Cleer Audio is a relative newcomer within the headphone market. It was based in 2012 with a concentrate on DJ headphones, however that focus modified to shopper merchandise in 2016. Since then, the corporate has wasted no time; it now presents 4 in-ear and 4 over-ear fashions with extra on the way in which.
The Flow II is one among Cleer’s newest fashions. It’s a wi-fi Bluetooth headphone with lively noise cancellation (ANC) and compatibility with Google Assistant voice management. Most importantly, the general sound high quality is outstanding.
This overview is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best headphones, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you need to contemplate when buying.
The Flow II is an over-ear, closed-back headphone with softly padded earcups and headband. The ovoid earcups are considerably smaller than most over-ear headphones I’ve tried, making them a bit fiddly to seat correctly. It weighs a mere 11.5 ounces, which is lighter than many such headphones, but its construct high quality appears fairly substantial.
Each driver employs a full-range 40mm magnesium diaphragm with polyurethane encompass, leading to low mass, excessive rigidity, and excessive inside damping. The magnet construction makes use of no iron; as an alternative, it’s comprised of 20 rare-earth magnets in a hoop construction. Cleer calls this Ironless Driver Technology, which is alleged to enhance the main focus of the magnetic subject, permitting extra voice-coil tour with decrease distortion. Specifically, Cleer claims the THD (whole harmonic distortion) at 100dB SPL is lower than half that of a standard magnetic driver throughout all the audio spectrum and as much as six occasions much less within the upper-midrange area.
The specified frequency response extends from 20Hz to 40kHz utilizing a wired connection, garnering Hi-Res Audio certification in that case. With Bluetooth, the frequency response is specified from 20Hz to 20kHz. No tolerance is given in both case.
Speaking of Bluetooth, the Flow II implements model 4.2 with the A2DP 1.3.1, AVRCP 1.6, HFP 1.6, and SPP 1.0 profiles. The supported audio codecs embrace AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. You can pair the headphone with the supply gadget within the normal method, or—if the gadget helps NFC (Near-Field Communication) pairing—you’ll be able to merely maintain it close to the appropriate earcup and they’re going to pair mechanically.
Cleer touts its “hybrid” noise cancellation, which mixes passive isolation with lively noise cancelling (ANC) for as much as 30dB attenuation of wideband ambient noise. The Flow II powers up with ANC on, however in fact, you’ll be able to flip it off, which prompts Ambient Mode that allows you to hears sounds round you. In this mode, the exterior microphones choose up ambient sound, which is performed within the headphones together with the music you’re listening to.
The solely factor I want for here’s a third choice that disengages ANC however doesn’t activate the exterior microphone. That manner, you would nonetheless have passive isolation and lengthen the battery life.
The 3.7V lithium-ion battery offers as much as 20 hours of play time from a full cost, which takes about two hours to finish. Even higher, a fast 10-minute cost is sufficient for 2 hours of play time.
The Flow II offers three bodily buttons on the lower-rear part of the left earcup: energy on/off, ANC on/off, and Google Assistant. The buttons are effectively separated, and the ANC and Google Assistant buttons have small ridges on completely different sides, making them very simple to search out by really feel. The energy and ANC buttons even have LED indicators, and a nice voice informs you when the ability is turned on and off in addition to the ANC standing.
You management the music with contact gestures on the outer floor of the left earcup. Swipe up and down to vary the amount, swipe ahead and again to skip to the subsequent or earlier observe, and double-tap to play/pause. If you get a cellphone name, double-tap to just accept and dangle up and maintain to reject the decision.
Here’s a cool function: If ANC is on, you’ll be able to maintain a number of fingers on the left earcup to have interaction Conversation Mode. This briefly turns off ANC and prompts Ambient Mode, so you’ll be able to discuss with somebody like a flight attendant. When you take away your fingers from the earcup, ANC turns again on. Interestingly, the contact sensor can distinguish between holding a fingertip to reject a name and a whole finger or two to have interaction Conversation Mode.
A 3.5mm stereo-audio jack is discovered on the backside of the left earcup, whereas a USB-C port is discovered on the backside of the appropriate earcup. As anticipated, the USB-C port is used to cost the battery.
My supply for take a look at tracks was the Tidal Master library from my iPhone XS through Bluetooth. First up was “Agbada Bougou” from Rejoice by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela. The instrumentation is straightforward—drum package, acoustic bass, trumpet, and alto sax—and the Flow II sounded clear and open with extremely correct renditions of every instrument.
The similar was true of “My Blue Heaven” as sung by James Taylor on his album American Standard. The Flow II’s total sound was clear, open, and well-balanced, and Taylor’s voice and guitar have been fantastically rendered.
