Headphone Showdown: HyperX Cloud Stinger VS Hyper X Cloud II/X/Core/Etc.
It’s Monday, and it’s time for the headphone showdown!
I was pretty happy with how my review of the Cloud Stinger turned out. It felt like a fun v-shaped headphone to my ears, with some slightly piercing upper mids/highs.
But then last night I was reading random reviews of the Stinger, and every single one said that they were a “mid-focused” headset with rolled off bass and high frequencies.
“Surely that can’t be right?,” I said aloud to no one. So I pulled my pair out to re-evaluate them.
This headphone showdown is the result of those new tests. Enjoy! Categories are in large bold letters if you just want to skip to something in particular.
HyperX Cloud Stinger ($49)
The Cloud Stinger is one of the best budget headsets. It’s under 50 bucks and it doesn’t suck. It has memory foam in the cushions, and the included mic is totally okay. The only thing I don’t really love about it is that the mic is permanently attached, so you can’t wear them out and about as regular headphones without looking like an extra in an old sci-fi movie.
Some people don’t think that’s important. But aesthetics are important to me.
HyperX Cloud X/II/Core ($69-$99, depending on the model)
The HyperX Cloud is the headset I won’t shut up about. I’ve written approximately a hundred million articles about it already. It’s based on the old Takstar Pro 80 monitoring headphone, itself a clone of the Beyerdynamic DT770, my other favorite pair of headphones.
It’s got everything you’d ever want from a good pair of headphones…except a detachable cable. The main differences between the cheaper models and the more expensive ones are memory foam in the headband, and different collections of extras. You really can’t go wrong with this pair, provided the slightly small design fits your head. They actually made it a little bit bigger in a recent revision, so I can now wear them with one extra click of adjustment on each side.
Either that or my head got smaller.
The mids are definitely scooped a little bit on both of these pairs, but the Cloud sounds much more natural than the Stinger. The Stinger has an artificial, slightly aggressive sound to it at times…thanks to a boost in the upper mids.
But I still don’t feel like it’s lacking in bass. The Stinger doesn’t dig down incredibly deep into sub bass areas that most music doesn’t use….but it does bring some nice punch and rumble to the mid-bass frequencies. This emphasis and the upper-mid emphasis are probably great for competitive gaming, because they’re in just the right places to bring out things like footsteps, gunshots, and teammate chatter. All stuff you want to hear in a gaming environment. So I think the boosts are smartly placed…even though they aren’t the best for music.
The good ol’ Cloud/II/X/Whatever has a much more pleasant, “audiophile-esque” sound. The bass frequencies reach down nice and low, and are essentially flat. They don’t punch or thump quite as much as some other headphones, but they’re all present and nicely-rendered. Mids are slightly recessed and just a touch hollow at times, but I think they sound pretty good. Highs are a little grainy and sparkly, so if that’s not your thing, you won’t love this pair.
The first thing that sticks out on the Stinger is the peak in the upper mids. The first thing that sticks out on the Cloud is just how good it sounds for how little you paid. Soundstage is impressively wide on the Cloud, though neither pair performs badly in this department.
If you need a cheap headset with bumps in the right places for gaming, the Stinger is a great choice. If you are a stickler for sound quality, you’re much better off with the slightly more expensive Cloud.
Winner: Cloud X/II/Core
The Cloud is better built than the Stinger. Again, we’re comparing a more-expensive pair to a cheaper one here. The Stinger is made mostly of plastic, with some smart metal reinforcement. You can tell where they spent money, and where they saved it.
By comparison, the Cloud has an aluminum frame and headband. It feels impressively sturdy for the price. You can throw it in a bag without fear.
You get some little extra touches like a braided cable and nice headband stitching on the Cloud II/X. The removable mic also means you can wear these models out like normal headphones and no one will know you’re wearing a gaming headset, if that’s something that bothers you.
The one place where the Stinger has an edge in design is that it adjusts to much larger sizes. So if you have a very large head, the Stinger might be the better option. I can wear it half-extended, and my head is pretty large.
Winner: Cloud X/II/Core
Both headsets are equally comfy, thanks largely to their use of memory foam padding in the ear cups. If you want a memory foam headband, you’ll need to get a Cloud II or Cloud X. But the regular headbands on the other Cloud models are just fine.
HyperX is one of the few companies in the gaming space, or in audio for that matter, that seems to actually pay attention to comfort. Comfort is so important. Don’t accept uncomfortable headphones. You’re wearing these on your head. They should feel nice!
Gaming Stuff (Mic etc.)
The Stinger has a slightly worse mic that still sounds okay. It comes with a splitter cable, which is nice.
If you like virtual surround sound, the Cloud II comes with a USB surround sound card that works on PC. Otherwise, these are all basic stereo models. With the addition of free headphone surround and Dolby Atmos on Xbox and PC, and other free solutions on PC like Razer Surround…this isn’t really a factor depending on your platform.
On PS4, the only way to get “proper” headphone surround is with one of Sony’s Wireless headsets. But that’s a rant for another time!
Winner: Cloud II/X/Core, for its better mic.
The Stinger has a splitter cable in the box for those using legacy PC connections, and the mic mutes when you fold it up. It also has a volume slider, which is nice.
Depending on the model of Cloud you buy, you can either get no extras (Cloud Core) or a whole pile of extras like additional ear pads and a case (Cloud II/X). All of the extras are pretty cool and probably worth the extra money, if you need them. My favorite pack of extras comes with the Cloud X. You give up the USB sound card of the Cloud II, but you can a hard case and an in-line volume control and mic mute switch.
Winner: Tie. They all include a good amount of bonus stuff for their price, and they all have removable ear pads.
HyperX makes good headsets across their whole lineup. But the Cloud II/X/Core is probably still the best if you are a stickler for audio quality but don’t want to spend too much.
The Stinger is surprisingly good for the price, and includes everything you need for some quality gaming audio. But its sound might not be suited to all music genres. It definitely has a sculpted sound that you’ll notice right away, with bits of the spectrum sticking out here and there. I still don’t think it’s as mid-centric as many other reviewers did.It does have a bump in the mid-bass and a bump in the upper-mids, but that makes it read as v-shaped to my ears. Maybe that’s just me!
You can’t go wrong with any of HyperX’s headsets, and they’re priced appropriately to their quality.