HyperX Cloud Alpha Review: Carrying on the Tradition of Comfort
After being branded on a full line of plush headsets, the HyperX name has become synonymous with comfort. The company's Cloud line has been widely acclaimed for its luxurious feel and excellent sound quality across a number of different models. The newest entry in this lineup, the Cloud Alpha, seeks to carry the torch of the Cloud and Cloud II while implementing a few changes to create and even cozier and more satisfying listening experience than ever before.
As a big fan of the Cloud II (my first real gaming headset), I was interested to see how HyperX would iterate on its design without moving too far away from what made it so great to use. And after spending myriad workdays using it for everything from conference calls to SMITE marathons, I'm really digging what the team has done with this new member of the HyperX headset family. It feels great, sounds even better, and carries on the tradition of the Cloud name.
Sporting a body style that's nearly identical to the Cloud, the Cloud Alpha has plastic-bodied ear cups with plush memory foam ear pads and a leather-wrapped memory foam headband. The two are connected by an aluminum frame that (unlike the flat black of the previous Cloud) is colored bright HyperX red.
The extra red accents on this frame really compliment the red logo and stitching, and makes this set of cans feel more like a HyperX unit than any that came before it. As is par for the course with this brand of headset, there's no RGB lighting. But the Alpha looks so fly anyway that you won't really miss it.
Alongside the headset itself comes a detachable mic with a flexible arm, and a detachable braided 3.5mm cable with inline controls for volume and mic mute. All this comes inside a soft cloth carrying case for easy towing.
I went into using the Cloud Alpha with high expectations from my time with both the Cloud II and the Cloud Revolver S, and it definitely met the bar those two products had set.
What really distinguishes the Cloud Alpha from the Cloud II is the proprietary dual chamber drivers that HyperX designed and implemented to help reduce distortion and distinguish bass tones from mids and highs so that audio is cleaner and crisper. Here's a look at the new design and how it separates these sounds so they reverberate more clearly:
How did this function in our rigorous field tests? Well enough to make me consider retiring my Cloud II. The Cloud Alpha boasts an excellent range of sound, with distinct demarcations between bass, mids, and highs. Rather than all the tones blending together into a single tone, they seemed to echo of their own accord and create a multi-layered sound experience that's usually reserved for true surround sound headsets.
When playing games like SMITE, this translated to a fantastic balance between background music, voice lines, and sound effects that packed a punch without overpowering any other element of the sound design. When listening to lo-fi jazz hop during the workday, it perfectly translated the ambiance of each piano and sax note without sacrificing the glitchy bass tones. And in my go-to test for bass tones -- the pulsing house mixes of a dear DJ friend -- the Cloud Alpha reproduced full-bodied, resonant beats where other headsets (like the Corsair Void Pro) couldn't help but distort the sound.
This isn't a surround sound headset, though, so there's not a lot going on here in terms of directional sound. Though the unique double-chamber design certainly provides some of the richness usually exclusive to surround sound cans, you'll have to pick up the wonderful Cloud Revolver S if you're really adamant about having a true 7.1 experience. But other than a few in-game moments where full directional sound would have been helpful, I didn't find myself missing it too much.
There's also no EQ software, as the Cloud Alpha (like all HyperX products) is 100% plug and play. So if you're the type to dig in and get granular with your sound balancing, you'll probably be frustrated with the lack of control in that regard. Personally, though, I'm not a big fan of utility software to being with, and didn't think the sound needed enough tweaking to warrant that sort of functionality anyway.
I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't at least touch on the detachable mic that comes with this headset. Though I didn't use it for much outside of team chats and conference calls, it consistently put out high-quality sound that folks on the other end of the line had no problem understanding. I didn't get any complaints about distortion, cut-outs, or other issues. And being able to adjust the mic with the inline controls was a nice touch that I sorely missed on the Cloud II.
The only point of improvement I can really highlight here is the lack of a reliable way to keep the microphone safe when it wasn't attached to the headset. Unless I'm actively using it, I like to have my microphone as out of the way as possible. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of lost detachable mics if there's not some way to keep them conjoined to the headset without plugging them in. Such is the case with the Cloud Alpha. Though the carrying case is handy for travel, I would have liked to have a rubber attachment on the 3.5mm cable (like what you'll find on the Logitech G433) to hold the microphone when it's detached.
Just like the Cloud II that came before it, the Cloud Alpha is incredibly comfortable for long wear -- thus continuing the Cloud tradition of being among the comfiest headsets on the market.
Its ear pads are soft, and their reduced clamping force mean they fit snugly without being too tight. Though the leather can get sort of hot and is less breathable than other fabrics, I didn't really have any issues with sweating or discomfort because the headset is so lightweight. Similarly, the headband is airy enough that it sits securely on the head without leaving any indents or creating pressure points.
To compliment its trademark leather luxury, HyperX has made some design changes to the Cloud Alpha's aluminum frame and added a fork design to not only make it more durable, but also help the headband accommodate larger domes. So if you had a little bit of trouble fitting into the first few Cloud models, this iteration may be the one for you.
The only time this headset really got uncomfortable for me was when I took it off and wore it around my neck to chat with a coworker or answer the phone. Unlike other headsets with swiveling ear cups, the Cloud Alpha is a bit too big and inflexible to wear comfortably in this manner. But considering that this was only on occasion and isn't the way the headset is intended to be worn anyway, I'm hard-pressed to really call it a fault in the Alpha's design.
Retailing for $99.99, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is an excellent headset at its price point. If you're familiar with the HyperX brand and like how they design their peripherals, you're definitely in for a treat with this set of cans. And if you're a Cloud II owner who loves the design and comfort of your current set but wants a better sound experience, the Alpha is made for you.
It's not going to satisfy a 7.1-hungry gamer, and it's not quite able to match the impeccable sound experience of the Cloud Revolver S. But even so, the Cloud Alpha is a luxurious, well-designed headset in its own right that's made meaningful changes to its aural capabilities to create better soundscapes and an more satisfying listening experience.
If you want to check it out for yourself, you can pick up the Cloud Alpha on Amazon. It's compatible with PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
[Note: HyperX provided the Cloud Alpha headset used for this review.]