Sat. Jun 6th, 2020

HyperX Cloud Alpha Review: Nailing the fundamentals

There a reason you still see the HyperX Cloud Alpha on the head every other Twitch streamer — it's a beast.

If you’re into gaming on PCs or consoles, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard about the HyperX Cloud Alpha. Half the streamers on Twitch wear it, and for good reason: it’s a rockstar of a headset under $100. But how good is it really?

Who is the HyperX Cloud Alpha for?

  • Gamers have long enjoyed HyperX gaming headsets because they offer relatively high quality for a low price. Additionally, the no-frills experience keeps unwanted complications out of gaming sessions.
  • At-home workers will appreciate having a headset with a decent mic and comfortable padding to facilitate conference calls.

What is the HyperX Cloud Alpha like?

The HyperX Cloud Alpha sits on a wooden desk in front of a keyboard and mouse

Ah, that classic black and red.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha was designed to be durable and comfortable. The frame is made of solid metal, with sturdy joints and thick ear pads. Whether you’re the type to calmly work away at your computer, or hurl your headset across the room after your squadmates screw up for the thousandth time, one thing will be obvious: This headset is as durable as they come. If you somehow damage the cables or microphone, they’re cheap to replace.

The HyperX is a sturdy gaming headset built to withstand all kinds of missions.

With such thick ear pads, the HyperX Cloud Alpha creates a very good seal against your head. That’s important for two reasons — a good tight seal means a headset won’t wiggle much as you move your head, and it will block out more noise. Good isolation is important, whether you’re working or gaming in a noisy environment, and ear pads this thick really help with that. Super deep leatherette ear pads allow for extreme comfort, great isolation. Since the foam is fairly dense, your ears will get hot after a couple hours of play.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha lays on a wooden table, with the focus on its headband.

The headband is covered in a very soft leatherette cushion.

Actually using this gaming headset is pretty straightforward. The HyperX Cloud Alpha can connect to anything with a 3.5mm headphone jack — computers, console controllers, and even smartphones that still have the port. It features inline controls for muting the microphone and adjusting headphone volume. The ability to mute the mic when your family members or roommates walk in the room is great for avoiding the embarrassment of your Discord server hearing your home life, too. HyperX doesn’t include anything aside from the 3.5mm cable, so no USB connectivity here. For that you’ll  need to get the HyperX Cloud Alpha S.

How is the HyperX Cloud Alpha for gaming?

The Cloud Alpha doesn’t bring a lot of bells and whistles to your gaming experience, regardless of what platform you use — it’s basically just a pair of headphones with a detachable microphone. However, you’ll still have a great time with it. As I mentioned above, this is a very comfortable headset. It’s lightweight and has just the right amount of tension, which is perfect for long gaming sessions.

All a gaming headset needs is great sound and a comfortable build, and the HyperX Cloud Alpha offers both in spades.

This is a stereo headset, so there’s no included surround sound feature for people who want pinpoint accuracy in their Fortnite matches. Outside of the need for further situational awareness during tense battle royale matches, stereo sound really isn’t a bad thing. Single player games, and games where directional audio is less important, shouldn’t have any issues, and shooters like Overwatch have the ability to add virtual surround sound anyway. You may not find yourself quite as deprived as you’d expect.

How does the HyperX Cloud Alpha sound?

A frequency response chart for the HyperX Cloud Alpha, which shows accurate output with a slight dip in the highs

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more accurate gaming headset, though the dip around 4KHz can make some sibilant sounds, and the sounds of musical instruments such as cymbals. harder to hear.

It’s easy to see why this headset is so beloved. It sounds great, and provides really good isolation from the world around you. It’s a lot cheaper than most high-end gaming headsets, but it sure gives them a run for their money.

With the exception of a dip in the mid-high range, the frequency response of this headset doesn’t distort the audio sent by your console or computer that much, so everything will sound close to how it was originally mixed. That means little details won’t get lost as often, and music will sound much clearer than you might be used to. It’s why studio headphones will typically aim for this type of sound.

This means bass isn’t over-emphasized, so in-game noises like the rumble of an explosion won’t drown out sound they’re not supposed to. Many gaming headsets boost bass to really make you feel every low note and boom, but most video games are pretty well balanced from an audio perspective. An explosion is always going to be the loudest sound in a given scene, so boosting that further just makes everything harder to hear in those moments.

A picture of the HyperX Cloud Alpha gaming headset on a wooden table.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha’s isolation is unusually good for a gaming headset.

That dip I mentioned in the high range may look severe in the graph, but don’t worry. Many headphones de-emphasize sound in this range because of natural resonances in the ear, where echoes in your ear canal actually make it harder to hear other sounds. Lowering the output around that 4KHz mark means sounds of an even wider frequency range won’t have any trouble competing.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha offers far better audio isolation than most gaming headsets, due in no small part to the headset’s ample ear pads. There’s nothing here approaching active noise canceling, but the kinds of sounds you’d hear at home, like a TV blaring in the other room or a phone ringing, shouldn’t offer much distraction. To learn more about its effectiveness, head over to the SoundGuys HyperX Cloud Alpha review.

The microphone

A detail shot of the inline control unit of the HyperX Cloud Alpha

Being able to quickly adjust volume and mute yourself as needed with tabbing to Discord or another program is an underrated perk.

If there’s one low point on this headset, it’s the microphone. Clearly tailored to the demands of voice chat, this mic de-emphasizes bass sound, which often requires more power to accurately output, and boosts sounds in the high range. If you have a voice of average or high pitch, this means you’ll come through generally louder and clearer. Sibilant sounds (F, S, and SH) will also be easier to hear for other people, which is important for natural sounding speech. However, people with deeper voices will sound a bit different, and a little quieter than you’d expect. All this is done to make the fainter elements of speech easier to hear, and compensate for the extra noise of a mic placed too close to your mouth, which means finding the right placement will take a little bit of work.

Also, this is hardly a podcasting microphone. We’ve gone over its accuracy, but the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s mic struggles to achieve the clarity and output volume of more dedicated microphones like the HyperX Quadcast. Listen for yourself:

Should you buy the HyperX Cloud Alpha?

A detail shot of the HyperX Cloud Alpha's ear pads.

The plush ear pads make it easy to use these for hours at a time.

Yes. There are alternatives if you want something with more features, or something cheaper, but the bottom line is this: at any price, you’re going to have a tough time finding a headset that sounds better than the HyperX Cloud Alpha. The only real caveat I can think of is the mic: If a fantastic microphone is what you’re after, there are better options out there, such as the Audio-Technica ATH-G1 or the Logitech G Pro X. Apart from that, this is pretty much the platonic ideal for gaming headphones.