HyperX is a sub-brand by Kingston that PC gamers should be familiar with. I am not a gamer, but I know Kingston makes reliable memory chips which I have used before. When they approached me to review the Cloud Orbit S, I politely refused because I do not game so I would not have an opinion on how these headphones perform for gaming. But they convinced me to review from an audio standpoint, so I agreed to receive a unit to test out.
There are two versions of the Cloud Orbit. The standard version does not come with head-tracking sensor and priced at S$439. The Cloud Orbit S with head-tracking technology is selling for S$485.
The package comes with the headphones, three cable variants and the detachable boom mic. You can connect the headphones through the USB-C connector (direct digital sound with built-in DAC) or 3.5mm analog audio. HyperX includes both the USB-C to USB-C cable and USB-C to USB-A cable. The cables are more than adequate to connect to all sorts of devices, from smartphones, PC, to Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. Note that only the PC and Mac support multi-channel audio, while the rest of the devices only support stereo due to device limitation.
The HyperX Cloud Orbit S appears to be identical to the Audeze Mobius, except for the colour and the logo printed on the earcups. All the buttons are at the exact positions, and so are the operations. Even the PC software for Audeze Mobius works with Cloud Orbit S.
The one technical difference: Cloud Orbit S does not have Bluetooth wireless audio. Would it be a deal breaker? It depends on individual usage. As a gaming headset, wired connection will always beat wireless when it comes to audio synchronisation. Hence, HyperX as a gaming brand makes the right decision not to support Bluetooth.
The headphones are rather heavy, and the clamping force is quite tight, but for good reasons I guess. You wouldn’t want your headphones to slip out of your head during intense gaming. The ear pad cushion is comfortable enough to wear even with glasses. Playing in an air-con room is recommended.
For those who did not read my Audeze Mobius review, I will go through the Cloud Orbit S and its operations. The headphones have several buttons and scroll wheels, all located on the left ear cup. The power button is on the back of the ear cup which doubles as play-pause button, the mic volume and music volume wheels also have multiple functions, and the 3D button toggles the various surround modes. On the volume wheel, you can change tracks by clicking the wheel and turn upwards or downards. On the mic volume wheel, you can change the sound profile by doing the same.
For the 3D modes, click the button once will centre the HRTF (head-related transfer function) positioning. Press-and-hold toggles the 3D mode: 3D manual will fix the sound position so that it remains constant even if you turn your head; 3D auto will shift the sound position gradually based on your head movements. 3D On simulates surround sound without HRTF effect, and 3D Off turns off surround sound to make the Cloud Orbit S sound like other normal headphones (except it’s not).
There are several other advanced controls documented on the Audeze Mobius help page. For instance, you can disable USB charging by long-press volume control, or toggle surround mode, stereo mode, and Hi-Res 24-bit 96kHz mode by long-press mic volume control.
Here’s a quick start video guide if you prefer:
3D Audio, Sound Localisation, Integrated Head Tracking
Surround audio is not new. For decades, audio manufacturers often threw in virtual room effects like “concert hall”, “auditorium”, to give an element of immersiveness to the listener. Most of the times, the surround sound is exaggerated with reverbs and echoes that spoils the music quality. There are also many third party software that attempts to deliver the 3D experience to normal stereo headphones.
HyperX Cloud Orbit S (and Audeze Mobius) is hardware-based, achieving accurate 7.1 channel decoding which you can attest for yourself if you play a Dolby 7.1 test track. At first listen, you can hear a more spatial instrumental positioning. But the magic starts when you turn your head.
Using head tracking and speaker emulation technology, the Cloud Orbit S detects head movements and processes the sound using HRTF algorithm. As I turn my head, the source of the sound will appear to remain fixated at the exact spot, as if you are listening from real speakers in your room. The fun part is that I can turn my head towards a positioned in the 3D space and come “face to face” with a particular instrument, and that instrument will become the centre of the audio mix.
For best effects, look for music tracks where the various musical elements are distinct, like binaural tracks from Amber Rubarth. Better still, if you have a collection of multi-channel audio files, you got to listen using one of these headphones, then turn your head all around you to interact with the instrumental positioning as designed by the audio engineers. Here are some sources of free multi-channel audio and video content:
- http://www.2l.no/hires/ – contains hi-resolution audio recordings in different audio formats for comparison.
- https://thedigitaltheater.com/ – contains movie trailers in multi-channel audio formats.
