HyperX Cloud Alpha S ($130)
What We Like: Customizable sound, killer build, great value.
What We Don't: Poor surround sound, difficult to use with systems like the Nintendo Switch.
See the HyperX Cloud Alpha S
Today we meet the newest member of the HyperX Cloud family: The Alpha S. As the youngest scion of the Alpha bloodline, the Alpha S has a lot to prove. But with included surround sound, bass boost, and EQ settings, it could prove the greatest of its name. In this review, we break down the HyperX Cloud Alpha S sound, design, comfort and fit, packaging and accessories, specs and more. To find out how it stacks up, check out our list of the best gaming headsets.
We’re starting with the aspect that impressed us the most: the rich and detailed soundstage. Delivering excellent spatial awareness and easy-to-track positional sounds, the soundstage of the HyperX Cloud Alpha S seemed perfectly tuned for our Overwatch testing. We did all of the season’s placement matches with this headset and felt at the top of our game. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing for the price. Sounds were rich and the overall immersion was quite impressive. The Alpha S’ updated soundstage easily dominated our top-budget pick: the Corsair HS50, and had us itching to test them against higher-end opponents.
We had to compare the soundstage to the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas (full review here) and were surprised how close they were. The Elite Atlas’s larger drivers produced a more detailed sound when it came to specific in-game elements, but the Alpha S’ richness and immersion could not be denied. Richness like this isn’t often found in sub-$150 headsets, especially before we’ve even turned on the surround sound.
Unfortunately, when it came to surround sound, it felt like the Alpha S didn’t use it as thoroughly as other models. When you hit the 7.1 button on HyperX Cloud Revolver S, you really notice a difference; however, when activated on the Alpha S, the surround sound only slightly enhanced the audio experience. This isn’t a deal breaker for us. We’ve said in the past that we think artificial surround sound is slightly gimmicky, but we still wanted a transformative experience from the Alpha S that just wasn’t there. That said, the Revolver S’ transformative surround sound can be a bit much, and the Alpha S’ more mild approach allowed us to utilize it more in everyday scenarios than we did with the Revolver S.
The HyperX Alpha S’ low-end is quite decent in its out-of-the-box state. Lows are rich and present without muddying the mids or obscuring detail. We had this model during the Halloween season, so you can bet your candy bucket that we tested these cans on some spooky movies. While we certainly don’t recommend you watch Terrifier, we do have to say the headset handled the movie well and the low-end kept the experience heartracing and worth our time. When it came down to movie watching, these easily outshone the Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition, which didn’t deliver the same presence in the mids that the Alpha S did.
The Alpha S made testing the low-end a bit more interesting than usual. This headset comes with two bass controls in the form of plastic blue sliders that rest behind each earcup. These can be used to control the low-end of the headset, which means that default bass can be easily adjusted even in the middle of the game. Fully opened, the low-end is pronounced and gives you that rumble you can feel. Fully closed, this rumble is reduced, and the sound becomes a more neutral and sterile sound. We did most of our testing with the bass on blast, but found ourselves very grateful for the option to slide it closed when we switched to our music tests. What we liked most about the bass sliders wasn’t just the ease-of-use, but the actual effect it produced. Typically, features like this are a bit gimmicky, but HyperX managed to make it a worthwhile one that seems important.
We were really impressed with the Alpha S’ mids. Usually, more budget-friendly headsets skimp on the mids and let the highs and lows duke it out without a referee. We were really glad that HyperX didn’t take this route; their tuning of the mids allowed the Alpha S to create a rich and natural sound that stands above the rest of the budget headsets. The mids really start to shine when the bass sliders are closed and the headset’s more neutral sound is activated, reminding us of the more-expensive Sennheiser GAME ONE. Truly high praise for a budget headset.
