No supporting customization software
Occasionally too much treble
While the appeal of this headset may be limited to one console ecosystem (it’s only compatible with Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S), it’s a strong contender at its price in the Xbox space—a space that has traditionally contained much fewer options than PC or Playstation. The latest Stinger Core delivers sparkling sound, a great microphone, and comfortable components for a very palatable asking price.
You’re not without options in this price range, though: you can get the also-impressive, official Xbox Wireless Headset for the same price. But the Stinger Core brings longer battery life, slightly preferable default performance, and a clearer microphone, so the official Xbox headset might wanna sleep with one eye open.
About the HyperX CloudX Stinger Core (wireless)
Here are the key specs you’ll want to know about:
- Cost: $99.99
- Style: Over-ear, closed back
- Colors: Dark Gray
- Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm with neodymium magnets
- Connections: Wireless (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, up to 20 meters)
- Battery life: Up to 17 hours at 50% volume
- Microphone: Electret condenser microphone; unidirectional; noise-cancelling
- Weight: 275 grams
We received an HyperX CloudX Core Stinger on loan from HyperX ahead of the September 27th, 2021 product launch. Our evaluation was conducted using an Xbox Series X console, but this headset also works for Xbox One consoles. In the box, you're getting the headset and its USB-C charging cable.
What we like
Light-n-comfy for hours of gaming
Comfort is of chief importance for gaming headsets, and while more expensive headsets usually fit the bill there, it can be a concern with more affordable models like this one. Fortunately, HyperX’s memory foam cups are plenty comfortable, and the headset is light enough for hours of gaming.
The memory foam used for the cups and band brings just enough padding to keep the Stinger Core from pinching or building up excessive heat while you’re playing, but not enough to add excessively to the weight: At 275 grams, this headset is quite light (over 35 grams lighter than the Xbox Wireless) so no need to worry about neck cramps.
From a design perspective, I will admit that my first impression wasn’t the strongest: something about the charcoal-gray plastic on the band and the backs of the cups looked cheap at first blush. However, the Xbox-green rings around each cup are a nice touch. This headset really feels like an Xbox product, even if its design isn’t quite as unique overall as Xbox's house model.
Full, sparkling sound
While I usually start the headset testing process listening to music, I couldn’t resist jumping right into a game this time. I’ve been using the Xbox Wireless Headset for months, which by default tends to emphasize bass and midrange sounds. With that as a baseline, the contrast here was striking.
While playing Gears 5 on my Xbox Series X, I noticed the HyperX CloudX Stinger Core delivers a wholly different sound profile than Xbox’s proprietary set, paying special attention to higher-frequency and more sibilant sounds. The screaming battle cries of Gear 5’s Locust monsters filled my ears, while each clip reload seemed to leap off the screen and straight into the auditory processing center of my brain. It was jarring at first, but then I started to adjust to the difference and found it very immersive. I earned MVP in one match, and can partially thank this headset’s sound quality for my acute awareness of footfalls.
I also played a newer game:_The Artful Escape_, a music-centric title in which you jaunt through sci-fi landscapes shredding licks on a neon Explorer guitar. The wailing high notes, meedlies, and hammer-ons sang out from the Stinger Core wonderfully. It was a splendid experience.
Finally, I also listened to some tunes—a little BTS for some pop-friendly sounds, and a relaxing playlist of lo-fi songs. I would argue that, like with the Xbox Wireless Headset, music is not the Stinger Core’s strongest suit and it won’t replace your headphones. But for just listening to Spotify in the background of games or even during remote work, it sounds good enough.
The high-register/sibilant emphasis (think ‘s’ sounds or cymbals) might occasionally be harsh for some listeners’ ears, and you may be reaching to turn them down unexpectedly during very energetic sections of games. However, there’s a robust and sparkling quality to the audio that feels like a breath of fresh air with so many bass-happy headsets on the market.
Easy setup and use
There’s only one way to use the CloudX Stinger Core, and that’s with an Xbox console (though HyperX did release a PlayStation version in 2020).
The good news is that this keeps things simple. Once your Stinger Core is charged up via USB-C, just power it on and hold the sync button on the headset and your Xbox at the same time, just like syncing a new controller. From there, you can assign the headset to a profile and find it in the Xbox Accessories menu, just like with the Xbox Wireless Headset.
From there, there are only two controls you’ll need to worry about: a volume wheel on the back of the left cup, and a mic/chat balance wheel on the back of the right cup. Both wheels are easy to find without looking and roll with tight, clicky feedback that makes quick adjustments easy.
