In the era of true wireless earbuds, fewer and fewer companies are putting out new neckband style wireless earbuds, but HyperX is hoping to capture a demographic that requires better battery life than TWS can provide: gamers. Enter the HyperX Cloud Buds, a $60 set of neckband earphones with few bells and whistles. But are these earbuds a good pickup for anyone?

Who should buy the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

  • Budget-conscious shoppers. If you really like this style of earbud, and only have $60 to spend, the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless will be on your list.
  • HyperX enthusiasts willing to support the brand no matter the product. Okay, this one is a bit of stretch—in all seriousness, you should probably just stay away from these earbuds.

What is it like to use the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

HyperX Cloud Buds resting on an Android figurine.

The bright red cable stands out from any distance.

The first thing you’ll notice with the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless is the striking red colorway that wraps around the cable and earbuds. It’s the only color available, and is combined with HyperX logos plastered on each earbud and each side of the cable. For those who don’t mind being a little loud with their earphones’ colorway, this shouldn’t be an issue.

However, the biggest problem with the HyperX Cloud Buds is the design itself, as it creates problems for users that can’t be remedied with third-party ear tips or included stays. The fit is incredibly difficult to master that for many people: it’s impossible to use with an “ideal” performance. Consequently, most people will experience very annoying issues with the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless.

One of my biggest challenges with the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless was trying to keep the earbuds in my ears. Rather than circular ear tips that are inserted directly into the ear canal like those of other earbuds, the pyramid-shaped ear tips extend to the outer ear. I tried all three sizes of ear tips and wasn’t able to attain a tight seal with any of them due to the strange shape; though other members of our team were able to attain a slightly better fit in their ears.

A good fit is everything, and well... it's tough to come by with these 'buds.

But I wasn’t the only one with this issue: we passed these around the office over a period of months, and even did whatever we could to get them to fit in our robot head. While we won’t go as far as to say that a certain pair of earphones will not fit you individually, we are comfortable in making the educated guess that few people will be singing the praises of this product’s comfort anytime soon.

Should you be one of these unicorns, the rubber neckband rests comfortably against the back of the neck, though the weight of the earbuds tends to pull them out of the ears (especially on the left side with the added weight of the buttons). Additionally, there’s no IP rating for sweat or water resistance, so don’t consider these earbuds as your next workout companion. These are made for living near the desk, or wherever you game.

How do you control the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless laying on a painted cement ledge.

The odd shape of the ear tips makes keeping the earbuds in your ears a struggle.

There’s no ear detection to automatically pause your music when you take the earbuds out of your ear, so you’ll have to rely on the clickable buttons on the left side of the cord. The center button controls playback, answering calls, or launching a virtual assistant, while rockers adjust the playback volume.

Learn more: What makes a good set of in-ears?

Does the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless have an app?

The black mesh travel case of the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless.

There’s no companion app; the only extra you’ll get is a mesh travel bag.

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless doesn’t have an app to offer any software-based features. The lack of a companion app means you won’t get cornerstone features of modern Bluetooth headphones such as firmware updates and native EQ adjustments. You’ll also miss out on extras such as earbud tracking or an earbud tip fit test. However, for those privacy-minded folk out there: that’s a blessing in disguise. It means there won’t be any excessive data collection.

How well does the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless block out noise?

HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless isolation chart

Aside from slight attenuation to high frequencies, the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless fails to block out any noise.

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless won’t block out most environmental noise if you aren’t one of the lucky few that get a decent seal. Since the ear tips don’t protrude very deep into the ear canal, most of the noise around you is able to slip past the earbuds and distract you from what you really want to hear—your music.

Due to the effects of auditory masking, you’ll be tempted to crank up the volume on the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless to hear your music over all the noise around you. Not only will this leave your music sounding worse (more on that later), but having to increase the volume could put your ears at risk of hearing damage depending on how long and how loudly you listen.

The earbuds slightly attenuate incidental noise above 2kHz, but this effect isn’t strong enough to notice in most situations. If you frequently go for runs near busy streets and need to hear your surroundings, you’ll appreciate the lack of isolation and noise cancelling on the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless if only to hear cars and other dangers around you. Everyone else will be wishing they didn’t have to hear every single detail of the conversation going on next to them on the train.

What Bluetooth codecs does the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless support?

The microphone of the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless is found on one of the modules in the neckband.

Embedded microphones ensure reliable chat quality in games.

