We know; everyone knows that true wireless earbuds (commonly referred to as AirPod alternatives by Apple-heads) are everywhere. You can’t hit a website without seeing an Amazon ad pushing some brand or other. It’s fair to say that there is a huge amount of dross, but most are merely acceptable. Every now and then you get a diamond in the rough. I think that’s what we’ve got here with the Cleer Ally Plus II, but it depends on a couple of things.
- Interesting and smooth design
- Great battery life
- Comfortable fit
- Only acceptable audio
- Bass-lead might put some off
Cleer Audio; we’ve reviewed a few of their products with the Enduro standing up well and the FLOW II winning a value medal from us. What we have never had the chance to review until now is some earbuds from them. The Cleer Ally Plus II, aside from being a mouthful, is Cleers’ premium offering at £129. For the money, you’re certainly getting a unique looking product, with a larger, more circular design than most other buds.
Each bud is identical with a Cleer logo on the largest edge and a notification LED towards the extremity and a microphone on the flipside. There are clear left and right markings, something I love to see, and their shape is both bulbous and svelte; a unique look as previously stated.
Controls are all touch based on the largely plastic buds, with double and triple pr#esses on the left bud managing track selection whilst the right bud cycles through Noise Cancellation and Ambient modes. Volume is controlled by a double-tap and hold on either bud. The buds used to control these functions can be changed in the Cleer+ app if required.
Available in both Midnight Blue and Stone colour options, the buds also have metallic plates to allow the charging pins to be found easily, as well as a light sensor that is used to pause music when a bud is removed.
The carry case itself is boxy, plastic, with a clear section to enable a full view of the buds during charging.
- 10mm Graphene drivers
- Active Noise Cancellation (adjustable in the Cleer+ app)
- 11-hour battery life
- Quick charge – 1 hr playback after 5 min charge (via USB Type-C)
- Charging case provides an additional 22 hrs of playback
- Qi Wireless Charging for the charging case
- Qualcomm cVc 8th generation technology
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Codecs: SBC, aptX Adaptive
- IPX4 water resistance certified
In The Box
- Ally Plus II buds
- Charging Case
- Quick start guide
- USB Type-C charging cable
- Round ear-tips (XS to XL)
- Angled ear-tips (S to L)
Audio & Use
Well, these are interesting. Being the first to use the Qualcomm QCC5141 chip, delivering ANC, Voice Assistant support and aptX Adaptive audio, I had high hopes. The design already won me over, so it was really all down to the comfort, battery life and audio quality to determine the outcome of this review.
Let’s start with that soundstage. You’ll either love it or hate it, frankly. The mid and high end have weight and crispness of tone, making them equally adept for music and audiobooks lovers alike. The low end is there, and it’s possibly slightly emphasised over the mids and highs. It’s a little bit muddy but nothing too bad considering the size of the drivers. Listening to some Hip-Hop and Pop delivered exactly what I was looking for from earbuds. I could hear everything in the position it should be and pumping the volume up will give bass heads what they’re looking for too. I expected some distortion at high volumes and connection issues, but none appeared. You can cite the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.2 for the latter.
That’s audio performance down, and a check in the positives column. On to battery life and it’s the same story. The marketing material suggests 11-hours of continuous playback. The most I physically tested was 6-hours of a torture test and it passed with flying colours. I have no reason to doubt 11-hours is achievable and with the charging cradle in tow also you’ll never be caught short.
Okay, so it all comes down to comfort then. Again, I can’t moan at all. They fit with the standard “place & twist” insertion technique and they sat in my ears for that 6-hour session with only minimal fatigue. My only complaint is that of any other earbud that has a touch panel to control functions. You have to tap it into your ear canal to trigger the functions. It’s a personal opinion, but it could cause discomfort for some.
The App Is Basic Though
The Cleer+ app can help people who want to tweak their EQ settings, but you can also be more granular in your approach to ambient noise control. There are 9 levels of ANC effectively ranging from complete noise cancellation to full ambient mode. Other than that though, the controls are relatively basic. Showing battery for each bud, adjusting EQ, and managing the touchpad controls to a certain extent, is all that is available here. To improve this, Cleer Audio could look to delivering profiles and presets for a start.
The only downsides I’ve found is with the touchpanel comfort, which I’ve already outlined, along with a strange issue with ANC. During the review period, I’ve had rather a bad cold (some may call it Man Flu, but that’s a different conversation). During my listening sessions, I’ve been coughing quite a lot, and I’ve noticed that the coughing disrupts the ANC processing in the buds. You get a brief crackle as the buds attempt to smooth out this sudden burst of audio not coming from the internal drivers. Luckily this isn’t an issue most of the time, but it’s worth mentioning as it
So, it’s a complete and utter win then, right? Well, it’s pretty close to be fair. The charging cradle can be charged via wireless, Bluetooth 5.2 really helps (helps me mowing my lawn for a start) as does the ANC chip included. The bass isn’t quite as rumbling as I’d want it to be, but for the size of the buds, and the price, I don’t think you can ask too much more from these.
These have taken the Ally Plus, improved them, and brought the price down to a reasonable level. These are a must look at if you’re in the market!