HyperX’s Cloud Alpha gaming headset reviewed

Two years ago, I reviewed HyperX’s Cloud Revolver, a newly-designed headset that branched out from the company’s famous Cloud. In that review, I mentioned that I’d briefly tried out the Cloud II, the refreshed edition of HyperX’s original. Unfortunately for me, the Cloud II was shipped off as part of a giveaway to some lucky soul, but even in its short time with me, it became the standard of a high-quality gaming headset in my mind.

Since then, a number of Cloud headsets have succeeded the Cloud II, each with slight improvements or added features. The Cloud II left such a lasting impression on me that I’ve paid close attention to those changes over the years, so when the Cloud Alpha was announced, I was curious to see how it differed from previous Clouds. Thanks to HyperX, I was able to actually get my hands on the Alpha for myself in order to see how well the Cloud has aged and advanced.

The Cloud Alpha barely looks like it has aged a day. Some of the softer edges on the outside of the driver housing have given way to more angular looks, but you probably wouldn’t notice without comparing it to a picture of the Cloud in its younger years. HyperX’s classic red-and-black look hasn’t faded from the Alpha. Some previous Clouds were available in more muted colors, but that isn’t the case for the new top dog. Besides the red accents, there isn’t anything particularly flashy about the Alpha. You won’t catch it trying on any of the LEDs or stealth fighter-esque angles that seem to be all the rage these days. The design is clean and simple. It actually looks like a pair of headphones instead of some sort of sci-fi headgear.

The Alpha’s only noticeable visual change is the presence of a number of cut-outs in the metal connecting arms from the headband to the earcups. The Alpha has actually lost some weight, and the cutouts are at least partially responsible for that. The Alpha weighs in at 0.7 lbs, or 336 g, with the microphone and cable attached. That’s 14 grams lighter than the Cloud II and 40 grams lighter than its younger, bulkier sibling, the Cloud Revolver.

As far as I can tell, the weight savings come without any compromises to the structural integrity of the Alpha. HyperX’s latest remains one sturdy headset, thanks to its aluminum frame and external driver housing plates. Even some of the more high end headsets I’ve reviewed are primarily composed of plastic and feel a little chintzy as a result. The Alpha is most definitely not chintzy in any regard. Its metal frame is flexible enough to comfortably accommodate gamers’ differing heads sizes and not snap if it’s accidentally bent. Instead, it straightens itself back out without any sign that it was ever in a different shape. The metal frame can also extend out of the headband to further match different head sizes. There are eleven different lengthening notches in the frame, and each has an accompanying mark so that gamers can easily reset their favorite position if needed. The sections of the headset that are made of plastic are made of a sturdy composite with a nice matte finish that’s smooth and somewhat soft to the touch.

Fortunately, what comes in contact with the user’s head is not metal or plastic, but rather thick leatherette. HyperX has, without a doubt, some of the highest-quality padding on the market. The lightweight design and quality padding are the namesake of the Cloud brand, and the Alpha certainly does them proud. My awareness of the presence of the Alpha on my head quickly faded as I engaged with the task or game in front of me. There have only been a few times after wearing the Alpha for multiple hours on end that I’ve felt the need to readjust it on my head. Unlike the Revolver, it also feels comfortable and stays securely in place on my head, instead of sliding off when looking around or bending down.

HyperX is courteous enough to provide a two-in-one extender cable and y-splitter with this headset in addition to the primary cable, which can be unplugged from the headset itself. This setup makes the Alpha compatible with both the PC and any device equipped with a standard four-pole 3.5-mm port without any additional cables or adapters. The removable cable also means gamers with chew-happy pets or errant chair wheels won’t have to toss the entire unit if their cable is ruined somehow.

Both included cables are round and braided. The primary cable is 4.25 ft long, while the extender is 6.5 ft long. The primary cable has a built-in dongle with a volume wheel and a mic mute switch. Unfortunately, the audio port is not flush with the bottom of the headset, and the cutout that surrounds it is form-fitted to the provided cable. Those who might want to plug in their own cable may find the hole too small to fit the connector.

