer HyperX headsets, and as someone who is not a fan of the feeling of leather on my skin I pretty much instantly switch to the fabric pads.
Build and comfort
The Cloud line of headsets is famous for its build quality and comfort. Logically, the Alpha S gets the same treatment. It's got that extremely durable yet very flexible aluminum frame, along with a luxuriously padded headband and thick and soft ear cushions.
I could have this headset on my head all day long without feeling any sort of discomfort though I have to say that the leatherette ear pads, despite being 8 times more breathable than the ones on the original Cloud Alpha (according to HyperX), can make me feel a bit 'shut in' after a long session. Of course that also has something to do with my dislike for leatherette materials, so if you don't share that you probably won't have any issues with these, and if you do have an issue with the pads you can always swap 'em out for the more breathable fabric ones, which is what I did.
One of the more unique things about this particular headset is the fact that it has bass adjustment sliders on the back of both ear cups. These allow you to finely tune the bass response in the headset, and while I initially thought this was some kind of a gimmick it actually really does deliver substantially different sound profiles for the bass. More on the sound in the next section though.
To summarize this section: HyperX is known for their comfort and durability for a reason, and they deliver the goods yet again with this Cloud Alpha S.
Sound and mic
The Clouds are well known for their great sound quality that's offered in a relatively budget friendly package. The Cloud Alpha S definitely delivers on the sound quality front but I'll talk a bit more about the bass sliders, and as such the bass response, first.
Whereas I originally thought these tiny little sliders wouldn't have any perceptible influence on the sound of the headset I had to adjust that thought rather quickly. There are three positions for these sliders: closed, halfway open, and completely open. In my opinion the closed position is by far the worst one. Unless you prefer a very underemphasized bass response this isn't the way to go, as there's almost no 'pop' or definition to the lower tones, at least not when compared to the other modes. My personal favorite configuration is just with the two sliders all the way open. That gives you a bass response that's still not overly bombastic but is present enough.
Overall, the sound quality that the Alpha S puts out is really good: the bass, as I said, comes through nicely but doesn't overpower everything else and the mids are pleasant as well. The only thing that bothers me a bit here are the higher frequencies: those can sound a bit muddy and overall not as clear as I'd like them to be, but that's definitely a bit of a nitpick. In the end this doesn't have any real effects on gameplay but if you're mainly going to be using this headset for listening to music you perhaps should consider looking elsewhere. That's not a knock: this is a gaming headset after all, but it's just an observation.
The positional audio is great too. Of course this will depend on what game you're playing (some have great audio engines while others are extremely subpar) but I had no issues locating enemies by their sounds, even ones who were further away.
There is virtual surround sound present on this headset (and it even automatically adapts to a number of games, including CS:GO and Overwatch) but whether you like that or not will depend on your personal preferences as it substantially alters the sound profile of the headset. I will say that I felt like the positional audio was pretty good in the supported games. That's not always the case with virtual surround sound. Still, if you're a competitive gamer I'd recommend leaving it off, as most game audio engines aren't designed with these sorts of virtual surround experiences in mind.
The mic, then. I can be pretty short about that one: it's decent. It's definitely not the best I've ever tested, but it also isn't the worst. For gaming purposes and even short calls with friends and family I'd use this without any hesitation, but if you're planning on being a content creator or you're working from home and making calls all day I'd look for an external mic.
Mic Sound Test
Features and ease of use
If you want to use the Cloud Alpha S to its fullest potential you'll want to plug it into your PC via the included USB controller. There you can quickly adjust the volume, chat balance, and toggle the virtual surround sound mode. All of this can also be handled through HyperX's NGENUITY software. I have to say that I've tested a lot of HyperX products over the past month or two and NGENUITY has always worked without any hiccups. It usually asks you to download some firmware update, after which you have to unplug and replug your peripheral, and then you're good to go. It's quick and painless, and it's a lightweight program too, which can't be said for some others out there.
That said: it is a bit barren. There is no way to change the EQ, and the only extra features that you get here on top of the usual stuff is sidetone and the aforementioned auto optimization of the 7.1 surround for select titles. Just to be complete, these currently supported titles are: Rainbow Six Siege, PUBG, CS:GO, Apex Legends, CoD Modern Warfare, and Overwatch.
The Cloud Alpha S is easy enough to use (definitely because you've got that little control puck on the cable) but I would have liked to see some more options to tune the EQ yourself. Right now you can adjust the bass (via the sliders) but that's about it.
Simplicity over flash: that basically seems to be HyperX's credo with most of their gaming products, and I can certainly get behind that. But yeah, a couple of extra options for those that want it would be good.
The Cloud Alpha S is yet another great headset from HyperX. It delivers the goods thanks to its great build quality and comfortable fit, and the sound output as well as the positional audio is great for gaming. Due to the slightly underemphasized highs it's perhaps not the very best headset to get if you're someone who listens to a lot of music and you're picky about the sound quality, but as a gaming headset this is definitely an impressive feat.
The little bass sliders that serve as one of the standout features are no gimmick either: they definitely have an impact on the overall sound. I would suggest leaving them open, but that's entirely up to you of course.
All in all, the Cloud Alpha S is an extremely capable gaming headset, and one you should take a look at if you're shopping for an affordable, no-nonsense set of cans.