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After testing over 40 headsets over the course of 60 hours, we think the HyperX Cloud Alpha is the most comfortable, best sounding gaming headset for most people, hampered only by its clear but nasal microphone.
More of our panellists found the HyperX Cloud Alpha comfortable enough for extended wear than the other headphones we tested. The removable microphone is adequate for talking to teammates, though it will make you sound a bit stuffy. The aluminium construction is confidence-inspiring despite the headset’s light weight, and the materials feel of higher quality than other headsets in this price range. The removable cable has simple in-line controls for headset volume and mute, and you don’t need to fuss with software to make it sound good.
If you want a better mic, get the Sennheiser GSP 300. Voices come across clearly, and the GSP 300’s sound is as well tuned for games as the Cloud Alpha’s. Our panellists with larger heads, however, didn’t find the GSP 300 as comfortable, plus the GSP 300 is plastic. And unlike the Cloud Alpha, its cable isn’t detachable, nor is its microphone – that’s not a huge deal, but it does make the GSP 300 harder to repair if something goes wrong.
The Corsair HS50 is the best sounding, best built headset you can get for this price. It’s not as adjustable and comfortable as our main pick, the construction doesn’t feel as solid, and the sound isn’t as detailed as the Cloud Alpha, but at a little more than half the price, we wouldn’t expect it to be. Most of our testers found the HS50 comfortable for short periods but complained about warm ears after around an hour.
If you have a smaller or average-sized head and want superior long-term comfort, a more engrossing audio experience and an excellent mic, get the Sennheiser Game One. Unlike most gaming headsets, the Game One has an open-back design, meaning the earcups have vents. This design makes the Game One sound more open and spacious but allows sound to leak out, so people around you (and in voice chat) can hear what you’re listening to. It also makes the headset lighter and cooler to wear for extended periods of time, though our testers with large heads found the headset uncomfortable.
A wireless headset doesn’t really make that much sense for PC gaming (you’re paying a hefty premium for the luxury of keeping your headset on when you walk to the bathroom) but if you want one, buy the HyperX Cloud Flight. It’s comfortable, sounds nearly as good as the Cloud Alpha, has a better microphone and has up to 30 hours of battery life, the best of any wireless headset we tested. It’s cheap-feeling compared to the Cloud Alpha and the controls aren’t intuitive, but the comfort and performance is worth it. Another downside of wireless: even with the long battery life, you will still have to charge the Flight now and again, and that’s annoying when you forget.
Who this is for
If you play a lot of multiplayer games and are looking for the simplest way to communicate with teammates, you should consider a gaming headset. With a built-in microphone that often includes background noise cancelling, a headset is useful for games like Overwatch, Fortnite, or Destiny 2.
If you don’t play multiplayer games with voice chat, you should buy a good pair of headphones instead. For less money, you’ll get better sounding, nicer looking headphones that won’t look awkward away from your gaming computer.
If you already have a pair of headphones you love, you can add a microphone to them using a Modmic. The Modmic sticks onto any headphones with a sticker attached to a magnet (so you can remove the mic when not in use). In our tests, the Modmic sounds better than any gaming headset’s built-in microphone. But we found the Modmic setup useful only if you leave headphones connected to a computer all day. The dual cables are too cumbersome to untangle if you travel a lot. Modmic also makes a wireless mic that attaches with a magnet. It sounds more clear than the mic on any wireless headset we tested, and the sound quality is almost as good as the wired version. But as it is expensive, we think most people should stick to the wired model for now.
If you stream games online or you’re looking for a headset that can also work for the occasional meeting, podcasting or professional recording, a gaming headset is not the best option. Most gaming headset microphones are fine in-game, cancelling out background sounds of keyboard sounds or roommates, but it’s not broadcast-quality. If mic sound quality is important to you, you’ll get better clarity and vocal fidelity from a USB microphone paired with good headphones.
How we picked
You have hundreds of options for gaming headsets, and it’s hard to differentiate between them on specs. In our research and testing, we looked at these criteria:
- Comfort: You should be able to wear a gaming headset for hours without your ears getting too hot, and it shouldn’t pinch if you wear glasses. A good headset won’t clamp too tight, and it shouldn’t be so heavy it weighs you down after an hour. The headset should be adjustable for a wide range of heads and comfortable for a variety of ear sizes. If a headset feels uncomfortable after less than an hour of use, return it and try a different model.
