HyperX Cloud Alpha S Blackout Edition Review
NOTE: HyperX kindly sent me an evaluation unit of this headset to review as I saw fit, alongside marketing assets and information. No money changed hands, and I had full editorial control over this review article.
As per my reviews policy, this article will never be monetized, but other content I write in the future about this product, such as direct comparisons or additional analysis, may be.
About six months ago, HyperX updated their classic Cloud Alpha with the Cloud Alpha S. I enjoyed it in my review. It features a robust sound with adjustable bass sliders, a new custom 7.1 surround sound dongle for PC, and a blue color scheme.
Now, in a move that echoes the classic “triple black” version of the Bose QC25, HyperX is shipping the Blackout Edition of the Cloud Alpha S. Alongside the new all-black color scheme there’s a subtle tweak to the build, and a new software update that’s also compatible with the blue version.
The Blackout Edition Cloud Alpha S sells for $129.99, and you can check out its official product page here. It comes with a carrying bag, a short 1m detachable cable, HyperX’s new 7.1 USB dongle with a 2m cable, and an extra set of cloth ear pads.
It’s the same features package that came with the original edition, so your main choice between the two is which aesthetic you prefer the most.
The Cloud Alpha has has a slightly warm, more-spacious-than-you’d expect sound signature, with plenty of detail and an impressive punchy bass response. You can control the amount of bass with its adjustable physical sliders. In the default middle position, the sound is nearly identical to the original Cloud Alpha, presenting a clean detailed midrange, highs that aren’t too aggressive, and distinct bass notes without any of it bleeding together.
Open the sliders all the way up, and the bass gains a few extra dB of oomph. It’s not so much that the sound is overly bloated like gaming headsets of days gone by, but it evokes those headsets in a way that’s still listenable. HyperX’s dual chamber ear cup design performs well here, keeping the boosted bass out of the way of the mids and highs so that you can still enjoy the details in your game audio or music.
Close the sliders all the way down, and the sound takes on a slightly anemic, lackluster quality. I don’t love the way these sound fully closed, but it does improve their isolation, and might help if you want to focus on details or higher frequencies.
I played through the console versions of Torchlight II, re-visited Control on multiple platforms, played a bunch of Assassin’s Creed Origins on my PC, and listened to several hours of music over my time testing this headset. They sound wonderful overall, especially for a gaming product. They’re also sensitive enough to perform well whether you use them with the included dongle, or plugged straight into a console controller or laptop.
Soundstage and imaging are quite nice too, especially for a closed-back headset. The angled drivers allow the soundstage to float gently to the front and sides of your head even in the standard stereo mode.
Just like the first version of the Alpha S, this is one of HyperX’s most comfortable headsets, and that’s saying something. Though the pads aren’t quite as thick and plush as those on the Cloud Flight S, they’re a close second in terms of long-term comfort. And they were redesigned to offer greater airflow and less sweat buildup than the pads on the original Alpha.
I’m not sure what wizardry allowed them to accomplish this, but they deliver on this claim in my experience. My ears still get sweaty over time, but not as quickly as on the original Alpha. I’m not sure if there are extra vents hidden under the pads, or if it just has to do with the differently shaped profile and ear opening, but it works.
I prefer the bass response and isolation of the leatherette pads that are installed by default, but it’s cool to see HyperX include cloth pads. They helped push multiple pads as a standard option, and it’s great to see that tradition continue.
“Blackout Edition” is a precisely appropriate name for this headset. It’s super black, in a way that few other headset products commit to in spite of black always being the default color for every modern tech accessory. The logos are a slightly-glossy black on a matte black background. The stitching along the headband is black. The braided cable is completely black. The frame is black. The bass sliders and the L and R text on the insides of the frame are in a muted gray, and they’re the only hints of accent color on the entire product.
This visual design represents an unprecedented commitment to its black color scheme, and as a result it’s probably the most subtle-looking gaming product on the market today. These can stand proudly right alongside any style headphone, aesthetically.
I immediately thought they looked cool when I took them out of the box, and that hasn’t changed one bit in a couple weeks of testing. If you care about sleekness or subtlety and you still want a gaming product, this should be your new first choice.
The build received a small tweak compared to the original edition. The vertical rotation hinges for the cups are a little looser. On the original model, these were very stiff and robust, but if you let them sit for a while, they could sometimes develop a small squeak when you picked them back up again. I noticed this “issue” once on my personal unit, but once you move the hinges around a little, they perform as they did out of the box.
This new pair shouldn’t develop that sticking/squeaking issue, and I suspect this small change will also show up on future blue pairs as well. Other than that, these are still built well, with a good mix of plastic and metal parts, a soft-touch finish to the ear cups, and adjustment clicks that are sturdy and well-defined.
The 7.1 dongle is the same as last year’s, but now you can use it with the new Windows 10 Store version of HyperX’s Ngenuity software. Just like on the recent Cloud Flight S, the new version of the software allows you to control all the headset’s functions without touching any of the control buttons.
It also includes custom surround profiles for the games below, and hopefully more will be coming in the future. I’d also love the ability to have some custom control over these profiles so I could see what they actually do without having to launch the specific game they’re tailored to.
The microphone has the same solid performance as the previous edition, and the dongle’s sidetone option is a nice touch. Here’s a link to my original mic test.
Is this a sleeker version of a headset from last year with slightly more flexible hinges and new software? Yes! But that’s great! More color options is always a good thing, and few other companies have ever been so dedicated to a black color scheme.
The Cloud Alpha S is one of the best wired gaming headsets in its price category, and I think the new Blackout Edition is HyperX’s coolest-looking headset. They’ve already got plenty of headsets that feature fun bright colors, lights, and other flourishes. This one evokes style and subtlety in a way most gaming products don’t even try for, and still packs in all the same functionality.