It’s Saturday, so it’s time for the headphone showdown!
This week, it’s a battle of two titans of value. Two champions of the $99 dollar price point.
The Sony MDR-V6 takes on the HyperX Cloud II!
The MDR-V6 is the progenitor of modern headphones. It’s from 1985. It has a coiled cable. It was made for the start of the digital era and still holds up fantastically today.
The HyperX Cloud II is one of a million variants of the legendary Takstar Pro 80. You could also get this headphone as the QPAD QH90, the Creative Labs H5/H7, or the HyperX CloudX, Cloud, or Cloud Core. I’m focusing on the Cloud II because it’s easy to find, and has good ear pads. It’s a Chinese take on a German headphone design, meant to be every bit as Pro/Studio grade as any other headphone on the market.
The V6 has a balanced sound to it, with punchy impressive bass, solid mids and highs, and a natural tone overall. Soundstage is nicely wide, and accurate. It’s detailed enough to reveal badly-recorded material. The Cloud II also has a balanced sound, but its highs are more pronounced and its bass is a little bit more subtle. The highs sparkle more, sometimes revealing more detail, but other times sounding grainy. The mids have a “cupped hands” sound to them that’s common for this type of large earcup headphone. Your brain will adjust to that artifact pretty quickly.
Overall, I prefer the sound of the V6, as it’s a touch less artificial-sounding. But the Cloud II is a very close second. They’re probably the two best-sounding headphones I’ve ever heard, overall. They both line up with my personal tastes well.
Winner: Sony MDR-V6
This is where both models will probably lose a lot of people: neither is a bastion of style. The Cloud II’s headband hugs nicely to my head, but the earcups stick out quite a bit, looking a little like I’m wearing side buns in my hair. The look is chunky, utilitarian, and old-fashioned…though HyperX makes a few different colors, which is nice. It’s not so uncool that you couldn’t wear it outside, but it’s not a style can. The braided cable is permanently attached.
The MDR-V6 is straight from 1985. It was built as both a tool, and an in-home product, so it’s incredibly industrial from a design standpoint. The wide headband sits nicely on my head, though the ends stick out a little bit. It’s not nearly as “old-telephone” as the Sennheiser HD280 Pro, but it has some of that quality to it. The only fun touches are the “for DIGITAL” stickers on the ear cups, and “STUDIO MONITOR” written in silver lettering on the top of the headband. The coiled cable is non-detachable.
The HyperX Cloud II is objectively better in the ways that count to modern consumers, even though I personally prefer the design of the V6.
Winner: HyperX Cloud II
The Cloud II is built from plastic and metal parts. The braided cable is a little bit suspect, and I could see it being the weak spot of the package, build-wise. The MDR-V6 is tank-like in spite of its light weight. The cable is more substantial, and the clicking mechanisms on the headband adjustment are more solid. Both headphones travel well, and both come with a bag. Neither one feels cheap, impressive given their prices, but the V6 takes it by a nose.
Winner: Sony MDR-V6
The Cloud II has better padding, both on the headband and the earcups. HyperX outfits both areas with plush memory foam, covered in a nice pleather material. However, the Cloud II is also a heavier headphone, so it needs that padding in order to maintain comfort. The MDR-V6 looks like it wouldn’t be comfy, but it’s actually super nice. I’ve always liked Sony’s attention to headphone comfort, and apparently they had this nailed even in ’85. The pads aren’t as robust, and the clamping force is stronger, but the lighter weight of the headphone evens this out. This category is a tie.
Winner: A Tie!
Both headphones isolate well enough for use in public environments, and neither is terribly leaky.
Winner: A Tie!
The Cloud II comes with a ton of extras, depending on which bundle you buy. You get a mic for gaming, surround sound adapter, extension cable, extra set of velour ear pads, and a bag. The CloudX variant comes with a hard case.
The MDR-V6 comes with a bag and a 6.5mm adapter. And that’s it. The bag is nice. They fold down, whereas the Cloud II doesn’t.
Winner: HyperX Cloud II
Conclusion — A Tie!
I could keep doing this, but I’m splitting hairs. I don’t normally like the endless debate culture that permeates internet fandom…but for some reason I like doing these headphone showdowns.
These are both really good headphones. I personally slightly prefer the V6, but that doesn’t make it objectively better than the Cloud II, especially considering all the extra stuff you get in the box there.
Headphone culture is so obsessed with figuring out which one is better.
Either of these headphones are good enough to be the only pair you buy.
Do you want a classic look, natural sound, and a folding design? V6! Do you want a bunch of extras, a mic for gaming, and a more sparkly treble? Cloud II!
That’s it really. These both resolve enough detail to demonstrate elements in your music you’ve never heard, and they both compete well with much more expensive pairs.
They can either be your end game audio purchase…or a phenomenal first step into the nightmarish world of headphone fandom.
A little advice: Don’t step too deeply into the world of headphone fandom. Just buy a good cheap pair and be done. Your wallet will thank you, as will your brain. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a ton of pairs for different purposes or looks, or you’ll go on an endless quest looking for a “better” sound.
I got a little off track at the end here. I’m gonna go enjoy some music. :)