 

Sound

I praised the 50-mm drivers in the Revolver for being some of the best drivers I’ve heard in a headset, but HyperX has somehow equipped the Alpha with an even better set of drivers. The 50-mm drivers in the Alpha have two chambers surrounding them: one that purports to enhance mids and highs and the other for bass. HyperX says this configuration “provides more distinction between sounds and minimizes distortion.” The Revolver claimed to offer more accurate audio positioning and did produce crisp and clearly distinguishable sounds, but the Alpha sounds just a little bit cleaner and punchier to my ears.

One thing is for certain: the Alpha doesn’t sacrifice music quality by using an audio profile tuned specifically for gaming. The profile isn’t cut or boosted in the highs, mids, or lows—it’s quite neutral to start with. I have very broad tastes in music, but the Alpha doesn’t seem to favor any genres over others. The same goes for games. The Alpha simply sounds fantastic all around. I wear the Alpha almost anytime I’m on my PC, and it has been great for video and audio editing, listening to music, watching videos, voice and video calls, and playing games. Speaking of gaming, I test how headsets impact situational awareness by hopping into an intense FPS. The Alpha performed phenomenally. I could clearly pick out footsteps, gunshots, and other little sounds critical to locating fast-moving enemies in Titanfall 2.

Gaming headsets are typically not known for their good microphones, so when I plugged in the microphone, opened up Audacity, and recorded some samples, I was shocked. The microphone has been the major weak point of pretty much every Cloud headset up to this point. HyperX has been slowly improving them, but not by much. After such slow progress for so long, it’s shocking how much of a jump there is from the Revolver mic to the Alpha mic. It doesn’t have the impeccable crispness of my Rode Podcaster, and it’s a bit lacking in bass, but it has a nice, clean sound, unlike most headset microphones. The untrained ear without the Podcaster sample for comparison probably wouldn’t know what it was missing. The first time I jumped onto Discord with the Alpha, a buddy of mine sung the praises of the mic, and I’ve gotten no complaints about it at all. The Alpha’s mic is no doubt the best headset mic I’ve heard to date.

Conclusions

The HyperX Cloud Alpha shows what a company can do when it sticks with a design and continues to improve on it, rather than trying to create the next best thing from the ground up. Admittedly, HyperX started out with a great design with its Cloud in the first place, so it didn’t take much to perfect it. I honestly can’t come up with anything negative to say about the Alpha. It’d be nice if it was offered in colors other than red and black like previous Cloud headsets and if the connector hole was slightly bigger to accommodate custom cables, but I’m grasping at straws here.

The Alpha looks pretty classy and is made of high quality materials. It’s well built and is relatively light in weight. It feels comfortable for extended periods of time, but stays on your head without issue. It has a detachable microphone and cable and includes an extender cable with a y-adapter. Most impressively, the Cloud Alpha has the best-sounding pair of cans I’ve heard on a gaming headset and has the best-sounding microphone I’ve heard, as well.

HyperX Cloud Alpha

February 2018

All those virtues make the Cloud Alpha one of the best gaming headsets on the market right now to my ears. Perhaps the best thing about this headset is its price: it’ll set you back $100 to pick one up for yourself, no more than the original Cloud is going for at many retailers right now. I think you can spend a lot more than that on a gaming headset and not get something nearly as good as the Alpha, especially in the microphone department. Unless you’re looking for a wireless headset, you simply can’t go wrong with the Alpha. It’s an easy TR Editor’s Choice.

Comments closed
    • OptimumSlinky
    • 1 year ago

    I must have really snobby ears because I purchased the HyperX Cloud Alpha from Best Buy about 2-3 months ago and returned it the same day. The build quality and presentation was exceptional, but the audio quality was far from it. Harsh highs, flat lows, and overall a tinny, hollow sound space.

