Cleer Audio Flow Review

I’ve been following the folks at Cleer Audio for a couple years now, starting back when they were just showing prototypes of their NEXT headphone.

Everyone I’ve met at the company has shown a passion for their work and an openness to feedback which is quite rare in my experience. Audiophiles are not known for holding back when it comes to negative comments, so I applaud them for being so open to taking input from the community. Since those early years getting input on the NEXT, Cleer hasn’t sat still on other fronts though. They now have a growing line of wireless IEMs for various applications, as well as a Wireless, Noise-Cancelling Headphone called the Flow – the subject of today’s review.

At $279 USD, the Flow is what I would consider a mid-priced Bluetooth headphone. Not cheap, but not absurd by consumer standards. Relatively affordable by audiophile and premium-Bluetooth standards. Having opened, at this point, a fair number of headphone boxes, I was kind of blown away by the Flow’s packaging. The fit is perfect, and the velvet covered, nesting-box pieces come out one-by-one, and I felt like I was on a journey, like some sort of industrial packaging odyssey. I don’t normally wax lyrical about packaging but this one was just so beyond my expectations at this price point that I felt I had to mention it. It’s not flashy, but it’s excellently put together, and I didn’t have to struggle with overly tight slide-on cases or finicky twist-ties. Included are micro USB~USB cable for charging, a 3.5mm auxiliary cable, the headphones themselves, a nice travel case, an airline dual-aux adapter, a manual and a thick envelope with two replacement cup rings. As far as I can tell the rings themselves are entirely cosmetic, but they sure do look cool in the box.

Solid build quality and excellent packaging.

The carry case is sort of a semi-hard style, and I believe made from some kind of synthetic protein leather. It’s pretty basic, but has some little pouches for accessories and is pretty slim, and perfectly functional for light travel use. The headphones fold up and the earcups lay flat with a pretty secure fit. That said, it doesn’t have a specifically-molded cutout for the headphones, so don’t sit on it too hard or drop it from an 80th floor window.

The headphones themselves are much like the packaging; understated but of a better-than-average build quality. The materials are mostly plastic with some leather and metal pieces, but the fit and finish is superb. Nothing creaks and the swivel of the cup yolks and adjustments on the headband are some of the smoothest and easiest to adjust assemblies I’ve used on a headphone of any price. Kudos is due to the Cleer team for putting together one heck of a solid headphone.

The cans are comfortable enough, neither the lightest nor heaviest in this category and with a fairly standard padded headband. The earcups have what is quickly becoming a favored arrangement for these kinds of headphones, where the cups are rather moderate, even small in size and fairly shallow, but the pads have a sort of extended cavity inside that your ears tuck into. This generally works very well for my rather large head and small ears, and I find I tend to get a better seal than some larger cans. The downside is that several of my friends who have smaller heads and bigger ears don’t have as much space as they’d like, and their smaller heads mean less clamping force to hold the headphones in place. They aren’t quite as small as the original Sennheiser momentums, but those with larger ears should try these out first to make sure they have enough room.

Compact, folded design and soft, fitted ear cups.

Functionally, these are pretty straightforward, there’s a power button, noise-cancelling button and a third button labelled Ambient, which I’ll get to in a moment. The left-side ear cup also has touch responsivity. Swipe up or down to adjust volume and swipe forward or back to skip forwards or backwards. Tap once to pause or play. The touch feedback was pretty decent, though the system seemed to respond a little better to a dragging motion with full contact all the way through, rather than a quick swipe-touch. The noise-cancelling is an on/off affair and a short voice prompt and green light indicate whether this is on or not. Of note is that the Flow turns on and responds very quickly. The startup and power down takes less than 2 seconds by my estimation. This is in contrast to my Mobius, where I’m sitting for a good few moments wondering if I’ve hit the right button and still speedy compared to many Bluetooth headsets I’ve used recently.

On a side note, battery life is pretty good and I had no issues using the Flow for about 30+ hours on a single charge. I did have one frustration though. While adjusting the headphones on my head, I often bumped the left ear cup, skipping tracks or pausing when I didn’t intend to. The three buttons and touch controls combined with the rather small cups make it difficult to adjust these headphones without accidentally changing a setting or skipping a song. Definitely not the biggest inconvenience of all time, but still an annoyance.

Cleer Audio
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Three Toes of Fury's picture

I like your style and approach to reviewing.
I also very much appreciate seeing reviews of not super-high end stuff.

Keep up the great work and content!

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3 Toes of Fury

PDC3's picture

No fluff, good stuff. Thanks.

hpscout's picture

What's the Bluetooth protocol version implemented in the cans - 4.x/5.0? Even the manufacturer's website doesn't specify!