Through the Orbit Software (download link), you can personalise the HRTF by adjusting the values for head circumference, inter-aural arc, and room ambience. Play around the values to get your preferred 3D audio experience. I recommend setting the room ambience to below 30, anything more will introduce unnatural room echo and lose the tonality.
While the 10-hour battery life may seem limiting, it would be irrelevant if the headphone is connected via USB as it will also trickle charge the headphone (at 0.5A). The headphones does not work without power, not even when using 3.5mm cable. Full charge takes about 3 hours when the headphones is turned off.
Audio Quality: Without 3D
Let me start by analysing the Cloud Orbit S with 3D off, which makes it no different from normal stereo headphones. The overall sound balance is neutral towards the warm side. The bass feels heavier than the treble, which is not common for planar magnetic driver headphones known better for their high fidelity. The sound staging is close, cluttered and lacks the space compared to open-back headphones like Sennheiser HD650. In this mode, the HD650 sounds better in aural delivery, with roomy treble, less clouded bass.
Audio Quality: With 3D
With the 3D mode turned on, the Cloud Orbit S sound staging is coming from the front at about 1 to 2 feet away. It does not have the exaggerated distant feel compared to the Creative Super X-Fi. I personally prefer the Orbit S (similarly the Audeze Mobius) because it sounds less processed and retains the musical texture. If you prefer the sound source to be further out of the head, then the Super X-Fi does a better job.
Depending on the audio source, listening stereo tracks on 3D mode might reveal compression defects. With high-resolution files, you get to hear more musical layers, but it does not achieve the same level of detail as in-ear monitors due to the wide sound staging. Hence, the Orbit S is not really meant to replace your audiophile headphones, but designed to deliver a different listening experience with audio quality that is good enough to indulge. Comparatively, the Creative SXFI Air headphones comes with tried-and-tested SXFI Amp, average headphones driver at half the price.
Compared to Audeze Mobius
Other than the lack of Bluetooth function, the Cloud Orbit S has identical functionality as Audeze Mobius. All the settings and controls are the same, the 3D response is similar. Even the PC software can be used interchangeably.
In terms of sound quality difference, I feel that the Cloud Orbit S has slightly elevated sub-bass, while the upper-treble has slightly less presence. Even after over 30 hours burn-in, the difference seems obvious for my ears to detect. Perhaps it’s just a batch difference, or it might be an audio engineer’s decision to tune up the lower frequencies a little. I reckon the Cloud Orbit S tuning fits the target consumers, but nevertheless the difference is really minor, my ears would get used to either headphones after a while and almost could not tell much difference.
Update 18 Feb 2020: Audeze clarified in a post on Head-Fi.org forum that the tuning for both headphones are the same. Hence, the difference is not intended.
As I do not game, I cannot give a convincing opinion on the performance. But I watched some YouTube videos of recorded gameplays and thoroughly immersed myself in the audio. I could imagine what a game-changer the Cloud Orbit S would bring.
One important factor is the the Cloud Orbit headphones processes 3D audio through the headphones hardware and not software plug-ins, which would mitigate any performance and compatibility issues. With a built-in 7.1 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), there is no need for you to purchase a separate multi-channel decoder software, and the sound quality would be better than streaming through 3.5mm audio cable.
The HyperX Cloud Orbit S headphones caters to gamers, home movie goers and serious audio lovers. The Waves NX technology provides reliable 3D audio effects and multi-surround audio emulation, while the Audeze planar magnetic 100mm drivers achieves above-average audio performance, resulting in uncompromised entertainment experience. For consumers who want Bluetooth wireless audio support, they can top up about S$200 more for Audeze Mobius, which is essentially the same product line. If you have a healthy audio collection of 2-channel and multi-channel files, or Bluray movies with 5.1/7.1 audio tracks, you must get one of these and experience some fun times with the headphones.
For more product information and where to buy in Singapore, visit the HyperX Cloud Orbit official product page.
- Premium planar magnetic drivers
- Unique and realistic audio experience with head-tracking multi-channel speaker emulation
- Supports personalised audio settings to fit individual users
- Enjoy digital multi-channel surround sound without disturbing family or neighbours
- Short 10-hour battery life, slow recharge of up to 3 hours needed
- Headphones is relatively heavy, hence the strong clamping force to keep it firmly on the head
Disclosure: product has been provided free of charge to Music Photo Life in exchange of opinions and publication of this review article. Product has been personally reviewed by Chester Tan and contains his own experience.