    I ended up with some Logitech G430s for around $45 which are far cry from audiophile, but have the advantage of sounding better to my ears and being literally half the price.

      • tomkaten
      • 1 year ago

      Cheers, mate, I was beginning to question my hearing prowess with all the positive reviews flying about. I’ve posted my impressions on another tech site, I’ll just copy-paste them out of sheer laziness:

      “After reading numerous reviews that praised the sound quality of these cans, I took the plunge and got a pair when they were on sale (65 euro which is about 78 USD).

      I must say they’re nothing to write home about. Sure, the build quality and the comfort are great, but sound-wise they’re mediocre to my ears. The bass is way overemphasized, mids are recessed and pretty much drowned, highs are there, but again, too recessed.

      I’ve compared them to the Superlux HD 330 (150 Ohm headphones) that I own. Setup is PC—>Roland Mobile UA-M10 external DAC (300 USD interface, USB powered)—> headphones. The interface has a top of the line DAC chip and headphone preamps and is able to easily drive even 600 Ohm headphones.

      The Superluxes just kick their ass in every category. Sound is fuller, bass is deeper without breaking a sweat, highs are incomparably better, and mids are more forward. It’s just a no-contest, plain and simple. If you want gaming AND the occasional music track, sure, I can recommend the Cloud Alphas. If you think of getting them exclusively for music listening, look elsewhere. The HD 330s go for about 40 USD and are just in another league altogether.”

      I should also point out that I’m in no way a self-proclaimed “golden ears dude” or any other species of vain audiophile, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize good audio when I hear it.

    • bfar
    • 1 year ago

    Is the design still basically a rebranded Takstar Pro 80? Nothing wrong with that at all, but there’s stiff competition in the $100 range. Hyperx headsets can often be found on sale, and they’re an absolute steal if you do.

    Undoubtedly the inclusion of a respectable mic is a big selling point here.

    • Jigar
    • 2 years ago

    I own HyperX core, they are just amazing.

      • Jellyfish
      • 2 years ago

      I recently purchased Creative SoundblasterX H7 Tournament Edition at the same pricepoint ($99), and have been overall impressed with them. The features of the H7 are similar to the HyperX Cloud Alpha and should be a good basis for comparison. A good review of the H7 is on youtube (Jim’s Review Room), where he compares them directly to HyperX Cloud Revolver.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 2 years ago

    I guess it’s worth noting though that the original HyperX Cloud sold for around $60 for quite a long while.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 2 years ago

    I wish a high quality gaming headset for ~$500 was made instead of all this trash.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 2 years ago

      What possible market would there be for a premium hi-fi gaming headset? Do any games exist that claim ultra-high-quality lossless audio? Do you spend your time wearing a gamer headset absorbing all the subtle nuances of the soundstage?

      If you’re looking for quality and subtlety, you’ll always be looking in the wrong place if you’re looking at anything with “gaming” in the title.

      Anyone who wants a genuinely high quality headset already knows you just buy a set of regular high quality headphones, and stick an Antlion ModMic to the side.

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 2 years ago

        I bought a Blue Yeti mic and boom to go with it. I haven’t heard of the Antlion before outside of HL2.

      • ptsant
      • 2 years ago

      How would that be different from a hi-fi headset at $500 (or $1000, or $2000)? There are all kinds, by the way, including “reference monitor” headsets that are pretty neutral and others that have a stronger personality.

      Honestly, the hard part is having the $500. Spending it on a good headset is easy. And you don’t need “gaming” qualifications. Unless if you are addicted to RGB.

    • DoomGuy64
    • 2 years ago

    I’d just like to point out a headset to anyone who might think $100+ gaming headsets are “good deals”.
    [url<]https://www.amazon.com/Gaming-Headset-Surround-Headphones-Microphone/dp/B01JJCBWH4/[/url<] It's cheap so buy both, then tell me if you weren't ripped off on the more expensive one.

