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HyperX's Cloud Orbit S's head tracking works, but may be best for VR

HyperX’s Cloud Orbit S head tracking works, but may be best for VR

HyperX’s Cloud Orbit S head tracking works, but may be best for VR

One of HyperX’s biggest announcements at CES 2019 was the HyperX Cloud Orbit S’s ability to track head movements within a 360-degree sound field — which basically means the headset mimics the feel and sound of watching things in surround sound. No one turns down the chance to experience new technology, and I got a chance to try out HyperX’s new immersive technology at CES and left the experience with mixed feelings. The technology works, it’s clear, but depending on what you’re watching or playing, the experience will be different every time.

The headset’s tracking technology seems to be best suited for visually-extended setups and lots of on-screen action from different directions. A five-minute short from Star Wars: The Force Awakens highlights the technology well. Look directly at the screen and watch Rey and Finn dash through the desert, buildings and ships exploding around them, and the same surround sound from both earcups.

For example, the farther I turned my head to the right, the softer the sound in my right ear, until the explosions and shouts were barely whispered. Turning all the way around with my back to the monitor, again, the sound is evenly distributed through both ear cups. It did feel like there was a 360-degree soundstage around me, but it was significantly enhanced in some ways due to the sound source pressing directly over my head. If I’m watching a movie on my desktop or laptop, I can’t think of a scene where I’ll turn my head this way on purpose – maybe to grab the remote or pet my cat? – but the point is, the headset in this case, it should do.

Playing Call of Duty: Zombies is a different experience. Deliberately turning my head from side to side while maintaining eye contact with the screen was difficult and unnatural. As you might have guessed, I’m dying pretty quickly, but I’m trying to understand how head-tracking technology works while playing video games. Call of Duty: Zombies lined up for tutorials on RMS Titanic, a completely different setup from Rey and Finn running for life in The Force Awakens. The set on Titanic is tight and cramped, limited to hallways and hallways, with some stumbling zombies coming at you from every angle – definitely not as scattered as the same action. As a result, when I turned my head, I couldn’t hear the sound transfer from one earcup to the other.

Given these two different scenarios, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S seems to have some limitations depending on what’s on the screen, and I’m under the impression that these limitations are further exaggerated in video games. 360-degree sound is more noticeable in games like Battlefield 5 with intense action sequences than in games like Life is Strange, but I didn’t have a chance to test the headset further in a wider range of games. What does it sound like when you play Overwatch? doom? Lemmings via online emulators?

The technology does work, but unless you’re gaming in VR, which requires you to turn your head in various directions, it’s hard to take full advantage of the head-tracking technology of direct-view displays. Seeing the HyperX Cloud Orbit S in VR is what I’m more curious about, as 360-degree sound seems more suitable for this type of application. This could make it one of the best gaming headsets to pair with the best VR headset. I have several VR games in my Steam library that I’d love to test out with the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, although none of them have the intense action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Wilbert Wood
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