Kingston HyperX Cloud II Headset

Kingston LogoKingston Tech followed up their popular HyperX Cloud gaming headset earlier this year with the Cloud II, which brought a newly designed USB sound card audio control box with 7.1 virtual surround sound to the already impressive feature set of the original HyperX Cloud headset. GNC favourably reviewed the first HyperX Cloud back in December.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II Control UnitThe new control box has independent audio and microphone volume control plus a central toggle for the surround sound 7.1. The Cloud II headset generates virtual 7.1 surround sound with distance and depth to enhance the gaming, movie or music experience. Shoot them before they shoot you!

At launch, the Cloud II headset offered choice of two colour finishes, red and gun metal (grey). There’s now a third option, pink, which is presumably intended to appeal to female gamers.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II headsetWhatever your opinion of “pinking”, it’s good to see that Kingston is looking outside of the stereotypical gaming audience.

In other good news, the Cloud II has taken up the price point of the original and is priced at a little under GB£80. The original Cloud still available too but it’s now priced below £50, making the latter a real bargain.

Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset Review

Creative Logo

Earlier in the month on GNC, I reviewed Creative’s E1 Portable Amplifier, which improved the listening experience for headphone wearers. To go with the E1, I have the Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset, aimed squarely at gamers with a detachable flex mic and in-line controls. Priced at a penny under GB£40, the Inferno sits at the lower end of Creative’s range so expectations need to be set appropriately. With all this in mind, let’s take a look.

The Inferno headset comes inside a mainly black and red box with a transparent window on one side, showing off the goods inside, all held neatly in place with a lightweight plastic moulding.

Creative Inferno Box

Inside the box, there’s the red-infused SB Inferno headset. From the outer shells to the inner driver covers and the audio lead, it’s all red. It’s a good strong red which may not come across in the photos.

Creative SB Inferno in Red

The Inferno has a TRRS 3.5 mm jack (that’s the one with three black bands) and works out of the box with smartphones and tablets. For more old school devices with separate sockets for headphones and microphone, then there’s a splitter in the box too. Sadly, this doesn’t carry the red colouring and is boring black but on the plus side, the Inferno works with Sony’s PS4, connecting into the controllers.

Interrupting the red cable is the in-line control for adjusting the volume and turning the microphone on and off. With no controls for pause / play or FWD / RWD, it reminds us that the Inferno is primarily a headset for gaming rather than music listening.

Inferno Inline Remote

The flexible boom mic plugs into a socket on the left had ear cup and there’s a little shim to ensure correct insertion. It’s easily detached when not required – just pull.

Inferno Flexible Mic

But enough of the features….what is the Creative SB Inferno HyperX like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. The headband is a little bit too plastic for my taste but it does make the Inferno lightweight and doesn’t exert too much sideways pressure on the head. The cloth padding on the band and the ear cups is good and I wore the Inferno for several extended sessions without ear soreness. The Inferno has what I would describe as “snug” closed cups, meaning that the cups fit neatly over the ears and there’s not much movement inside the cup. I like this but it obviously depends on the relative size of your ears.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony. Overall, I thought that the Inferno provided even, balanced sound to the extent of being unexciting but the Creative headset is a clear step up from the average junk out there. With music listening, much of the sound came through but it certainly could have been a bit richer – it simply didn’t have the “wow” factor and was too flat for real appreciation. A little bit more bass and more depth across the board would be a big improvement.

As I’ve said in reviews before, these headsets are great in office. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well.

For games playing, the headset was good with the action coming across clearly from bullets to bombs. Machinery clanked away and steel screeched against concrete. Again a bit more oomph in the bass department would have been an improvement but there’s enough clarity to hear noises off. For the gamer, this can mean the difference between fragging or being fragged.

Overall, the Creative SB Inferno is right on the money. At an RRP of £39.99, the Inferno delivers nicely to the price point giving a decent gaming headset. It’s not for audiophiles but it doesn’t set out to be sonically superior, so I think the Inferno would have a good claim to be the best entry-level gaming headset.

Thanks to Creative for providing the review headset.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset Review

Kingston LogoKingston have long been a brand of choice for gaming professionals, expecially when overclocking the HyperX range of memory modules to within a megahertz of their life. Not content with the inside of the PC, Kingston has put the performance brand on the outside with the HyperX Cloud headset. Sensibly they’ve not tried to start from scratch but partnered with Swedish pro gamers Qpad to get into the market. Let’s take a look.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Box

Initial impressions are good. The HyperX Cloud headset comes in a solid well-finished box that pulls smoothly apart to reveal the headset and accessories. There’s a slightly cheesy marketing message from the HyperX Gaming Manager in silver on the inside of the lid, but it’s a nice touch.

