Hardware Review: HyperX Cloud Alpha S Blackout

You know what you’re getting with a HyperX headset. You’ll almost always get great sound quality, comfortable wear for long periods of time and very decent quality microphones that give your gaming colleagues a very clear representation of your various annoyances and barked instructions. But sometimes, you get a little surprise. Not in any of those things already mentioned – the Blackout is an incredibly good headset – but in the way the package is delivered. Let me explain.

While some companies might say “hey look we’ve made a black headset” and then stick a colourful log on somewhere, or have nice clear letters showing you which way round it goes on your head, HyperX really mean it. This is the Spinal Tap of headsets – there is none more black. The headband, the metal structures, the cups, cables, everything is either black or a very close derivative of black. If Batman used a gaming headset, this would be the one he’d pick. The outsides of the cups are black with a black HyperX logo, ever so slightly glossy against the matte colour behind it. The L and R labels are a dark grey, barely discernable against the black behind it, and only just visible enough to not get them the wrong way round. Even the control box that houses the headset controls is black, with the slight exception of the 7.1 button in the middle. This is one seriously black headset, and it looks amazing.

But what of the 7.1 functionality? Virtual Surround Sound is becoming slightly more common in headsets now, and has mixed results. Generally it gives you a far more spacious feel to what you hear, giving you the impression that you’re in a larger room with speakers around you, rather than a headset with the sound millimetres from your ears. The quality of the actual surround sound feel depends largely on the source audio itself, but does a very decent job of replicating where the sounds are around you. It doesn’t hold up against a genuine surround sound speaker setup, but for those using a headset anyway it’s a very effective option and certainly sounds great coming through both a PC and a PS4 (although you’ll need to plug it into your PC first for a quick firmware update before using it on the PS4).

On the back of each cup is a small slider with three settings on each one, which independently control the bass in each ear. The changes are subtle but noticeable, and give you an added bit of control over the various volume options already available on the control box. These other options are tucked away on a small box that you can clip onto yourself, giving you quick and easy access to overall volume, whether you have the 7.1 turned on or not, and brilliantly the balance between game and voice chat volumes. Got a mate who likes to shout down his headset? Turn the balance back towards the game sounds. Got Whispering Bob Harris on the other end of your game? Turn him up over the game itself an enjoy a more comfortable listening experience. Nice.

The headset comes complete with some wonderfully comfortable leather covers on the headphones, which do a really good job of cutting down on the hot-ear issue that is often found when using headsets for any amount of time. It’s a nice soft leather, and feels silky smooth, but if that’s not really your thing then you’ll also find in the box some fabric covers instead which you can swap over to if that’s more to your liking. I found they made me a bit hotter than the leather, but I’m sure personal tastes will vary. It’s just nice to have the option, giving you an even greater chance of being comfortable while you chase someone round a small village with only a frying pan to save you.

HyperX have this habit of making you think you’ve tried your favourite headset, then releasing something else that makes you totally reevaluate your ideas on the matter. The Cloud Alpha S Blackout is a great looking and great sounding headset that’s genuinely one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of using, and while it’s no good if you’re hooked up to an Xbox, for PC and PS4 gaming you’d be hard pushed to find a better headset in this price range. Just don’t try and look for it in a dark room.

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