I thought that when HyperX launched the Cloud Alpha, they’d nix the Cloud II.
Sure, the Alpha doesn’t have that USB sound dongle… but it has a better bag, better pads, slightly better sound, a removable cable, a similar mic, and comparable build quality. Oh, and also the same $99 price tag.
I thought to myself “Surely, HyperX won’t want to maintain two different $99 headset products with similar names and industrial designs. What would be the point?”
Well, I was wrong. There must be a point.
CLOUD II ALIVE AND KICKING
I like to use retail availability as a barometer of success for headphones, sometimes. I mean, if it’s not selling, then a company probably isn’t going to try and get shelf space at Best Buy or buy featured placement on Amazon, right?
I thought that the Alpha would slowly replace the Cloud II at my local Best Buy and Target locations…but it hasn’t. In fact, they both continue to sell Cloud II’s, and Cloud Stingers. Best Buy doesn’t even carry the Alpha in my local stores, and they only just recently decided to ditch the Cloud Revolver in favor of some shelf space for the Cloud Flight.
Cloud Cloud Cloud. Cloud.
Now, I know that the Alpha was initially a Gamestop retail exclusive, but I think that deal has since expired. I’ve seen Amazon availability shoot through the roof, and one local non- Gamestop store, a Fry’s Electronics location, carries the Alpha.
Otherwise it’s the Cloud II and its variants all day and all night.
Is HyperX having supply issues with the Alpha? Is the Cloud II so popular that they don’t want to throw it in the bin just yet? Is the profit margin that much higher on the older design that it just makes sense to keep selling it as long as they can? Have people decided they prefer the additional ear pads and USB dongle of the Cloud II? Does the more v-shaped sound of the Cloud II’s Takstar Pro 80-derived hardware appeal more to the average listener?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions! Only HyperX does! But they all, collectively, represent my best guesses as to why the headphones are still so ubiquitous.
Also, there’s this undeniable truth: good headphone designs don’t age.
THE BIG HEADPHONE MARKETING PROBLEM
Pretend you’re a technology company.
Once you’ve made a really great pair of headphones, how do you get someone excited about a new one that’s maybe 10 percent better? Or in a lot of cases…just 10 percent different?
When the Cloud II first launched a few years ago, it destroyed the competition with its outstanding combination of comfort, build, and sound performance. And none of those are things that have magically changed in the last couple of years.
Sound Quality(tm) is a little bit down to personal preference, but it also revolves around performance targets that haven’t really moved in the last 20 years. It’s not like computer performance, where new advancements lead to the goalposts sliding back. “Good” audio generally means a sound signature that’s pleasant to listen to and reproduces audio with a reasonable amount of fidelity to its source. And that probably won’t ever change.
Similarly, there haven’t been any massive advancements in comfort or materials engineering.
So when creating the Alpha, I bet there were a lot of frustrating meetings about how to follow up on such a beloved product. To be fair, I do think HyperX succeeded in the job…but not so much that I can fault someone for choosing the Cloud II instead.
PRICE IS EVERYTHING
HyperX already has a good $50 headset, and a $70 version of the Cloud II called the Cloud Core…so they don’t have any real reason to permanently drop the price of the II.
I guess they could start bundling the extra ear pads and USB Dongle in with the Alpha…but wouldn’t that also increase the price point?
Maybe a false sense of choice is part of the point? This happens ALL THE TIME in the technology world, not just in audio gear. Many product lines will have steadily-stepped price points with tiny incremental feature upgrades in the hopes that you get more involved in your decision-making process because you now have to consider all these different factors.
I used to think that HyperX was above such marketing tactics, and liked it better when they had a singular clear-cut $99 product choice.
I love the Cloud II, and I don’t necessarily want to see it go away, in spite of what it might sound like. I don’t want to see the Alpha go away either. I think they’re both great products and I don’t actually have a good answer to any of the questions I’ve posed.
… a Cloud III that combined the best of both, came in a variety of colors, and still hit that $99 price point? And maybe had a wireless variant for $149 that didn’t have the plastic build of the Flight?
I’d be all over that and forget the others in a heartbeat.