For one thing a bit extra fashionable, I listened to “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” by Summer Walker from Birds of Prey: The Album, which incorporates songs from the film Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Once once more, the general sound was clear and open, and the vocal was proper up entrance with out overbalancing the remainder of the observe.
Amazingly, The Who are nonetheless at it with their 2019 launch, Who. I listened to “Hero Ground Zero,” a extremely produced observe with numerous strings. As I had come to count on by now, the sound was clear and well-balanced, although Roger Daltrey’s voice was a bit farther again than I’d heard earlier than—it was most likely blended that manner.
It’s exhausting to consider that Prince’s album 1999 is sort of 40 years previous. I listened to the 2019 remaster of the title observe and heard the identical open, clear sound as with all the opposite tracks I sampled.
Turning to some classical music, I loved a observe from Cecilia Bartoli’s album Farinelli. Among the arias on that album is Signor, la tua speranza…A Dio trono, impero Dio from the opera Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra by Johann Adolf Hasse, carried out with Il Giardino Armonico beneath the route of Giovanni Antonini. Opera is just not one among my favourite genres, however Bartoli is a definite exception. Her attractive voice was adroitly rendered by the Flow II, and the orchestra sounded clear and delicate.
Finally, I dug into Witold Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini as organized by Alexander Warenberg for piano, strings, and percussion. For this recording, it’s carried out by Denis Matsuev on piano and Kammerorchester Wien-Berlin beneath the route of Rainer Honeck for the album Shostakovich/Schnittke/Lutoslawski. This unbelievable piece was rendered fantastically by the Flow II with a very open, clear sound that showcased the very good sound of the piano towards the strings and percussion.
In addition to Bluetooth, I listened to a couple of the tracks talked about above by an iFi hip-dac linked to the cellphone and the Flow II with cables. I didn’t hear a lot of a distinction in contrast with Bluetooth—the wired connection was maybe a bit airier, however not considerably higher.
The touchpad on the left earcup works fairly effectively for taking part in and pausing, altering the amount, and skipping to the subsequent or earlier observe. It requires a little bit of method—you will need to hit the pad somewhat immediately and transfer your finger pretty rapidly—but it surely didn’t take lengthy to get used to it.
I had an uncommon alternative to check the lively noise cancellation: My neighbors throughout the road have been having the outside of their home strain cleaned, which made fairly a steady-state racket. The Flow II’s ANC labored very effectively to mitigate a big portion of the noise.
Comparison to DALI IO-6, Sony WH-1000XM3
In addition to the Flow II, I listened to every observe on the DALI IO-6 and Sony WH-1000XM3. As I swapped headphones, I found that the Flow II pauses the music if you take it off and resumes playback if you put it again on, which is fairly cool. The different headphones don’t provide that little nicety.
As I wrote in my overview of the DALI IO-6, its sound is wealthy and opulent, which I actually appreciated. Compared with the Flow II, nonetheless, it was nearly too wealthy; I stored writing “thick” in my notes. The Flow II was extra open and spacious.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 shared the Flow II’s openness, however its bass was typically overemphasized. That ought to please bassheads, however I want a extra impartial steadiness, which the Flow II excelled at.
I additionally in contrast the ANC efficiency of the IO-6 and WH-1000XM3 with that of the Flow II as my neighbors’ home was being strain cleaned. During my overview of the IO-6, I assumed the ANC labored very effectively with rain on the roof of my automobile, but it surely got here up a bit quick towards the onslaught of strain cleansing, permitting extra noise to achieve my ears. The WH-1000XM3 labored greatest in that din, however the Flow II was not far behind.
I completely love the sound of the Cleer Flow II, much more than the DALI IO-6 and Sony WH-1000XM3. It befits the corporate’s oddly spelled identify completely—clear, clear, open, and well-balanced. In addition, the construct high quality is stable, its ANC works very effectively, and it presents some good touches, equivalent to Conversation mode and mechanically pausing the music if you take it off and beginning once more if you put it again on.
I’ve solely two complaints. First, the earcups are comparatively small, which suggests you will need to jiggle them round to seat them correctly. The earcups on the IO-6 and WH-1000XM3 are bigger, making them simpler to seat in your head. Second—and extra essential—I want the Flow II had a mode during which ANC was off and the microphones didn’t choose up environmental sound; each of the opposite fashions provide such a mode.
On the opposite hand, the Flow II has a decrease listing worth than the opposite two: $280 versus $350 for the Sony and practically $500 for the DALI. With superior sound high quality for lower than the competitors, the Cleer Flow II is my new reference Bluetooth ANC headphone.