When I reviewed the Cleer FLOW II in late 2020, I remarked on the somewhat cheaper feeling materials used. Fast forward to the present, I’m keen to learn if anything has been improved with the Cleer Enduro ANC, or if it’s simply a fresh paint job.
- Lovely design
- Excellent battery life
- Clear, balanced sound
- Controls feel wobbly/cheap
- ANC is pointless here
Upon first inspection, I greatly prefer the Cleer Enduro ANC aesthetic to that of the Cleer FLOW II. I love the brushed brass-esque finish on the ear cups and the colour scheme in its entirety. If that colour isn’t for you though, there is a Light Grey option.
This foldable headphone has all of the controls on the left ear cup. There’s a multi-function button flanked by volume up and down buttons. Directly underneath those is the ANC controls which toggle between on, off or ambient mode. Following the ear cup around further finds you at the USB Type-C charging connection, with a pinhole microphone a little further beyond that.
In between the buttons is a notification LED which will illuminate based on pairing, charging and ANC statuses.
- Driver – 40mm Ironless Driver
- Codec Support – SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- Frequency Response – 20-40KHz (line in) / 20-20KHz (Bluetooth)
- Connection – USB-C to 3.5mm for audio, USB-C to USB-A for charging
- Protocols – BT 5.0, SPP v1.0, HFP v1.6, A2DP v1.3.1, AVRCP v1.6
- Battery Life – Up to 60-hours of continuous playback with ANC on
- Weight – 280g
Audio & Use
Let’s start with comfort as this was my worry, again, about the construction of the Cleer Enduro ANC. In my first impressions video, I made it clear that the lack of a large cushion on the head might exacerbate fatigue over longer sessions. To date, that has, thankfully, not proved to be the case. In part, I think this relates to the clamp pressure of the ear cups. They grip tightly on to the side of the head which alleviates some of the pressure on the top band to provide as much cushioning. After a 4-hour continuous session (during gardening of all things) the headband held up, and the ear cups only needed minor adjustments.
That 4-hour session was a paltry test for the Enduro in actuality. Their marketing claimed up to 60-hours of continuous use with ANC on, and whilst I can’t confirm that I can confirm that I left them running for around a 14-hour session overnight, and the battery indicator on the phone still showed just shy of 80% battery remaining. That is impressive, to say the least! It’s also worth noting that they charged incredibly fast for a quick session too. Cleer’s marketing states a 10-minute charge delivers 2-hours of playback and whilst not timed, that did seem to stack up. Suffice to say the battery is not a concern here.
On Your Left…
The controls are a little fiddly, mainly due to their cheap, plastic construction, and all reside on the left ear cup. They wobble a little which isn’t great, but the different heights make them easy to find. A mixture of double and triple presses for functions is required due to the lack of buttons. I understand their choice here to maintain an aesthetic, but it does make changing a track a triple-click. That aside, I applaud them for having a single press for volume control, something many seemingly overlook.
What may be of some concern however is the ANC utilisation. For starters, the Enduro has some impressive natural isolation due to the design. I really needed to use the ambient mode to enhance the external noises when in a shop or talking to somebody close. The active noise cancellation is supposed to enhance that experience, but I found only the merest change when turning ANC on versus the ‘normal’ mode. I tested this in a number of scenarios with birds overhead, consistent traffic noise, as well as white noise generators and in all tests the result was the same. The Cleer Enduro ANC hardly made a difference. I can’t test it in a pressurised cabin of course (thanks COVID) but I think the unscientific tests I did complete satisfied my findings. The only tangible difference was a detectable wind-like noise which was only offputting when between tracks. Not ideal though.
There is a companion app, Cleer+, that is supposed to allow you to tweak how ANC functions as well as other settings. Sadly, with the three Android devices I attempted to use the Cleer Enduro ANC with, the app refused to connect to my headphones. They were connected to the devices fine and played back flawlessly, but the app simply did not fund them, despite them being a flagship product in their selection menu. I have raised this with Cleer Audio.
Music Is Joyous!
Aside from the ANC, the Cleer Enduro ANC performs soundly. The 40mm drivers deliver clarity at highs and mids that I’d expect to find on more expensive products and a rumbling bass that is great for the casual listener.
My typical playlist, starting with some Hip-Hop, outlined the low-end credentials here. The rumble and pound expected in such tracks can be handled well by the Enduro, and moreover, they sound clear and crisp with no bleed up. Moving through some pop music, the mids become a little more important. There were a few tracks where I detected the highs and mids becoming dangerously close, these were few and far between. Podcasts on the Enduro are excellent, focused and clean. Vocals of any kind also follow this trend.
With ANC on during music playback, I did detect a tightening and focus on the playback despite my previous assertions that as a noise cancellation device, it provides little. This can enhance complex tracks, and I think the ability to tweak the EQ in the app, should it work for you, could provide some more accuracy for those with more educated ears.
The audio on the Enduro ANC is good, as is the call quality. I’ve found over the head headphones poor in terms of overall call quality, but those wanting to double up on using the Cleer offering for business and pleasure will have no issues with recipients saying I sounded clear, and close.
The Cleer Enduro ANC provides a design that is perfect for me. I like brushed, matt finishes and the colour scheme is right up my alley. I was also surprised by the comfort-factor too. That memory foam cushioning really does the trick despite being thinner than can be found on competing products.
At £149 I didn’t expect these to be pushing Bose or Sony in any category, but the sound quality here got me thinking about the comparison. It might not quite be as clear or defined, but for a casual listener, which is the category I fit into when not reviewing, it would be a toss-up between any two units. The aptX Adaptive codec is on board, and when hooked up to an audio cable, the Enduro is Hi-Res Audio certified.
Where Cleer has regressed when compared to their Cleer FLOW II, is with ANC. On the FLOW II, ANC provided a tangible benefit and heightened immersion for the listener with it turned on. Here, the Enduro fails to deliver much of that benefit again. Thankfully the isolation manages to deliver quite well, but those looking for a Sony/Bose beater in the ANC stakes should look elsewhere.
Cleer has done a great job here; the Enduro ANC is cheaper than rival headphones sporting the same specifications, and largely holds its own against them. No mean feat! Only the ANC stops this being an insta-buy.