- Sound quality: Gaming headsets rarely sound as detailed as comparably priced headphones, but they should still be clear and accurate, with no frequency range overpowering another. The most common problem with gaming headsets is excessive bass. Too much bass might make explosions sound cool, but it tends to drown out other important sounds like dialogue.
- Microphone: Most headset microphones have noise cancellation to cut out background sounds. These often do a good job cancelling low-pitched sounds like a computer’s fans but have trouble with higher pitches. None that we tested could cancel someone talking nearby or a loud air conditioning unit. This noise cancellation tends to make vocals sound stuffy, so we focused on clarity over quality in a headset’s built-in microphone. Gaming headset mics come in different styles: some detach, rotate, retract or bend. We didn’t get a consensus from testers on preference, so we didn’t focus on one type over another.
- Build quality: The headband of a gaming headset shouldn’t creak when you put it on or move, and the headset shouldn’t crack apart when you toss it into a bag.
- Design: The majority of gaming headsets are an “over-ear” style. These cover the entire ear and passively block out background sounds by creating a seal around the ear. “On-ear” headphones rest on the ear, but the style isn’t common in gaming headsets because the sound leaks out too much. A handful of “in-ear” gaming headsets exist, but we found them terrible sounding and uncomfortable.
- Open or closed headphones: Most gaming headsets are “closed-back”. This means the headphones have a seal on the back of the earcup so it doesn’t allow sound out. These block out background noise while also preventing the audio in the headphones from leaking out into the world. With no way to vent heat, closed-back headsets tend to make ears warm. “Open-back” headsets have vented earcups. This improves the temperature around ears and provides a more natural, open sound. But these vents also let sound in and out, so open-back headphones work best if you play games in a more private setting.
- Volume controls: Most gaming headsets have volume and microphone mute controls on the earcups or on the cable. We paid attention to how easily these were to use, especially the mic mute function.
We also considered a few less-important factors:
- Connection type: Gaming headsets can connect to a computer with a USB cable, 3.5 mm combo cable, or two 3.5 mm connectors. In our testing, one connection type didn’t reliably sound better than another, but 3.5 mm connections are more reliant on the quality of your computer’s audio hardware than USB headsets, which have their own onboard digital-to-analog converters. If you plan on using the headset with other devices, like a game console or phone, a 3.5 mm connector is a must.
- Surround sound: Some gaming headsets offer “7.1 surround sound”, but most have “virtual surround”, which simulates a surround-sound setup in stereo speakers using hardware or software tricks. We found the quality of virtual surround is more dependent on the game then the headset. Some game developers, like Dice, the company behind the Battlefield series, spend a lot of time on virtual surround and their games can sound accurate in these headsets, but most developers can’t spend the time working on surround. When virtual surround is bad, it sounds like the audio is coming from a small speaker on the other side of a room. Any headphones can get virtual surround sound with paid software like Razer Surround, Dolby Atmos, or the free Windows Sonic for Headphones. If an already good headset offers virtual surround sound, that’s nice, but we don’t think it’s worth paying more for it.
- Software: Some companies include software for customising equaliser settings or custom audio profiles. This software should be optional, and any good headset will sound excellent with no extra drivers or downloads.
Most people will prefer the price and ease of use of wired headsets. Wireless models seem more convenient, but keeping them charged can be a pain, and if you have a lot of other wireless devices around, you might notice the audio cut out due to interference. Wired headsets tend to sound more clear than wireless ones, and wireless technology can introduce latency, which can be a problem in fast-paced games.
In addition to the above criteria, for wireless headsets we considered:
- Battery life: A good wireless headset should last at least 15 to 20 hours on a single charge, and it should include an audio cable so you can still use the headset while it’s charging.
- Connectivity: With the exception of a small handful of Bluetooth headsets, most wireless headsets include a 2.4 GHz wireless USB dongle. The dongle should be well-built, easy to use and hard to lose. There shouldn’t be any noticeable latency or buzzing sounds.
To compile a list of headsets to test, we combed through stores like Best Buy, Newegg and Amazon as well as manufacturer sites like Sennheiser, HyperX, Razer, Corsair and others. For this update, we tested 40 new headsets.
How we tested
I started by wearing each of the 40 headsets for at least 30 minutes each to rule out the ones with bad build quality or comfort issues, paying special attention to headsets that weren’t comfortable with glasses on. I’d force any headsets I was unsure about onto the heads of nearby coworkers, much to their chagrin.
