Cleer Flow II Headphones Review: The Sound Of Excellence

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Tiny wireless earphones that hide in your ears are great – but sometimes you want the full experience. Sometimes you want big, comfy headphones that cover your head and send you to far-away musical realms (or just the sound of a good film) – and that’s exactly where the Cleer Flow II come in.

The Cleer Flow II are over-ear headphones that offer excellent sound, a cool design and an impressive set of features – including Active Noise Cancellation which does a very good job of blocking outside noises. They also work well for phone calls and video calls, and for watching films and TV shows.

As always, not everything is perfect – and in this review, I’ll go over the pros and cons, and who these headphones are aimed at, considering their price point.

Cleer Flow II official

Quick Look – Cleer Flow II

What are they:  Over-ear wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, touch controls and a built-in microphone for calls.

Features

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Audio Quality

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value For Money

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Overall

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality for both music and video
  • Active Noise Cancellation works like a charm
  • Very comfortable
  • Work across an impressive distance from your device
  • Decent battery life (20 hours)

Cons

  • Bass is a bit timid
  • No “normal” mode (just ANC or Ambient modes)
  • Button placement causes accidental presses

Features and Specs

  • Driver unit:  40mm
  • Battery Playing Time: 20 hours
  • Full charging time: 2 hours
  • Quick Charging: 10 Minutes for 2 hours of use
  • Wired ports: USB-C, 3.5mm audio
  • Bluetooth Version: 4.2
  • Audio Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX HD, LDAC
  • Extra Features: Touch controls, Quick conversation mode (by covering the left cup), Google Assistant button, On-ear detection

Summary

Truly excellent headphones that offer very straight-forward and balanced sound, with a somewhat light bass. The hybrid ANC works very well, the controls are easy to use, and they sit very comfortably on your head. They’re not cheap – but most won’t be disappointed.


Who Are The Cleer Flow II For?

Cleer Audio has been around since 2012, specialising in personal audio equipment like earphones and speakers – so they know their way around good sound products.

The Cleer Flow II (which are an updated model of the original Cleer Flow) are at the mid-range bracket in terms of their price – though when it comes to performance, they certainly outperform that price bracket.

Being big (though not bulky), these are less for using outside (they’re not a good fit for exercising), and more about enjoying a quiet session of music or for watching a film – either at home, or on a long train/plane ride.

What really shines with the Cleer Flow II, in addition to the impressive set of features (which we will go over in a minute), is the Active Noise Cancellation (which Cleer call “Hybrid Noise Cancellation”). By using two microphones, as well as the headphones’ passive blocking capabilities, these do a really good job of blocking outside noises.

And it’s not just about people talking around you or the humming of the train – I couldn’t even hear my own typing when I was using the keyboard. (This does have ramifications for voice calls – but we’ll get to that).

So if you’re tired of all those tiny earbuds that are all the rage these days, and want an experience with a bit more oomph – the Cleer Flow II are great contenders.

Using The Cleer Flow II

Size and Comfort

At 350 grams, the Cleer Flow II are not exactly lightweight, but you don’t really notice that when you put them on your head. Thanks to some good design choices, memory-foam-filled earcups, and a padded headband, these almost disappear on your head (in terms of how they feel).

The padding for the headband isn’t the deepest I’ve seen – and after a few hours of use, you do start feeling that section on your head – but they still do a very good job of masking their weight, and I never got the urge to throw them off my head after 30 minutes – which did happen with other models.

The design is pretty cool, almost futuristic, with grey and silver colours and a silver ring on the earcups that screams for you to try and turn with your fingers (but alas, you can’t).

Cleer flow II in the box

In the box, you get a nice looking hard-shell carrying case, a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable (for hard-wiring the headphones, if you want), and an in-flight adapter (for those pesky two-pin earphone sockets that some planes have).

The earcups themselves are a bit on the small size (and I don’t have particularly big ears), but they still engulf and cover your ears all around, which also helps with passive noise blocking.

All the controls are placed on the left earcup – three physical buttons and touch controls on the outer face of the cup. The physical buttons are well placed for finding with your fingers, but they’re a bit TOO well placed – I end up accidentally pushing a button almost every time I put the earphones on or off.

