Little do we see a gaming headset in the sub-$50 price range which delivers such great flexibility and performance. The HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset, from Kingston Technology, delivers great-quality audio for the price and has some neat features. While it isn’t perfect and still lacks in some areas, the bottom line is that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better alternative in the sub-$50 price range.
Upon opening the box, you’ll find the usual trappings: the headset, the user manual, and, in this case, a PC extension cable—showing that this headset can be used with multiple platforms. The headset itself is light, weighing in at 275 grams, and feels natural on my admittedly large head. The memory foam ear cushions give a tight yet delicate seal to keep game audio in and external audio out, plus the 90-degree rotating ear cups help to conform to one’s head and facial structure. The partially padded band was slightly less comfortable in comparison to HyperX’s own Cloud Core’s full memory foam-padded band, but once I was into my gaming session, it wasn’t a concern. Regardless, the inner slider of the band is made of lightweight steel, so durability isn’t an issue here.
Quick note: I’ll be comparing the Cloud Stinger to the Cloud Core often, as both are from HyperX, and the Cloud Core only costs an extra $20 MSRP as of this review.
The Cloud Stinger sports a 4-pole 3.5mm plug which provides a clear audio experience, which we’ll get to in a bit. The non-detachable boom microphone can easily be set to mute by flipping it upward—flip it up and hear a click, and you’re muted. Flip it down and hear a click, and you’re unmuted. It’s a cool feature, and once the microphone is flipped upward, I forgot it was there. However, it would be nice to see a detachable mic, like on the Cloud Core. I can only imagine the extra real estate around my head the upward-flipped mic takes up, and I imagine it looks a tad ridiculous. It’s also a shame the direction of the microphone isn’t reversible; if you want to have the microphone on the right side of your face, you’re out of luck.
The standard headset cable length comes in at 1.3 meters, which is perfectly fine for most situations. I tested the Cloud Stinger on my iPhone, Macbook, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The cable length works perfectly well on all but the latter—but allow me to clarify. In handheld mode, the Cloud Stinger works amazingly well for the Nintendo Switch. Since there is currently no way to plug any kind of headset into the Switch’s Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller, it’s difficult to recommend the Cloud Stinger—or any wired gaming headset, for that matter—for those who play their Switch primarily in TV/docked mode. Wireless options aside (which are mostly hit-or-miss as of this writing), the only way to use the Cloud Stinger in TV or docked mode would be to run an extension cable all the way to wherever your Switch is docked, which I wouldn’t recommend.
One welcome addition, however, that isn’t present in the Cloud Core headset is a volume slider. Located on the bottom of the right ear cup, there’s a slider which provides you with a decent amount of volume control—but that’s it. If you want to fine-tune your mic settings or other audio levels, you’ll have to depend on the software of whatever device you’re plugged into.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger works well no matter which device you hook it up to. I’ve tested the Cloud Stinger on iPhone, Macbook, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. In testing on the iPhone and Macbook, I ran the headset through several songs and YouTube videos, and the set played strong mids and highs, but there was a noticeable lack where some particular metal songs should have hit a hard bass drop. For a headset at $49.99 MSRP, though, this is hardly a complaint—just something worth noting.
On PlayStation 4, I played a few hours of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and the Cloud Stinger displayed directional audio well. It certainly added to my immersion in the game when walking through villages, hearing the townsfolk and animals interacting with one another—I could even hear a group of women talking about Geralt behind my back…quite literally, it felt. Sound effects from the weather to combat all sounded great through the Cloud Stinger, and I never suffered from any disconnects or audio blips. On Xbox One, I tested the Cloud Stinger with Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3. In Gears of War 4, monster cries and growls sounded deliciously gruesome, and cracks from my Hammerburst and explosions from Frag Grenades sounded crisp and booming, thanks to the Cloud Stinger’s dynamic 50mm drivers. The headset’s lack of bass was rather noticeable here as well, but the Xbox One’s recent Windows Sonic update for stereo headphones somewhat mitigated that loss. In Forza Horizon 3, car engines and tire squeals sound crisp as ever, and I felt truly immersed with the combination of clear audio and crisp visuals from what I would consider the best-looking Xbox One game to date. I will briefly note that I did experience some audio hiccups on Xbox One, but it’s a common issue I’ve had using other headsets on the system, so I won’t fault the Cloud Stinger for it.
On Nintendo Switch, I tested the Cloud Stinger with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Hyrule is brimming with things to see and do, and it’s great that Breath of the Wild provides directional audio, even in handheld mode (which, as previously mentioned, is the only truly feasible way to use any wired headset with the Switch). If I turned away from a Bokoblin camp, I could truly hear them behind me. It’s an exceptional experience, and one that makes the game feel more immersive than ever. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the relative same can be said: it was cool to be able to hear my fellow racers around me. If an opponent was closing the gap from behind me during a race, I could hear them accelerating behind me, which is an awesome thing to experience that you don’t get from the Switch’s integrated speakers (or from TV mode, unless you have a surround sound setup at home). I also found myself, for the first time, able to actually pay more attention to the game’s soundtrack, which is something that tends to blend into the background among the game’s great item sound effects. I didn’t realize what a great soundtrack Mario Kart 8 Deluxe had until I experienced it through the Cloud Stinger.
When I did use the flip-to-mute microphone, the quality more than serviceable. My fellow gamers could hear me clearly in online lobbies, and on my iPhone, call quality was great.
Again, given the Switch’s current limitation of only being able to use a wired headset in handheld mode, it’s difficult to recommend the HyperX Cloud Stinger for exclusive use with Nintendo Switch. However, if you’re looking for a budget headset to use across multiple platforms, I couldn’t recommend the HyperX Cloud Stinger more. A comfortable build quality with great audio (and a couple nifty features to boot), the HyperX Cloud Stinger is the best headset under $50. For $20 more, you can get the HyperX Cloud Core, which comes with a detachable boom mic and a more comfortable band, but if those small extras aren’t enough to justify an extra $20 from your wallet, the Cloud Stinger should fill all your needs.
Disclaimer: A review unit was provided by HyperX and Kingston Technology.