For all the headsets that passed the comfort and build quality test, I then tested audio quality, playing several different games on our current best gaming laptop pick, the Asus Scar II. Sound quality and microphone quality can be partially dependent on your PC motherboard or sound card, but I did not use any external DAC or amplifiers unless it came in the box with the headset because most people don’t have external audio gear for their gaming laptops. I tested the headsets with several games, including Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, to get an idea of a headset’s soundstage, Doom to see how the headsets handled chaotic action games, Overwatch to test mic performance in competitive multiplayer action games, and Civilization VI to hear how the headset managed detail on an orchestral score.
During this process, I paid special attention to comfort and also wore the headsets throughout the workday. I passed along the best options to a panel of testers with a variety of head sizes and hair lengths so they could evaluate each headset’s comfort.
I tested the microphones by recording my voice in Audacity while I tapped along on a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches to test how much background noise the mic picked up. I then played back those recordings to someone and had them evaluate the audio quality.
Our pick: HyperX Cloud Alpha
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is the most universally comfortable headset we tested. The earcups are spacious and don’t clamp too hard over glasses, and it’s adjustable enough for heads of all sizes. The Alpha sounds great in games, with clear distinction between sound effects across bass, mids and highs, and you get a solid pair of over-ear closed-back headphones that can take a beating for the price. The removable 3.5 mm cable ensures it’ll work with a PS4 (the Cloud Alpha is also our pick for best PS4 headset), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch or a smartphone (though you may need an adapter if your phone lacks a headset jack).
Our testers consistently rated the Cloud Alpha as one of the most comfortable headsets we tested. It’s light and highly adjustable, and the earcups have thick memory foam covered in soft leatherette. A couple of the testers found the leatherette ran hot along their ears, but not so much that it negatively affected comfort. The clamping force on the Cloud Alpha is comfortable across a variety of head sizes, and testers with larger heads didn’t complain. The Cloud Alpha was also more comfortable than the tighter, more rigid Sennheiser GSP 300 when worn with thick acetate-framed glasses for a few hours. The earcups on the Alpha are larger than the GSP 300, and the Alpha accommodates a wider range of ear sizes and shapes.
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is the most dynamic, consistent sounding headset we tested. The soundstage is as open as we’d expect from a closed-back headset, and the sound reproduction doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as cheaper options like the Corsair HS50. The bass, often over-emphasised in gaming headsets, never overwhelmed the other ranges. For example, in Overwatch, a headset with too much bass will muddy up the sound, making it hard to distinguish between the sound of Bastion’s and Sombra’s gunfire. Both the HyperX Cloud Alpha and the GSP 300 manage to separate those gun effects much better than bass-heavy headsets like the Razer Kraken V2 and HP Omen Mindframe. Mids on the Cloud Alpha are good, and the headset creates a clear distinction between effects like footsteps, voices and other movement effects. The Cloud Alpha struggles slightly with highs, and some dialogue in Hellblade sounded too sharp. The GSP 300 didn’t have this issue and managed highs clearly.
The microphone on the HyperX Cloud Alpha is passable. Regardless of whether you have a deep, booming voice or a higher pitched yelp, people on the receiving end will understand you. Like the majority of headsets we tested, the mic does compress voices, though, which we detail in the flaws section below. The mic’s noise cancellation does a good job of cancelling lower pitches, like PC fans or a space heater, but can only muffle higher pitched sounds, like a keyboard with Cherry MX Blues. The Cloud Alpha mic did a better job muffling a loud mechanical keyboard than the GSP 300, but both still picked up some of the noise. Unlike the GSP 300, the mic is removable, so it’s replaceable if something breaks. The mic is also bendable, so it’s easy to adjust forward or backward depending on how loudly you want to talk.
The HyperX Cloud Alpha proved durable in our testing, easily withstanding getting tossed in a bag for transport without damage. Even after accidentally dropping it on a hardwood floor twice, the earcups haven’t shown signs of cracking or wear. The flexible aluminium frame feels better built than most headsets, especially compared with the plastic shell on the GSP 300. The Cloud Alpha’s braided cable is a nice touch as well, and it should prevent kinking better than the plastic wrapped cables often found on other headsets. The red-and-black colour scheme looks dated, but the quality materials make up for the colours. At its price, we couldn’t find a more solidly constructed headset than the Cloud Alpha.