The highs were a bit more toned down than the HyperX Cloud MIX, which means that the mids and lows were more pronounced. That said, the Alpha S’ highs are still clear and far from harsh. The Alpha S handled the upper-level of string sounds with delicacy and poise. Overall, the entire range of sound was handled well, and while the highs were a bit more nuanced, they allowed us to focus more on the gorgeous mids. This also enhanced in-game positioning. We found it very easy to position ourselves in game, and soundtracks really shone through without overpowering in-game elements. That Overwatch overtime sound had our heart rate soaring. While the Alpha S doesn’t deliver all of the nuanced details from the HyperX Orbit S, the overall experience is nice and comfortable.
The Alpha’s detachable mic also works quite well. The sound quality during our testing was clean and even, and the mic gave voices a nice crispness that‘s perfect for online gaming. Additionally, the pop filter does a good job keeping the snap and crackle out of your audio. While the mic made for decent overall audio, it wasn’t good enough to recommend using it for anything beyond online gaming or simple communication. However, for a gaming headset, it handles those two things very well. Good microphones are expensive, and you aren’t going to get the quality of the SteelSeries Arctis Pro at the Alpha’s price point. That said, the mic’s arm is fantastic and positioning the mic to get the best sound was a cinch. We liked the arm of the mic even more than the higher priced SteelSeries Arctis Pro’s, but we’ll admit that the retractability of the Arctis Pro is well worth a little bit less rigidity.
Looks and Build Quality
When it comes to shape and styling, the Alpha S sees little departure from the classic HyperX Alpha aesthetic. However, the cobalt blue accents are striking and worth discussion. For many reasons, the HyperX Alpha S is a great budget buy. What’s slightly disappointing, is that you can tell it’s a budget headset just by looking at it. Blue is not our first choice but, seeing as it’s the only choice for these cans, we have to be honest and say that we hate how they look. Coming off of reviewing the gorgeous HyperX Cloud Orbit S, and looking back fondly at the similarly styled and blue-accented Corsair HS50s, we can’t believe how ugly the Alpha S come across at first glance. We don’t want to overly disparage design choices (we know we’re biased), but these look borderline infantile. The metallic blue is just gaudy and detracts from the otherwise decent-looking headset. If you like glitter-tube blue and want a bit more pizazz than class, you may actually like the Alpha S’ design choices, but we do not.
Fortunately, the downside of the design doesn’t extend to the build. For the price—actually, for any price—these are well-built headphones. HyperX continues to impress with their dedication to making quality headsets. The build is light but rugged, and felt solid when we gave it the old bend and twist—luckily there was no bend and snap. To compensate for their hideousness, the metal arms are well-built, and the plastic used is strong and durable. The quality of these was very close to the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas, and if we’re being honest, the Alpha S might even be a bit stronger when it comes to drops. The Alpha S’ balance between ruggedness and flexibility is a nice feature not often found in budget headsets. It makes these cans easy to position and adjust, which also makes them super comfy — more on that later.
The controls were something that HyperX really improved on in this newest model. Similar to our much-loved HyperX Cloud Revolver S, the Alpha S has a control pad attached to the USB half of the connection cable. The controls allow you to adjust your sound on the fly and offers a nice mute toggle that’s easy to access, yet hard to press by accident.
The other controls on this headset are behind each ear. Each ear has a blue plastic knob that slides into three different positions. What this does is allow you to easily adjust the amount of low-end you’re hearing. If you want to feel the bass, you can open these all the way, but if you want to tone it down, you can slide it to the middle or to the closed position. We really loved this addition, as it gives gamers a quick way to customize their experience on-the-fly.
Like all HyperX models, this headset impressed us not only in its weight, but in comfort. The airy fit, with extremely low clamping pressure and a decent give in the adjustment, made this headset a delight to wear. It can get slightly hot after long sessions, but this is almost expected in a set of budget headphones. The braided cable could be slightly annoying and the control console that’s attached to it, while providing great functionality, is a bit heavy and clunky when moving your body.
The only complaint we had around the headset’s comfort was that the earcups do not pivot very much, so you get a very linear fit. This means that, if you don’t find the default position as comfortable as we did, you might be out of luck. So, if you are a little more cranially endowed, we recommend you check out the Logitech G533, which should be easier for you to position.
