If there’s one word I associate with Cleer, it’s sophistication. It was clear upon reviewing Cleer’s Ally Plus TWS ANC Earbuds that the company values premium quality over everything. I had never received earbud accessories as carefully and thoughtfully put together as I did in that package. There was thought and effort put into every single aspect of the Ally Plus. Cleer only further cemented my belief in the company valuing sophistication when I received their Flow II.
Full Marks for Presentation
The Flow II comes safely ensconced in a hard, zippered carry case that is further secured by two additional cardboard boxes. Flow’s packaging got me right in the first ten seconds of unboxing it; the presentation exuded extravagance and won my heart right away. Once I was done gushing over the sturdy cardboard boxes, a neatly laminated user guide and the solid carry case with a pocket on its back, I was finally ready to come face to face with the Flow.
Upon unzipping the carry case, I came across a gorgeous pair of cans, a 3.5mm audio cable, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and a flight adapter. I can’t thank Cleer enough for providing an audio cable with the device. With wireless headphones becoming the new norm, 3.5mm cables have almost gone extinct. But it feels great to see them included for when your device is out of juice. Flight adapters are another accessory that aren’t typically included.
A Treat to Look At
Flow II offers an all-metal body and surprisingly manages to remain lightweight. It has a fairly thin headband stuffed with a thick layer of leather cushioning. Its earcups are mid-sized and feature ridged silver rims. These give the exterior some textural detail while adding the perfect amount of bling to the cans. The rest of the device is plain with the brand name emblazoned on both sides. Flow has rotatable earcups and a foldable design, capable of easily being stowed away in the carry case. Thus, it scores full marks in portability and form factor.
On a head as small as mine, headphones rarely allow me to move freely without slipping off. But the Flow holds onto my ears so tightly that I don’t think anything can separate us. To test this, I jumped around a little wearing them and they didn’t even budge. The leatherette earcups seal firmly with around half a centimeter’s gap from the edges of my ears. The metal extender is easily adjustable, offering plenty of give. I tightened and loosened the headphones to test the full range of the Flow’s give. However, the force with which its earcups clasped onto my ears remained strong.
My ears weren’t the only part of my noggin undergoing extreme force. The top of my skull was under pressure too. However, unlike the pressure around my ears, this didn’t feel very nice. It left me wishing for a slightly wider headband with better pressure distribution. As mentioned, the headband is padded generously but could stand to be wider.
Navigating the Flow
The Flow was ready for use within thirty seconds after I pressed the power button for the first time. The Bluetooth 4.2 connected immediately and a female voice provided both a power-on and pairing confirmation. I fiddled with the Flow a little more to come across its ANC and its Google Assistant buttons. I appreciate how the three buttons, despite being right next to each other, are easily distinguishable via separate identity markers.
Navigation was simple; I didn’t have any mishaps because of how intuitively the buttons are designed. I just wish they looked as good as the rest of the unit. For some reason, the controls on the Flow don’t look like they belong there. Their cheap design clashes with the vibe of the headphones.
ANC on the Flow
As soon as I donned the Flow, it significantly muted background noise. It was unbelievable how the sound of my sister’s typing was reduced to almost nothing. While I was impressed by the passive noise isolation, I wish I could say the same about the active noise cancellation. Something about its ANC just didn’t sit right with me. It reduced ambient noise but didn’t transport me to a world of my own like the Ally Plus did. After such a positive prior experience with Cleer, I expected far better ANC from these over-ear headphones.
Music on the Flow
Regardless of the underwhelming ANC, you’ve got to appreciate how brilliant the Flow’s sound is. It is extremely focused, loud and clear. It is the kind of positional audio that every gamer dreams of. Flow positions every element in the percussion and the vocals separately. Even with the volume maxed out on both the headphones and YouTube, the audio remained distortion-free. I listened to a lot of Sia on these; who can give me a better test of high frequency? Every high note was delivered with clarity and precision. Low notes were enjoyable and had a satisfying thump. With 40mm drivers, the sound was loud in addition to being clear. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to music on the Flow.
The playback controls are straightforward. Double tap the left earcup to pause or play. Swiping up and down adjusts volume while left and right skips forward or rewinds. The volume controls worked well but there were issues pausing and playing. I found myself occasionally tapping a number of times, but to no avail. The responsiveness of the touch-enabled earcup isn’t the best I’ve come across. Luckily, taking the headphones off pauses audio automatically, which makes for a convenient alternative. Additionally, putting them back on plays from where you left off.
I had a good time with Flow. I managed an impressive 17 hours or so on a single charge with ANC on. Using Google Assistant on the Flow was smooth. It intently listened to my commands and responded efficiently. It wasn’t one of those features that’s been added simply as a marketing tactic. Overall, Flow is a decent headset, but if you want an upgrade with superb ANC, consider looking elsewhere. These headphones provide brilliant noise isolation, but there’s noticeable difference between isolation and cancellation.
Is It Hardcore?
If the Flow II didn’t come with ANC, I would’ve given them a better score. Their noise isolation is fantastic, so you will definitely feel a reduction in ambient noise. However, their ANC could’ve been a lot better. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a gorgeous pair of cans that provides excellent sound and a snug fit, this is for you.