As gamers, we know that a good headset can make all the difference in how much fun a game is to play. A good surround sound gaming headset even more and especially so when you enter the world of competitive play. Today, we're looking at one of the most exciting gaming headsets of the year with the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, completely with Waves Nx 3D technology. It's a whole new take on surround sound and you won't want to miss it. Read on for our full review.
- Current Price: $329.99
- Audeze 100mm planar magnetic drivers
- Waves Nx fully immersive 3D audio
- Waves Nx head tracking technology
- USB Type A, USB Type C, and 3.5mm (4-pole) cables included
- Compatible with PC, PS4, Xbox One, Mac Mobile, Nintendo Switch
- Driver: Planar transducer, 100 mm
- Type: Circumaural, Closed back
- Frequency response: 10Hz-50,000Hz
- Sound pressure level: >120 dB
- T.H.D.: < 0.1% (1 kHz, 1 mW)
- Modes: 3D Audio
- Modes: 3D audio with head tracking
- Weight: 368g
- Cable length: USB Type C to USB Type A: 3m
- USB Type C to USB Type C: 1.5m
- 3.5mm plug (4-pole): 1.2m
- Element: Electret condenser microphone
- Polar pattern: Uni-directional
- Battery life: Analog 3.5mm mode: 10 hours
Early this year, we heard that HyperX was partnering with Audeze to design a groundbreaking new headset. This was exciting news for audio fans because even while Audeze is relatively unknown in the gaming space, they're beloved by audiophiles worldwide. Audeze is a small company, a boutique headphone manufacturer out of California founded in 2008, but they've made quite a splash with their ultra-premium planar magnetic headphones. Last year, they released their first gaming headset with the Audeze Mobius which quickly became regarded as one of the best headsets you could buy - if you could afford the $399 to actually buy one.
Suffice it to say, the partnership between HyperX and Audeze was an exciting one. On the one hand, we have HyperX, a company already known for making outstanding gaming headsets and with the foothold and reach to penetrate deep into the mass market. On the other, we have Audeze, makers of some of the most outstanding audiophile headphones on the market (some upwards of $3000) and with designs on perhaps the most innovative gaming headset ever released. Audeze tech with HyperX's reach and knowledge of gamers? Yeah, that's a match worth paying attention to.
Well, it's been a long nine months from the announcement to today but we officially have the fruit of that partnership in-hand: the HyperX Cloud Orbit S. The Orbit features 100mm planar magnetic drivers, multiple surround sound modes including full Waves Nx 3D audio with head tracking, a detachable microphone, multiple connectivity options, and complete audio customization to tune it to your taste.
Welcome to the world of planar magnetics
Let's start at the beginning with the drivers. Most gaming headsets - most headphones, period - feature dynamic drivers. There's a huge variety in type and quality but typically hone in on one or two areas really well. A dynamic headphone that has great bass may suffer reduced detail in the highs and vice versa. If you're asked to imagine a driver and you picture a cone, you're thinking of a dynamic.
Audeze's planar magnetics, on the other hand, are a flat sheet as you can see in the picture above. They operate by suspending a thin diaphragm between a series of magnets and are much more resistant to distortion. At 100mm, they're roughly twice the size of your average dynamic gaming headphone and have a wonderfully wide response range of 10 - 50000 Hz. The bass is big and full but despite that, it doesn't step on the mids or highs. These headphones are capable of a wide, cinematic sound with excellent punch and power while still presenting even the tiniest of details, like tinkling glass hitting the city street as a tank plows through a storefront.
For music, the HyperX Orbit S is able to deliver outstanding quality for virtually any genre. 50 Cents' 21 Questions features a tight, controlled bass that's simultaneously very full and solid. Swapping over to Dustin Kensrue's Of Crows and Crowns you can hear each plucked string on the acoustic guitar stood apart from each key pressed on the piano. AFI's 33mm offers superb texture to the pulsing, beating synth and e-drums.
