HyperX has added a new color variant to its lineup of Cloud Alpha S gaming headsets. It’s called “blackout” and, as you’d probably expect, every single detail around the headset is pure black. A new color option usually isn’t too big of a deal, but the result here is a headset ideally suited for a minimalist, of which there aren’t many on the market. It doesn’t really stand out at all, and that’s what makes it look so good.

The headphones still have the HyperX branding on the side of the ear cups and atop the textured headband. But it’s subtle and almost undetectable in most lighting conditions. Everything else, from the stitching on the headband to the braided cable and the side arms that hold the ear cups, is coated in a deep black color. On top of these design adjustments, you’re getting the same great headset that HyperX released in late 2019. We missed our chance to review this model when it originally released, so we’re seizing the opportunity to dive into it now that this new color option has come out.

It comes with two sets of replaceable ear pads: one set that’s plush with a leather-like coating for better noise isolation and another that’s more breathable but with hardly any noise isolation at all. I opted for the breathable pads, but regardless, this is a comfortable headset to wear for hours on end.

I have a large head, and I’m always delighted when a product manages to avoid clamping down too hard around my dome. The weight distribution is excellent, and no part of the headset feels like it’s resting too hard on my head or sitting awkwardly on my ears.

This headset is designed with a PC in mind. The headset connects via USB and has clip-on inline controls that let you turn on the virtual 7.1 surround sound mode, mute the mic, and adjust the volume, as well as fine-tune the volume mix between voice chat and your game. If you’d rather have more game audio than chat, just tap the button with the controller icon a few times.

While these features only work with a PC, the headset attaches to its inline controls via a 3.5mm jack that you can easily detach and connect to, say, a PS4 or Xbox One controller. If you sit close enough to your TV, this headset also works (along with the virtual 7.1 surround sound feature) with the full USB cable plugged into your Nintendo Switch dock.

The audio quality of the Cloud Alpha S is impressive, regardless of the kinds of ear muffs that you opt to use and the kind of media you want to enjoy. I found the performance to be punchy when I played games, and listening to music was delightful — something that I wasn’t expecting.

Whatever you use them for, there’s clear separation in the audio presentation, and the bass breathes naturally without stepping over the high frequencies that tend to get lost in many affordable headphones and gaming headsets. It just sounds really clean. And if the amount of bass isn’t to your liking, you can modify it in each ear cup with a bass adjustment switch located around its back side. Each notch in the switch only makes a subtle difference, so these aren’t a good match for you if you like relentless bass.

Regarding the virtual 7.1 surround sound option, I actually preferred to have it turned off while in-game. These virtual implementations are usually hit or miss, and while some players may like it, I thought it made the audio sound a little too shrill. I could still clearly hear enemy positions and other details with the option off. Plus, it sounded more realistic and a little more bass-heavy.

The last HyperX headset I reviewed was the HyperX Cloud Flight S, a $160 wireless headset that packs in some similar hardware features, like the chat and game audio mix buttons and a detachable boom microphone. Since it supported Qi charging, I remarked that for the price, it would have been nice to have a Qi charger included, along with more features, like the ability to plug in via 3.5mm.

There are far fewer compromises with the Cloud Alpha S, so long as you’re cool with the long wire that connects it to your PC. It’s a better value overall, even if it’s still almost as expensive as the wireless Cloud Flight S. The sound performance is a few marks ahead and you can adjust the bass — a nice touch. It is also the clear choice between the two if you want a headset that offers a little versatility by way of its 3.5mm cable.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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