The Cleer Flow II is both a wired and wireless ANC capable portable headphone featuring their patented 40mm Ironless Driver™ technology. It is priced at £179.99.
Disclaimer: The Cleer Flow II sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team from HiFiheadphones.co.uk and Cleer for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Wireless products we have reviewed on Headfonics before, click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
Cleer Flow II ANC Headphones
The Cleer Flow II is what I would call the next level up from budget ANC headphones such as the MPOW and Strauss & Wagner variants we compared it with. Certainly, in terms of overall aesthetics, materials, packaging, and accessories it merits its higher price point.
Hailing from San Diego, California, Cleer is a company that has been producing mostly Bluetooth solutions for the wider market.
The expertise seems broad-ranging with a wide selection of wireless products including Bluetooth headphones and speakers, TWS earbuds, and even a WiFi-enabled smart speaker in the Crescent.
Although the company has not limited themselves to producing wireless devices since they also produced a high-end open-back headphone called the Next which Marcus will be reviewing very soon.
Utilizing the same ironless driver technology as their flagship open-back headphone, Cleer has released the 2nd iteration to their Flow line of headphones that began in 2019.
This is our first exposure to Cleer so sadly we cannot compare the Cleer II with the original.
The Flow 2 comes with Cleer’s signature driver, the ironless driver technology that can produce bold and articulate sound with low distortion and deep bass. This is a similar driver technology to what they are using in the Next, but the NEXT has a magnesium coated driver.
Aside from driver technology, the Flow 2 also has a Qualcomm CSR8675 SoC which was released in 2019. It features Bluetooth 4.2, and codecs including aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and of course the standard SBC and AAC codecs.
A new feature that was added into the 2nd iteration of the Flow is the Google Assistant functionality. This lessens the need for bringing out your phone while you are out and about.
The build of the Flow II is mainly plastic, with metal only used on the inserts of the adjustment sliders. It would have been much better if the mechanical parts like the hinges were made of metal as well, but the hard plastic that was used seems robust enough to last for quite a while anyway.
In the pictures, and when you first see the headphones, they seem to have large earcups. But when I wear them, the ear cups seem to be almost too small and too shallow, with the size leaning closer to being supra-aural instead of circumaural. So for people who might have larger ears, it would be best to double-check the fit before making your final decision.
Each side of the headphones has a left and right indicator, color-coded in red and white for faster identification of the sides. Each earcup is also slightly angled so that the headband sits perfectly on top of my head. It seems that Cleer made an effort to get the ergonomic design right when it comes to the general shape of the headphones.
The bottom of the left earcup has the power button, the ANC button, the dedicated google assistant button, and the 3.5mm jack for wired operation. The right earcup has a USB-C port, which is something that should be standard with newer devices.
When it comes to controls, 3 buttons are all mounted on the left earcup. These buttons have tabs that make each button distinct from the others, and this is a nice touch to avoid inadvertently pressing the wrong button. Migrating some of the buttons to the right ear cup might have made the button layout less congested though.
The rest of the controls are done through touch controls on the left ear cup. Pressing the center of the ear cup is for play/pause, while other controls are done through swipes on the earcup. Where volume is controlled by either swiping up to increase or swiping down to decrease.
The next track is triggered by a swipe forward, while the previous track is a swipe back. On paper, this is a very intuitive system, but in practice, the responsiveness of the swipe controls could do with a bit more accuracy.
Aside from swipe controls, and touching the middle of the earcup, touching the entire left ear cup with your hand will temporarily active ambient mode. This will be useful when you suddenly need to have a brief conversation with someone. I’m glad that this feature was implemented seamlessly, and it activated reliably.
The Google Assistant button took a bit more effort to set up. I’m not sure if the difficulty was unique to my phone, but I had to try to sift through sets of instructions to get the google assistant connected.
Once it’s connected though, I found it helpful, as 1 click would make the google assistant dictate all my notifications, 2 clicks would stop the notifications, and finally holding the button would call up the google assistant for you to ask it to automatically do things on your phone.
While the intent and layout of the controls are generally intuitive, more reliability with the touch controls would have made the implementation perfect.
The Cleer Flow II features Bluetooth 4.2 using the Qualcomm CSR 8675 SoC. While the Bluetooth implementation is not the latest, it’ still sufficient for most applications.
Connecting to the Flow II is straightforward, in fact when I tried to connect it the first time, there was a prompt for connection to my Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro even before I went into the Bluetooth menu. I think I had NFC on, and it was close to the headphone. I would say that it’s the most convenient pairing experience I’ve had with any Bluetooth device.
Stability & Range
Subsequent connections to the Flow II are also automatic. When I started walking around the house with the Flow II on, the Flow II stayed connected until I was on a different floor and had 2 9” thick walls between me and my phone. This just shows the reliability of the Bluetooth connection between my phone and the Flow II.
One of the features that are being touted by the Qualcomm CSR8675 is the cVc 8.0 noise cancellation technology. This technology is supposed to cancel out ambient noise to ensure that only my voice will go through the other end of the line.
Unfortunately, the way it was implemented on the Flow II resulted in my voice also being attenuated when I tried talking while there was a fan right in front of me. The voice on the other end of the line was quite clear though.
There are only 2 ANC modes that are available to the Flow II, which are ANC on and ambient mode. ANC mode is what we would typically expect of an ANC-capable headphone, where the ambient noise is blocked out by the mics that are mounted on the headphones.
In my testing, the Flow II did ANC mode well, as it was able to block out most of the noise that we would normally need to block out such as low repetitive rumbling noises from machines which we can typically associate with planes, trains, or buses.
The other mode that is available on the Flow II is the ambient mode. In this mode, the Flow II will still use the mics on the headphone, but this time it would amplify the noise from the outside. In theory, this would have been a good concept, but when I used this, it felt unnatural.
According to the specs sheet, the Flow II can last for 20 hours on a single charge. In practice, 1 full charge lasted around 22 hours. Admittedly, my listening volume wasn’t too loud, but lasting that long is still quite impressive. I’m sure I wouldn’t end up worrying too much about the battery of this headphone when I go out with it.
In case you’re caught without a battery while out and about, the Flow II can quickly be recharged to have around 10% battery within 10 mins, and it can be fully charged within 2 hours. The quick charging feature and the ample battery life make the Flow II an ideal companion if you don’t ever want to be caught without your headphones.
Package & Accessories
The Cleer Flow II arrives with a white paper sleeve that covers a black box with foam inserts. The design is tastefully classy while being unique. Inside the box is the carrying case, which is a semi-hard shell type that ensures that the headphones will be protected when you are traveling with them.
Inside the semi-hard shell case are the headphones, an airplane adaptor, the charging cable, and a 3.5mm cable for when you want to use the Flow II as a regular headphone.
There is a quick reference guide inserted on the left side of the case to make it easy to remember the various control functions of the Flow II. At the back of the case is an elastic pocket for putting some papers or small things that you might also need to carry with the headphone.
While I found the case to be robust and hard enough to protect the headphone, it would have been nice to have a case that didn’t require me to contort the headphones to fit inside. Since I had to keep remembering how the headphones are supposed to be folded for it to fit in the case with the divider inside.
The overall package of the Flow II is pretty good though since they come complete and ready to go once they’re out of the box. The case puts me at ease, and I’m sure that I wouldn’t worry about the headphones when I carry the Flow II’s around once we can travel again.
Click on Page 2 below for sound impressions & select comparisons.