A new kind of surround sound
Turning to gaming, even without surround sound enabled there is an outstanding positionality to the sound. After trying a multitude of gaming headsets, I can definitively say that this isn't always the case. Some headsets muddy their channels, making it sound like half the mix is intended for both ears. That's rarely the case. When I'm playing PUBG, I want to tell super clearly which direction I'm hearing footsteps from in the house. I want to know when they're outside the door and hear the exact moment it creaks open. Those are life or death cues that this headset absolutely nails.
The Cloud Orbit S features Waves Nx positional audio which takes surround sound to the next level. By pressing the 3D button on the side of the ear cup you can swap between different modes. The real eye-catcher is that it uses a gyroscope and accelerometer to accurately track the position of your head and move the sound around you emulating real-life. It's such a game-changer that it can even be a little disorienting at first.
Imagine how you hear sounds in the real world. When you turn your head, the position of that sound doesn't change. A normal gaming headset doesn't take that into account. Turn your head to the left and that gunshot that came from your right is now going to sound like it's right in front of where you're sitting. Waves Nx instead keeps that sound source's position intact. Turn your head to the left with it enabled and the sound that came from your right will stay exactly where it was, just like in real life.
This has a few key benefits. In-game, this allows you to better track the position of your enemies because no matter what way you turn or angle your head, the position of that sound will stay in place. Likewise, you can officially use the position of your head to better determine where exactly that sound is coming from. Again, return to what you do in real life when you're trying to locate a sound: you turn your head and angle it. That's the natural human reaction because we instinctively know that to adjust our head to allow the angle of sound to help us hone in. That's possible here.
How useful is it really?
It's cool tech, but its usefulness is limited. I found it most useful in competitive shooters where using little tricks like that gives you a legitimate advantage over the enemy. In other genres, though, you spend most of the time looking straight ahead and there isn't so pressing a need to be turning your head. There, it's nice to have but I found myself turning off head tracking and sticking to normal surround sound.
It's also very useful if you use two monitors for gaming. Then, you are turning your head, and it adds to the immersive quality.
The best use case, though, is for VR where that head tracking is downright game-changing. It makes playing games like Vanishing Realms much more immersive, especially when you add in Valve's Index controllers.
The only downside is that this is a wired headset, so you will be tethered. I actually had to do a double-take when I first unboxed it because there's a power button, charging port, and battery life quotes on the box. In fact, this is for the Waves Nx technology, not wireless connectivity. When the battery runs out, you can recharge via USB-C or connect over 3.5mm audio. It's also important to note that the battery life has nothing to do with the quality of the audio, so you can connect any way you like and get the same great experience from the planar magnetics.
Premium cushions but a tad heavy
My biggest complaint about these headphones is that they're a bit heavy at 368-grams and I can really only wear them for a couple hours before needing a break. HyperX has done a great job with the cushioning, the leather ear cushions especially, but the top of my head does tend to get a bit sore after a while. Your mileage may vary, however, as I am particularly sensitive weighty headsets.
At the end of the day, what we have here is HyperX's take on the already excellent Audeze Mobius. They've removed the wireless connectivity and cut the price substantially, down to $329 from $399. At this price, that may be a deal breaker for some and I would understand, there's already a battery integrated in the system after all. Even still, this is an outstanding headset. It delivers some of the best audio you'll find in a gaming headset, a premium and comfortable build, and tech that can give you an objective advantage in competitive shooters like APEX: Legends or PUBG. It's also one of the few headsets that actually sets itself apart in a meaningful way, which automatically earns it some respect.
At this price point, it won't be for everybody, but if you can afford it, it's outstanding.
- Excellent Waves Nx 3D surround
- Technology rich - accelerometer and gyroscope provide accurate head tracking for surround sound
- Outstanding audio - planar magnetics are fantastic here
- Well build and cushioned
- Very good microphone
- Quite expensive
- A tad heavy
- Head tracking has limited uses
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.