$50 Gaming Headset Showdown: HyperX Cloud Stinger VS Roccat Elo X Stereo
Way back at the end of 2016, HyperX changed the budget gaming headset market forever by releasing the original Cloud Stinger. This $50 model packed many of the design features from their higher-end products into a price category dominated by cheap simple plastic options.
It was no longer good enough for a budget gaming headset to be made of plastic and spit out some sound. Now, it needed to have premium touches. A whole new wave of competition emerged, and now the lower end of the market is packed with solid choices.
Roccat has always built their products on value first and foremost, and their latest Elo X Stereo headset is a clear shot at being the “new” Stinger. HyperX has only given their classic model a few light updates over the years, leaving the door open for someone to come racing in with a new vision for budget gaming audio.
HyperX Cloud Stinger (Original Review Here, S Model Review Here)- The Stinger set the original standard for maximum performance at a low $49 price. It doesn’t come with any extra frills unless you spend a few extra dollars for the recent S update or one of the wireless models. The microphone is permanently attached.
HyperX iterated on the design a hilarious number of times, producing a whole range of models that feature different driver sizes and connection options, but the core design of the headset is essentially unchanged.
In the standard model(official page here), you get a closed-back headset with memory foam pads, a 3.5mm splitter cable for PCs…and that’s it.
Roccat Elo X Stereo (Original Review Here)- The Elo lineup is the first result of Roccat’s merger with Turtle Beach. It blends Roccat’s long focus on premium low-cost designs with some of Turtle Beach’s technologies. Like the Stinger, its standard model is $49 and there are also a couple of more expensive options that offer additional premium features (official page here).
With the basic model, you get the headset, a detachable microphone, and a PC splitter cable. I like that the Elo range only consists of three models right now, instead of the huge pile of Stingers, so if you’re looking to choose one of Roccat’s upgrades, it should be easier to figure out which one is right for you.
Both of these headsets feature a slightly hyped up, v-shaped style of sound. The lower bass and upper treble are gently elevated on each, but I think the Elo X Stereo has a smoother sound.
Bass thump and upper midrange/treble sparkle are both more prominent on the Stinger. This gives things a more immediately visceral nature, but at the cost of raw detail. The Roccat model has a truer sound to whatever you feed into it, with only a little bit of extra bass thump and a little bit of harshness in the treble giving away that it’s not a higher-priced pair.
Neither one sounds bad at all, and in fact, they’re both among the best-sounding gaming headsets you can get at this price point. If you prefer to have the most bass at any cost, the Stinger is a better choice, but the Elo X Stereo has a more natural balanced profile that I personally prefer.
WINNER: Elo X Stereo
The Stinger was one of the first budget headsets to use memory foam padding, and if there’s one thing HyperX always gets right, it’s the pads. It has big, comfortable, supple pads, with the only a slightly cheap- feeling leatherette covering to reveal the budget price.
Roccat’s Elo X Stereo also uses memory foam in its pads, but it’s not quite as soft as HyperX’s. However, it makes up for that in other ways. The leatherette on the pads is nicer to the touch. The pads are contoured with thicker foam at the top and bottom to better seal against human heads than a flat pad. Also, the center of each pad features Turtle Beach’s “ProSpecs” relief system, which is a section of super soft foam that seals better around glasses.
Both headsets have enough room inside their cups that your ears shouldn’t touch anything. The headband mechanisms are quite different. HyperX uses a standard small squishy pad and a clicking adjustable arm system, whereas Roccat employs a suspension headband with a big thick pad.
The suspension system on the Elo X Stereo does a better job of making complete contact with my head, spreading the weight of the headset out perfectly for a super soft fit. The HyperX design isn’t uncomfortable, but not quite the comfort win that the Cloud II Wireless was against this same Roccat design.
The Elo X Stereo edges out a win for its perfectly balanced suspension system and gently-contoured glasses-friendly ear cups, but the Cloud Stinger is still one of the most comfy budget headsets and a very close second. A future revision that upgraded the leatherette to something softer would be a big improvement.
WINNER: Elo X Stereo
The Cloud Stinger uses a classic headset design, with two ear cups and a large permanently-attached boom microphone. It has a small strip of metal reinforcement inside the adjustment mechanisms, but is otherwise made out of basic plastic. The cups will rotate to lay flat around your neck, but the rotation mechanisms feel loose and basic.
Roccat’s Elo X Stereo is also built of a mix of plastic and metal, with a more prominent use of metal in the headband than the Stinger. You can also rotate its cups to lay flat against your neck, but the rotation mechanism is nicely damped with a slow, premium-feeling rotation. The Elo X Stereo’s ear cups are shaped like the traditional ovals of a nineties studio headset, and its headband sticks out a little farther when worn thanks to an angled support that ensures a smooth clamping force.
The Stinger features a volume slider on the back of the right ear cup, and a flip-to-mute microphone. The Elo X Stereo has a mute button and a volume wheel both on the back of its left cup. The flip-to-mute on the Stinger is very convenient, but the volume wheel has a smoother and more satisfying adjustment on the Elo. And I love that it has a detachable mic.
While the aesthetics of the Elo X Stereo may not be as appealing due to the prominent angles of the frame… the better feel in the hands, detachable mic, and smooth rotation action make it a winner for me.
WINNER: Elo X Stereo
Both models have solid mic performance with some built-in acoustic background noise cancellation. Each one is a bit tinny in overall tone, but provides plenty of sensitivity and vocal intelligibility. They are both great for online voice chat, and neither would be my first choice for streaming or podcasting even though they’d work in a pinch.
FINAL WINNER: Roccat Elo X Stereo
Roccat studied the market, and took home a win. They packed in a lot of the same design concepts as the legendary Stinger, but improved the fit with contoured pads, a comfy suspension headband, and glasses relief foam. The sound is smoother and the build just feels better in the hands. And the mic is detachable for those times when you want a normal pair of headphones.
That said, the Stinger is still a very close second. A “Stinger 2” that was a proper update instead of the cosmetic/feature updates produced so far, with a better leatherette covering and smoother hinges, would be right back in the game. I found that the sound of the wireless Cloud Stinger was much better that the wired model, but the build still used the same basic design.
I don’t get impressed by budget headsets too often, but the Elo X Stereo is exceptional. Corsair’s HS50 used to be in this same category of awesome…until they worsened the fit with thicker pads. The Redragon H510 is a good alternative if you want more features and don’t mind a compact design. The Razer Blackshark V2X offers a more bass-heavy sound profile and a nicer microphone, but said mic is permanently attached and the build is more basic. And the Astro A10 still has perhaps the best mic in the category, although it comes alongside a tiny headband pad and industrial design that’s not for everyone.
Even with all the fierce competition, the Elo X Stereo is my new personal gold standard for budget gaming headsets.