Sound Impressions

Tonality & Presentation

Neutral

The Flares Pro have a very neutral but spacious sounding tonality. They are articulate, well extended and convey an excellent level of nuanced detail with a surprisingly good turn of pace for single dynamic driver. Individual notes never trip over each no matter how fast the sequences are. Lingering decay is non-existent right across the frequency response, it is that tight. Timbre on the Flare Pro is clean and clear and very accurate with lower pitched instrumental passages and a little more energetic emphasis in the upper mids and lower treble.

Power

I get a sense the Beryllium driver in the Flares Pro is not terribly efficient, say around sub-100dB because the top end of the frequency response really scales very well indeed with a good quality signal from a portable amp or even some efficient desktop amps. Without a good signal or decent power, you get a slightly attenuated top end and less body in instrumental notes that some may classify as being on the bright side of things.

Amping

In some ways, this reminds me of the Campfire Audio Vega experience. The debate on the top end being sibilant or not could well be source and power dependent.  On some lesser sources I felt the sound was a little bit ethereal on percussion timbre with a slight bias to upper harmonic partial overtones but pair it with a nice Class A portable amp such as the Lear FSM-02 V2, ALO Audio V5 or the mighty Bakoon HPA-01M and you get an entirely different top end with much better body and a more realistic and accurate sound.

Bass

Linear

Bass on the Flares Pro is tight, snappy and linear in its delivery. The low-end extension is also excellent with a very clear sounding sub-bass presence that isn’t overly boosted but faster in its attack and decay than say the Fidue A91 dynamic driver and has excellent body also.

From the 50Hz marker there seem to be a very linear curve to the lower mids so you get next to no mid-bass bloom and top notch instrumental clarity. This is the kind of bass performance I like, low on decay, not too fat sounding but with good texture and able to deliver solid fundamentals without dominating the rest of the sound.

Sublime Quality

The entire low end is fast to my ear and also of a sublime quality. In fact, the quality is so good that I, a person who really dislikes neutrality, was impressed enough to subjectively enjoy it. The quality difference from the R2Pro model to this newer Pro model is hefty, at least in my opinion. Texture and tone are different: the R2Pro being a noticeably more bloomed and this newer model being stark neutral and audibly faster.

Quality exceeds my expectations for the price and side by side with my Audeze iSine20 ($600) this new IEM from Flare Audio has bested it in fidelity across the board. I can hear the grain in the Audeze, which is a Planar driver I previously thought had very good bass quality when comparing it to the new Pro IEM here from Flare Audio.  I am in favor of calling this one of the cleanest bass experiences I’ve heard in a very long time in a portable headphone.

Mids

Smooth

I find this IEM to be a bit mellow in placement and locale. It isn’t V-shaped, but this isn’t as forward as some other headphones out yonder, that is for sure. I think the placement is very similar to the R2PRO, a bit relaxed and easy to listen to without sounding overly in your face.

As for quality allotted, the experience is once again, stellar. Besting the R2PRO before it noticeably and exceeding the midrange quality of a few of my custom IEM’s and even my iSine20. What is odd here is that tonality is quite neutral, but smoothness factor is like butter and silk in substance offered. What I mean by that is some headphones sound harsh and sharpened, others sound rounded on the edges and are forgiving and easy to listen to.

The latter is the case here with the midrange of this IEM. It is very non-fatiguing and silky smooth on dynamic impact in a physical sense of the word, which leads to the midrange feeling of a high-density factor, yet one that is also very easy to listen to for extended periods of time.

Engaging

This is not an overly engaging midrange, but it plays exceptionally well with anything I toss at it. Forward tracks sound more than forward enough for me and very V shaped recordings are not sullied. This is an ideal placement of midrange: not too forward, not at all recessed.

If you have heard the Stax 007 Electrostatic headphone on a Stax amplifier, then you might get a window into what the midrange sounds like on this Flare Audio Pro IEM, as the 007 shares a similar setup: extremely clean, neutral (depending on the 007 version), hyper smooth and lacking a harsh impact, but also kind of rounded on the edge work and not sharpened feeling. It is an interesting dynamic engagement, to say the very least.

