HyperX Cloud Orbit S (2019) review: A planar-powered gaming headset that gets different right
Should I buy the HyperX Cloud Orbit S gaming headset?
There are two kinds of gamers out there. Those who just want a good gaming headset and those are happy to pay extra for something better. The HyperX Orbit S posits the existence of a third player: the person who is willing to spend even more for something different.
It’s a messy first-effort at offering something genuinely different in the gaming headphones space. However, if you’re willing to put up with the somewhat-lacklustre design, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S delivers some pretty incredible results.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S retails for AU$539.
HyperX Cloud Orbit S gaming headset full review
When it comes to design, the Orbit S is saddled with a first draft feel that’s hard to shake.
Despite the higher price-tag, it’s nowhere near as polished as the recent Cloud Alpha S. In fact, it’s downright messy in spots. Both at a glance and over time, it simply doesn’t live up the abstract idea of what a premium design should look and feel like in the gaming headphones space.
Fortunately, what the Orbit S lacks in looks, it makes up for in sound quality.
Under the hood, both the regular Orbit and Orbit S feature the same type of planar drivers you’d find out a high-end Audeze headset. The 100mm planar transducers inside this produced incredibly immersive and detailed soundscapes, regardless of whether I was playing quieter, more ambient titles like Disco Elysium or louder, fast-paced shooters like Overwatch.
Where the recent HyperX Cloud Alpha S was closer to a broad-strokes refinement of everything that worked about the peripheral brand’s best gaming headset, the Cloud Orbit feels like something else entirely. It’s a few steps back in design but a few steps forward in the immersion it offers.
In Australia, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S retails for AU$539. There’s also a cheaper version of the headset, called the HyperX Cloud Orbit, which drops the head-tracking but comes in slightly cheaper at AU$489.
Design & Build
When it comes to the broad strokes, the Cloud Orbit S doesn’t tinker too much with tradition. In terms of looks, it sits neatly in a line with HyperX’s other headphones. As mentioned above, they lack the premium flourish found in the Cloud Alpha and the button layout here comes across as chaotic and haphazard.
The power button, mute button, volume rockers, and 3D audio toggle on the headset have all been crammed onto the edge of the left earcup. The final result feels very crowded and, on top of that, it's just not very intuitive to use. Whenever I needed to change a setting on short notice, I’d always end up fumbling around, getting frustrated enough that I’d take off the headset outright.
As a result, the Orbit S don’t really hold up as well over extended periods of use. Still, to their credit, HyperX do pack in plenty of cables with the Orbit S.
You can use the Cloud Orbit S via a USB Type-A, USB Type-C or 3.5mm audio cable - and the headset itself ships with all three. As a result, you can pretty much use this thing with anything. 3D head-tracking and all, it'll play nice with a PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch or mobile device in addition to your PC. It is a pity it lack Bluetooth though.
There’s also a detachable electret condenser microphone. It sounds fine but I wasn't blown away by the quality on it in the same way that I have been with other certain other gaming headsets this year.
The Orbit S headphones themselves are comfortable enough to wear, if a little heavy. I found that did a good enough job of isolating you from outside noise that I often couldn’t hear when my partner would ask me a question.
Nevertheless, when it comes to design overall, the Orbit S can’t help but feel like a first draft. They’re much messier than HyperX’s other headphones and, in my opinion, they don’t do a great job of living up to the standards of what a premium design should look and feel like in the gaming headphones space.
Features & Sound Quality
Of course, the flip-side of this is that the Cloud Orbit S’s most noteworthy feature - 3D audio with head tracking - is handled incredibly well.
Under the hood, this features the same sort of planar drivers you’d find out a high-end Audeze headset. It’s hard to find a set of planar headphones for less than a grand. So when you factor in the price, that kinda makes the Orbit S a bit of a steal from the get go.
The 100mm planar transducers inside this produced incredibly immersive and detailed soundscapes, regardless of whether I was playing quieter, more ambient titles like the sombre Disco Elysium or louder, fast-paced shooters like Overwatch. Games where audio plays more of an active role like Control provided the best experiences.
In terms of blasting deliciously immersive audio into my eardrums, I’d rate the Orbit S among the best. My time with these headphones made me want to revisit older games just to see how they sounded.
The head-tracking part of the package (which separates the Orbit S headset from the standard Orbit) here can sometimes be subtle but it did make more of a difference than I expected it to. The biggest thing that works in its favor here is how genuinely seamless it feels.
For the most, it just works. As you turn your head and in-game camera, you’ll hear the sound revolve around you with a degree of fidelity that’s both wide and deep. It’s the kind of smart addition to the gaming headset that, once you learn to internalise it, invites you to play, push and pull on the experience it provides.
One of the smaller catches here is that the Orbit S relies on its own software - not the regular NGenuity found in other HyperX products. Having to install extra stuff just to use these headphones, even if your entire kit is already HyperX, sucks.
The software itself is fairly functional. Unfortunately, like HyperX’s RGB lighting kit, it’s also more than a little clunky.
The Bottom Line
Where the recent HyperX Cloud Alpha S was a broad-strokes refinement of everything that worked about the peripheral brand’s best gaming headset, the Cloud Orbit feels like something else entirely. It’s a few steps back in design but a few steps forward in the immersion it offers.
That trade-off might not be for everyone but if it's the one you’re willing to make, you’re in for a treat.
Keen to wait on the second-generation version of the Cloud Orbit's head-tracking? Here are some great gaming headsets worth looking at in the meantime.
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