Review: Cleer Flow II Update Keeps The Headphone’s Design Relevant

Review: Cleer Flow II Update Keeps The Headphone’s Design Relevant

Cleer Flow II headphones are available in black or silver from Cleer.

With the Cleer Flow II headphones, Cleer brought already good headphones into the next decade. Subtle changes often get derided, but a good headphone with aging features also quickly falls off the map for consideration. Cleer decided to keep the Flow line relevant and to stay competitive. We think Cleer made the right changes in features and simplification to keep these cans in contention.

We think Cleer made the right changes in features and simplification to keep these cans in contention.

What’s New with the Cleer Flow II

The already modern looking headphones get updated to remain relevant and differentiated in an increasingly competitive market.

For our impression of the original Cleer Flow headphones, click here.

Here are the updates Cleer engineered into the Flow II’s:

A switch to USB-C. This change makes the headphone feel more modern immediately. As charging gear and devices which to USB-C devices that support the standard help reduce the need for device-specific kit.

Built-in Google Assistant. Requires Google Assistant running on an iOS (with Google Assistant app installed) or Android device. The previous ambient sound button becomes the Google Assistant button. Single press fetches the assistant. Double press stops announcements and a press and hold turns on assistant listening mode.

Updated controls. As noted above, the ambient sound control surrendered its button to Google Assistant. Its functionality has moved to the noise-canceling button. New LED colors reflect the status of the updated features.

Eliminated the personalization color rings. The press release still mentions the exchangeable color rings that came standard with the original Flow headphones, but the website does not. I don’t miss them, nor the potential to lose them on the road. If they are indeed gone, the business decision was a good one. Simplify product complexity which results in lower initial component cost and eliminates an entire customer service category, both of which probably outweigh any revenue benefit from selling rings.

Fast charging. A 10-minute charge will yield 2 hours of playback time. 2 hours to a full charge.

A greatly improved manual and redesigned case documentation makes understanding how to store the headphone more apparent, and also acts as a basic quick start guide.

What didn’t change

The sound experience remains the same coming from the well-balanced 40mm Ironless™ drivers. The Flow II’s build on the Qualcomm® CSR8670 audio SoC, the EDGE Voice delivers robust Bluetooth® 4.2 audio streaming support and cVc™ noise reduction technology. The new headphones retain the Hi-Res playback (up to 40kHz2) when in wired mode, and 30dB ambient noise suppression of their predecessors.

Pairing takes place via standard Bluetooth® pairing or via NFC for devices that support that capability.

The headphones remain comfortable companions with the memory foam ear cups and top bands. They remain a little bulkier and heavier than many competing noise cancelation headsets, but they also feel more substantial. The engineering component of a buy equitation always comes down to the tradeoffs on a buyer’s evaluation list. While weight and form factor remains an important factor in traveling, having tools that work after the rigors of travel also needs to be considered.

The touch controls on the left ear cup remain home to volume, skip and the cupping motion that quickly reveals ambient sound when need to converse with a barista or flight attendant

The Cleer Flow IIs remain aesthetically distinct from most other headphones on the market that look like either Bose or Beats clones, and that’s a good thing.

Still room for improvement

The next generation of Cleer Flow headphones should include Bluetooth® 5 which should help them reach more than 20 hours of play.

Cleer could save a bit on cost if they take out the “airplane” adapter no longer required on most modern aircraft.

Make all wireless features available in wired mode.

The touch controls on the earcup eliminate buttons, but they also make the headphone features feel less response and accessible because of the precision required to make them work. Cleer should keep the feature but loosen up the touch parameters so touch doesn’t require so much precision.

This final feature will require a rethink on size and packaging, but I would appreciate a bit more elongated ear cup that didn’t require folding my hear into the cup. I was taken by the Kakoon headphones at CES this year and would love to see more headphone makers recognize the oblong nature of the human ear.

The Bottom Line

The Cleer Flow II’s travel as well as any full-sized headset, fitting securely in their custom case when not in use.  At home and around the city, the Cleer Flow IIs offer excellent listening companions when time and space support a world without the quick convenience of wireless earbuds. The Flow IIs handle phone calls and ambient jazz with equal aplomb.

Cleer continues to deliver quality as they keep their headphones relevant. Many top ten noise-canceling headphone lists eschew the Cleer Flow IIs and we think they are wrong to do so. At the moment, my Bose headphones remain in the box while the Flow IIs stream music into my ears.

…written while listening to Electronic For Writing playlist on Amazon Music.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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