HyperX Cloud Core + 7.1 Headset Review
A classic gaming headset gets a new look and a new bundle
NOTE: HyperX kindly sent me an evaluation unit to review alongside marketing assets and technical information, but no money changed hands and I had full editorial control over this article.
As per my reviews policy, this article will never be monetized, but other additional content about this pair of headphones, such as comparison articles I write in the future, may be. This post contains zero affiliate links as I don’t personally believe in the practice.
HyperX’s Cloud lineup has been around for a long time, and its venerated status in the gaming industry is well-deserved. In fact, for years, one of the only true complaints I could level at this large family of headsets is that it has so many different choices at different price tiers that it could be confusing for the average consumer.
While I don’t think it’s bad to have options, I do think there’s a little too much overlap within their lineup in certain price categories. I’ve seen several real-world examples where someone wasn’t sure if they should choose the identically-priced Cloud II or Cloud Alpha.
Fortunately, with this newly launched bundle, that choice should be easier depending on the features and sound quality you need. The Cloud Core + 7.1 is a more affordable bundle that still contains most of what makes the classic Cloud II package special. And in a delightful surprise, the headset contained within has an updated unique design.
The Cloud Core + 7.1 is a closed-back, wired gaming headset with an attached cable, a removable microphone, and an external USB sound card dongle. It sells for $69 (official product page). It doesn’t include the extra ear pads, in-line audio controls, or carrying bag included with some of the classic Cloud bundles, but still contains the main components of those long-running models at a cheaper price.
If you’re looking for the new default “starting point” within the extensive Cloud lineup, this is it. Stepping up a price notch to the Alpha models gets you a removable cable and an optional nicer dongle with the S editions, and stepping down to the wired Stinger you’ll have to live with a permanently-attached microphone and a slightly less- refined sound signature.
The Cloud Core headset contained in this bundle is also technically a new product. It’s not just the old Cloud Core, nor is it the old Cloud I or Cloud II. It has a new headband, new ear cup finish, and slightly different ear pads, and it weighs a touch less. You can find more information about this in the build/design category below.
In spite of using a tweaked new design, the Cloud Core +7.1 features the same impressive sound signature that the Cloud II and its forebears have used for over a half-decade, alongside the Takstar Pro 80 before them. It’s a sound heavily inspired by the 80 ohm Beyerdynamic DT 770, with a powerful bass response, neutral midrange, and sparkly treble.
Unlike the 770, the treble on the Cloud Core doesn’t stab you in the ears. However, if you’re used to more traditional bass-heavy gaming products, you’ll be surprised by how much high-end detail is on offer here. In spite of that, the treble is the only part of the sound signature I can level minor complaints at. It’s the weakest part of the sound signature, with a bit of grain and false detail present due to an uneven and peaky response. However, it’s still an enjoyable sound to me personally, and the flaws in the highs won’t stick out unless you’re well-versed in other headphones.
The bass and midrange are more or less exactly what I want out of a gaming headset. Both are as accurate and neutrally-rendered as you can achieve at this low price point. The bass has a little extra boom and emphasis to it, but the midrange is perfectly smooth and detailed.
Soundstage and imaging are also better-than-average in this category, presenting a decently-wide and accurate sound field that floats just to the front of your head. If you’re a soundstage-fiend and want to stay within the HyperX family, the Revolver is a much better choice.
This isn’t a new sound signature, and the 53mm drivers contained in this frame have shown up in many other previous HyperX products. If you’ve heard a Cloud I or Cloud II before, the sound here is identical. The Cloud Alpha offers different drivers and ear capsules, and a slightly cleaner and more accurate sound with a less sparkly treble response and a bit more sub bass impact.
Still, you’re getting a ton of sound performance in a well-rounded package, and the new lower price point makes that even more enticing.
The USB dongle included in this box is a new revision of the classic Cloud II dongle. That sound card and I have a history. I’ve been hard on it in the past because it’s strictly a stereo audio device with no way to use 7.1 data from games or movies. Pressing the “7.1” button on its face activates a stereo expansion/crossfeed effect, where data in the center of the mix is untouched, and everything on the left and right is pushed out and around to your virtual sides.
It’s a decent effect, but it doesn’t sound anything like the virtual 7.1 offered by the swathe of other systems on the market, including the dongles offered with HyperX’s own Cloud Revolver S and Cloud Alpha S.
On the plus side, if you’re using a Windows 10 PC you now have access to Windows Sonic for free, and it works quite well with the dongle, so you have the flexibility to compare the crossfeed effect to a true spatial audio system and see which one you like better.
Also, the dongle pumps out a serious amount of volume, with more than enough power to drive the Cloud Core correctly to very loud levels. I never had a reason to turn it up much past 40 percent during my testing. The mic input is also solid, with its own additional gain controls on the face of the dongle. It has minimal processing, and it’s completely free of the aggressive noise gate that recently bothered me on the JBL Quantum 300.
If I could change one thing about the dongle I’d ditch the shirt clip on the back of it in exchange for a non-slip pad. I’d guess that most folks will use it on their desk, and the clip makes it sit at an awkward angle and slide around more than I’d like.