Articulate

As for myself, I find the Flares Pro mids quite neutral, clear and accurate sounding with a slight increase in energy beyond the 3-4k marker compared to the lower mids. Instrumental timbre is neutral and articulate rather than liquid or rich sounding but like Mike, I do find it is also pleasingly smooth.

Bass to mids transition is linear and well controlled so instruments are positioned just a tiny bit behind vocals but not by a huge margin. Ultimately it will depend on the source track’s mix which means high transparency marks for the Flare Pro. Vocals have a slight elevation but nothing overly forward and it doesn’t skew the staging towards anything intimate.

Imaging

Imaging is excellent actually, though not quite on the same level as top tier customs such as the A18 or Katana but it is aiming for the same type of control and precision. In some ways, the level of control reminds me of the CL1 from RHA which I rate very highly.

Spatial cues are very easy to pick out, particularly on acoustic passages where I think the Flares Pro excel on. Staging sounds spacious but it is not an out of your head artificial experience or a vast arena type presentation, this has more of a typical concert hall experience and feels a bit more natural and live sounding.

Treble

Quantity

I run with a +3dB up top at all times because I feel like there just isn’t enough substance here to satisfy my treble needs. It feels a bit loose and overly lacking in engaging factor. Sadly, I find it too reserved up top on a subjective level. Is it bad? Hell no. It just lacks physical quantity enough to justify the excellent bass and mid-range allotted below it.

Quality

But again, that only applies to treble quantity and has nothing to do with quality, which once more is still very good. Reservations are fine to have and despite all that, I think just a small treble boost in the driver output would have been a wiser route. Sparkle and density are the problems, this IEM simply doesn’t have enough of it to sound totally linear with the IEM’s bass and mid-range offerings with EQ disabled.

Source Matching

Treble on the Flares Pro ultimately will depend on your source matching and what you are feeding it. I am not in the EQ camp, I tend to prefer mixing and matching until I get the ideal setup.

As I mentioned before in my tonality thoughts the Flares Pro treble performance has a certain ethereal quality but with a particularly energetic focus coming from the upper mids into the lower treble and then again a little nudge post 10k which I find to be a perfectly normal sign-off.

Qualities

The Flares Pro top end is certainly incredibly clean, articulate and throwing out perceptibly pleasing levels of detail. It is also fast and very precise. However, it a little further forward than the mids so percussive passages, particularly cymbal crashes will be quite dominant and slightly north of neutral. It is not harsh though and certainly not as peaky as the CL1 so I do not find this an overly fussy performance, but it is one that will draw your attention in.

Scaling

This driver can scale and suck up more power than you think though so the more you throw at it the better the treble gets for me.

For instance, the ALO Audio V5 portable tube amp sounds really nice with a good source track such as Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. This is a very good quality recording with proper dynamic range and less loudness clipping them some other recordings.

The intro on “Horizon” is absolutely perfect on the Flares Pro. It also brings out a very sweet mid-range on the Flares Pro and retains that linear bass which I just love but with slightly superior dynamics than weaker amp signals.

Bluetooth Sound Impressions

Stellar

Yes, this is, in fact, without even a hint of internal questioning or instinct swaying me to potentially state otherwise, perhaps the highest fidelity portable Bluetooth experience I’ve ever heard. The Bluetooth adapter isn’t overly cumbersome when clipped to your shirt, thankfully. It pairs easily and quickly when combined with Apt-X Bluetooth, or standard, and the result is an always stellar performance.

I have never been overly impressed with BT, even with aptX added simply because the decoding capability and the compression will never be as good as wired. However, the Flares Pro aptX implementation is the best I have heard to date, nothing really comes close.

Is it best in class? I wouldn’t like to say since I have not heard every permeation out there but it has better clarity and balance than the Pendulumic Stance S1+ headphones and a far better bass response to boot and I thought that was one of the better audiophile implementations of BT AptX.

Tonality Bias

I also didn’t get that murkier boomy experience I had with a few other BT devices using aptX, everything remained very clean and clear. I did, however, get a slight tonal shift in favor of the Pro’s low end and treble bias with the mids not quite as dynamic sounding and slightly less space around the vocals which fell back a touch compared to the wired version.