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless features Bluetooth 5.1 with aptX and aptX HD support alongside the standard SBC Bluetooth codec. The aptX HD codec supports 48kHz/24-bit LPCM audio data (576kbps) for a greater transfer rate that preserves more data in your original audio. Wireless still isn’t quite on par with wired performance, but with a connection like this you’re not going to notice much.

HyperX opted not to include support for AAC, which is a little frustrating, but not a deal-breaker. This means iPhone users will only be able to connect to their phones via SBC, though that’s hardly something to worry about at this price point.

Read more: Understanding Bluetooth codecs

How does the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless sound?

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless underemphasize bass and mids because of a poor fit for most people. This means that highs will sound overemphasized by comparison.

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless (cyan) deviates from our target consumer curve (pink) in the low-frequency range.

The HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless doesn’t sound very great, but it absolutely has more to do with the fit of the earbuds than the 14mm drivers inside the earbuds. Bass response on earbuds is heavily dependent upon getting a tight seal within the ear canal to seal in low-end frequencies, so if you’re like our entire Vancouver staff or our test head: you’ll be wondering where the low end is. Worse, low frequencies are typically the first to be hidden by the effects of auditory masking when in a noisy environment such as commuting on a train or airplane, so how your music sounds will be heavily dependent on where you are.

Read more: Frequency response explained

Highs, mids, lows

The comparative lack of bass brings out detail in the mids and highs, simply by virtue of the fact that everything above 1kHz is overemphasized by comparison. Consequently, podcasts sound just swell on the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless, and the boost to high frequencies helps identify details in some video games. Additionally, genres that are often less reliant on bass such as classical and jazz sound okay on these earbuds.

On the other hand, listening to pop, rap, or EDM is not very enjoyable with the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless. The bass is almost imperceptible during the chorus at 0:55 of Shivers by Ed Sheeran. The hi-hats and breathiness in Ed Sheeran’s voice are comparatively loud in volume, making the song uncomfortable, painful even, to listen to at loud volumes.

How long does the HyperX Cloud Buds battery last?

HyperX Cloud Buds neckband

The band is thicker behind the neck, providing some extra weight and grip.

HyperX promises 10 hours of battery life, but our testing results yielded an impressive 13 hours and 5 minutes of continuous playback at or below 75dB(SPL). There’s no fast charging support, but as long as you remember to charge the earbuds overnight you’ll have no problem making it through a full day of use.

How good is the microphone on the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

The in-line microphone is good enough that most people will understand you on the other end of the line, as long as you’re not in a noisy environment. Since the microphone is built into the cable, you’ll have to be careful to position the microphone in front of your mouth for the best call quality.

There’s no background noise cancelling, so if you’re in a crowded room or on transit people will likely hear everything going on around you on top of your voice. In the second microphone demo below, you can hear the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless failing to block out environmental noise in our simulated office environment.

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Should you buy the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

Unless you are completely in love with the looks of the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless, we’re willing to bet that this is a frustration best avoided. Sure, we’re teeing off on a set of affordable earphones that otherwise are fine; but a bad fit makes for a miserable experience. If they aren’t a good match for your ears out of the box, no amount of use will change that, and it’s best to move on.

HyperX Cloud Buds hanging

The HyperX Cloud Buds are too hit-or-miss to be worthy of a recommendation.

There are some perks to the connected neckband design—you won’t have to worry about losing an earbud or dealing with connection issues between the earbuds, and the design accommodates a larger battery life for more playtime. However, if you really want the neckband earbud design, there are many better alternatives out there.

There are many good alternatives to the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless

The poor fit, lack of isolation, uncomfortable ear tips, and poor sound quality leave leave few selling points with the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless. Battery life is solid, and aptX HD is a nice touch, but those perks shouldn’t be enough to sway anyone to purchase these earbuds.

What are some alternatives to the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless?

Beats Flex earbuds in yellow on an open magazine by the window.

The Beats Flex are anti-tangle so you can stuff them in your pocket without worrying that they’ll get tangled.

If you’re stuck on the neckband design, you’ll be better off picking up the Beats Flex. These earbuds isolate better, sound better, and have some nice perks if you own an Apple device. The Beats earbuds are also cheaper, providing more bang-for-your-buck. While they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, they will fit more people’s ears comfortably than the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless. Because, you know, they actually seal to your ear canal.

If you like hearing rumbling bass lines, check out the Anker Soundcore Life A1. These true wireless earbuds offer a ton of features and value for less than $50 including IPX7 water-resistance and wireless charging. If you don’t mind the true wireless form factor, the Jabra Elite 3 is also worth a look, with aptX, water-resistance, and good sound for about the same price as the HyperX Cloud Buds Wireless.

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