Pairing and Controlling

Even though the Cleer Flow II only support Bluetooth 4.2, the initial pairing was very smooth, both on an Android phone and a laptop.

In addition to the regular Bluetooth pairing, there’s also an NFC pairing feature – if your phone supports it, you just place it near the right earcup, and the two devices start talking – that was by far the easiest pairing I ever had to do.

The left earcup has one small LED light that lets you know what the earphones are doing, what the battery status is, etc. The LED Behaviour part of the manual looks like a morse code instruction manual – which would always be the case with just one light. But worry not – if the batteries get under 10%, you also hear an audio warning.

The three physical buttons on the left earcup are the ON/OFF button, a Google Assistant button which activates and controls Google’s virtual helper, and the ANC button that switches between ANC and Ambient modes.

Cleer Flow II in hand

The Google Assistant support is useful if you’re using the Flow II with your phone – you can talk to the assistant (on your phone) and give it commands, or even ask it to read your notifications out loud.

In addition to those buttons, you also get touch controls on the outer face of the left earcup. You slide your finger up or down for volume control, and left and right for skipping tracks back and forward. Two taps can Play and Pause, as well as control phone calls.

One of the more unique features is “Conversation Mode” – if you cover the left earcup with your whole hand, Ambient mode is temporarily activated (with Noise Cancellation being turned off), and the volume is automatically lowered.

This is very useful when you want to have a quick word with someone, or listen to the train driver as he’s mumbling something on the speakers.

Once you take your hand off the earcup – everything goes back to normal, with the volume going up again. It’s a neat feature that more headphones should incorporate.

Lastly, if you take the headphones off your head while music is playing – the music will automatically stop. And it resumes once you put the headphones back on.

I was also very impressed with the working distance the Cleer Flow II provide. I was able to leave my phone in the bedroom, go down the stairs a full floor – and the music kept playing flawlessly. Then I went down ANOTHER floor (so two in total) – and while the music did start to slightly crackle, it was still there.

No tiny true wireless earphones that I’ve tested ever managed to work over such long distances. (But your mileage may vary, of course, as this also depends on the types of wall and obstructions between you and the playing device).

Active Noise Cancellation On The Cleer Flow II

Let’s start with the IT feature of recent years – the Active Noise Cancellation.

It seems every type of earphones these days, from the really cheap ones to the super-expensive ones, and everything in between, promise active noise cancellation.

In the real-world, however, ANC on cheaper earphones rarely does anything. So the real testing begins when you get mid or high range earphones.

The Cleer Flow II, I’m happy to say, deliver – and then some – on the ANC front.

The Flow II use microphones on the inside and outside of the earcup to “take measurements and react instantly to cancel noises”. Add to that the good seal on your ears and the passive noise reduction – and you get awe-inspiring noise cancellation, especially at this price range.

Cleer Flow II on head official
Cleer Flow II (Photo: Cleer)

They’re excellent at blocking humming white noise – like that of a train or a plane engine – but also things like kids screaming around you or people talking. Mind you, they’re also likely to block car horns – so be very careful if you use them outside.

I had cases where people had to wave their hands at me, to grab my attention – because I couldn’t hear them talking.

This all means that the Cleer Flow II really help pull you into their world – whether it be music you’re playing, or a film you’re watching.

The other side of this equation is the Ambient mode, which does the reverse – it amplifies outside noises. So if you’re walking outside, and you want to be very alert to things going on around you, this could be helpful.

I didn’t like the Ambient mode all that much – it amplifies outside sound so much, that it feels like every faraway car is driving past you. And people who talk in the distance, sound like they’re right next to you.

It’s useful, perhaps, for being careful outside – but it’s an awful way to listen to anything worthwhile.

Weirdly, you don’t get a middle ground here. There’s no “normal” mode – you either have to use ANC or Ambient mode. I would have liked the option of just turning all the effects off, for when I’m walking outside, for example.

Sound And Music Quality

The ANC does a very good job of letting you experience the music in all its glory, but it’s only one part of the equation, of course.

The main thing to say about the Cleer Flow II’s sound quality is that it excels in giving you a very straight-forward experience, well-balanced sound and the exact intentions of the people behind the song you’re listening to.

