About a year ago, I wrote an article questioning the continued existence of the HyperX Cloud II. Yes, HyperX’s much-lauded gaming product is still good, and it’s a product that I personally really enjoy, but the equally-priced Cloud Alpha is demonstrably better.
So why keep selling both? Or why not drop the price of the older model?
HyperX sort of did that second one. In a weird convoluted way.
That’s about right for what I expect from them. Once the kings of budget peripherals, they’re now the kings of creating an increasingly elaborate, large, and confusing headset lineup.
First, the CloudX had all of its accessories stripped out of it. Then, the awkwardly-named Cloud for PS4 launched at $79. It features a new blue color scheme, lower impedance drivers, a longer cable, and the PlayStation logo, wrapped up in much cheaper packaging than the old premium HyperX unboxing experience.
This all ignores the existence of the old Cloud Core, a weird merging of parts from the Cloud I and II and oh look I just lost my train of thought.
I bought a Cloud for PS4 because I found it for $69 on sale, and I didn’t currently own any other Cloud II’s, having sold my previous models in favor of newer better stuff. Sometimes, nostalgia makes us spend money.
It represents a sane path forward for the Cloud II, a product that still somehow exists and still somehow costs $99 in its default configuration.
But did the Cloud II need a path forward?
Why didn’t the Alpha get this new color scheme and Sony licensing deal? I mean, HyperX has sold limited runs of the Cloud Alpha in different colors before. They already sell a Cloud9 version of the Alpha…why not replace those logos with PlayStation logos and call it good?
I expected the Cloud Alpha would come in a whole range of fun colors by now, and be the main wired product in HyperX’s stable. Instead, they’ve focused on pushing out a million new products at different price points, this new take on the Cloud II included.
Sound-wise, you still get that same Takstar Pro 80 response, itself a direct and solid attempt at cloning Beyerdynamic’s DT770. Bass is warm, satisfying, and extends down deep, but without the dominance or mud that defined gaming headsets five years ago. There’s a big notch at 4khz and a slightly ragged treble that give these a sparkly, occasionally hollow sound up top. But that’s made up for by exceptional imaging…which is then let down a little by an old-school “straight across” soundstage thanks to the non-angled drivers.
I actually like that sort of soundstage, but if you’re used to angled drivers, it’s a little different, and a little more inside of your head. It’s a problem that most other modern headphone products avoid.
This headset still has a great DT770-like sound signature you can get for less money, but the Alpha does everything better. The bass is more impactful. The midrange is smoother. The treble response is cleaner and more detailed. And things are just a little more open-sounding.
I’d wager than 9 listeners out of 10 will enjoy the sound of the Alpha more than the Cloud II. I’ve done no science to prove this and I’m leaving that 1 person in there for those that might enjoy the faux sense of detail provided by the sparkle in the treble.
If you’re standing in a store looking at a $99 Cloud II and a $99 Alpha, go for the Alpha. If you’re looking at a $79 Cloud for PS4 and a $99 Alpha…go for the Alpha. That extra $20 gets you smoother sound, better ear pads, an improved microphone, and a removable cable.
At least the blue color scheme here is nice. And the PlayStation logo is certainly a PlayStation logo. It makes these look the most “gaming headset-like” that they ever have, and is 28 percent more likely to incite public inquiry as to why you’re wearing a gaming headset outside, you geeky weirdo.
I don’t think that’s actually a problem that real people have, but maybe I’m just unapproachable. I’m always trying to include lines in my headphone reviews about how doofy they look, but I’ve also worn many of the doofiest headphones outside in a cafe without too much issue. It turns out that when everyone’s drinking coffee and staring at a phone screen, they don’t care how big or dumb my headphones are.
Comfort and build of the Cloud for PS4 both match the same decent standard set by every other HyperX/Takstar product. The memory foam padding is nice and dense, and if you shove your finger into it it’ll take a second to rebound, proving its true memory foam goodness. These still do manage to disappear on your head during use, and nothing can take that away from them.
The cable is longer than it used to be, at 1.3 meters, and the in-line controller has a nicer volume wheel than my old CloudX. That one had some scratchiness and channel imbalance issues, but the control here is nice and smooth and even. The mic mute switch on the controller works just fine, but it rattles around a bit and isn’t made of robust plastic. It’s the only hint you’ll have build-wise that you paid less than $100 for this.
That… and the fact the cable’s permanently attached. That was a lot easier to forgive four years ago. None of these issues are present on the Alpha.
The microphone is the exact same microphone that the Cloud II always included, complete with a little rubber cover to plug up the mic hole when you’re not using it. Here’s a mic test, in case you really need to hear it again. Its first priority is noise-cancellation, which it does well…to the detriment of its sound quality. Things are more thin and nasally than most other headsets in this price range. On the plus side, it’s quite sensitive, meaning your voice will be loud and clear even plugged into a PS4 controller.
Unfortunately, in spite of using new lower impedance speaker drivers (41 ohm instead of the 60 ohm drivers of the original), the sensitivity hasn’t improved all that much. Audio playback is a tiny dollop louder than an old Cloud II headset, but you’ll still need to crank the output to get a satisfying volume. I suspect Sony will solve this low volume issue in some manner when their next console rolls around, unless they cut the headphone jack entirely.
It’s hard to review this. It’s a good product that I don’t think should exist.
In a vacuum where you have no other choices, it’s still a great headset that’s probably worth $80 and has a fun new color scheme and also a PlayStation logo. But it’s now the underdog of the HyperX lineup, value-wise. The Cloud Stinger line offers fun performance and good comfort at a cheaper price, and a wireless model for just $99. The Alpha is better in every meaningful way as a wired headset for only a few more dollars than this one. The Cloud Flight and Cloud Mix both offer wireless connectivity, which the market is rapidly moving towards, and regular price discounts, and much more performance to go with their price premiums over this older design.
So, in spite of being a fine-sounding blue Cloud II variant at a slightly lower price, this sits in an awkward place in the crowded HyperX lineup. If you’re willing to spend $80 to upgrade your audio experience, you’re probably also willing to save up a little more money and spend $99. We’re not living in the market that we had years ago when the Cloud first dominated the land, and at $99 a whole wide array of superior options opens up to you.
I’m not sure who this thing is for except for weird guys like me who love the particular sound quirks of an older headset and wouldn’t mind buying a blue one when it’s on sale for $69 at Best Buy.
The Cloud Alpha and the continued expansion of the Cloud lineup have left this product behind. A new color scheme and longer cable don’t make up for its failings elsewhere.
When HyperX launches five new colors of the Cloud II this fall instead of updating the Alpha, I’ll be sure to come back and scream furiously about it.