The mainstream gaming headset market is packed with good, competitive choices, and the wireless space is where most of the innovation and focus is right now. Five years ago, it was almost impossible to get a good-sounding wireless gaming headset at a reasonable price, but now the sub-$150 market is riddled with options.
My two favorite wireless headsets in this price category are the HyperX Cloud II Wireless, and the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air, both of which released last year. The Cloud II sells for $150, and offers a sterling blend of build and sound for that price. The Elo sells for a hilariously-low price of $99, yet still packs in all the features I’d expect from a high-end pair. It might seem absurd to compare two headsets with such a large price gap, but they’re impressively comparable.
Let’s split some hairs and pick a “winner,” shall we?
HyperX Cloud II Wireless (Original Review Here)- This $149 successor to the original classic Cloud II headset has enough new things that it could have been called a Cloud III. Featuring a revamped design, powerful sound profile, built-in surround functionality, and a 30-hour battery life, the Cloud II Wireless is a stylish headset that performs well.
I named it my favorite wireless headset of 2020 for its combination of a refreshed design and excellent audio. And then, I tried the Roccat Elo and got nervous.
Roccat Elo 7.1 Air (Original Review Here)- For $99, this headset from Roccat and Turtle Beach offers all the features of the Cloud II Wireless…then adds RBG, a graphical equalizer, on-ear mic monitoring volume controls, and Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing mode. It’s one of the most packed-out headsets I’ve ever used at any price.
The build and design are a bit chunkier than the Cloud II’s sleek curves, and the padding is more contoured and less velvety, but if you just want to get the most stuff for the least amount of money, the Roccat makes a phenomenal case for itself.
The Cloud II Wireless offers a richer, punchier, more sumptuous sound profile, but both headsets are very close in terms of overall rendering quality. Each offers an accurate midrange with a slightly elevated treble response.
Bass lovers will prefer the default sound of the Cloud II Wireless. Its response digs down deeper, and has more power, thump, and clarity.
Of course, that’s all just by default. Roccat’s software offers a full graphical EQ with plenty of presets and full customization, meaning you can easily tune the headset to whatever sound profile you’d like. With a little bit of tweaking in the sub bass frequencies, you can mimic the sound of the Cloud II Wireless.
On the virtual surround front, the Cloud II Wireless has a nice implementation with good channel placement. It has a simple on-off toggle. The Elo has two different modes with two different virtual room profiles, and I think they both sound good and also offer solid placement around you. Neither one has support for the vertical channels or true 3D spatial cues offered by Windows Sonic, but you can use Sonic with either one so that’s a non- issue.
Out of the box, I slightly prefer the sound quality of the Cloud II. But the Roccat also sounds great, and edges out a tie thanks to its EQ and surround options.
HyperX is famous for putting memory foam on all of their headsets, and the Cloud II Wireless is no exception. It has a “barely there” feel to it, with soft ear pads and a well-padded headband. The only small comfort flaw that might bother some users is the lack of angled drivers inside the ear cups, meaning that your ears might gently touch the softly padded interiors. The soft foam and sleek, light build make for yet another headset that lives up to HyperX’s legacy of comfort.
Roccat used a totally different approach to make their headset cozy. It has a thick suspension headband up top and heavily-contoured memory foam ear pads designed to better seal around your head’s non-flat shape. The drivers inside the cups are angled, so your ears shouldn’t touch anything while you’re wearing them. Also, the pads contain Turtle Beach’s “ProSpecs” relief system, essentially an area of softer foam in the center of the pad that helps them seal better around glasses.
Both headsets seal well on my head with an impressive, comfortable fit. The suspension system and contoured pads of the Roccat Elo allow it to fit easily without any work. For the Cloud II, I have to do some fiddling with the adjustment arms and positioning to get the most-proper fit.