Kingston HyperX Cloud in Box

As you’ll see from the pics, the version on review is the white with black edition; there’s a black with red version if you want to look a bit tougher. Taking the headphones out of the box, they feel pretty good and well-made for the price point. There are no rough edges, the headband stitching looks good and the embroidery is neat. The audio lead is braided rather than bare PVC and that alone helps with the tangles. It’s the end of the lead that gives away the fact that the HyperX Cloud isn’t only for listening to music as rather than a single 3.5mm jack, there’s a pair; one for audio in (the headphones) and the other for audio out (the microphone).

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset

The detachable boom mic is on the left hand side of the box and plugs cleanly into a socket on the left hand ear cup. A small insert covers the socket when the microphone’s not needed to keep things neat. The boom is flexible and can be positioned to suit.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset with Mic

In the box there’s a comprehensive selection of accessories including an extension lead, in-line mic set and an adaptor to take the two 3.5mm stereo jacks into a single TRRS connector, as used in mobile phones. There’s even one of the adaptors needed for annoying aircraft seats, so whether it’s a PC, tablet, phone or plane, the HyperX Cloud can jack in.

But enough of the features….what is the HyperX Cloud like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear, especially when the leather-style pads are swapped for the included velour ones. I wore the headphones for several multi-album sessions without any soreness and would definitely recommend them for extended gaming sessions too. Obviously the preference between enclosed and on-ear cups is a personal one but for comfort, I think these are hard to beat.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony with Microsoft’s Lync. In the office, the headset is great. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well. Moving on to music listening, it’s always hard to critique without sounding critical. I thought the HyperX Cloud headset reproduced sound well with good clarity across the range. The sound could have been richer and more exciting but I was perfectly happy listening to the HyperX Cloud all day. Playing games, the headset was great with gunshots and explosions blowing up in your ears. Car engines came across well, so this headset was made for GTA. As with phone calls, abuse, sorry, conversation with fellow gamers was clear.

Overall, there’s not much to dislike and a great deal to enjoy with the Kingston HyperX Cloud headset. It’s well made and comfortable to wear, and comes with everything needed to plug-in. Audio quality is good without being outstanding. The Kingston HyperX Cloud has a list price of GB£79.99 but can be found on-line for less.  Stick it on your Christmas list.

Thanks to Kingston for providing the review headset.

Roccat Woos Gamers at CES

Roccat LogoHardware outfit Roccat Studios are dropping a whole bunch of new toys at CES  for the hardcore gamer, including headphones, mice and keyboards. Known for their signature Kone gaming mouse, the new products look the business.

First up are two additions to the Roccat range of mice. On the left, there’s the new Kone XTD Optical which has a 6,400 dpi optical sensor. If my maths is right, that means you can move the mouse just 4 micrometers and the movement will be picked up. That’s tiny – a piece of paper is about 90 micrometers thick. On the right, it’s the Kone Pure Military, coming in three different designs – Desert Strike, Naval Storm and Camo Charge. I like the look of these! The Pure Military “only” has a 5,000 dpi optical sensor. Both mice have Roccat’s tracking and distance control unit (TDCU) for more precise gaming and greater accuracy.

Kone XTD Optical Mouse      Kone Pure Military Mouse

 

Next are two additions to the Ryos keyboard range, the TKL and TKL Pro. Both are compact keyboards without the numeric keypad and the Pro version comes with per-key illumination and effects such as “breathing” and four different switch colours. As you’d expect from any serious gaming keyboard, keys can easily be programmed with macros and there are three additional programmable thumbster keys below the space bar.

Ryos TKL Keyboard

Finally, two new Kave XTD headsets have been announced – the 5.1 Analog and the Stereo. The 5.1 Analog is the successor to the original Kave 5.1 and is made for gamers who already have a 5.1 soundcard, with both audio jacks and USB connectors to power up the in-cable remote and LED lighting. Weight has been reduced by 25% while improving comfort and build quality.

The XTD Stereo has same design and build, with a pair of driver units giving rich gaming stereo sound. The noise-cancelling microphone can be removed when not required and the mute LED can silence the microphone at inappropriate moments.