If you are into EDM and modern pop and RnB then this tonal bias might actually play nicely since the BT module sounded really good with the likes of DeadMau5, Major Lazer, and Drake.

Capability

Mike didn’t mention it but the range is solid on the BT module at about 15m with a clear sight of the source. I got similar distances to the Pendulumic aptX powered Stance S1+ and it can cope with at least one wall blocking your source to around 10m and with two walls it drops to a few meters but this is in line with every other BT 4.1 experience I have had to date.

Matchability

Efficiency

At the time of writing, no specs have been revealed to me but I have a fairly good grasp compared with volume measurements from other competing IEMs. In comparison, you do need a lot more voltage to volume match compared to say the Noble Audio range and way above the Campfire Audio BA releases such as the Andromeda and Jupiter. It is not at the level of the RHA CL750 and CL1 which are rated at 150 ohms and 89dB but I would say the sensitivity rating is close to the 100dB marker.

Noise

The good news is noise control, even on portable amps is excellent. Portable amps that tend to show up noise on efficient IEMs such as the ALO Audio V5 are completely silent with the Flares Pro, even in high gain. That is a rock solid pairing also with a sweeter mid-range, good body in the treble and a retention of that excellent sub-bass response. It was one of my favorite pairings out of the testing to date.

Power

The powerhouse current mode Bakoon HA-01M was a fabulous pairing with the Flares Pro and I normally reserve that amp for planars such as the Audeze LCD series because of it can drive them so well. In current mode output, I had tons of volume play with the Flares Pro, possibly as much as the LCD series without it getting too loud, distorting or clipping which really impressed me.

The typical Bakoon channel imbalance at low volume with a lot of BA IEMs was also a bit more restrained though still there and the noise was non-existent which told me a lot about the efficiency of the Flares Pro.

Tonally it also produced the best response out of all the amp pairings with perhaps the most accurate and real sound, especially in its treble response. The traditional voltage output of the Bakoon was not so good though producing a much brighter top end that didn’t gel well with the Flares Pro.

Our Verdict

I am very impressed with the overall capability and feature set of the Flares Pro at this price point. There is a huge amount of value in what Flare Audio are offering at £349 from wired/Bluetooth options, an impressive array of good quality tips and a very cool retail package that speaks volumes of their Pro Audio Heritage.

Sound

All of this would be for nothing if the sound quality wasn’t up to par and it is and then some. I do throw in the caveat that I believe power is the key to unlocking the Flares Pro but even so, its wonderfully neutral with a little kick in the sub-bass that is clean, clear and very detailed. Mids are neutral but smooth, the control is excellent and the imaging very precise. Nuanced detail at this price point is abundant.

The energy picks up a little towards the top end. Pairings and source tracks will play a role but if you enjoy accuracy, neutrality and a high level of engagement then the Flares Pro will give you plenty of that.

Tips

Careful with the tips, some are quite fragile and they do range in terms of performance with the most fragile of all, the audiophile EARFOAMs being best performer but do make sure they are in deep enough to get a solid seal.

Value Add

The BT alternative is top notch also with a very competitive performance that I personally think is unrivaled. Certainly, it puts most BT aptX headphones and earphones that I have heard firmly in a darkened corner. Of course, you won’t get the performance of wired, in fact, the tonal bias shifts just a tiny bit but I do love it for its ease of use, small form factor and pairs rather nicely with EDM.

The new Flare Audio Pro is, without question, a great value product. The IEM by itself is a steal for that price, but you are also getting an awesome box, detachable cable and easily the best Bluetooth adapter (The W-DAC) that I’ve ever played with.

This is not for musical lovers who want a lot of tone exaggeration, like me. This is for purists, undoubtedly. It offers sublime bass and mid quality that exceeds IEM’s near double the price and even more. Great job Davies and team Flare Audio for another great product release.

