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Hands-on review: HyperX Cloud Stinger Core Wireless + 7.1 PC headset

HyperX has released the Cloud Stinger Core Wireless + 7.1 gaming headset, offering PC gamers wireless virtual 7.1 audio.

Good gaming audio to complement a decent PC gaming setup makes sense. 3D positional audio when playing competitive multiplayer is a no-brainer. The extra edge being able to hear where your opponents are before you can see them can make the difference between a good kill or a respawn.

The high-performance gaming arm of legendary PC memory outfit, Kingston Technology, HyperX has been attending to PC gamers' needs for nearly 20 years. Their Cloud gaming headsets have, since the first back in 2014, gained a reputation as being a high-quality, entry-level gaming headset.

The Cloud Stinger Core Wireless + 7.1 headset continues this tradition. But don't let my use of “entry-level” put you off. It's a quality gaming headset that will not cost you an arm and a leg.

It is light, and does come across a bit flimsy. It has, however, a fair bit of flex when twisted, and thus less likely to snap if dropped or otherwise abused. The headband, though, has a very robust steel slider to give it some extra strength.

When worn, the headset feels comfy and solid. The cushioned cups fit nicely over my ears with just the right amount of pressure. Whilst they are not noise cancelling, the snug fit around my ears did serve to shut out a lot of the ambient noise.

The headset integrates with the HyperX Ngenuity app, allowing players to control all their HyperX kit in one place. It's here that the headset can be switched to 7.1 mode.

The headset sports two 40cm drivers with a frequency range of 20-20,000 Hz. This is not bad, but from the hardware point-of-view, it's really only a stereo headset. To be fair, shovelling a load of extra speakers in a headset is overkill when surround sound can be emulated just as well in software than with hardware. Plus you get one big speaker rather than lots of little ones.

Virtual 7.1 works by emulating the way we hear sound, fooling our brain into thinking sound is coming from all around us. A sound source coming from the left is predominantly heard in the left ear, but also in the right, albeit quieter and with a slight delay. This and other clever audio processing technology allows headsets like the Cloud Stinger Core immerse us deeper into our games' audio.

As is becoming the norm, the headset has “cut the cord” and is completely wireless. The headset is linked to your PC via a USB 2.4GHz dongle, so no worries if you've no Bluetooth in your machine.

HyperX states around 17 hours of use per charge, which seems about right. The headset is charge via a standard USB cable connected to the device via a USB Type-C socket on the left can. There is no phono socket- so no charge, no play. If you get a longer USB cable you can play and charge, as it were, but the USB charging cable that comes with the headset is a bit short. The volume and on/off button are also located on the left side of the headset.

The noise cancelling mic is pretty discrete, which is good. It is also fully flexible, rather than just a bit bendy, and so can be positioned as you want it. Muting is easy, you just swivel it up to your ear. The mic functions well, picking up my voice, but not the constant hum of my PC fans.

I tested the headset with a couple of games renowned for their 3D soundscapes: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice tells the story of a young Pict woman on a journey into the Norse afterlife. The game was ground-breaking in its portrayal of mental illness. Throughout her journey, Senua's hears the voices of her subconscious, questioning and taunting her. The game's sound design allows players to experience Senua's torment, firsthand. With the headset's 3D positional audio I was further immersed in the surreal and sometimes disturbing soundtrack to Senua's quest.

Next, I returned to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, another game designed very much with 3D positional audio in mind. Lara Croft's adventures take her from crowded streets to dank tombs, all with perfect ambient sound to test out the headset. From dripping water to roaring lava, from chattering voices in the streets to the coos and squawks of the jungle, the game really felt all around me.

With Hellblade and Tomb Raider the headset provides a great accompaniment to the narrative adventures and environments. With Call of Duty Modern Warfare, not only does the audio immerse you in the action, but it can also provide a competitive edge, help to identify enemy positions from the direction of fire, and even footsteps.

Being realistic, of course, emulated 7.1 surround sound does not compare with the experience of a Dolby 7.1 home theatre system, but it is most definitely a decent second. In any case, surround sound aside, the headset's audio is crisp and clear. Voices are warm and the bass is bold. The audio provides an immersive soundscape in with to enjoy your games and media.

The HyperX Cloud Stinger Core Wireless + 7.1 headset is an easy one to recommend. It offers quality wireless audio in a stylish and robust design allowing players to get the most out of their games.

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