The thing that’s always bugged me about companies that make gaming peripherals is that they don’t know their audience. Brightly coloured peripherals and garish LED, while appealing to small children, are painful to look at and usually, even more painful to use. As someone who’s very particular about sound quality, and spends an inordinate amount on audio products and peripherals, I find “gaming” headsets particularly frustrating. Slapping on a mic and volume control does not a gaming headset make. To top it off, manufacturers seem to think that all gamers would like to drown out a game’s amazing ambience in “earth-shattering” bass. In fact, some manufacturers even add nonsense like headset rumble pads to further “enhance” the bass.
If anything, gamers are just as particular about their audio as some of the pickiest of audiophiles. Forget ambience, audio cues are as critical to a game as are frame rate and mechanics. We want to hear every footstep in CS: GO, locate a gunshot just by its echo and discover secrets via the smallest of aural hints.
Few manufacturers take the trouble to understand their audience, and fewer still develop products that match expectations.
Among that handful of manufacturers is Kingston with its HyperX-branded gaming peripherals. For a company that supports some of the most competitive eSports teams around, this is to be expected.
Kingston has a history of building great gaming peripherals and has in fact built some of the best peripherals I’ve ever used. One of my favourite gaming headsets was the original Kingston HyperX Cloud, and when Kingston offered to send me the latest iteration of that line, I was understandably excited.
Enter the Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha.
Build and Design: 9/10
The set is satisfyingly understated for a gaming headset, and I really like the red and black colour tone. The moment you look at it, you’ll know it’s a gaming headset that means business. It oozes quality and you don’t even have to use it to know that it’s very well built.
When you pick it up, you’ll note that it feels strong and sturdy, a set that can take a tonne of abuse and not fall apart. The frame is made from aluminium and the parts that rest on your head, the headband and earpads, are heavily padded with soft, imitation leather.
The cables and mic are detachable and use standard 3.5 mm plugs for easy replaceability. The cable itself is braided to make it sturdier. On the cable is a mic mute button and a volume control dial. This is a nice touch because now, you won’t need to reach to your PC to control the volume.
Rounding out the package is a soft pouch for carrying the headset to those LAN parties you’re always hoping you’ll be invited to.
The set might seem a little too stiff at first, but you'll get used to it very fast. The clamping pressure is also great for ensuring that the headset won't fall off or move around.
For gaming, this set is darn near perfect. I mentioned earlier that I had fallen in love with the original HyperX Cloud, this one’s better. After the Cloud, I’d moved on to the SteelSeries Siberia V2. Another incredible set that, while low on bass, offered incredibly precise positional audio that made a world of a difference in competitive games like DOTA 2 and CS: GO. The lack of bass meant that the set was a little lacking in the ambience department, making it a bit unsuitable for enjoying the more casual titles.
The Cloud Alpha overcomes that shortcoming by offering among the most balanced audio output I’ve ever experienced from a gaming headset. The bass, mids and highs are all there, as was clarity and positional accuracy.
Voices were very well rendered and in-game dialogue, as well as teammates’ chatter, was clearly audible in even the most frenetic of action sequences. The mic also did a good job of picking up my voice and cutting out ambient noise.
Kingston claims to have done this by using a dual-chamber design around the 50 mm diaphragms that pump out the audio. The two chambers are used to isolate the bass from the mids and the highs, and Kingston claims that this has allowed them to tune the bass separately and thus, cut out distortion.
Whatever the case, it’s working well.
To be clear, this is not a set that a discerning audiophile would want to use with their music. The set lacks musicality. It’s like everything is just a tad over-damped. Music and movies tend to sound a bit muted.
That said, this is by far the best all-rounder that I’ve come across. As long as you’re not among the aforementioned discerning audiophiles, you’ll have nothing to complain about.
The passive noise-cancellation, a consequence of the snug fit, is also very welcome. It's good enough to mute out the bulk of the ambient noise.
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs 8,799 in India, the Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha is certainly not cheap. It’s not an impulse purchase. However, if you’re a gamer and if you spend any length of time gaming competitively, this is a set that you will appreciate.
Great tools don’t maketh a great gamer, but they certainly help.
For gamers who think nothing of investing Rs 10,000 in a keyboard or Rs 5,000 in a mouse, spending Rs 8,799 on what could be one of the best gaming headsets around should be a no-brainer.