One of the biggest announcements to come from HyperX at CES 2019 was their HyperX Cloud Orbit S's ability to track head movements within a 360-degree sound stage—which basically means that the headset mimics the feeling and sound of watching something with surround sound. Not one to turn down the chance to experience new tech, I had the opportunity to try out HyperX's new immersive tech at CES—and came away from the experience with mixed feelings. The tech works, that much is clear, but depending on what you are watching or playing, the experience isn't the same every time.
The headset's tracking technology seems to work best with visually expansive settings and lots of on-screen action coming from different directions. A five minute clip from the beginning of Star Wars: The Force awakens highlighted the technology well. Staring straight at the screen, watching Rey and Finn sprint across the desert as buildings and ships exploded around them, sent an equal surround sound through both ear cups.
The further I turned my head to the right, for example, the softer the sound became in my right ear until the explosions and shouting were barely a whisper. Turning all the way around so my back was facing the monitor emitted the sound equally through both ear cups again. It really did feel like there was a 360-degree sound stage surrounding me, but obviously more enhanced in some ways since the sound source was pressed directly against my head. I can't think of a scenario in which I would purposefully turn my head in such a way if I was watching a movie on my desktop or laptop—maybe to grab the remote or pet my cat?—but the point is, the headset in this instance did was it was supposed to do.
Playing Call of Duty: Zombies was a different experience. Purposefully trying to turn my head side-to-side while maintaining eye contact with the screen was difficult and unnatural. As you might have guessed, I died quickly, but I was trying to get a feel for how the head tracking technology worked while playing a video game. Call of Duty: Zombies was queued to the tutorial on the RMS Titanic, a completely different setting than that of Rey and Finn running for their lives in The Force Awakens. The scene on the Titanic is tight and cramped, limited to hallways and corridors with a few shambling zombies coming at you from all angles—definitely not as spread out with the same kind of action. As a result, I couldn't quite hear the sound shift from one ear cup to the other when I turned my head.
Given the two different scenarios, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S seems to have some limitations depending on what's on the screen and I get the impression that those limitations would be further exaggerated with video games. The 360-degree sound would be more noticeable in games with intense action sequences like Battlefield V, not something like Life is Strange, but I did not have a chance to further test the headset with a wider variety of games. What would it sound like while playing Overwatch? Doom? Lemmings through an online emulator?
The technology does work, but unless you are gaming in VR, which requires you to turn your head in all different directions, it's hard to take full advantage of the head tracking technology staring straight forward at your monitor. Seeing how the HyperX Cloud Orbit S performs in VR is something I'm more curious about, as the 360-degree sound seems more suited to that type of application. This could potentially make it one of the best gaming headsets to pair with the best VR headsets. I have several VR games in my Steam library that I'd be curious to test out with the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, even though none of them have the same intense action as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.