Listening to Daddy Cool by Boney M, I could hear great separation of all the layers. The Flow II excelled with the lows and produced very rich mid vocals, as well as the song’s signature low harmonies.

The bass, while not very heavy, cuts like a hot knife through butter, with super elegant strings and brass. Overall the sound managed to keep a beautiful disco vibe without being hard on the ears, as these songs sometimes tend to do with other headphones.

Moving on to The Look by Roxette, and again the headphones complement this ’80s classic very well.

The almost hidden countdown in the intro managed to shine through, and as the second verse kicked in, I got brilliant low mids of the vocal harmonies. Drums, and especially the snare, benefit from the smart distribution of frequencies.

And thanks to the top-notch noise cancellation, the “surprise break” towards the end of the song is indeed surprising, as you truly “hear” a total block of silence followed by the final chorus.

The one caveat I would add is that fans of deep, heavy bass (like myself), won’t find it here – as with everything else, the bass is perfectly balanced, so it never drowns the other parts – but you also don’t get that thumping-in-your-heart feeling that some heavy-bass-hitting earphones go for.

Depending on your tastes – that’s either a plus or a minus.

They’re also excellent for watching films and TV shows with – so that’s a big plus in my book.

All in all, while they’re not exactly cheap, they do outperform their price point, and if you’re looking for all-in-one headphones that do (almost) everything right – you can’t really go wrong with the Cleer Flow II.

Phone And Video Calls Sound Quality

Since these are Bluetooth headphones that can connect to your phone, they also have a microphone so you can use them for phone calls.

And, as is so popular these days, they’re also great for video calls (on Zoom and similar services), so I tested the Cleer Flow II for both of these use cases.

When doing phones calls, the sound was quite good, and people on the other end were able to hear me quite clearly, and the same can be said for video calls.

However, I had one issue – which has to do with the powerful Active Noise Cancellation. You see – it works too well in this case, so you hardly hear yourself. And speaking (either on the phone, or on a video chat) when you don’t hear yourself properly, is a bit disorienting.

Switching to the Ambient mode is no good in this case, because while you will hear yourself better – you will also hear every car and every person walking by, and quite strongly at that.

So this is another case where I wished for a “Normal” mode, which is absent here.

That being said, once I got used to, well, not hearing myself when I speak – I pretty much stopped noticing it, and carried on with my video call.

Watching TV And Films With The Cleer Flow II

With the Bluetooth support, you can easily connect the headphones to either your phone – or even streaming devices that support Bluetooth, like the Amazon Fire TV.

The Cleer Flow II also come with a 3.5mm jack, and a cable – so you can even connect them to old-school devices that don’t support Bluetooth.

And you’re going to want to – because they really stand out when you’re watching a film. The sound is super-clear, and there’s a perfect balance between the sound effects, the music and the talking. Even during huge action scenes, I could still hear the tiniest sound effects I never noticed before, as well as what the characters were saying.

If you tend to watch films and TV with headphones on – these will quickly become your go-to pair.

Cleer Flow II Battery Life

When fully charged, you can use the Flow II for up to 20 hours. It’s a decent length of time, though there are better performers out there.

Fully charging them takes two hours, but thanks to USB-C there’s also a useful quick-charge feature, which gives you two hours of usage after a quick 10-minute charge.

While the Flow II automatically turn themselves off after 30 minutes when there’s no audio signal detected, they DON’T turn themselves off automatically if the ANC is turned on.

This is useful for when you want to use them JUST for the noise cancellation, without listening to anything – when you’re trying to sleep on an aeroplane, for example.

But since the ANC defaults to ON, and you would probably use it in most cases anyway – the auto-off feature isn’t very useful, so do remember to turn them off when you’re done using them.

Cleer Flow II in their case

Bottom Line: Are the Cleer Flow II Worth It?

The Cleer Flow II are among the best over-ear headphones I’ve tested in recent years.

They offer clear, well-balanced sound without any tricks and gimmicks, and without any of the sound components taking the lead over the others.

The somewhat timid bass and the limited soundstage do mean they don’t “lift you up” as some headphones do (the Creative SXFI Air do very well in that department), but the plus side of that is the brilliant and direct sound representation.

Note: The Cleer Flow II were supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.

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