Like most gaming headsets, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is a closed-back, over-ear headset. That means the soundstage isn’t as open and airy sounding as something like the Sennheiser Game One, but the sound isolation is much better. It’s almost too good, and on a couple occasions I didn’t notice someone walk into my office behind me. For some, that isolation helps with immersion, but if you want more awareness of your surroundings, check out the Sennheiser Game One below.
The HyperX Cloud Alpha has a removable 3.5 mm braided cable with in-line volume and muting controls, and it includes a y-splitter. In general, our testers liked the controls on the cable, but also found it took some fumbling around to mute the mic properly. The GSP 300 solves this by muting the mic when you flip it up, something some testers preferred, but others disliked because it comes at the cost of keeping the mic affixed to the headset all the time.
The HyperX Cloud Alpha, like the GSP 300, Sennheiser Game One and Corsair HS50, does not have surround-sound hardware. HyperX does sell a USB sound card (the same one included with the HyperX Cloud II), but we didn’t find it worked much better than software solutions and generally preferred to have it disabled.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The microphone on the Cloud Alpha is not as clear as the mic on the Sennheiser GSP 300. The Cloud Alpha’s microphone compresses voices and makes you sound stuffy. If you have a deep, booming voice, everyone on the other end will think you have a cold. The mic is clear, with no distortion, but don’t expect an accurate reproduction of how you sound.
Our testers had mixed feelings about the removable mic. Some liked that they could completely take it off when not in use, while others worried that they’d misplace it. If you prefer a microphone that’s fixed onto the headset, check out the Sennheiser GSP 300.
The leatherette covering on the Cloud Alpha earpads can get warm over time, and we wish HyperX used the more breathable velour pads on the HyperX Cloud II headset. We preferred the Sennheiser Game One on hotter days in Los Angeles.
Runner-up: Sennheiser GSP 300
If the HyperX Cloud Alpha isn’t available or you want a clearer microphone, buy the Sennheiser GSP 300. The GSP 300 can be less comfortable on larger heads, the split headband tends to catch longer hair, and it lacks extra features found in the Cloud Alpha, like the removable cable and carrying bag. But the GSP 300 sounds as good as the Cloud Alpha and has a significantly clearer-sounding microphone you can rotate out of the way when not in use.
Like the HyperX Cloud Alpha, the GSP 300 uses thick, leatherette-covered memory foam on the earcups. Where the Cloud Alpha earcups are ovals, the GSP 300 has ear-shaped pads. This helps the GSP 300’s earcups isolate more room noise than the Cloud Alpha, but people with larger ears might find the opening too tight. We found the GSP 300 made ears warmer than the Cloud Alpha, and on hot days, it’d get uncomfortable after an hour or so. The headband has a split in the middle to help with weight distribution, but our testers had mixed results with how it affected comfort. If you have longer hair, the opening in the headband is problematic, with one tester noting, “This pair pulls the hair on the top of my head no matter how I adjust the headphones.” The clamping force is much tighter on the GSP 300 than the Cloud Alpha, and if you have a larger head, it won’t fit comfortably.
It’s tough to pick between the Cloud Alpha and the GSP 300 in terms of sound quality – most people won’t notice a difference unless they spend lots of time with both headsets. We found the bass in the GSP 300 was more precise than the Cloud Alpha, and the midrange was as good. The high-end on the GSP 300 is cleaner than the Cloud Alpha, and it does a better job of separating out trebly sound effects, especially with the whispery, high-pitched dialogue in Hellblade. But the soundstage on the Cloud Alpha is noticeably wider, though, which can help when you’re trying to tell where noises are coming from in action games. The GSP 300’s soundstage is good enough, but it’s not as spacious as the Cloud Alpha.
The microphone on the GSP 300 doesn’t have a nasally processed sound like the Cloud Alpha. Voice recordings were clear and natural sounding. Noise cancellation in the mic wasn’t as powerful on the GSP 300 as the Cloud Alpha, as we could still hear the clicks of a (loud) keyboard, but it managed to cancel out common background noise, like fans and neighborhood construction. Unlike the Cloud Alpha, the microphone on the GSP 300 is not removable and only bends slightly. Instead, it flips up when not in use, which also mutes the mic. Our panel testers tended to prefer this style of mic because they didn’t have to mess around with positioning or worry about losing a removable mic altogether. It does make the headset bulkier, though, and you need to speak loudly because you can’t move the mic closer to your mouth.