The microphone is just as intuitive—flip up to mute, flip down to unmute. No buttons, no fuss. And finally, just like with the Xbox Wireless Headset, powering on the Stinger Core also boots up your Xbox.
Speak and be heard
Another concern at this price point is microphone quality. It’s easy to pay too little and get something that will have your gaming buddies asking you to repeat yourself. The Stinger Core surprised me, however. Its microphone doesn’t just get the job done, it’s up for promotion.
While playing Streets of Rage 4 with a friend of mine, he was truly impressed with how clear and loud I sounded, to the point that I found myself scaling back my usual “restrained shouting” communication over Xbox Party Chat to a more intimate, conversational volume.
As a plus, I’ve also found myself enjoying the flip-up-to-mute, flip-down-to-chat functionality. This isn’t unique to the Stinger Core, but it’s a nice way of keeping the mic out of your peripherals while you’re playing something solo.
Solid battery life
HyperX advertises about 17 hours of battery life from the Stinger Core which was accurate in my testing, but it may be even a little higher than that. After around 10 hours, the battery was only drained to around half. That’s a skosh more battery life than you get from the Xbox Wireless Headset, which tops out around 15 hours.
Naturally, your total battery life will vary depending on how loud you listen and how often you use the microphone, but I doubt you’d get less than 15 hours even with intensive use, which isn’t bad at all for $100. The included USB-C cable ensures fast charging, too—charging up from half battery to full takes 20-30 minutes, so battery life should rarely be a concern for most.
What we don’t like
No EQ customization or Bluetooth
One of my favorite things about the Xbox Wireless Headset is how it integrates into the Xbox ecosystem. Within the Xbox Accessories menu, you can check battery level, adjust EQ, and make lots of little useful adjustments, which is great for picky listeners.
You’re not getting that level of integration from the Stinger Core—at least not right now on our review unit. More features might be added via a future firmware update, as this is an Official Xbox Licensed Product. But as of right now there’s nothing extra to be gleaned from Xbox integration except for battery level, which is easy to see at a glance by pushing the Guide button, alongside your controller’s battery indicator.
Additionally, the feature set here in general is pretty limited. To draw comparison again, the Xbox Wireless Headset can also be used as a Bluetooth headset, and it’s easy to jump back and forth between devices. The Stinger Core boasts both 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz connections, but there’s no Bluetooth here, so you’re paying $100 for an Xbox-only headset. It would have been easy to add a 3.5mm headphone jack, at least.
On the other hand, this decision might have something to do with the licensing deal between Microsoft and HyperX. HyperX may not have been able to make the Stinger Core any more flexible, or maybe removing certain features helped keep the cost of the headset down. Whatever the case, this limited use is worth keeping in mind if you’re thinking of buying the Stinger Core.
Finally, because of how bright and treble-friendly the sound is, a customizable (or at least preset-ready) EQ in some form would have been nice, just to calm it down a bit for certain situations. Again, this could potentially be added later, but as of right now, it’s missing.
Should you buy it?
Yes—as long as you're good with Xbox-only listening
Taken as its own product, the wireless Stinger Core is an awesome option for Xbox gamers. For just under $100, you’re getting a comfortable wireless option with a great microphone and solid sound. The complete lack of app/software support might frustrate more serious gamers, but if you don’t think you need a higher tier of control over your gaming headset, you should have no complaints.
Admittedly, I am a big fan of the Xbox Wireless Headset, which—at least in the space of Xbox-only headsets—might be the Stinger Core’s biggest competition right now. The proprietary Xbox headset has the ecosystem integration advantage, Bluetooth connection for listening outside the Xbox world, and the design is much more unique.
That said, there are definitely reasons why you might spring for the Stinger Core instead. For one, while you can customize the Xbox Wireless Headset’s sound to some degree, it is almost permanently tuned for a bassier approach. By comparison, the Stinger Core offers a notably brighter soundscape, better complementing certain in-game sounds and many genres of music. Its flip-up-to-mute, flip-down-to-chat approach is honestly preferable to the Xbox headset’s mute button, and the Stinger Core’s got the better microphone.
Both options have their benefits, but if you're looking for a clean sound and a crystal clear mic, the Stinger Core is a great way to game. Just keep in mind its limitations: In a world where Xbox has become available on PC and mobile via Xbox Game Pass, this headset is still console only.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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