Coming off of our review of the HyperX Cloud Orbit S—which if you haven’t read, you should because all of our articles are amazing—we are hyper aware of packaging. One of our major gripes about the Cloud Orbit was that it was a high-end headset that was packaged in a low-end box. What we noticed when we got our set of the HyperX Alpha S was that the box was essentially the same. While we felt validated and amused, we also felt like this was actually a good thing for the Alpha S. The packaging wasn’t premium enough to house the flagship Orbit S, but it was more than adequate for the lower-end Alpha S. This kind of packaging lent the Alpha S a bit more of a premium feel out of the box. While the plastic shell that held everything inside the box detracted from this quality feel, the extra set of ear pads, silky carrying bag, and braided cabling all brought our packaging rating up to a solid 4/5.
What We Like
- The Alpha S have a great default sound that’s easy to customize on-the-fly with the upgraded controls.
- This headset features a killer build that feels durable and is beautifully light and comfortable.
- The Alpha S offers insane value for the price. This is one of the most bang-for-your-buck headsets we’ve ever reviewed!
What We Don’t
- The Alpha S features a polarizing design, brushed with an infantile metallic blue.
- The short 3.5mm connection makes playing on the Nintendo Switch and listening on a phone mostly impossible and completely annoying.
- The surround sound of the Alpha S felt a bit lackluster.
|HyperX Cloud Alpha S||$130||No||3.5mm/USB||99dB||11oz|
|HyperX Cloud Revolver S||$150||No||3.5mm/USB||100.5dB||13.3oz|
|Turtle Beach Elite Atlas||$90||No||3.5mm||100dB||14.4oz|
|Creative Sound BlasterX H5||$69||No||3.5mm||118dB||13oz|
As always, we have to compare any gaming headset to the HyperX Cloud Revolver S, which is our gold standard for all-around gaming headsets, and our favorite HyperX offering. To beat their big brother, the Alpha S would have to be exceptional. With their rich default audio, the Alpha S is certainly a contender; however, there were a few things keeping them from taking the Revolver S’ crown. First, while the Alpha S had better mids and better controls, the Revolver S had better highs and used the 7.1 surround sound more effectively to offer a more transformative experience. One place the Alpha S won out over the Revolver S was the microphone. The Alpha S’ mic was much easier to position and far less bulky than the Revolver S’. However, when it came down to overall sound and comfort for price, the Revolver S just couldn’t be beat.
Our top-budget pick at the time this article was written: the Corsair HS50s. It was the best value buy on the market, but the Alpha S is putting that to the test. With its superior quality, sound, features, and controls, the Alpha S is the HS50’s superior in every way. While the look of the HS50 has our preference, that matters the least at the end of the day. The Alpha S might finally be the headset that dethrones the HS50 as our top budget buy!
The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas are a much closer match-up. Due to their similar price point and overall performance, we had to compare the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas to the HyperX Alpha S. Right off the bat, we had a tossup. The Turtle Beach produced a more detailed sound that was better for positional awareness, but the Alpha S had a richer and warmer overall sound. The controls on the Alpha S won out over the Elite Atlas, but the Elite Atlas had better cables. The Alpha S was slightly more comfortable than the Elite Atlas, but the Elite Atlas had a bit more flexibility in its fit, and came with the glasses relief for the bespectacled. All said and done, it turned out as a rare overall tie. We couldn’t give either one our preference, but would say that the Alpha S is a better generic headset and the Elite Atlas is better for more serious gamers.
At a similar price point, our final challenger is the Creative Sound BlasterX H5 Tournament Edition Gaming Headset. This is another close one. With a more gamer-centric design the H5 Tournament Edition offer what some listeners crave in a gaming headset. A for the first time ever, we have to say they actually look better than another gaming headset. Appearance aside, the Alpha S produce better in-game audio and have a better microphone. The Alpha S are also more comfortable, making them a better value buy overall.