Kave XTD Headset

 

Prices were not disclosed at time of announcement, but you can learn more at Roccat’s showroom in the Venetian Hotel during CES 2014.

 

Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset Review

I’ve been a user of Plantronics’ Bluetooth headsets for many years, starting with the Explorer 320 and more recently the Voyager Pro. I’ve always liked them because I found them a good fit on my ears but they’re trouble-free and easy-to-use with no problems pairing on a wide range of phones. More recently, I’ve taken receipt of a Voyager Legend and, so far, it’s living up to its name.

On review here is the full Voyager Legend UC package which comes with the headset itself, Bluetooth adaptor, desktop charging stand and charging case. This is the complete outfit for those in the office and on the go, aimed at those who use both mobile phones and IP-based communications, such as Microsoft’s Lync or Skype. This is the Microsoft version with an alternative version supporting Avaya, Cisco and IBM services. The Legend can manage two Bluetooth connections simultaneously so calls coming in from both routes can be answered on the headset and speaking from experience, this is very handy.

Plantronics Legend Box

The Voyager Legend UC comes in a plain box but opening it up reveals a wealth of accessories and adaptors, including UK and continental plug adaptors plus various USB connectors and chargers.

Plantronics Legend Inside Box

Here’s the charging case with the USB Bluetooth adaptor and the Voyager Legend itself. The Bluetooth adaptor is half the size of the previous generation that came with the Voyager Pro.

Plantronics Legend Charging Case

As might be guessed from the name, this is a charging case and the case has a built-in rechargeable battery which charges the Legend when it is in the case. In the photo below, you can see the contacts in the case on the right. It’s a clever idea, especially when on extended travel as you don’t need to lug around chargers – the case itself recharges via a micro-USB connection.

Charging Contacts

Of course, the desktop dock provides a convenient place to keep the Legend and charge it at the same time. There’s a magnetic catch to snap the headset in place.

Plantronics Legend Headset and Dock

Plantronics Legend in Dock

In use I find the Legend very comfortable to wear and I almost use it almost exclusively to answer my calls at my desk, whether the call comes through on my mobile or my desk phone. The headset is stylish enough to wear without feeling self-conscious, though I tend to take it off when I’m away from my desk. The Legend has three earpiece sizes in the box to accommodate different ears and can be worn on either the left or the right ear.

The Legend has some great features, such as auto answer, which detects when the headset is lifted from the dock and answers the call automatically. The Legend accepts voice commands, letting you put the headset into pairing mode, answer or decline calls and check battery level with ease. There are hardware controls on the headset for on/off, volume up/down, accept call and a multi-function button which does a couple of different things.

The talk time is rated at 7 hours and I never had any trouble with the battery running down unexpectedly. The charging case extends this even further with two full recharges from the case taking the total call time to 21 hours. Call quality is excellent, with callers sounding clear and natural, and most people don’t realise that I’m on a Bluetooth headset. The Legend also supports A2DP, which is handy if you want to listen to music or podcasts, albeit with one ear.

Plantronics have an Android smartphone app which, amongst other things, can help you track down where you last used the headset via GPS. It’s a neat idea but I found the app didn’t always play nicely with other GPS-using apps as the Plantronics app would turn off the GPS after getting a lock. The other app would than flail around looking for a signal lock. I submitted a bug report to Plantronics so hopefully they’ll get that fixed soon as it’s very irritating when playing Ingress.

There’s no two ways about it, the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is a brilliant headset which I’m sure will do me for years – it has both the features and the construction to last. It’s definitely a premium product and it doesn’t come cheap: the RRP is over £150 but you can find it online for less than £100 including the carry case. However, it’s worth it if you want to to use a hands-free headset on an extended basis both at the desk and on the go.

The Voyager Legend UC was provided by Plantronics for review.

Sennheiser Momentum Headphones

Sennheiser

Sennheiser has been producing headphones for over 50 years and has created some classics along the way (HD414s anyone?). Each year, Sennheiser brings something new to the table and this year was no different. Todd chats to Ivan, Sennheiser’s Head of Product Development to find out what’s hot.

On show is a new addition to the Momentum range: the Momentum Black open headphones in a stylish black leather, accented in red with a red cord. Cleverly, the headphone jack converts between both straight and 90 degree configuration to suit the owner’s preferences, and there is a interchangeable remote for use with digital music players and smartphones.

