Cleer Audio is a relative newcomer within the headphone market. It was based in 2012 with a give attention to DJ headphones, however that focus modified to shopper merchandise in 2016. Since then, the corporate has wasted no time; it now gives 4 in-ear and 4 over-ear fashions with extra on the way in which.
The Circulation II is one among Cleer’s newest fashions. It’s a wi-fi Bluetooth headphone with lively noise cancellation (ANC) and compatibility with Google Assistant voice management. Most significantly, the general sound high quality is outstanding.
This evaluate is a part of TechHive’s protection of one of the best headphones, the place you’ll discover critiques of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to think about when procuring.
The Circulation II is an over-ear, closed-back headphone with softly padded earcups and headband. The ovoid earcups are considerably smaller than most over-ear headphones I’ve tried, making them a bit fiddly to seat correctly. It weighs a mere 11.5 ounces, which is lighter than many such headphones, but its construct high quality appears fairly substantial.
Every driver employs a full-range 40mm magnesium diaphragm with polyurethane encompass, leading to low mass, excessive rigidity, and excessive inner damping. The magnet construction makes use of no iron; as a substitute, it’s comprised of 20 rare-earth magnets in a hoop construction. Cleer calls this Ironless Driver Know-how, which is alleged to enhance the main focus of the magnetic discipline, permitting extra voice-coil tour with decrease distortion. Particularly, Cleer claims the THD (complete harmonic distortion) at 100dB SPL is lower than half that of a standard magnetic driver throughout the whole audio spectrum and as much as six occasions much less within the upper-midrange area.
The desired frequency response extends from 20Hz to 40kHz utilizing a wired connection, garnering Hello-Res Audio certification in that case. With Bluetooth, the frequency response is specified from 20Hz to 20kHz. No tolerance is given in both case.
Talking of Bluetooth, the Circulation II implements model 4.2 with the A2DP 1.3.1, AVRCP 1.6, HFP 1.6, and SPP 1.zero profiles. The supported audio codecs embrace AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. You may pair the headphone with the supply gadget within the ordinary method, or—if the gadget helps NFC (Close to-Discipline Communication) pairing—you may merely maintain it close to the appropriate earcup and they’re going to pair robotically.
Cleer touts its “hybrid” noise cancellation, which mixes passive isolation with lively noise cancelling (ANC) for as much as 30dB attenuation of wideband ambient noise. The Circulation II powers up with ANC on, however after all, you may flip it off, which prompts Ambient Mode that allows you to hears sounds round you. On this mode, the exterior microphones decide up ambient sound, which is performed within the headphones together with the music you’re listening to.
The one factor I want for here’s a third choice that disengages ANC however doesn’t activate the exterior microphone. That method, you could possibly nonetheless have passive isolation and lengthen the battery life.
The three.7V lithium-ion battery gives as much as 20 hours of play time from a full cost, which takes about two hours to finish. Even higher, a fast 10-minute cost is sufficient for 2 hours of play time.
The Circulation II gives three bodily buttons on the lower-rear part of the left earcup: energy on/off, ANC on/off, and Google Assistant. The buttons are nicely separated, and the ANC and Google Assistant buttons have small ridges on completely different sides, making them very simple to seek out by really feel. The facility and ANC buttons even have LED indicators, and a pleasing voice informs you when the ability is turned on and off in addition to the ANC standing.
You management the music with contact gestures on the outer floor of the left earcup. Swipe up and down to alter the amount, swipe ahead and again to skip to the following or earlier monitor, and double-tap to play/pause. If you happen to get a telephone name, double-tap to just accept and hold up and maintain to reject the decision.
Right here’s a cool function: If ANC is on, you may maintain a number of fingers on the left earcup to have interaction Dialog Mode. This briefly turns off ANC and prompts Ambient Mode, so you may speak with somebody like a flight attendant. Whenever you take away your fingers from the earcup, ANC turns again on. Curiously, the contact sensor can distinguish between holding a fingertip to reject a name and a whole finger or two to have interaction Dialog Mode.
A 3.5mm stereo-audio jack is discovered on the backside of the left earcup, whereas a USB-C port is discovered on the backside of the appropriate earcup. As anticipated, the USB-C port is used to cost the battery.
My supply for take a look at tracks was the Tidal Grasp library from my iPhone XS by way of Bluetooth. First up was “Agbada Bougou” from Rejoice by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela. The instrumentation is easy—drum equipment, acoustic bass, trumpet, and alto sax—and the Circulation II sounded clear and open with extremely correct renditions of every instrument.
The identical was true of “My Blue Heaven” as sung by James Taylor on his album American Commonplace. The Circulation II’s general sound was clear, open, and well-balanced, and Taylor’s voice and guitar have been superbly rendered.
