HyperX Streamer Starter Pack review: Inexpensive but simple for starting streamers
- Solocast microphone is small and easy to transport
- 2 years of DTS spatial audio included
- Nicely adjustable microphone stand
- Cloud Core headphones are quite basic
- No gain or volume controls on Solocast microphone
- No alternate recording patterns either
Ask just about any primary school aged kid what they want to be when they grow up, and the odds are very good that they'll tell you that they want to be an online game streamer.
It's not hard to see why. If somebody told me that I could make millions by sitting on a comfy chair playing video games all day while big brands fell over themselves to offer me money, I'd be tempted, too.
The stark reality of course is that an astonishingly small percentage of streamers really do make any level of appreciable cash, and the road to getting there involves mixes of talent, very hard work and a fair degree of luck.
Before you get started, however, you need to get a few core essential bits of technology sorted out. You could try to make do with the basics of your laptop and nothing else, but few things will turn an audience away faster than poor audio, especially for any kind of stream where you're providing witty insight to your gameplay.
That's the target market for HyperX's latest bundle, dubbed the Streamer Starter Pack. It's an affordable pairing of a simple gaming headset with a simple gaming-centric microphone. It's nothing fancy, but then when you're starting out, it doesn't make much sense to spend up big before you actually make it big.
Design: A cute small microphone, but the Core headset isn't that comfortable
The HyperX Streamer Starter pack combines HyperX's SoloCast USB microphone with 1 of its Cloud Core gaming headsets in the 1 box. It's not a fancy arrangement when you open it up, although pleasingly it appears that all the packaging is fully recyclable.
Gaming peripherals often tend towards the glitzy, with lots of shining RGBs and big logos, but you can't really level that accusation at the the SoloCast USB microphone. It's a small microphone pre-assembled on a plastic stand with a single front-facing LED that indicates when it's got power, or blinks when it's muted.
Muting is controlled via a touchpad button at the top of the microphone. And that's all. If you go hunting for a volume control or a gain knob, you simply won't find them. The stand itself allows for tilting to either side or away from the stand base, allowing a degree of physical optimisation of your audio. Still, this is a basic microphone primarily designed to capture audio from a single voice at most.
Flipping to the Cloud Core headset and the same simple motif applies. It's headed with a simple plastic band, so it's not likely to be as robust as other gaming headsets with flexible metal bands. There's a small head cushion under the band, leading down to very basic plastic cups and an optional (and again, simple) stalk style microphone that plugs into the left cup. Each cup bears the HyperX logo in basic red.
There's nothing wrong with basic, mind you, but in a presentation-heavy environment like game streaming, you're equally not going to impress too many folks with this particular kit. The upside there is that it does make the HyperX Streamer Starter kit far more suitable for other uses, like folks working from home who have to present at work Zoom meetings. The lack of customisable RGB might be a downside for gamers, but for regular office workers it's a big plus to not have polychromatic lighting flickering away under your chin.
Performance: Good for simple audio needs
There's no doubt whatsoever that you can do better in terms of microphones than the SoloCast USB microphone, but the point here is delivering basic audio at an affordable price. That's precisely why you don't get features like any kind of gain or volume control. Or, indeed any kind of choice when it comes to recording patterns.
The HyperX SoloCast utilises a cardiod polar recording pattern, and if you're scratching your head wondering what the hell that means, it represents the directions in which a microphone will pick up audio at its best. Fancier models may offer a variety of effective pickup shapes, but for the SoloCast, you're best suited recording directly in front of the microphone and only a few inches away as well.
To give this some comparative weight, I tested the HyperX SoloCast against the regular microphone I use for my weekly tech podcast, Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News. I typically use a Blue Yeti USB also set to a cardiod polar pattern.
That's not a fair test on price terms, to be clear, because the Blue Yeti alone typically costs more than the entire HyperX Streamer Starter pack, but what I wanted to get was a comparative picture against a sound source I was already quite familiar with.
The SoloCast didn't perform as well as the Blue Yeti, and I never expected it to, but it let me see where it worked better or worse. Its cardiod polar pattern definitely skews to a direction and position just a few inches away from the microphone itself for optimal audio. Bass pickup isn't exceptional either, although for a live game stream or zoom call that may not matter as much.
What will matter is if you're broadcasting with a keyboard based game, because that same pickup that won't kick in heavier bass frequencies sure does love to grab the clack of a keyboard, or even the click of some gamepad buttons. If you're the excited type who also rolls around a lot in your gaming chair then your audio will fade out pretty quickly even at smaller distances.
Here's a quick sample of me talking and being captured through the HyperX SoloCast at a variety of distances and approaches to give you an idea of that level of sound pickup:
The Cloud Core headset is similarly simple to set up and use, with your only choices being whether or not to plug the stalk microphone in, and the volume level on the inline remote, which is also where you'll find a simple microphone mute switch.
The big selling point here is that HyperX bundles in a 2 year subscription (technically a "trial" as per the Microsoft Store) of DTS Spatial Audio via the DTS Sound Unbound app for Windows PCs and games which support that level of 3D audio. There's a very big difference when you do enable DTS audio, even on simpler headphones like the Cloud Core ones.
My biggest complaint with the Cloud Core headphones is that they're on the smaller side, and I have a larger skull, which means that over time, I found the cheaper and flatter foam cushioning less comfy than I'd like. It's 100% in line with the asking price for these headphones, however.
Should you buy the HyperX Streamer Starter Pack?
- Buy it if: you're a beginner streamer with a limited budget, or need a simple WFH audio solution
- Don't buy it if: you need better audio for your streams, or to record more than 1 person at a time
Will the HyperX Streamer Starter pack turn you into the next global game streaming superstar whose only daily concerns revolve around which major soft drink brand's million dollar offer you'll accept?
In a word, no. Look, frankly the odds are well against you to start with, but it certainly pays to be realistic about these things. That's where I think the HyperX Streamer Starter pack actually shines. It's not that it's amazing value in terms of audio inputs, headphone quality or configuration options, because it's none of those things, really.
Instead, it does offer a good starter solution at a price that won't leave your wallet reeling if, by chance – and by chance, I sadly do have to inform you that it's likely reality – you don't in fact make it as the next Twitch superstar. What you'll end up with instead is a nicely functional pairing of headphones and microphone that can also serve for more mundane everyday audio needs. That's way less exciting that relaxing on your yacht while your servants bring you peeled grapes, of course.
Pricing and availability
How we tested
The microphone and headphones were tested over a 1 week period using them for podcast production comparison, audio recording, game playing and multimedia production work on a MacBook Pro M1 13 Inch.
Audio samples were taken from the SoloCast microphone in a variety of situations and placements to assess noise pickup at ordinary speaking volumes and in comparison to a Blue Yeti USB microphone.
The Cloud Core headset was worn over multiple usage sessions for long periods of time to assess not only audio and internal microphone quality, but also comfort. The HyperX Streamer Starter pack used for review was supplied by HyperX.
HyperX SoloCast USB microphone
HyperX Cloud Core headphones
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