ProsGreat performance in gaming; comfortable earcups, flexible boom mic flips up to mute; amazing price
ConsStiff headband; slightly "plasticky" feel
The headset industry has absolutely exploded over the past few years, as more and more gamers turn to online gaming, which often use in-game voice chat, as well as competitive e-sports gaming, which requires the use of headphones, as speakers just aren't feasible in an open event. And all the big names in audio and gaming gear are vying for your hard-earned dollar. There's also of course a big market for smartphone headsets, which we view as distinct; these are typically going to be focused more on style than functionality, and often carry a very high price tag. Gamers don't care quite as much about all that. They want performance, comfort, and precise audio.
And HyperX, a division of Kingston, has been the undisputed leader in this arena for quite some time. But it's not alone. HyperX has Razer's fan-favorite offerings to contend with, along with well-priced but less trendy Logitech offerings. You can also find great options from SteelSeries (which has just announced the follow-up to its Siberia line, dubbed the Arctis, starting at $80), and audio industry veteran Audio-Technica is working hard to capture the high-end, starting at $130 or so.
With a lock on the best options in the $80-$120 price range, however, HyperX needed to do something different to truly capture more market share. Rather than go straight at its competition, HyperX has decided to capitalize on its tremendous brand recognition by going after the budget headset market, which no big name has been willing to chase previously. And that's how we find ourselves testing the brand-new HyperX Cloud Stinger, a high-performance headset with a very low-end price: $50. What did HyperX need to give up to bring a high-quality headset down to this price? Read on to find out!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to HyperX for providing this review sample of the Cloud Stinger Headset.
Description and Features
First off, the HyperX hasn't skimped on audio. The Cloud Stinger uses dynamic 50mm drivers with neodymium magnets, along with a circumaural, closed back design. While these aren't quite the same 50mm drivers you'll find in HyperX's high-end Revolver Headset, they're still a lot better than what the typical "budget" headsets provide.
The Cloud Stinger can be connected to devices two ways: either with its 55" 3.5mm 4 pole connector, for use with smartphones and game consoles with a single combined headphone and microphone jack, or with the additional 65" extension cable featuring 3.5mm stereo and mic plugs. This is for use with PCs, which always have separate jacks for headphones and microphones. It also makes sense that you'd want the extension cable with this setup, as you'll typically be sitting futher away from your PC than your smartphone, and with a 120" total reach, you can get very far away indeed! We're actually not convinced the fixed 55" cable needs to be as long as it is, given that console users will be plugging into their controllers, but HyperX probably erred on the side of a little more freedom of movement despite the potential tangle of wires.
While many current-gen headsets are getting fancy with lots of crazy color combinations, you'll love the Stinger's look, as long as you like black. You do get the stylish HX logo in a bold red on each can, but otherwise, it's an all-black affair.
In terms of weight, the Cloud Stinger comes in at 9.7oz on our scale, which exactly matches the published spec of 275g. That's actually really light for a headset, much lighter in fact than HyperX's higher-end offerings. The HyperX is largely made of plastic, and we assume some cost-cutting had to be done in terms of materials and electronics to hit the Stinger's pricepoint. You don't get the leatherette headband covering, metal cup arms, or stylish steel frames you'll see on some current models. The good news is that seems to pay off somewhat in terms of weight.
One last feature we'll mention is what HyperX refers to an "intuitive" volume slider on the bottom of the right headset. While we agree that it's intuitive in the sense that you can get some sense of the volume level simply by where the slider is, we didn't think it was all that easy to use while wearing the headset. It's just felt a bit awkward to hook our thumb underneath the headset and adjust the slider. It would have been better if the slider were on the back of the headset, which is easier to reach with your thumb. Overall, we still think a rotary dial is easier to use while wearing a headset, but it doesn't give you an physical indication of what the current volume setting is, so we understand why HyperX considers the slider more intuitive.
And one feature the Stinger doesn't have at all: software. With so many headset products now venturing into a digital world of RGB lighting and all sorts of surround effects, it's nice to use a headset that is purely analog, no software required. A little bit old-school, yes, but refreshing nonetheless.