For one thing a bit extra fashionable, I listened to “I’m Gonna Love You Only a Little Extra Child” by Summer time Walker from Birds of Prey: The Album, which incorporates songs from the film Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. As soon as once more, the general sound was clear and open, and the vocal was proper up entrance with out overbalancing the remainder of the monitor.
Amazingly, The Who’re nonetheless at it with their 2019 launch, Who. I listened to “Hero Floor Zero,” a extremely produced monitor with plenty of strings. As I had come to anticipate by now, the sound was clear and well-balanced, although Roger Daltrey’s voice was a bit farther again than I’d heard earlier than—it was in all probability combined that method.
It’s laborious to consider that Prince’s album 1999 is nearly 40 years outdated. I listened to the 2019 remaster of the title monitor and heard the identical open, clear sound as with all the opposite tracks I sampled.
Turning to some classical music, I loved a monitor from Cecilia Bartoli’s album Farinelli. Among the many arias on that album is Signor, la tua speranza…A Dio trono, impero Dio from the opera Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra by Johann Adolf Hasse, carried out with Il Giardino Armonico underneath the route of Giovanni Antonini. Opera is just not one among my favourite genres, however Bartoli is a definite exception. Her attractive voice was adroitly rendered by the Circulation II, and the orchestra sounded clear and delicate.
Lastly, I dug into Witold Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini as organized by Alexander Warenberg for piano, strings, and percussion. For this recording, it’s carried out by Denis Matsuev on piano and Kammerorchester Wien-Berlin underneath the route of Rainer Honeck for the album Shostakovich/Schnittke/Lutoslawski. This unbelievable piece was rendered superbly by the Circulation II with a totally open, clear sound that showcased the very good sound of the piano in opposition to the strings and percussion.
Along with Bluetooth, I listened to some of the tracks talked about above by an iFi hip-dac linked to the telephone and the Circulation II with cables. I didn’t hear a lot of a distinction in contrast with Bluetooth—the wired connection was maybe a bit airier, however not considerably higher.
The touchpad on the left earcup works fairly nicely for taking part in and pausing, altering the amount, and skipping to the following or earlier monitor. It requires a little bit of method—you could hit the pad somewhat immediately and transfer your finger pretty rapidly—nevertheless it didn’t take lengthy to get used to it.
I had an uncommon alternative to check the lively noise cancellation: My neighbors throughout the road have been having the outside of their home stress cleaned, which made fairly a steady-state racket. The Circulation II’s ANC labored very nicely to mitigate a big portion of the noise.
Comparability to DALI IO-6, Sony WH-1000XM3
Along with the Circulation II, I listened to every monitor on the DALI IO-6 and Sony WH-1000XM3. As I swapped headphones, I found that the Circulation II pauses the music once you take it off and resumes playback once you put it again on, which is fairly cool. The opposite headphones don’t supply that little nicety.
As I wrote in my evaluate of the DALI IO-6, its sound is wealthy and luxurious, which I actually appreciated. In contrast with the Circulation II, nonetheless, it was virtually too wealthy; I stored writing “thick” in my notes. The Circulation II was extra open and spacious.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 shared the Circulation II’s openness, however its bass was typically overemphasized. That ought to please bassheads, however I desire a extra impartial steadiness, which the Circulation II excelled at.
I additionally in contrast the ANC efficiency of the IO-6 and WH-1000XM3 with that of the Circulation II as my neighbors’ home was being stress cleaned. Throughout my evaluate of the IO-6, I believed the ANC labored very nicely with rain on the roof of my automobile, nevertheless it got here up a bit brief in opposition to the onslaught of stress cleansing, permitting extra noise to succeed in my ears. The WH-1000XM3 labored greatest in that din, however the Circulation II was not far behind.
I completely love the sound of the Cleer Circulation II, much more than the DALI IO-6 and Sony WH-1000XM3. It befits the corporate’s oddly spelled title completely—clear, clear, open, and well-balanced. As well as, the construct high quality is stable, its ANC works very nicely, and it gives some good touches, reminiscent of Dialog mode and robotically pausing the music once you take it off and beginning once more once you put it again on.
I’ve solely two complaints. First, the earcups are comparatively small, which implies you could jiggle them round to seat them correctly. The earcups on the IO-6 and WH-1000XM3 are bigger, making them simpler to seat in your head. Second—and extra essential—I want the Circulation II had a mode during which ANC was off and the microphones didn’t decide up environmental sound; each of the opposite fashions supply such a mode.
However, the Circulation II has a decrease checklist worth than the opposite two: $280 versus $350 for the Sony and almost $500 for the DALI. With superior sound high quality for lower than the competitors, the Cleer Circulation II is my new reference Bluetooth ANC headphone.