To test this headset, I used it for over a week as our main audio device, using it to listen to lots of different music, watched a few different key movie scenes and of course, played a lot of games with it. During those multiple hour usage sessions, I took into consideration not only the audio quality, but its ability to deliver surround sound and its comfort.
Throughout the week-long test of the Kingston Cloud II gaming headset, I tried a lot of different genres of games, including fast paced action titles with plenty of explosions and bullets flying over my head (and invariably into my body as I was gunned down by superior players) and much more atmospheric, slower paced games. When it comes to the bigger and more bombastic titles, the Cloud II does a great job of conveying that you are in the thick of it, without ever feeling muddied and with a loss of clarity.
In standard stereo mode, the sound is punchy, with plenty of volume to spare for those that like to give their ear drums a pummeling. However, the 7.1 mode (enabled by pressing the button on the volume control) really stands out as giving you a fuller sound. When everything is kicking off and the enemy is advancing on your position guns blazing, you get a good general sense of where things are coming from.
However, take yourself into a more subtle game – something like Alien: Isolation, which as well as being terrifying also has brilliant audio, and it is a lot better. The skitters and screeches of the Xenomorph as it hunts you are incredibly haunting in the standard stereo mode, but switching into the software enabled 7.1 mode adds a whole new dimension.
While not quite as nuanced as true 5.1 and 7.1 headsets are in terms of accurately placing sounds, your brain absolutely ‘knows' that something is behind you when the Xenomorph starts stomping towards your position. Similarly so, you get a good feel for where something is when it's slightly behind and to the left or right. That said, its not perfect, but this is not a £150+ headset – it's £75, making it a great middle-ground surround-sound headset for gaming.
Funnily enough though, the 7.1 setting can actually pump up music as well. While purists will probably still prefer the standard 2.0 stereo mode, I quite enjoyed the fuller-sound effect that you get from enabling the mode, much like you would get from some of the ‘3d-environment' settings available via some sound-cards.
In terms of this headset's musical performance overall, I am impressed. It holds up throughout the frequency range, producing clear and crisp high notes while also getting dirty at the low and hitting you with some pretty thumpy bass too.
Vocals in particular come through very nicely and there is more than enough volume for everyone. This is not a headset that leaves you feeling let down in that respect.
Movies, unsurprisingly are very enjoyable with the headset. Real movie buffs will likely want to stick to surround sound speaker set ups for a better representation of 360 degree audio, but for those looking for an affordable solution that will also act as a great gaming headset, this should do the job.
Microphone clarity rates highly and you can expect your voice to come through loud and clear on VOIP software. The noise cancelling on this headset was not quite as good as on some others I have tested, with noise nearby clearly audible. However anything beyond a couple of metres away was nice and quiet, so you could easily play in comfort with someone else watching TV in the room with you without it affecting what your friends on TeamSpeak can hear.
Although for the most part this headset stands out as a strong performer, where it really shines is comfort. The memory foam/leatherette padding on the Kingston Cloud II is fantastic. I have worn it for hours at a time with no discomfort whatsoever and no ear-overheating, which is impressive considering the over-the-ear-style that the earcups employ. On top of that, the fact that it uses a metallic frame rather than a plastic one means there is no creaking when you move your head around, making this headset perfect for Oculus Rift gaming.
When testing this headset with my smartphone to make sure it was as compatible as the box art suggests, I encountered a problem where it would not connect. Fortunately, it turns out that in that instance simply plugging in the microphone to the headset made it work perfectly.
I asked Kingston a little about what compatibility for mobile handsets was like with the Cloud II and was told the following:
“Kingston's headsets will work with most mobile devices using the 3.5 mm headset jack. Headsets that have separate speaker and microphone jacks will require the included Y-splitter cable. There are two headset audio jack standards, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP). Our headsets use a CTIA standard connector which will work with the majority of mobile devices. Some mobile devices use the OMTP connector standard, if your mobile device uses an OMTP standard connector, you may experience connection issues. You can purchase a third party adapter cable to use the headset with an OMTP device.”
My only real (minor) complaint with the Kingston Cloud II headset was that I do not understand why the audio cable is on the left hand side. As far as I know, most gamers have their PC on the right, which means that the cable will be crossing their body. Thanks to the braiding on the cable, this can mean there is some noise as it drags across your clothing. It is not something that crops up a lot, but I would prefer that the cable be located on the right earphone instead of the left.
Being able to remove the cable entirely for transport would be nice too.