Despite being about the same price as the Cloud Alpha, the GSP 300 is mostly plastic. It feels cheap in comparison, but the GSP 300 still survived a few trips in a backpack and getting tossed around on a coffee table. The frame itself is flexible, but there’s no creaking or looseness in the adjustment. The GSP 300’s black and blue design and sharp corners on all the joints is also ugly – it has more in common aesthetically with a budget disposable razor than a high-end pair of headphones. Other colours are available but aren’t as reliably stocked as the black and blue model.
Like the Alpha, the GSP 300 is a closed-back, over-ear design. Unlike the Alpha, the controls are on the headset itself, not the cable. On the right earcup there’s a large and clunky analog volume wheel, which is easy to find when you need to adjust the volume.
Like the Cloud Alpha, the GSP 300 uses a 3.5 mm connection. The cable attached to the headset terminates in seperate mic and headphones plugs, and Sennheiser includes an adapter in the box to use with single 3.5 mm ports found on game consoles and many PCs. But the cable isn’t removable or braided like the Cloud Alpha, and it’s prone to tangles.
Like the Cloud Alpha, the GSP 300 doesn’t include surround-sound hardware, and Sennheiser doesn’t make any tuning software.
Budget pick: Corsair HS50
If you don’t want to spend too much on a headset, buy the Corsair HS50. It’s not as fun and spacious sounding as the Cloud Alpha, nor as comfortable, but the mic sound is clear and the headset is well-built for the price.
The Corsair HS50 can be comfortable if you have the right size of head for it, but if not, you’ll have a hard time wearing the headset for long periods. Those with smaller heads will notice the earcup touching their jaw line, while those with large heads will find the clamping force to be too tight. If you’re in the Goldilocks zone in the middle, you won’t notice either. The earpads are thick, with plenty of space for a variety of ear sizes. The memory foam isn’t as firm as the Cloud Alpha’s, and the fake leather isn’t as soft, but we found the HS50 tolerable to wear even with glasses.
The soundstage on the HS50 isn’t as spacious as on the Cloud Alpha, so game audio effects tend to sound muffled or claustrophobic. But the HS50 does a good job with balance, and sound cues are easy to pick out when playing games. There isn’t a lot of detail, though, especially in the midrange. This is where you’ll usually find the pitter patter of footsteps or dialogue, but those sound effects tend to blur together on the HS50, especially compared to the Cloud Alpha. The bass doesn’t overwhelm, but the HS50 exaggerates the highs. This can make some dialogue sound fake, like it’s spoken through cupped hands. We noticed this most in Hellblade, where the already ethereal vocals managed to sound even more distant.
The mic sound quality on the HS50 is acceptable. It’s not as natural and clean as the GSP 300, but it’s similar to the Cloud Alpha. It has good background noise cancellation, cancelling out fans but not the mechanical keyboard, and it unfortunately adds the same nasal effect as the Cloud Alpha. Like the Cloud Alpha, the mic is removable and flexible so you can bend it into place.
Visually, the Corsair HS50 is similar to HyperX Cloud line, but the HS50 is clearly made of cheaper parts. The headband has a comfortable but thin leatherette lining, and the headset is mostly metal. It feels durable, but we suspect it’s going to look and feel worse than the Cloud Alpha after a year or two. Since the HS50 is a little over half the Cloud Alpha’s price, this is what we’d expect. The HS50 is a simple design with no angular coloured outlines or edgy graphics, which we liked. The backside of the earcups has a honeycomb pattern that’s meant to look like a pair of upscale open-back headphones, even though it’s closed-back.
The volume and mute controls are on the left earcup, and we had trouble getting used to them. The microphone mute is on a push button, but it’s hard to tell when you’re muted. The volume scroll knob is too stiff, so when you adjust the volume you tend to move the entire headset. Our testers preferred the big obvious knob on the GSP 300 or the on-cable controls on the Cloud Alpha.
The HS50 has a non-removable 3.5 mm cable and Corsair includes a y-splitter for plugging in to separate headphone and line-in jacks if your computer has them. The cable is rubber and tends to tangle. There’s no hardware virtual surround sound or additional software configuration tools.
Also great: Sennheiser Game One
If you want the GSP 300’s excellent microphone but a more open, spacious sound with less isolation, buy the Sennheiser Game One. The open-back style makes the headset more breathable and more comfortable if you tend to run hot or live in a warm place, but comes at the cost of some sound bleeding into the microphone.
