Hi! Thanks for the question!
I touched on this a bit in the article you commented on…but I guess I can go deeper!
The Cloud II provides its 7.1 through an external USB sound card/dongle. The headphones have no actual surround function built into them.
That sound card only fully works on a PC. So it only gives you a benefit if you’re a PC gamer.
However, this past summer, Microsoft added Windows Sonic for Headphones to Windows 10 for free. It’s a virtual surround sound system that I think sounds much better than HyperX’s dongle. And it’ll work with your existing sound hardware/sound card. You just plug your headphones in and turn on Windows sonic in the sound options.
Microsoft also added support for Dolby Atmos to Windows 10, which is a different virtual surround sound system that works with your existing hardware. I think it’s also quite good, and also better than the Cloud II USB dongle. It’s free for the first 30 days, and 15 bucks after that.
These two new surround sound options are also available on Xbox One.
In a world where these exist…the Cloud II USB card isn’t really necessary. It simply isn’t as good as these free/cheaper options. Heck, there’s also the completely free Razer Surround, which I think also sounds better than the Cloud IIUSB dongle.
So, to finally get around to your question…I think the Alpha by itself, without the dongle, is a much nicer-sounding headphone than the Cloud II is with or without the dongle. And since you can use these free surround options in Windows 10…there aren’t a lot of reasons to outright recommend the Cloud II.
If you’re on an older version of Windows…I think you’d be better off with the Alpha and the free Razer Surround than you would be with the Cloud II and its dongle.
Hope that helps you out! Thanks for reading!