      • Laykun
      • 2 years ago

      I mean sure, you can buy $5 headphones and say the same thing. You get what you pay for though, and $100 is no where near “premium” when it comes to headphone pricing.

        • DoomGuy64
        • 2 years ago

        Then buy a $300 headset too, and tell me you weren’t ripped off. I included the + for a reason.

        I just don’t believe that headphone prices reflect any meaningful level of improvement, and there is no standardized set of review metrics that can definitively prove one set is better than another. If there was, then I’d like to see some graphics comparing each new set against older sets. Video cards at least have metrics where you can directly compare hardware, where headsets only have anecdotal opinion pieces, and you don’t know how one set compares against others.

        Headphones aren’t all sound quality either, as when it comes to gaming you want a set that doesn’t easily break, or is uncomfortable to wear. Razer is particularly egregious when it comes to headphones breaking several months after purchase. If a $20 headset’s sound quality is imperceptibly worse, but has massively better build quality, that may be a worthy trade off.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 2 years ago

          If you can’t hear the difference between good headphones and bad ones, then I pity you.

          For under $100, consider headphones like the Grado SR80e, Shure SRH440 or even old-school Sony MDR7506.

            • Srsly_Bro
            • 2 years ago

            I just traded in my Grado SR225i for HD660s. I can’t suggest grado. they are uncomfortable to wear for any period beyond 30 minutes. There are much better sounds and fitting for that price.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 2 years ago

            Good to know. In that case, the Sony MDR 7506/V6 twins may deserve consideration in the sub-$100 range. I found them to be very comfortable.

            • NovusBogus
            • 1 year ago

            I’m a V6 guy, and also have an OG Cloud for when I’m on Teamspeak. Sound is not quite as good as the V6, but comfort is pretty close even for a large head like mine (known issue with some cans, Audiotechnica in particular). For comfort I’ve never seen anything that comes close to AKG but almost all of them require an amp and the good stuff doesn’t start until around $200.

            I suppose I could do it DJ style with a clip-on or desk mounted mic and legit headphones, but there’s something to be said for the convenience of an all in one solution that provides decent quality sound without having to fiddle with the system. The original Cloud’s microphone was rather weak, and this newer one has bigger drivers too so I may have to think about an upgrade.

            • Airmantharp
            • 2 years ago

            The HD660s are probably the most comfortable modern mid-fi headphones you can get. The predecessor in Massdrop form, the HD6xx, are unbeatable!

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 2 years ago

            I’ve got a pair of Sennheiser HD580 headphones in the living room for occasional audio use (like if I want to hear the detail in a DVD-Audio disc). They were the beginning of the HD6xx design.

            • synthtel2
            • 2 years ago

            225is come with the earpads that are a weird compromise between on-ear and over-ear, right? I can’t stand those either myself, but Grado earpads are interchangable (and can be purchased separately) and the on-ear pads (comfies) that come with the cheaper models are quite good.

            On sound quality, the problem Grados all have is a big 2kHz resonance (brief 2kHz sounds don’t resolve right and sustained 2kHz sounds are loud/harsh) between the backs of the drivers and the grills. Cut the grills out and SR60s or 80s become a lot more impressive, easily in competition with the AT M50x or recent Senn HD5##s IMO (less warmth but more speed/accuracy than either of those).

          • Laykun
          • 2 years ago

          I mean, I suppose that’s really just your opinion. I generally use headphones well over 100 USD and I can very easily tell the difference. There’s definite value for someone like me who can appreciate the hardware I guess. I’ve never ever heard headphones with better sub-bass than my Denon AH-D7000, and those used to go for about ~1000USD (you can get this type of sub-bass in the Fostex TH-X00 now, which goes for 399 on massdrop). I’ve never heard details as crisp or sound stage so nice as my DT880 600s, I’ve never heard mid-range so golden rich as my SE535 in-ears. I’ve never had so much comfort, durability and easy going sound as my Senn HD 650s.

