But as much as I’ve been rather blown away by the audio quality I’m not such a fan of the overall design. The wing support concept is a little too wacky for my tastes and means the headset doesn’t feel like it’s sat too securely on your head. There’s no real headband, just two tensed paddles which rest on top of your bonce. It’s definitely comfortable, and I’m not saying I want my headphones to have a vice-like grip on my skull, but a robust brain-cuddle is certainly more reassuring.
The sound is close to superb at this price range. You can find better, but it can be difficult at this level to find build quality to match. Sound is well-balanced, and the bass doesn’t tend to obfuscate the rest of the audio – a common symptom of gamer cans. For the most part audio remains consistent and clear from the 53mm drivers even at higher volume levels, too.
SURROUND SOUND READY FOR XBOX ONE - Xbox One’s Windows Sonic for Headphones delivers immersive virtual surround sound to bring your games, movies and music to life. *Windows Sonic for Headphones provided by Microsoft for Xbox One (and compatible Windows 10 PCs). Also compatible with Dolby Atmos® for Headphones (Additional purchase may be required.)
As mentioned above, the microphone is pretty useless (let’s blame that on Cougar’s Metal Gear-esque naming conventions), and its high/treble reproduction isn’t as good as more expensive headsets, but its overall audio quality is perfectly good enough for the money. If you’re looking for something inexpensive to give to your kids or younger siblings, the Cougar Phontum is well worth considering.
"But wouldn't that look weird at a coffee shop?" you ask. Yes it would, so HyperX has designed with a boom mic that can be easily unplugged and removed. It also features replaceable earcups in case the oval ones that come with it don't fit your ears, and it also includes a swank mesh bag to stow the whole kit in when you travel. Put all these awesome ingredients together and you have one righteous headset at a sweet, sweet price.
Our only gripe with this headset design is the sidetone appears to be constantly on and you cannot turn this off in Windows settings. This means you have to put up with the sound of your own voice coming back at you through the headset. We assume this is necessary due to the all-encompassing nature of the earcups otherwise you'll likely find yourself shouting, especially when playing louder games.
While wireless headsets are obviously more flexible when it comes to your connection to the source device, a major constraint for USB or Bluetooth wireless headsets is compatibility, as the table above shows. You’ll only be able to use USB wireless models with PS4, PC, and, in some select cases, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. Bluetooth headsets are compatible with PC, PS4, PS Vita, mobile devices, and, conditionally, the Nintendo Switch.
It's also true that if a headset doesn’t sound good, then spending a single cent on it is a waste of money. But what is ‘good’ sound? Well, that depends entirely on your taste. Some people like bass heavy sound that reverberates through everything in a ten-mile radius, others prefer a natural more balanced sound, and a few have been known to prefer a bit of both. Therefore, if you’re dead set on a specific sound it’s probably wise to choose a headset that comes with EQ software, which enables you to manipulate the sound to your taste. (Surround sound is another consideration, but we’ll cover that a bit later.) Finally the price. This should be thought of in three distinctions. Firstly, what is your budget? Second, what are other companies offering for roughly the same price? And finally, what reputation does the company have, especially surrounding warranties and customer service?
The one performance criticism we all had was that its flexible boom microphone was only good, not great. It delivered voices clearly (with no distortion and very little noise), but all of our online testers who have met me in meatspace reported that my voice sounded a little high-pitched and nasally through the Cloud’s mic. My regular Magic Duels opponent, who graciously tolerated constant pauses to our matches so that I could swap out headsets, summed it up: “You’re coming through loud and clear; it’s just that your voice is missing that booming radio-announcer quality that makes you sound like you.”
If you are on a tight budget and don't like the look or style of the HyperX Cloud Stinger, you should definitely check out the HS50 from Corsair. They are the same price as the HyperX Cloud Stinger, and extremely close in performance and comfort (for our reviewer it was as close as it gets in these type of comparisons). It's a stereo headset so there's no fancy surround sound, but that's typical at this price.
These large round ear cups are designed to be comfortable and pleasant to wear, but they also give space to house the large 53mm stereo drivers. These drivers are where the action happens. They're designed to deliver an audio experience that's unparalleled and indeed, we were impressed with the quality of the sound coming of these cans. They open your ears to new sounds you might not have otherwise noticed in games and music and we couldn't help but be impressed with the quality of the sound, no matter what we were doing.
Do you even need a dedicated gaming headset at all? If audio quality is the be-all-and-end-all for you it might be interesting to note there’s a growing trend of using audiophile headphones, coupled with discrete desk-based microphones, so you can still yell abuse at your gaming buddies while enjoying the absolute best aural experiences money can buy.
Where do we start with Steelseries‘ magnum opus, the Arctis Pro? The highly flexible, crystal-clear mic that rivals even some professional-grade audio equipment? How about the sleek, professional design that mimics stylish audiophile headphones? Or maybe it’s the headset’s plug-and-play peripherals that push hi-res sound and enable users to fine-tune EQ settings and surround sound at a much more granular scale than the competition — all without the need for extra software or downloads.