Technical Specifications

  • Dual Jet sound balancing technology
  • Anti-Resonance Technology
  • Acoustic Lens Technology
  • Bluetooth® v4.1 with APT-X connectivity
  • Balanced Class A-B outputs
  • Balanced MMCX connections
  • Grade 5 Titanium ear pieces
  • Uniquely switchable between wireless and a 3.5mm jack cable, all included
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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • Steve Jones

    Great review Marcus. You hit the nail on the head. I Love mine. Imaging, Clarity are as good as anything I have heard but they somehow sound more “Live” and have Astounding Bass! I agree with Mike on that. Why do you think they make older “average” recordings sound so good? I know they have been used to mix with in the studio, but I still don’t understand the why of what makes them so linear? And who did the photography? It is really good! I am a Canon guy and I know to get photos that quality of something that small with the lighting you used is hard?

    • 24bit

      Lack of a harsh impact and a gently reserved treble experience makes older recordings sound much more tolerable than usual. The headphone is very spacious for an IEM and also relatively non-fatiguing, so combining that with very good fidelity and quality forces older recordings to sound better overall than what we may be used to listening to. Typically, neutral headphones are not nearly as soft on the edges and nonfatiguing as this Pro is.

      All the dark background images are mine. Thanks!

    • headfonics

      Actually both of us use Sony cameras. Mine is an A7, I use with a short telephoto and continuous lighting (3 softbox on stilts) with a white base and then adjust levels and dust clean in PS. Its not a perfect process and some guys are much better at it than me but it gives me a sense of personal satisfaction. Mine are the white ones 🙂

      • Steve Jones

        Thanks, I wondered. A good friend of mine is a Working Professional and he recently changed everything from Canon to the Top Line Sony.

        • headfonics

          I am no where near a professional but I am OCD 🙂

        • 24bit

          My gear is modest, just a Sony A6000 and a Touit 50mm. I love my Touit 50mm!

  • Daniel Sancho

    Rich and detailed review. I like and appreciate the double voice opinion. Thanks.
    I have some questions for both of you, if you don’t bother to answer.

    As you suggest some analytical tendencies. Would you say they could be boring or lack a little bit of musicality in favor of precision? I’m afraid of them being too flat, less “emotional” with their linearity.

    How would you compare them with the Campfire Lyra and the Sennheiser IE 800? (invoking two dynamic drivers of reputation and now in a similar, slightly higher, price niche) Which one is your overall favorite? To orientate you about my tonality preferences (the relevant fact behind this question), i love my Sine (although i could add them a little bit more of viscerality on the bass), my hd650 and my Flare r2a as my three favorite headphones.

    oh, and lastly, will the bass be enough on the go in urban spaces?? Will it make me tap, groove or jump o

    Thanks in advance, you continue routing the way i spend my money, so receive all my hate and praise in similar quantities.

    • 24bit

      I would say they do sacrifice musicality for precision and, in turn, sound a bit dry up top. I wouldn’t worry about the midrange or the bottom end being boring, you can fix the linear feel easily with EQ and still retain excellent quality. Up top though, not so much.

      Have not heard the Lyra, but was a long time IE 800 owner and can safely say that nowhere does the IE800 compare. I enjoy the Flare Pro here subjectively much more. Despite my being a musicality buff and preferring that type of tonality overall, I am still able to enjoy the Pro, despite it housing the opposite style of tone that I favor most.

      On a Flat EQ, the Bass quantity is still more than acceptable. It is not at all lacking. With EQ, you can achieve entry level bass head quantity without losing out quality. I hit +7dB on my booster before I noticed anything wonky in the bass regions, that is exceptional response to EQ. Don’t worry about it if you use EQ. But if you don’t, you’ll not achieve anything but very smooth and linear feeling bass on a flat EQ setup.

      • Daniel Sancho

        wow, that was fast!!!

        Really helpful comments, thank you.

        I hope that with the bass boost of my headstage arrow 4 it could be enough. I live in the contradiction of being born a basshead with tendencies to the coloured sound that finally ends buying reference monitors (genelec, dynaudio…) for daily use and, excepting the hd650, not so fun headphones (i would say more in the linear side of the musical ones). Ie 800 has always been a temptation because of that musical excelence, but if the flares can offer some fullness and kick i’d prefer their design and extras… As i told the r2a were great fore me, so i can only expect something better… Or Is there any alternative in that shape of very small iems, that can be worn not only over the ear, with a tonality between the two mentioned here, that i’m not considering?

        Thank you again!!!

