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HyperX's Cloud Stinger headset reviewed

A more affordable Cloud condenses

The HyperX Cloud Stinger is the latest entry into the popular Cloud line of gaming headsets. As a refresher, the HyperX headset lineup includes the $80 Cloud, the $100 Cloud II, and the top-of-the-line, $120 Cloud Revolver. The Stinger takes the Cloud line to the $50 price point generally inhabited by headsets with questionable build quality, low-fidelity audio, and microphones that will remind users of the early days of cellular phones. We wanted to see whether the Stinger was different, and HyperX was kind enough to send us an example headset for us to put through the wringer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a budget headset, the Stinger is constructed primarily from black plastic. The only elements of the headset that aren’t black are the large red HyperX logos on each ear cup and the steel slider that is exposed if the user’s head is large enough to require the headset to expand from its most compacted form.

The headphones are intended to contact the user at the same three points most headphones do: the pair of ear cups and the top band. All three surfaces are composed of a soft vinyl-like substance backed by a thick layer of cushioning foam. The interiors of the ear cups were about 3/4” deep, 2-3/4” tall, and 1-1/2” wide. Large-eared users might make contact with the black fabric covering the hard plastic grilles protecting the 50mm drivers. The contact isn’t immediately unpleasant, but it can become annoying over time. These cans weigh in at just under ten ounces (275g). I never found the headset’s weight to be annoying, even after wearing it for a long time. The relatively light weight and the entirely conventional design of the headset probably play some role in permitting the unobtrusive clamping force of the band.

The combination of thick foam and vinyl around the earcups helped keep the Stinger's head pressure under control, though the over-ear design and thick materials made my ears quite sweaty after wearing the Stinger for extended periods of time. Gamers condemned by their families to cool basements may appreciate the added warmth, but others probably won’t like it.

The steel slider in the band allows twelve notches on either side of the headsets to accommodate a wide variety of head sizes. I wear a size 7-3/8 fitted hat and found the headset most comfortable when each side was adjusted to the fifth notch. The adjustment notches are well-defined and the headset doesn't fall out of adjustment easily, even when it's jerked around or removed from the head with one hand.

The cups are mounted to the band with swivels capable of spinning just over ninety degrees. The swivels allow the cups to conform to the user's head better, but the primary reason for the twistiness is for stowing the headset when it's not in use. The ear cups rotate to rest on the users’ clavicles when the headphones are worn around the neck. In this position, the ear cups won't brush against a user’s manly beard or delicate cheeks like they would without the swivel. The rotated position makes the headset very slightly more compact for storage, though someone would have to have a very particularly-sized storage location for this feature to be of much practical use.

The Stinger’s microphone is mounted to the left ear cup on a boom made of a flexible rubbery plastic material. The headset’s marketing materials say this flexibility allows for a more tailored position, though in my experience with the Stinger, the boom can hold two positions: very close to the mouth or very far away. The boom swings up and down, as well, so it's reasonably simple to find a comfortable position for the mic within its limited range of adjustment.

When the microphone is swung up roughly parallel with the band, the boom provides a tactile, audible click as the microphone is muted. The control over microphone functionality was far superior to that in the pricier Corsair Void Surround headset we reviewed a while back. A detachable microphone could have saved me from savage ridicule from housemates as I wore the Stinger while performing chores around the house, but its absence is forgivable at the price point.

The right ear cup sports a volume slider made from the same hard plastic as the rest of the headset. The potentiometer underneath didn't introduce any additional noise to the headphones' output while I manipulated it, though the driver in the right ear cup did cut out when the slider was adjusted near its minimum volume position. The volume slider is convenient and intuitive, and represents a welcome improvement over in-line volume sliders used on some other gaming headsets. In my opinion, the slider should have had a splash of color, perhaps the red from HyperX logo on the ear cups, in order to make it a little more obvious.

A 51" (1.3m) cable coated in flexible rubber sprouts from a less-flexible reinforcement in the left ear cup and terminates in a plain-looking, four-pole 1/8” (3.5mm) mini jack. Detachable cables and gold-plated connectors apparently don't make the cut in the $50 price bracket. The cord is thick enough to feel substantial, and handling the cable during playback does not introduce noise to the headset the way that braided cables sometimes can.

The headset cable is an appropriate length for connecting to a 3.5mm-jack-equipped Xbox One, PS4, or Wii U controller, but is much too short for use with a gaming desktop PC sitting on the floor next to the user’s desk. I also tried the Stinger with a laptop, and I still found the integrated cord to be a bit too short. Thankfully, HyperX includes a 67” extension cable ending in a pair of 1/8” minijacks for audio input and output. The three-yard total length of the headphone cable and the extension proved ungainly, however. Laptop gamers will want to invest in some Velcro straps to tie up the excess cabling, particularly if their laptop can't natively accept the four-pole connector on the integrated cable.