Cleer Audio ARC II Sport
Cleer Audio ARC II Sport Review
I have grown to like the $189.99 Cleer Audio ARC II Sport earbuds, although they have not grown on me. This second-generation device addresses all of my criticisms of the original ARC earbuds save that they do not fit my ears anywhere close to what Cleer Audio shows in manuals or advertising materials. Despite that issue, they still look great, work well and sound good, even though they do not provide the intimate experience imparted to those with shorter ears.
What we like
- 8 hours of playback (with 27 additional hours in the case)
- Motion detection controls
- IPX5 water and sweat resistance
- Multipoint connectivity
- UV Light Sterilization
- AptX Adaptive
Let me just start off with kudos to the Cleer Audio design team for addressing almost every issue I had with the original Cleer Arc sport earbuds. These improvements include a charging case, improved battery life, removal of the on-device power switch, an IPX rating, on-ear controls, removal of the zipper on the case, and something I didn’t know I needed but find very cool: UV light sterilization in the case to keep the speaker area free of viruses and bacteria.
Want to go hands-free? The ARC IIs also include motion sensors to control their features. The Cleer+ app includes a training routine for head movement, though as noted in the What Could be Improved section, the new feature often proves overly sensitive to head motion. I have motion control turned off through the app.
So here’s the basic rundown.
16.2mm neodymium dynamic drivers that cover a frequent response of 20Hz-20kHz. Cleer employed Bluetooth® 5.3 with multipoint connectivity. For playback, the Arc IIs support AAC, SBC, and AptX Adaptive and Lossless, the latter only available to devices that support those standards.
For calls, the ARC IIs include dual microphone aptX with beamforming.
The Cleer Audio ARC IIs run 8 hours on a single charge, a total of 35 hours when leveraging the extra battery in the case. That they now come with a battery case greatly enhances their utility over the earlier version. The case includes quick charging, with 10 minutes turning into about an hour of listening time.
And that’s all good. Cleer Audio’s engineering and attention to detail, however, make these earbuds truly outstanding. They are beautiful to look at, with their sleek metal and high-grade, etched plastic design. I have to say, and I’m probably one of the few that can say this: the black ARC II earbuds look fantastic next to Ray-Ban’s Scuderia Ferrari frames.
Cleer Audio also designed the most attractive charging cases on the market.
The ARC IIs deliver surprisingly good sound for open earbuds, with solid base and crisp music and voice clarity. I really enjoy the ARC IIs for podcasts, but they also perform well across all genres of music, growling effectively on Welcome to the Jungle and accurately relaying the subtleties of the Piano Guys’ version of A Thousand Years.
Keep in mind these are open earbuds; they do not actively cancel noise. The outside world is free to enter your ears, and when they sit as far above the ear canal as they do on me, that is pretty much all outside sound. I find them great for walks and listening in quiet areas, and of course, they are intended for exercise. They are not good for crowded, quiet areas as the open-ear design also lets out the sound coming from the speakers as much as it lets in the sound from the surrounding area. More than once, I have been told, “I can hear your music.” That isn’t a complaint, just a design fact.
The Cleer+ app continues to offer solid value in helping manage features, touch control assignment and firmware.
The mostly paper packaging is a good recognition of environmental issues, though the earbuds themselves do not claim using recycled materials in their manufacturing process.
The Cleer ARC II earbuds also come in red.
What could be improved
- No Qi charging
- May not fit your ears well (for those with longer overall ear measurements)
- Motion sensing is too sensitive; training needs to be improved
- No on-ear sensing
I’m guessing, and I may be wrong, but Cleer probably engineered the Arc IIs based on some average ear size data. That my ears are outliers becomes clear every time I don a pair of sports earbuds with loops or hooks to secure them around my pinna. My ears seem to be too tall compared to the average, which at 6 feet, 4 inches tall (ears inclusive), doesn’t surprise me because most average things don’t fit me. Maybe a telescoping function on the speaker support?
The flat, fabric case looks made to sit on a Qi charging pad, although it isn’t.
I like the motion-sensing feature, but it needs refinement, as inadvertent head motions can trigger actions unintentionally. Animation during the training routine and the ability to test and refine training would improve performance. I performed the training once, and I know it wasn’t right, but I cannot change the model without a full reset (adding motion sensor retraining should be an easy update to the app).
I would also like to see improved on-ear sensing as the ARC II Sport earbuds consistently continue to play music, podcasts or other content when removed from my ears but not placed in the case.
Cleer Audio ARC II Sport: The bottom line
Even though they don’t fit me well, I still like the Cleer Audio ARC IIs. The elegant integration of the earbuds with the ARC over-ear supports has no rival in aesthetics. The beautiful case and the well-engineered earbuds deliver superior quality when compared to the common rubberized and plastic sports earbuds. They aren’t perfect, but the combination of great looks and solid sound make up for the deficiencies in their software.
Cleer Audio provided the ARC II Sport for review. Images courtesy of Cleer Audio unless otherwise noted.
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