Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
As with all the audio products we review here at APH Networks, it takes quite a bit of experience and training of the ears before we can begin making a fair judgment. Even for the best of audiophiles, it can be hard to produce an exact and accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as simultaneous reference. While I will not claim to be the reviewer of all reviewers for headphones, I can say quite a few other computer review sites have editors lacking in training for reviewing anything audio related. Give them anything and all you will get is some vague description of “awesome bass, amazing midrange, nice treble, no muffles, 10/10”. Do not get me wrong though; there are knowledgeable audio reviewers out there on respected online media outlets, but they are far and few. There are no true objective measurements for headphone sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put the Kingston HyperX Cloud II through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating as possible. The tests were conducted primarily with the Kingston HyperX Cloud II plugged into the included USB remote, and that plugs into the test computer. The USB interface provides the audio transmission, and also powers the remote. As I have noted before, hardware-wise the original Kingston HyperX Cloud and Kingston HyperX Cloud II are the exact same headphones, with the only differences coming in their connections, microphone, and in my particular case, its color. Thus it only makes sense to test what has changed, and use it with the included USB remote.
After over 50 hours of break-in time (Well above the typical required period), we put the Kingston HyperX Cloud II to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher. For gaming, I played Crysis 2 Maximum Edition, Sid Meier’s Civilization V, and GRID 2. Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter, and I find it to provide an accurate representation of a day to day game environment. Civilization V is just one of my favorite games to play. GRID 2 is a well-known racing game so I decided to throw it into the mix as well. In this analysis we have drawn comparisons with the first HyperX Cloud headset.
Starting from the bottom of the frequencies, the bass was one area I thought the original HyperX Cloud could improve in. While the characteristics of a round and filled bass were present, the lack of overall intensity really dampen what would have been a great low-end. With the Kingston HyperX Cloud II plugged in, the bass was boosted a bit for a more balanced output. The bass maintained its plushy marshmallow soft and rounded characteristics, and provided quite a bit of weight. It definitely was not bass overkill in comparison to some audio equipment prescribed by a certain doctor without a PhD. However, it definitely was improved over the original Cloud with its increased amplitude alone. In games, footsteps and even deep breathing were heard clearly, and gave myself a clue as to the direction of my enemies. Heavy roars of engines also sounded great and realistic, without it bottoming out or overpowering the rest of the sounds. In summary, the bass present was adequate to support the higher frequencies, without completely overwhelming them.
When we moved to the midrange, we got a very natural sound. Vocals, guitars, and pianos were crisp and clear. The HyperX Cloud II also reproduced these instruments with warmth and resonance. The mid-range was still slightly dry however, but it was not too bad. Low mid-range frequencies produced enough volume, and the higher mid-range came through with clarity, even if a bit dry. Comparing between the original Cloud and the Cloud II, the midrange was still boosted, but it was not as noticeable, especially since it was supported by a fuller bass. In games, the midrange was heard through clear vocals and also gunshots or gun reloading.
At the very top of the audible frequency range,was the treble, which sounded very clean. The dryness heard in the midrange was found in the upper range, but it was still less than the original Cloud. High-hat clashes and higher-range instruments like violins were still very clear and clean, but sounded slightly attenuated at the very top. Still, the treble was tighter in sound compared to the original Cloud. As for overall balance between the three ranges, the Cloud II offered a much more musically balanced experience. Even though these headphones were not designed for audiophiles, they were capable of delivering pleasant noises to my ears. The bass supported the middle frequencies quite well, which in turn supported the higher frequencies too. Overall, the characteristics of the headset were very flat, though at the highest end it does slope down a tad.
When it came to the soundstaging produced by the Kingston HyperX Cloud II, it was no different than the original Cloud. However, with the already mentioned increased bass, this created a more encompassing sound based purely on the acoustics. The Cloud II maintained its excellent direction, with a very realistic environment created by the audio. Depth of sound was superb, just as we liked in the original headset. Closed-back headphones will never produce as encompassing of a sound as open-back headphones due to physical limitations, but the Kingston HyperX Cloud II was pretty good nonetheless.
Together, all three layers produced a very detailed sound. Cleanliness throughout the entire audible range was definitely present here. Each of the ranges were separated and defined, but almost to a point where they were too separated. The resulting transitions between the three frequency ranges were like small inverse speed bumps. While it was not as noticeable as the original Cloud, it could still be heard. All in all, the sound still felt cohesive, like it was coming from a single headset.
The sound isolation on the Kingston HyperX Cloud II is superb, as the over-the-ear closed back headphones completely seal your ears in. Those with larger ears may experience a different fit, but it definitely sits on my head and covers my ears. The passive noise canceling does remove quite a bit of external noise. I should say the leather ear cups do a better job than the cloth ears just because of the qualities between the two fabrics. The microphone performance was very clear, as it reduced a lot of external noise, while focusing in the direction it was facing. Just be sure not to put the microphone too close to your mouth, and it will work just fine.
As for the virtual 7.1 surround sound, there is not much to say about it. When using it with music, it completely destroyed the listening experience, and messed with the intended soundstaging capabilities. Rather its real purpose was found in gaming, where it actually delivered quite well. I understand this is not true 7.1 surround sound, and it will not sound as nice as legitimately having seven tweeters and one subwoofer, but I can say it virtualizes the surround sound qualities quite well.
To wrap it up, the Kingston HyperX Cloud II takes the formula of the original Cloud with the USB audio sound card and fixes up quite a few things. The three ranges, bass, midrange and treble, are rounded and full of character. Clarity and cleanliness are present, and an overall natural sound is produced. The major improvement from the original Cloud is the enhancement of the low-end, resulting in a better musical balance. Soundstaging and imaging were also improved because of this. The high-ends were tightened up, and while some slight dryness remains, it iwas still improved. I already enjoyed the original Cloud, and the audio experience with the second iteration is even better.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis