It’s Sunday, and it’s time for the headphone showdown!
I’ll be doing a few more articles about the recently-released Cloud Alpha, and I thought there was no better place to start than comparing it with it’s equally-priced older brother.
The Cloud Alpha is $99, and it’s the direct follow-up to the Cloud II. It takes a similar underlying design and adds a whole bunch of new and exciting things. New drivers, new ear cups, new pads, new visual touches, and a detachable cable.
It sounds exceptional and feels very good to wear.
The Cloud II is one of gaming’s most-famous headsets. It offers a ton of value for just $99. You get an extra set of ear pads, a virtual surround sound USB dongle, and a carrying bag. There’s also an Xbox branded model that includes a hard case.
The base headphone here underneath the HyperX tweaks is actually the Takstar Pro 80, an exceptional budget take on the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro.
It used to be the gold standard for a wired $99 headset.
The Cloud Alpha sounds more neutral, dynamic, and clean than the Cloud II. This is thanks to a new dual chamber ear cup design which…well here, this is HyperX’s video about it.
Basically, it has a much lower distortion and much flatter frequency response. It still has the fun bass and detailed highs of the Cloud II…but without the slight midrange muddiness or grain in the high tones.
Now, I really like the sound of the Cloud II…I just like the sound of the Alphas that much more. Unless you were 100 percent in love with the exact sound of the Cloud II, it’d be hard to deny that the Alpha’s present a much cleaner experience overall.
Even the soundstage and imaging are a touch wider and more accurate.
WINNER: CLOUD ALPHA. And that’s amazing.
The one knock that’s often levied against the Cloud II is that it doesn’t really work for the biggest heads. I know this from experience, as I had to wear mine fully extended.
That’s not a problem anymore with the Alpha. HyperX has increased the size of the headband and lengthened the adjustment forks. I now have three extra clicks of room. And it’ll still work great for smaller heads as well.
Combine that with the incredibly soft new ear pad material, and the same great memory foam that HyperX uses in all their headsets, and the Alpha is a total winner on comfort.
For years, the Cloud II was the most comfortable headset in gaming…and somehow the Alpha is better.
WINNER: CLOUD ALPHA
The designs of these two headphones are very similar.
The Cloud Alpha takes the same overall shape of the Cloud II…but cuts some chunks out of the metal forks. The logo on the top of the headband is no longer stitched into the material. The ear cups are slightly less rounded than they were in the older model.
All of this is rather subjective…but I think I preferred the overall look of the Cloud II. I miss the headband stitching, and while the holes in the forks help with weight (and comfort), I don’t know that they really do a whole lot for me. This one is a narrow win for the Cloud II thanks to some of its little details…but that’s just my opinion!
WINNER: CLOUD II
Both of these headsets are built nigh-identically. They both have plenty of aluminum parts, and a durable and compact frame that should hold up tossed into a bag. The Cloud Alpha feels a touch lighter…but I think they’re both built really well.
I can’t tell a big difference between the mics here. That’s actually a knock against the Alpha, in a way, since I was expecting a bigger leap in quality. But the rest of the headset is so much improved that I can live with it merely having a “fair” microphone.
This one will vary person-to-person depending on what you look for in your headset. Both headsets come with a carrying bag. Both have detachable microphones. The Cloud Alpha has a detachable cable, and its bag is made from a nicer material.
On top of these basics, the Cloud II includes a USB sound card, and an extra set of velour ear pads with slightly stiffer foam.
Now, that sound card might be really useful to you. It provides decent simulated 7.1 surround sound.
But with the advent of Dolby Atmos/Windows Sonic, I don’t have as much of a use for that on PC these days. And while the extra ear pads are really nice to have…I don’t think they’re quite as comfy.
So, thanks to its removable cable and the nicer bag, I’m going with the Alpha. But you might totally want the other things the Cloud II provides.
WINNER: CLOUD ALPHA
OVERALL WINNER: CLOUD ALPHA
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is a better-sounding and better-feeling headset for the same price as the old one. I’m not even sure how much longer HyperX is going to sell the Cloud II, and I wouldn’t blame them if they discontinued it soon.
HyperX really has set a new bar here…in spite of not changing up the microphone all that much. You can’t go wrong picking their new headset over the old model, and fortunately they haven’t charged customers a premium for it!