Last year the folks at memory and storage company Kingston Technologies showed the world they knew a thing or two about putting together a good gaming headset. Now they're back with the HyperX Cloud II, adding virtual 7.1 surround sound to an already successful piece of hardware.

What It Is

The HyperX Cloud II gaming headset is the follow-up to the hit HyperX Cloud gaming headset, which I reviewed last year. In fact, it's essentially the same headset, only now it includes the ability simulate 7.1 surround sound via its USB sound card. There've been some tweaks to how the microphone handles noise as well, which pretty much cancels out one of my main complaints from the original unit.

In case you were looking for a more technical answer to the bolded question atop this section, here is a list of pertinent technical specifications, from ambient noise attenuation to headband pressure.

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Specifications

Headset

  • Transducer type: dynamic Ø 53mm with neodynium magnets
  • Operating principle: closed
  • Frequency response: 15Hz–25,000 Hz
  • Nominal impedance: 60 Ω per system
  • Nominal SPL: 98±3dB
  • T.H.D.: < 2%
  • Power handling capacity: 150mW
  • Sound coupling to the ear: circumaural
  • Ambient noise attenuation: approx. 20 dBa
  • Headband pressure: 5N
  • Weight: 320g
  • Weight with microphone and cable: 350g
  • Cable length and type: 1m + 2m extension
  • Connection: single mini stereo jack plug (3.5 mm)

Microphone

  • Transducer type: condenser (back electret)
  • Operating principle: pressure gradient
  • Polar pattern: cardioid
  • Power supply: AB powering
  • Supply voltage: 2V
  • Current consumption: max 0.5 mA
  • Nominal impedance: ≤2.2 kΩ
  • Open circuit voltage: at f = 1 kHz: 20 mV / Pa
  • Frequency response: 50–18,000 Hz
  • THD: 2% at f = 1 kHz
  • Max. SPL: 105dB SPL (THD≤1.0% at 1 KHz)
  • Microphone output: -39±3dB
  • Length mic boom: 150mm (include gooseneck)
  • Capsule diameter: Ø6
  • Connection: single mini stereo jack plug (3.5mm)

What's In The Box

The Cloud II gaming headset comes lovingly nested inside a shaped foam enclosure within a clamshell of cardboard. Included with the headset are:

  • A spare pair of ear cups so listeners can choose between cloth or faux leather.
  • USB controller cord with volume control for headset and mic and a button to activate 7.1 Surround Sound.
  • The detachable microphone, which plugs in via a port covered with a rubber bit you'll lose immediately upon removing. No idea where it went.
  • A dual 3.5 jack adapter.
  • A bag to carry all of these things in, which I probably could have used to store that little rubber piece but oh well.

What I Did With It

Originally the plan was to just play some games on my PC, maybe hook up the HyperX Cloud II to my phone, see how that worked. Thanks to a review delay however, I wound up bringing it on a trip to New York City to work in Kotaku headquarters for a week, where it came in incredibly handy.

I used it on my phone to take part in a conference call while sitting in the office. I used it to listen to videos that I'd previously been listening to on my laptop speakers, which annoyed the hell out of co-worker Kirk Hamilton. I played some PC games in the office with the sound cranked up to ridiculous levels without annoying anyone much at all.

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I even got a chance to try out the headset on the Xbox One, thanks to the NYC trip coinciding with the release of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's first DLC pack.

In short, I used the hell out of these puppies.

What I Liked

It's everything the first HyperX Cloud gaming headset was. Comfortable as hell with its memory foam band and ear cups, with sturdy metal construction capable of holding up to Fahey-levels of clumsiness. The sound is as clear and crisp as it ever was, and when I'm wearing it and sound is playing I cannot hear the people around me, which is always a plus.

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I was going to single out each of these fine points, but I've already done this once, so doing it again is silly. Instead, let's focus on what has improved.

7.1 virtual surround sound is quite nice. The major upgrade for the HyperX Cloud II is the addition of 7.1 simulated surround sound via a new USB sound card—it's all contained in the bit with the controls. Quite capable of panning around the user without running into the dreaded virtual surround dead zones, and should you ever be annoyed by positional audio, it can be turned off with the press of a button.

Noise and echo canceling microphone. My only major complaint about the first Cloud headset was microphone buzz—the microphone wanted to pick up every little sound and deliver it to whomever was listening to me. This time around the USB sound card tackles outside noise and headphone echo to the ground before it makes it into the mouthpiece. It's a huge difference. I just wish it worked as well plugged directly into a mobile device—no USB sound card equals no noise canceling.

What I Didn't Like

It's not pink. The model I reviewed was red, which means the insides of the ear cups and the metal bit connecting the cups to the band are red. I would have preferred more red on a model called "red". Better yet, I would have preferred the limited edition "pink" version.

Yes, I am reaching for negatives. They pretty much killed my only negative from the previous model, leaving me with nothing but a decidedly non-pink but otherwise lovely headset.

My Final Word

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset is one of the most sensible follow-up products I've reviewed here at Kotaku. Kingston kept what worked, tweaked what didn't and added a little something new, making this one highly recommendable gaming headset. Look for it in pink.

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The Kingston HyperX Cloud II will be available for purchase February 9, with a suggested retail price of $99.