The Game One is light and have a good range of adjustments to make it comfortable across head sizes. It doesn’t have a split headband like GSP 300, so our long-haired testers didn’t find their hair catching in the headband. Like the GSP 300, the Game One fit tighter than the Cloud Alpha, and people with larger heads may find the clamping force too tight. The velvet earpads divided our panel testers: some found them much more comfortable than the more traditional leatherette, while others found them off-putting, “like wearing a sweater on your ears.” The velvet is more breathable than leatherette, and on hot days it was noticeably more comfortable than the GSP 300 or Cloud Alpha.
Since the Game One is an open-back headset, its soundstage is larger than the Cloud Alpha’s. We found this gave us a better idea of where sounds were coming from than virtual surround sound in multiplayer games like Overwatch. In Hellblade, a game that uses sound in wild and interesting ways, the Game One sounded incredible. The variety of voices in that game sounded like they were circling around the headphones, like sharks on the hunt. Mids and highs are excellent, with clarity in the vocal ranges and clear distinction with subtle sounds like footsteps. The bass is full, but without the tight seal around the ears, the Game One lacks the low-end rumble found on the GSP 300 or Cloud Alpha.
The mic in the Game One is as clear as the GSP 300, but since the headset is open-back, more sound leaks out from the earcups and into the mic. You’ll likely want to keep push-to-talk on instead of leaving the mic open unless you play at lower volumes. You mute the mic by flicking the mic up, the same way as the GSP 300.
Like the GSP 300, the Game One is mostly plastic. Despite the plastic, it still feels well-built, with no creaking on the headset when you bend it. The padding in the headband and earpads is more dense than that of the Cloud Alpha or GSP 300 but is still comfortable with glasses. The design is less angular than the GSP 300, and if it didn’t have a microphone attached, you’d think it was just a pair of classy Sennheiser headphones. The Game One typically costs more than the GSP 300 or Cloud Alpha.
Since the Game One is open-back, it doesn’t isolate sound, so you can hear what’s going on around you. I preferred this myself, and I liked that I could hear when someone came into my office. More sound escapes the earcups than with the Cloud Alpha or GSP 300, so people around you can also hear what you’re listening to. Because of this, we don’t recommend the Game One if you tend to play games in crowded environments.
The Game One has a volume control on the right earcup, but unlike the GSP 300, it’s a shallow, circular slider, not a knob, so it’s tough to find in a hurry.
The Game One comes with two removable 3.5 mm braided cables: one that terminates in a single plug and another for dual ports. Like the GSP 300, the Game One doesn’t have hardware surround sound or software.
Upgrade pick: HyperX Cloud Flight
If you prefer a wireless headset and don’t mind paying more than wired options, buy the HyperX Cloud Flight. It’s light, comfortable, sounds good and has the best battery life of any wireless headset we tested as long as its LEDs are off.
The Cloud Flight’s earcup memory foam padding isn’t as thick as that of the Cloud Alpha, but it never bothered us. The Flight is as adjustable as the Cloud Alpha and the clamping force is comfortable across head sizes. The foam in the headband isn’t as thick or cozy as the Cloud Alpha’s foam, but the Flight headset is light enough that we hardly noticed.
The Cloud Flight has a fun sound, with a good but not overwhelming emphasis on bass and clear treble. We noticed a good mix of detail across lows, mids and highs, and in competitive multiplayer titles like Overwatch, we could hear positioning clearly. Generally, it sounds similar to the Cloud Alpha with slightly improved treble.
The microphone on the Cloud Flight is clearer than the Cloud Alpha’s mic, but still stuffy sounding compared to the GSP 300. It’s almost too good at cancelling background noise, and you have to place the mic close to your mouth to guarantee it’ll pick up your voice. Even then, it’ll still cut off words occasionally at the end of a sentence.
To save weight, the Cloud Flight is entirely plastic. At a glance, one might confuse it for a budget headset, but despite its appearance it has proven durable over a few years of testing. The earcups rotate so you can comfortably leave them around your neck, a feature we wish more headsets would include. With the LED-illuminated HyperX logos turned off, the Cloud Flight looks like any old black headset.
The Flight is a closed-back, over-ear headset. The sound isolation is weak, and we could often hear loud background sounds like a helicopter overhead or motorcycle zooming past outside when playing games. The Flight don’t seal as well around ears as the Cloud Alpha and GSP 300, but it did as well or better than other wireless headsets we tested, like the SteelSeries Arctis 7.