Undoubtedly high-end phones with a price of $349, but if you are interested, they’ll be in the stores real soon.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

Support our Show Sponsors:
HipChat the game changing team communication app try for 90 days Free!
30% off all New GoDaddy Product Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 .com New or Transfer cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with FREE Domain! Promo Code: cjcgncwp1
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

Sennheiser RS 220 Cordless Audiophile Headphones

RS 220 Audiophile Wireless HeadphonesCordless headphones rarely have audiophile sound quality because of the data compression technologies used to transmit the music to the headphones, but Sennheiser‘s new headphones resolve this by using a lossless technology to transmit the sound. Eric Palonen gives Todd and Jeffrey more detail.

The Sennheiser RS 220 are cordless audiophile headphones, based on the reference HD 650 headphones. The wireless transmission technology is based on lossless Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) implementation. The charging base has both digital and analogue inputs.

The RS 220s will be available from March for $599. For comparison, the HD 650s are $499.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine for the TechPodcast Network.

Support our Show Sponsors:
HipChat the game changing team communication app try for 90 days Free!
30% off all New GoDaddy Product Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 .com New or Transfer cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with FREE Domain! Promo Code: cjcgncwp1
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

SOUL by Ludacris Audio Gear

CES Ludacris Soul PartySOUL by Ludacris can be guaranteed to have some nice gear on show and they don’t disappoint. Allante takes in the latest audio extravaganza.

First up are the flagship SL300 flagship noise-cancelling headphones, with built-in amplification giving great sound even within noisy environments such as aircraft.

The little brother to the SL300s are the SL100s, a smaller headset; still very stylish, but without the noise-cancellation.

And if you prefer earbuds, the SL49 and SL99s are good choices depending on budget.

Finally, the brand new “Party in Box” is a portable iPhone dock…but when I say “portable”, I don’t mean slip-it-in-your-pocket portable. It’s the size of a small suitcase and has a carrying handle. Granted, the sound quality should be amazing and it will blow any other sound dock into the weeds but if you want it, prepare to fork out $1299. Wow!

Pity we missed the party…

Interview by Allante Sparks of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

Support our Show Sponsors:
HipChat the game changing team communication app try for 90 days Free!
30% off all New GoDaddy Product Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 .com New or Transfer cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with FREE Domain! Promo Code: cjcgncwp1
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

ClarityOne Earbuds with PureSound

ClarityOne Earbuds

ClarityOne visited GNC at last year’s CES with their prototype earbuds and this year, Dean Kurnell returns to report on progress and to show of the new headset. Alex and Courtney listen in on the pursuit of sonic perfection.

ClarityOne’s PureSound processor is at the heart of their products and it completely eliminates distortion from the speaker, no matter how small. According to Dean, the dual-unity coupled coil creates a magnetic break by cancelling out the inductive reactance, which allows the audio signal to travel without distortion. We’ll have to take his word for that, but it’s covered by six awarded patents and two pending ones.

There will be three earbuds in the range. $149 for the pro music version that has inline music controls, $129 for the smartphone version which has a microphone and calling features, and $109 for just the earbuds. At the moment, only the $129 set is on sale but the other models will be along soon. Available on-line and in retail stores.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

Support our Show Sponsors:
HipChat the game changing team communication app try for 90 days Free!
30% off all New GoDaddy Product Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 .com New or Transfer cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with FREE Domain! Promo Code: cjcgncwp1
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

Silentium Active Noise Cancellation

Silentium LogoSilence is golden and Silentium are working hard to achieve this with their active noise reduction technology. Andy and Don keep it down with Yossi Barath.

Silentium has developed an active noise reduction system that can be implemented in a single chip. The complex (and proprietary) algorithms programmed into the chip use noise cancellation (destructive interference) to reduce the amount of sound coming from a machine to make it quieter. Ventilation systems, air conditioners, computers and data centers are all examples of where Silentium’s system can be used to reduce the noise.

At CES, Silentium are releasing QB2, a headrest-embedded system which creates a bubble of quiet around a person’s head, perfect  for air travel or similar passenger situations. Generally, Silentium doesn’t produce products but sells its technology to other companies for inclusion in their own.

All sounds intriguing.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

Support our Show Sponsors:
HipChat the game changing team communication app try for 90 days Free!
30% off all New GoDaddy Product Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 .com New or Transfer cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with FREE Domain! Promo Code: cjcgncwp1
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today