          All of these cans are well over $100 and the quality is definitely reflected in the price. The all have phenomenal comfort and I’ve had some of them for over 10 years without any breakages (I’ve only ever had to replace pads).

          I think you’re way overselling the $20 headset as something that will sound good without actually having heard something that sounds good to compare it to. Audio gear is always a case of ignorance is bliss, if you haven’t heard better then it’s probably a good thing as you can save yourself a lot of money, but if you actually get into it most headphones start sounding pretty trash. Please don’t take that as an attack on you and your listening ability, it’s just a generality that applies to most people, I conversely also believe that most people are able to appreciate good sound gear given the proper exposure. I think it’s a pretty audacious thing to accuse an entire industry that has been around since the 50s (audiophile gear) of being nothing but snake oil despite many many people having experienced it and being in general agreement (this does not include the realm oxygen free silver cables for $5000).

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            The problem isn’t that some gear isn’t good, it’s that:

            * There’s no reviews with metrics that you can directly compare to other headsets, or comparison lists.
            * A lot of $100-200 headsets are actually the same audio quality as cheaper sets. Not counting $300+ sets.
            * There’s way too many brands and models to sort through for the non-audiophile. Plus above point.
            * Headset designs vary radically, and a lot of them are more for looks, and not ergo-functionality.
            * Sound quality in headphones vary wildly, being tuned for specific frequencies instead of being neutral.
            * Gaming sets are sometimes better for music than games, or don’t have good sound stage, making them useless.
            * Some more expensive brands like Sennheiser have “cheaper” headsets where the pads fall apart, unlike off brands.
            * If a $1000 set goes for $399 on massdrop, that is direct proof of $600 price gouging.
            * Headphones are generally better than headsets, but I don’t want headphones for gaming, nor do I want to spend over $150 on any headphones. Once you get to $200+, I’d rather spend that on speakers, and if you can get a good 5.1 setup for $300-400, that shows headphones are blatantly overpriced. It probably costs Denon $50 to make those $1000 headphones, and if not, they’re using unnecessarily pricey materials on the set itself or manufacturing process, and not on the drivers.

            I don’t need a $1000 luxury set that is hand made with solid gold wiring, wood trim, and silk padding, I just want a $100 mass produced headset that sounds good, feels comfortable, and doesn’t fall apart, and that’s hard to find because there is no standardized review methods or comparison lists to look at. You pretty much have to read hundreds of reviews, or buy every set to compare it yourself. The headset market is a complete mess with no easy selection process, and is polluted with massively overpriced audiophile luxury gear. That’s why it’s sometimes just better to buy a cheap set, because otherwise you’re throwing money away on a gamble.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 2 years ago

            That’s a nice collection of headphones. I agree that headphones can last a long time. I’m still using my ancient Sennheiser 430 headphones three decades later, though they’ve been relegated to PC gaming/video use.

          • Stochastic
          • 2 years ago

          innerfidelity.com

            • synthtel2
            • 2 years ago

            HeadRoom (headphone.com) also has some useful objective data (go to learn -> build a graph).

            I wish waterfall plots were more widespread. FR and impulse response graphs are a lot better than nothing, but there are still a lot more characteristics that could be objectively measured and aren’t.

      • Gyromancer
      • 2 years ago

      The first headset I ever bought was a cheap, off brand headset similar to this, and I still use it as a reference headset for my reviews. I was pleasantly surprised by it, considering how cheap it was. However, the moment you take a higher end headset out of the box and hold it in your hands, the difference is immediately apparent simply by the quality of the materials and how well it is put together. Once you actually plug it in and put it on, the audio quality is clearly superior. I will say that unfortunately even many higher end headsets don’t have good microphones, so you aren’t always getting an upgrade in that department, but you most definitely are in the case of the Alpha. Are some headsets overpriced? Yes, but you’re not going to get something as high quality as the Alpha for $20.

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