        • 24bit

          Depth and response trumps the R2Pro, which trumped the R2A, so you should not be let down by the capabilities of the low end in terms of quantity at all. I wasn’t, and I demand a lot of bass on my personal EQ sets. I can’t name anything with small housings like this that can compare.

          • Daniel Sancho

            Thank you very much, the decisions machine now is cooking because of you.

            Really helpful review and support on the comment section, all my respect and veneration.

          • headfonics

            I will add my 2 cents.

            IE800 – recessed mids, brittle top end, warm and elevated low end, huge soundstage.

            Lyra II – easy going, laid back, rich sound but doesn’t scale.

            I have both, I love them for what they do. The Flares Pro is quite different to both of them.

          • Daniel Sancho

            Thanks again. I imagine that if the tonality hasn’t changed too much (more perfected than changed) i will tend to the Flares, because i don’t trust in ie800’s isolation neither it’s comfort. I imagine it fuller and funnier and that tempts me against the possibility of some dryness on the flares, but your words invite me to soften that intuition considering your insistence in the smoothness of these iems (a really engaging virtue i loved on the r2a’s).

          • 24bit

            This new Flare Audio Pro IEM is more noticeably smoothed out feeling than the R2Pro, which was more smooth than the R2A.

            Dryness has a lot to do with the colorless and neutral appeal of the midrange and the reserved treble. This newer model is more like the R2Pro on Steroids than the R2A, which had a tonally different setup than the R2Pro. The R2A is still the snappiest on physical dynamic impact factor, the most engaging and the most forward in midrange vocal presentation.

          • Daniel Sancho

            Thank you again,

            I’m doing circles between the ie800 and the Flares and don’t find the way to solve it (there’s no place to try iems). I’m really afraid about the sennheiser isolation and comfort on the go, with so many people telling they constantly slip from the ear when walking because of their shallow fit. I find excellent the Flare comfort and very good the isolation also, a fact very important for me because of my tinnitus. But i’m afraid missing some richness and fullness on their sound that i imagine (that’s all i can do) i could find in the ie800…

            Please, help me with the decision! Lie to me! Whatever!

          • headfonics

            ok stop right there on tinnitus. This is where out of medical concern I would direct you away from both of those units and to 64 Audio’s APEX and Empire Ears ADEL line up as they have a specific technology in their custom units to prevent further ear damage and for tinnitus suffers by directing pneumatic pressure away from the ear drum. Costs vary depending on that you want from their lineup but I hear the u4 Special Edition from 64 Audio is a good neutral sweet spot.

          • Daniel Sancho

            It’s a difficult assumption. I try to use iems the least, in fact that’s the reason why i wanted to upgrade: to enjoy my more restricted sessions. I like a lot my R2a in quiet situations (working…) because of their effortless, natural flow of sound, but maybe i miss a little bit more of dynamics when i’m more upbeat for what i find a relaxed sound. I’ve been waiting for the new Flares some months and now reading that they tend more to their reference side, and having the possibility of the ie 800 for 300 €, the neurotic consumerist process began.

            Adel always looked to me too far, too high. The model you quoted isn’t a massdrop one?. Looks like a very, very good recommendation considering my preferences, budget and priorities, thanks. But it looks like i’ll have to wait for the next batch…

          • 24bit

            Why not an Audeze iSine20 or 10 instead, felt both to outperform the IE800.

          • Daniel Sancho

            That’s a surprising comparison, attending to your review i understood that was the Flares the one of the two that was more comparable with the iSine. (the bass, the smooth sound…). Was i wrong, the Audezes tonality is more tuned to the ie800’s?

            I actually have the on-ear Sine, which are my best sounding cans. The in-ears didn’t impress me so much considering their strange shape and their opened nature. Are they similar in tonality to on-ear Sines?

            And do they outperform the Flares if comparable?

          • 24bit

            Yea, that is what I was getting at. The Sines are both better than the IE800, at least in my opinion. I love my Sine20, I have less experience with the 10 version but owning the IE800 for so long I thought it was apparent the iSine was overall of a higher quality.

