Indiegogo staffers are putting crowdfunded products to the test in our new series of honest reviews. In this edition, our very own engineer Jared Rhine tries out the Flare Audio, a new range of Bluetooth and wired earphones that is getting a lot of buzz for its unique sound quality. Does it live up to the hype? Read on as we put it to the test!
Both around the house and on the go, many people use compact earphones as a convenient way to listen to their music. In-ear earphones are often seen as a practical choice with some inevitable compromises, providing okay sound quality in a portable format without disturbing others.
Can earphones break through their traditional audio quality limitations? Flare Audio thinks so.
Flare offers a higher-end choice – the E-Prototype earphones, a new design focused on reducing distortion while keeping a classic wired earbud experience.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Opening the E-Prototype package went smoothly. The earbuds are a unique, angled shape to achieve the distortion-reducing effects. Flare produces each unit using 3D printing in a neutral gray-colored resin at their facility in the UK. So it was cute to see the names of both the human and robot involved in its creation printed on the package. The thin, rubberized cable is a typical length (4.5ft) and includes a microphone, volume rocker, and straight 3.5mm earphone plug. Everything fits in the provided round hard-sided case.
Getting the product ready for use was simple, involving just picking the right silicone tips (included in 3 sizes). Detailed fitting instructions were provided but there were no surprises there. Flare emphasizes that earpieces must be placed on the correct side (aided by red and blue marks on the cable) to take advantage of Flare’s distortion-reducing shape. I really like my earbuds to hold firmly, and I found after fitting that the lightweight resin bases were comfortable and stayed put for extended listening periods.
Putting it to the Test: E-Prototype experience
Diving into my typical audio test tracks, the E-Prototype earphones immediately sounded clear, with a notable bass punch. It wasn’t just a big bass sound; I was reminded of what a kick drum feels like when you’re standing in front of one live, with that “whump” of air moving. I’m not an audiophile, but am used to live music with acoustic instruments. All the live concert recordings I listened to gave me an impression of clarity and presence, and the little audience noises on specific tracks were easily heard.
Switching back and forth with my regular full-sized headphones, the vocals and mid-range instruments on the E-Prototype were clear but not bright or harsh (making me realize that my regular equipment might be more harsh than I thought). Flare doesn’t provide much in terms of specifications, but they do list a 10mm dynamic driver. I don’t know the audio sensitivity, but did find that I needed some volume adjustments with my regular desktop setup which includes a dedicated headphone amplifier. The earphones actually ended up sounding best plugged directly into my phone.
It’s clear that Flare has succeeded in creating an audio product which reproduces sound crisply and undistorted. Not every audio track will automatically shine on E-Prototype though, as audio engineers have long mixed sound to be heard on mid-range equipment with higher levels of distortion, and people sometimes get used to particular pieces of equipment with specific frequency responses.
Closing Thoughts: Who is this for?
The E-Prototype is well-suited to people looking for higher-quality sound output from their earbuds than the typical offerings. If you are comfortable with an in-ear form factor and a wired connection, the Flare Audio E-Prototype is a great sonic experience. I can see using these earphones in both a “sitting at home listening to my best music” mode to take advantage of their quality, as well as traveling with them to take advantage of their lightweight feel and firm fit.
The upcoming Flare EARS line is great to see as it will update the E-Prototype technology with options for wireless connections, metal bodies, foam tips, replaceable cables, and balanced cables. It’s like they read my mind, because adding these options extends the number of people who will be able to find a Flare product that meets their personalized needs.
To learn more, check out the campaign for Flare Audio, live now on Indiegogo InDemand.