Cleer Roam NC Review: A Good Compromise

We’ve covered a number of the Cleer Audio TWS range, but the Cleer Roam NC is the cheapest option on offer. At £60 the Roam NC offer a small footprint, Active Noise Cancellation and aptX audio codec. Whilst £60 is not pocket money, it is a significant decrease from the £130 that it’ll cost to snag the Ally Plus II.

Cleer Roam NC
+ FOR
  • Comfortable
  • Good battery life
  • Balanced soundstage
- AGAINST
  • ANC is marginally below-par
  • Design is cheap looking

Buy on Amazon – £60

Disclaimer

The Cleer Roam NC was provided free of charge in exchange for a full and frank review of its capabilities. No money has exchanged hands and Cleer Audio have had no input as to the final published article. The Cleer Roam NC was tested over a three week period connected to an Android smartphone.

Quick Links…

Overview

The Cleer Roam NC signifies a significant point in Cleer Audio’s marketing strategy. Until now, all of their TWS offerings have been on the premium side and aimed at specific demographics. However, the Roam NC is primed to be their jack of all trades offering.

The buds themselves are similar in design to that of the Cleer Audio Ally Plus but are smaller and have an all-plastic design. The charging case is similarly smaller and plastic in construction. On the outer edge of the buds is an indented “Cleer” logo along with a pinhole microphone. On the reverse sits the charging pins along with the stem which houses the 5.8mm dynamic driver.

The Cleer Roam NC is available in two distinct colours; Graphite (grey) and Sand (natural).

Spec Sheet

  • 5.8mm neodymium Dynamic Driver
  • Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX codec
  • IPX4 waterproof
  • 4.5 hours listening on a full charge
  • Charging case (can deliver two full charges)
  • Qualcomm cVc (clear call technology)

In The Box

  • 5 sizes of ear tips
  • USB-C cable
  • English user guide

Audio & Use

Jumping straight in, my immediate thoughts were that the Cleer Roam NC have a significantly less effective active noise cancellation (ANC) deployment. To test, I played some white noise on a TV approximately five metres from where I sat. I then opened the Cleer+ app, within which the noise cancellation can be toggled and toggled ambient mode on as well as ANC. There was a difference, but the white noise was not blocked out, it simply decreased in volume.

Not a great start, but I reached for my testing playlist which consists of a number of Pop, Dance, and Hip-Hop songs. An acoustic song came first and the vocals were crisp and deep enough, however, they hit a ceiling relatively quickly when the tones shifted. Moving to a Hip-Hop song with rumbling bass, this was completely lost.

I was very disappointed in my first 30-minutes of playback. Honestly, they got put on the review bench and left for a few days before being picked back up again. It was here I saw a firmware update was available (to 1.4.2). After this, the bass returned! An important lesson; make sure your tech is updated.

Following the update, the bass is more prominent without being overbearing and the mids and highs play a little bit more nicely than previously. Sadly there isn’t much difference in the ANC performance. It’s there but it just won’t block out any noise of significance.

The Cleer+ App – A Blessing & A Curse

Taking a look at some of the audio modes, there’s the Active Noise Cancellation mode that I’ve already mentioned, as well as 10-levels of ambient noise to choose from. These ambient levels are only accessible via the Cleer+ app, as is the ability to turn off ANC completely. Sadly these options are lacking in terms of control from the buds.

Cleer+ App

Trying to control anything via the buds can be a little tricky. Of course, there is the ability to skip tracks, but by default double taps change the playback mode from ANC to Ambient. Default controls are as follows:

  • Tap L or R to play/ pause music
  • Double-tap R to skip to the next song
  • Triple-tap R to return to the previous song
  • Double-tap L to switch between ANC and Transparency mode

Thankfully you can use the Cleer+ app (sensing a theme here?) to change the default double and triple taps from controlling the playback mode to controlling the track selection. There needs to be a bit more configuration here though for me.

Finishing up on the Cleer+ app, the EQ is really quite good here. Whilst most companion apps include such an option, the Cleer+ one is actually rather powerful. I had a good 10-mins of fun dialling in the low end to my taste.

RoamNC_Charger

When you’re finished listening, popping the buds back into the charging case is as easy as it is with most other offerings in 2021; simply drop them in the holes and the magnetic charging pins are adhered to. I found myself reaching for the charging case after around 4-hours of playback at 60% volume. My second stint provided over 5-hours of use at the same volume, so Cleer Audio’s suggested 4.5-hour of playback seems correct, and acceptable.

The charging case will charge the buds a couple of times over before it needs charging itself. Sadly, one of the corners cut here is to remove Qi wireless charging from the case. It’s not a deal-breaker for many, and the Type-C port is still here for a fast recharge.

Final Thoughts

It is completely normal to be wary when a company announces a “budget” offering. For audio devices, there’s a relatively easy checklist.

Audio performance, battery life, construction and ancillary features are the main areas. Let’s work through them:

  1. Despite the issues before the firmware upgrade, the audio performance here is very good. The balance will suit most ears. Good bass, and good highs and mids – nothing outstanding though.
  2. The battery life here is a drop from previous Cleer Audio offerings as well as similar products, but it’s still more than enough for the average user.
  3. The material choice here is the clearest indication of corners being cut. A completely plastic build that stretches from the buds to the charging case. It’s bland but functional. Still a pass.
  4. Finally, the feature set. We see more indication of the price affecting the final product here. The ANC isn’t as obvious as with other Cleer Audio products, and there is no Qi Wireless Charging on the cradle. Acceptable compromises.

Overall, I think Cleer Audio have managed to shave the production of the Roam NC in just the right places. A slightly more performant battery would be good, a better implementation of touch controls would be even more so. That’s nitpicking. There’s enough here for most average users, which is exactly where this product sits – it’s the mainstream of TWS earbuds.

About Craig Bradshaw

Tech enthusiast and Editor-in-Chief of MobileTechTalk

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