            The Flare Pro’s are still superior to the iSine 20 though, but that is in terms of quality. I subjectively enjoy the Sine20 more for numerous reasons. First being it is easier to max out in potential without amping, the Fit for me is much nicer and stable due to the earhook guides included in the Audeze box, the staging properties in a sense of width, height and airiness are a few steps better than the Flare Pro’s. But, the Flare’s are certainly cleaner sounding top to bottom.

            Sacrifices will be made no matter which route you take. Best advice I can give is make a checklist of your most important qualities you want or enjoy the most and see which of these matches the most check boxes for you. 🙂

  • Prach Watcharaphan

    Thanks for the great review!!

    I have some questions for both of you, if you would not mind to answer.
    I got mine a week ago. The cable is turning from clear to yellowing especially near the area which is contacted with my cheek. I use this earphone in office and studio. I am not sure what’s wrong.
    Do you have this issue?

    • 24bit

      Typically discoloration is a problem a ton of people go through with clear or white cables. It is from the cable oxidizing due to making contact so often with your skin, because of excessive UV light exposure and even accumulating some dust and not being cleaned.

      • Prach Watcharaphan

        Thanks @24bit for good information.
        Do you know how to clean the cable to protect discoloration?

        • 24bit

          Let me get back to you on this after asking the company for the proper way to take care of that material.

  • Krzysztof Nowaczyk

    Great review – after 3 weeks with them I completely agree with your sound impressions but your final score is a bit low given how well you’ve described the sound and comparisons you’ve made…
    One thing is missing though – I’m guessing you’ve got a lot of DAPs on your hands and not one was mention in matchability. It’s great that you’ve managed to recommend some amplifiers but I never actually get use to use one. Can you maybe add some good DAP pairings? But please – not from FiiO 😉 All their products including X7 & X5III sound too digital for me – in my opinion even Galaxy S8 has better head out than all their range.I regret selling QP1R because it seems like that would be great match.

    • headfonics

      To be honest it is more of a power equation than a tonal preference on DAP matching. I find the neutrality and transparency as such it works with most DAPs and it is basically the sound of the DAP amp you hear more than any obvious coloration in the Flares Pro. My personal favorites were the DX200 and Opus#3 but I just much preferred the portable amping pairings as it can suck up a lot of power and scale.

      The scoring is on song for me, if you look at our higher scores these are truly unique and world class one of a kind. The Flares Pro comes pretty close to that though.

    • 24bit

      I am a team Cowon man who is willing to sacrifice quality for customization. Cowon does EQ better than anyone and I’ve stuck with my Plenue M for a while because it offers a happy medium between quality and customization potential. The Plenue M + Pro combo on a Flat EQ is shoulder shrug worthy as a musicality lover, the downfall of the Plenue being that is lacks the musical tone I desire. Purists will love the combo, no doubt. With all the custom EQ options at your finger tips, it is hard to say it sounds anything but very good regardless of the Dap used.

      I also tested with the older Sony A17, via the Bluetooth output (aptx and standard), as well as the DAP’s normal 3.5mm out, which itself has solid EQ functions as well. The result is still good, although lacking oomp and solidity that is typical of underpowering a headphone. I am more than satisfied using the BT output of the A17 with the Pro. This Flare Audio W-DAC is really that nice. Nice enough to be used with a $7 AZIO BT dongle for your computer, or the older BT functions on some last generation portable music players.

      Yep, sounds great on my Samsung J7’s BT output as well. It passed all BT tests I performed, simply could not find a poor sounding BT combo with the W-DAC on the Pro. I gave up trying.

  • ductrung3993

    these vs JH13 FP please?

    • 24bit

      Have not heard the standard JH13, but was a long time owner of the JH16FP customs. I can safely say that the Flare iems noticeably superior to the JH16’s.

  • JY

    Do comply tips fit these?

  • ductrung3993

    What do you think these vs Fidue A91?

    • headfonics

      The a91 is almost $500 more expensive, I am not sure if many people will be sitting on those 2 deciding which to buy given the price disparity.

      • ductrung3993

        I’m one of the few, since used a91 can be found for $500

        • headfonics

          Oh ok well tonally the A91 is a bit smoother with a sub bass I really like, a bit more rumble there. It also has a bit more detail in the mids though the treble is not as forward. Staging both are excellent, edge to A91 and of course you have BT with the flares whereas you have balanced with A91.