HyperX named this lineup “Cloud” for its exceptional comfort, and this newly-designed Cloud Core carries on that tradition well. The ear pads are full of a soft, slow-rebounding memory foam that seals well even over my thin-rimmed glasses. The clamping force is right in the sweet spot of keeping the headset firmly in place but never feeling too tight.
In common with the Cloud I and some of the earlier Cloud Core models, the new headband here doesn’t feature memory foam padding…or if it is memory foam it’s incredibly quick to rebound. Fortunately, the headband created no hot spots on my head even during three hour listening sessions.
The overall profile of the headset is on the smaller side compared to the rest of the market, and to the Cloud Alpha. I have to wear the Cloud Core + 7.1 with the sliders extended to near-maximum, and the back edges of my ears do gently touch the back walls of the ear cups. Fortunately, there’s a thin layer of foam inside the cups over the driver so that doesn’t cause me any discomfort. The openings of the pads are nice and large, and they use a slightly coarser leatherette material than the original Cloud II’s that reminds me of the material used on the Cloud Stinger. It still feels soft against my skin, and the pads are still removable if you want to swap them out for something else.
The refreshed design here cut about 10 g from the weight of an already-light headset. It’s perfect to wear for long sessions whether you’re gaming, in a long work-from-home meeting, or just enjoying some music.
I wouldn’t have criticized HyperX for sticking with the same core design they’ve used since the Cloud I on this headset, because it’s a time-tested design that’s held up well over the years. However, they’ve updated and refreshed a couple of things here, and as a long-time follower of their stuff I’m weirdly excited about this.
The headband is a brand-new design that doesn’t have the cloth stitching along the sides that’s so prominent across their other models. Instead, it’s a sleek, slender design, with the HyperX logo still embossed into the top. It’s still metal- reinforced, and the padding is of a similar thickness to the original headband design, but I’d imagine it’s slightly easier to build and thus helps to lower the end cost. Although I really love the stitching on the other models, I actually think this new design is cooler and more professional looking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they rolled out this look across other models in the future.
The ear cups don’t feature the soft-touch material used on the Cloud II, but instead they have a basic matte plastic finish. This is easier to keep clean and free of scuffs, and again I imagine it helps cut down both the weight and the cost. The ear cup backs with the red HyperX logos are still brushed aluminum.
The short 1 meter cord doesn’t feature any kind of inline volume or mute controls, as it’s assumed you’ll use this with a dongle, so if you’re playing on an Xbox you’ll have to use the system’s built-in audio panel. Also, the little rubber mic hole flap is no longer included. That’s not a deal-breaker as almost no one includes one of those now, though it’s still something I always used to appreciate about the Cloud and Cloud II as a weird little premium touch.
I really like this light refresh of the design, and it still has the same solid build I’ve come to expect from this frame. The adjustment sliders are sturdy aluminum forks and it feels so much more premium in the hands than the many all-plastic designs available around this price.
My unit has a very small creak that’s audible when first putting the headset on, near the adjustment slider on the left side of the headband. Once it’s seated on my head it doesn’t make any noise even when I shake my head around or talk(unlike the louder plastic frame on the JBL Quantum 300) and I think it’s due to very tight clearances inside that part of the headband, and not because of any sort of build or production issue. It’s not evident on any other HyperX product I’ve tested that uses this same frame design.
Nothing has changed with the microphone compared to the classic Cloud designs. It has a clean, clear, reasonably-detailed sound with good acoustic background noise cancellation. I used mine for some long gaming chat sessions and my friends had no issues hearing me, and they weren’t disturbed by the noise of the fan I had on in the room.
The tone is a little bit tinny because of the focus on background cancellation, so it’s perhaps not the ideal choice for podcasting. But it’s a wonderful choice for online chat applications, which so many of us are using right now. This iteration of the mic has passed testing for both Discord and Teamspeak certification.
Here’s a short sample I recorded for a previous review of the Cloud for PS4. I’m slightly more positive on this microphone now than I was back then, and this bundle is cheaper and more full-featured than that bundle was a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind. Now that many more folks are in work-from-home or distance learning scenarios, the vocal clarity and noise cancellation focus of the Cloud Core’s mic makes it a solid choice in a sea of options. And you won’t have any volume issues either, even if you don’t use the included dongle.
This is a great, cheaper, lightly re-designed take on the classic HyperX Cloud II bundle. The sound quality, comfort, and build all live up to the long legacy of the product line, and the microphone is clear and detailed.
If you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades headset that’ll fit the bill for work, gaming, and music listening, this is and has always been a good option, and I love that this new cheaper package is now out there on the market.
As a geek who has been following this stuff for a long time, it’s also cool to see a small product redesign tucked into what could have easily just been yet another repackaging of older components. The sleeker headband has a more professional and subtle look. I wouldn’t mind seeing it show up on their other products as well, and the slightly lighter weight makes it even better for long sessions than it already was. Recommended highly in this price range!