HyperX Cloud Alpha S Blackout review: New features push this gaming headset to the max

The new Cloud Alpha S Blackout's toss in 7.1 surround sound, but still could use a bit more bass and a shorter cord.

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Blackout
(Image: © Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

When it comes to gaming headphones, few companies command as much attention as HyperX. The company is consistently one of the top movers of all gaming headsets, and it's with good reason. Delivering exceptional audio, quality materials, and a comfortable design, HyperX headphones are often considered the best.

Indeed, last November we reviewed the $100 HyperX Cloud Alpha headphones and gave it a 4 ½ stars out of 5, citing stunning sound reproduction "signature HyperX comfort." So, take that same headset but add a mixer remote that delivers 7.1 surround sound and a new "Blackout" color scheme, and you get the $130 HyperX Cloud Alpha S.

Here's what you need to know about it and whether the HyperX Cloud Alpha S is worth the cash.

What you'll love about the HyperX Cloud Alpha S headset

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Blackout

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The HyperX Cloud Alpha S was released early this year, but HyperX now has made some modest adjustments to the original release. Here's what's different:

  • New Blackout color scheme (vs. metallic blue)
  • Seven auto-optimized sound profiles for popular games, including Apex Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, CS:GO, Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege

Otherwise, these are the same as the other Cloud Alpha S headphones, which are, in turn, riffs of the original Cloud Alpha.

Delivering a sturdy aluminum frame, these over-the-ear headphones deliver punchy audio with well-separated highs and mids. The ear cups are replaceable, and you have a choice of leatherette or foam. Both have plush memory foam for comfort.

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Speakers50mm neodymium
Frequency response13Hz – 27,000Hz
Compatibility3.5mm or USB
Impedance65 ohms
Weight310g/321g with mic
FeaturesDetachable mic, braided cable with in-line remote, dual-chamber audio set up

To control the bass, the Cloud Alpha S has physical switches on each earcup that controls how much room the driver has to deliver. They work well enough, although the change is not massive when switching.

The top headband is made from faux leather covering and uses fancy stitching along the sides

Audio is powered by dual 50mm drivers and HyperX's "dual chamber" design, which keeps the bass from mudding the highs and lows. It works well enough, too, as this was never an issue during my testing.

The big difference between the $130 Cloud Alpha S and the $100 Cloud Alpha comes down to a simple mixer remote. It's an optional 3.5mm-to-USB adapter, which means without it, you can use these as regular headphones for other devices with a USB port such as a gaming console. That remote has a clip for your shirt, a 7.1 audio toggle, mute mic button, and two buttons to either balance the mix between game chat and game audio.

That 7.1 audio feature works quite well, immersing you in a more satisfying soundscape. Since there is no software, however, you cannot adjust the EQ for games. But, with this new release, HyperX has added seven sound profiles for popular first-person shooters like Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, and PUBG. That's great because the 7.1 is virtualized here and is only decent. But with those added profiles, it makes pinpointing footsteps, or a sniper bullet a bit more accurate.

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Accessories

Source: HyperX (Image credit: Source: HyperX)

The audio was never distorted even at louder volumes. The sound was well textured and balanced across highs and mids, making this especially suitable for more passive games where the audio is more about ambiance.

The Cloud Alpha S is very comfortable to wear for extended durations. It never felt like a clamp on my head, nor did I have to adjust it. These headphones are smidge lighter than the regular Cloud Alphas (331g) coming in at just 310 grams for the headset and a total of 321 grams if you add the microphone.

That microphone bends quite well and sounds above average, likely due to the noise-canceling feature.

What you'll dislike about the HyperX Cloud Alpha S headset

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Blackout

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

True sound aficionados likely won't be blown away by the simulated 7.1, but it's good enough for the average gamer. It still pales when compared to the over-the-top (but amazingly awesome) Cloud Orbit S headphones, but that's expected. And the added sound profiles help improve complaints about lack of positional acuity in certain titles.

Although I didn't get excessive heat from wearing these headphones, they also didn't magically solve the "hot head" effect either. If that's your jam, you should get HP's fantastic Mindframe headphones, which actively cool your ears.

The ear cups do come off, letting you swap out for a different style, but it's rather laborious and not recommended as a frequent activity.

While the bass is never overwhelming, it's not the opposite either. For those who prefer a punchier, deeper bass, you may be disappointed with the Cloud Alpha S. It's far from bad. Indeed the overall audio profile is excellent, but it's also not the richest I have heard either. That means for music, the Cloud Alphas S is merely OK, making this better suited for games or movies.

While I very much appreciate not having mandatory software to install, I don't think it'd be bad either for HyperX to offer a free app to modify settings or tune the audio.

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Blackout

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Finally, the cord for the new 7.1 mixer remote is way too long. The remote ends up hanging by your legs, falling off your gaming chair, making it rather unwieldy. There is a clip, but that doesn't make it necessarily easier to attach to your shirt.

Should you buy the HyperX Cloud Alpha S headset?

Hyperx Cloud Alpha S Blackout

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

The Cloud Alpha S is undoubtedly one of the most comfortable headphones I have used, and quality that HyperX delivers is, as usual, very good.

There is some questionable value about paying an extra $30 for virtual 7.1 surround-sound and a remote/mixer unit that optionally attaches. While it's not the best 7.1 representation, it definitely sounds better – especially for movies – than without it enabled.

Of course, the beauty here is if you don't think it's worth it, HyperX has the regular $100 Cloud Alphas ready for you, and we still highly recommend those anyway.

My only major gripe is the length of the cord and the placement of the remote, which is not very practical in use. It's not a dealbreaker, but something that should have been caught during testing. HyperX could also stand to turn up the bass just slightly, or maybe even offer some optional software for customization.

Overall, between the solid build and audio quality, the Hyper Cloud Alpha S Blackouts are easy to recommend. Still, it would have been nice to see just a little extra for this release to be excited about.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.