Cleer Arc Review
Cleer offers a range of innovative headphones and earbuds. We have evaluated most of their products over the last several years and all of them have proven superior to similar products in their price range. Many reach above their weight to challenge the likes of Bose and other more established brands.
And then there is the $149.99 Cleer Arc. Arc brings an entirely new design to the market, with a sports-like ear-band and an open speaker. But, unlike most sports earbuds, neither the speakers nor the ear tips enter the ear canal. Instead, the down-firing speaker grill aims sound toward the eardrum. This creates a sound profile that keeps external sound accessible. Because of the design, the Cleer Arc’s do not offer noise reduction of any kind.
- Weight: 14.5g (per earbud), 96.5g (both earbuds and case)
- Driver: 16.2mm Neodymium Dynamic Driver
- Frequency Response (Bluetooth®): 20Hz-20kHz
- Microphones: cVc 2-mic Beamforming
- Inputs: Bluetooth®
- Bluetooth® Version: 5.0
- Audio Formats: MP3, SBC, aptX
- Battery Life: 7hrs
- Charge Method: USB-A Integrated Carry Case
- Quick Charge: 10min charge provides 1hr
What we like
If you’re into cosplay, these are the ideal earbuds to complement a futuristic uniform. They don’t look like anything else on the market, though there are some other open ear earbud designs—none share the Arc’s clean lines and unique speaker design.
The 16.2mm Graphene Drivers perform well. Although it feels unusual not to have a silicon ear tip shoved down my ear canal, the sound is amazingly clear and crisp. It appears Cleer uses a beam-forming technology that directs the sound downward. The Cleer Arc’s don’t just leave the sound to flow out from the downward facing grills, but rather help it along its journey. They also employ beamforming on the internal microphones for solid call audio.
My test suite of music all reflected an adequate performance from the softer moments of Hamilton’s “It’s Quiet Uptown” to the plucky riffs on David Gueta’s “Titanium” to the guttural raspberries on the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey.” I felt most of the music was a bit distant, especially after experiencing months of Apple’s Spatial that often feels like the listener sits at the corner of the stage. And then I played “All Along the Watchtower” and felt like I was in the front row with Jimi Hendrix’s biggest fans. None of his guitar effects were lost during the listening experience.
Those looking for more control can turn to the Cleer+ app which manages the sound profile with an equalizer. The app also offers insight into battery level and delivers new firmware to the earbuds.
The access to ambient sounds may be a plus for many working from home, where they need to listen for children or pets, kitchen timers and knocks on the front door.
As with high-end earbuds, the Cleer Arc’s include on-device controls for volume, call management and music control.
The beautiful gray fabric case stores and charges the earbuds as they rest on their magnetic couplings using an included USB Type-A connector. Playtime is limited to about 7 hours. The case does not include a battery, so it charges only when plugged into a USB-Type A power supply.
Cleer Arcs comes in midnight blue or light grey.
What could be improved
Given the unique design, it’s hard to suggest improvements to Arc earbuds, but I do have some notes on the case.
I would like to see the USB Type A cable come with a USB-C adapter, or better, a USB-C connector.
Now, I get that these earbuds already come in a package more than twice, perhaps 3-times the size of some diminutive earbuds—but I would like a battery in the case. I’m sure Cleer considered this but probably discounted it because of the added weight on an already larger case.
While the speakers move, they only move back and forth, not down. I bring this up because the Arc’s will fit various human ear types differently. My large lobes prop the speaker above the image supplied by Cleer. I don’t know how that changes my listening experience, but I can only assume it does.
Like any earbud with on-device controls, remembering the right taps can be challenging. However, readers will likely consider this a “me” problem because they don’t have multiple earbuds to master.
Cleer Arc: The Bottom Line
Cleer makes outstanding headphones, and the Arc’s are no exception. They are, however, not for everyone. I would not make the Arc my choice for a plane or for walking through a busy city, but from the quiet of my club chair listening to music, they deliver great sound without the irritation sometimes caused by silicon earbuds, or ear wax.
And the quality and design is outstanding. The Cleer Arc’s are more expensive than many of the other open-ear designs, but Cleer’s track record has earned them that premium.
Cleer provided the Arc earbuds for review. Images courtesy of Cleer.
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