The audio controls on the Cloud Flight are acceptable, but not great. The volume knob is on the right side, but spins endlessly. When you reach maximum volume, you hear a beeping sound, but you can continue to spin the wheel. The left earcup is a giant mute button, but there’s no indicator other than a beep when going in and out of mute mode. Other wireless headsets have a light on the mic showing mute status, a feature we wish the Flight had. The Flight does not have a chat mix slider like many other wireless headsets, like the SteelSeries Arctis 7. Chat mix allows you to easily change the balance of game and voice chat volume. This is useful on a wireless headset when you might be a few feet away from your computer.
The Flight includes a 2.4 GHz wireless USB dongle, a USB charging cable and a 3.5 mm cable that you can use for the headphones but not the mic when the battery is dead. Since the 3.5 mm cable doesn’t send the mic input, you can’t use the Flight with an Xbox One, but it works fine on a PS4 with the USB dongle in wireless mode.
The Flight does not include virtual surround sound, unlike most wireless headsets in this price range, but after testing other wireless headsets, we don’t think virtual surround sound is worth it.
With the HyperX NGenuity software, you can see how much battery life the Flight has left, adjust the headphone volume and adjust the mic volume. There aren’t any EQ options, but the software is simple and easy to use.
By default, the Flight has LEDs illuminating its logo on each earcup, and you need to tap the power button twice to turn it off. The Flight doesn’t remember your preference so you have to do this every time it’s turned on. And you’ll want to, because keeping the LEDs on is catastrophic for battery life. With the lights off, HyperX says you’ll get around 30 hours – you’ll get 18 hours with the LED breathing effect enabled and around 13 hours with the LEDS on.
The Cloud Flight USB dongle seems to have good wireless range. I wandered 20 feet away in the same room and the sound never cut out, but when I went from downstairs to upstairs, it lost the connection. The distance should be fine for most PC setups, and as long as I was within range I didn’t notice any disconnects, sound hiccups, or lag.
What to look forward to
HyperX has announced two new gaming headsets, the Cloud Orbit and Cloud Orbit S. The modified Cloud Orbit S uses head-tracking tracking technology for enhanced positional audio so that sounds seem to be coming from the same place even if you turn your head. Both headsets will support wired connections and include a choice of three cables: USB-A, USB-C, or an analog 3.5 mm connector. They will also include a detachable microphone.
The headphones will supposedly feature five preloaded sound profiles that were designed to improve the bass and treble while gaming. HyperX claims the battery will last up to 10 hours, but we will look into these features in depth once we start a new round of testing.
Over the past few years, we’ve tested over 100 gaming headsets from a wide variety of companies. This time around, after reading reviews, we did not look at headsets from Cooler Master, Koss, Asus, Alienware, Rosewill and MSI due to issues of performance, build quality and comfort.
The HyperX Cloud II is close in performance to the Cloud Alpha and almost identical in build quality. The Cloud II comes with a USB DAC that adds surround sound, but our testers found the control box cumbersome. The HyperX Cloud Mix is basically the same as the Cloud II, but with Bluetooth tacked on. It’s a neat idea if you’re looking for a multipurpose headset, but we don’t think it’s worth the extra money.
It was tough to choose between the HyperX Cloud Stinger and the Corsair HS50, but the HS50 wins out narrowly due to its superior build quality. Both sound similar and have a similar set of features, so if you find the HS50 uncomfortable, try the Cloud Stinger.
The SteelSeries Arctis 7 and the more expensive Arctis Pro sound as good as the Cloud Flight, but our testers didn’t like the suspension headband and found it difficult to make comfortable. The Arctis 3 got a similar response from our testers, though the version with Bluetooth is a rare headset that works with the Nintendo Switch’s oddball chat system.
Our testers found the Logitech G Pro comfortable, but everyone thought it was a budget headset due to its lighter plastic materials. It’s still not as comfortable as the Alpha, nor does the sound impress as much.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X and ATH-AG1X – functionally the same headset, though the former is an open-back model and the latter is a closed-back version – were without question the most comfortable headsets any of us had ever tested. But they were voiced to appeal to audiophiles, with lots of emphasis on high frequencies, which doesn’t play well in games.
The LucidSound LS31 sounds good, but the earcup controls feel cheap and the headset is uncomfortable to use.
The Atlas One sounds good for the price, but the build quality isn’t as solid as the Corsair HS50.