However, the leatherette and the memory foam are both much nicer on the Cloud II Wireless, giving it a truly premium feel. The foam has a much slower rebound than the foam on the Roccat model, and the leatherette covering feels less cheap. The slight stiffness of the Roccat pads makes them feel like a constant presence on my head.
Both headsets are perfectly comfortable for hours and hours of listening, but the Cloud II Wireless feels a bit nicer. A Roccat model with denser memory foam would be untouchable.
WINNER: Cloud II Wireless
Roccat’s Elo looks like a classic 90’s studio headphone, with a greyish black color scheme, large oval ear cups, and a slight swerve to its support structure that helps the headset maintain an even clamp.
HyperX’s Cloud II Wireless is all sleek lines, curves, and bold red accents. It’s like a combination of the original Cloud II frame and a modern Bluetooth headphone. Every angle is smoothed out and clean, and it has a more pleasing overall look, in my opinion.
Both headsets are built really well for the price, out of a combination of metal and plastic components. Both headbands use a metal core, and both use robust plastics that should hold up to years of normal gaming use. The Roccat has the small advantage of fully rotating ear cups that you can lay flat around your neck, and the hinges that allow this have a nice smooth action that’s pleasant to control.
I love the industrial and slightly angular look of the Roccat model, but I think most users will end up preferring the sleek build and premium materials of the Cloud II Wireless.
WINNER: Cloud II Wireless
Here’s where the Roccat Elo totally crushes it, and depending on your personal needs in a headset, that might prove to make it a winner in your eyes regardless of the other categories. Gaming headsets are features-focused products, after all.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air has RGB lighting, full graphical EQ, two surround modes, a removable microphone with digital noise cancellation, a second volume wheel to control mic monitoring, and Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing mode. It does all this with a 27 hour battery life without the lights on, or about 15 hours of RGB-enhanced gaming.
In a vacuum, the Cloud II Wireless is no slouch. It also has a nice microphone, built-in mic monitoring and surround, and a 30-hour battery. Its larger dongle and stronger wireless signal also give it a slightly longer useable range…but I could still use the Elo from 30 feet away with a couple of walls in the way. At that distance I can’t reasonably play a PC game, walls or not.
Still, the Roccat software offers so much more flexibility and control over the sound, and you can store multiple user profiles. The RGB is incredible to have in a wireless headset at this price point. And Superhuman Hearing isn’t just a gimmick; it really does enhance the presence of spatial cues in games.
Neither headset has a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack, and the use of a standard USB connection and supporting software means that these are PC-first headsets that also offer some basic console support…but no Xbox connection is possible for either one. Both headsets also use USB-C ports for charging, as should all modern peripherals.
Roccat has proven here that you don’t need to spend huge to get a huge features package. The Elo 7.1 Air includes absolutely every feature you could want out of a modern gaming headset, and I hope other companies take notice. HyperX could respond by adding an EQ option to their software, and I’d love to see them get more invested in RGB as well. Love it or hate it, it’s an easy way to add some color and flair to a peripheral, and it goes a long way to redeem the more studio-like look of the Roccat model.
WINNER: Roccat Elo 7.1 Air
FINAL WINNER: Cloud II Wireless
The true story here isn’t that the Cloud II Wireless wins, but that the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air comes so close. Roccat’s model offers competitive sound, nearly as much comfort, and a features package that’s larger than the more expensive model. The Cloud II hangs in there as my favorite headset of last year thanks to its premium, sleek design and comfortable materials, alongside a sound profile that I find more pleasant to listen to out-of-the-box.
But if you don’t mind getting involved and tweaking some things, the Roccat model is just as capable, and a clear runner-up for best headset of the year. It’s also easily the best PC headset available for under $100. It’s not even a contest.
Roccat produced a headset that could have cost $130-$150 based on the features it offers, and instead priced it at $99. That’s a seriously impressive move, and I hope it makes the rest of the business take notice.
The Cloud II Wireless is still an awesome piece of design and audio engineering, but the Roccat Elo has earned a permanent place on my shelf right next to it.