Cleer Audio has focused almost entirely on budget friendly wireless audio gear. They have 4 headphone models, 3 Bluetooth speaker models, and 4 IEMs — all of which retail for less than $200 USD. The Cleer Ally Plus II IEMs are the most recent member of the Cleer family.
Their IEM family started with the Ally which targeted gym users. It was IPX5 rated with a 10-hour battery life between charges, offered aptX connectivity, and used a 5.8mm dynamic driver. These have sold well for Cleer and are still offered today.
The Ally Plus ($99.99 at Amazon) took the strengths of the Ally and built on them with improvements to the controls, call quality, Bluetooth chipset, and a larger driver capable of a deeper richer tone than the original. The one trade-off was that the Ally Plus is slightly less waterproof than its predecessor at IPX4. I don’t often spray my in-ears with a hose so an IPX 4 rating is quite sufficient. If you have a canoe trip in mind, the Ally might be a better choice this summer.
Next in the sequence was the Goal ($79.99 at Amazon). Born out of Cleer’s commitment as an official partner of USL, the goal was designed to stay in ear during intense exercise and also was IPX4 rated to keep sweat from damaging the internals.
The Goal is available with the logo of your favorite USL team on the charging case for those who want to show their team spirit as well. If you’re a fan of soccer, there are now teams in 31 cities and the league offers some great entertainment.
Now that we have all of that cleared up, let’s take a look at the Ally Plus II. Externally, the form factor is similar to the earlier models but with small changes to the shape that when combined make a big difference in the comfort level. Battery life is up to 11 hours before needing a charge and the case can completely recharge the earpieces twice before you need to find a USB-C charger.
Internally, things have changed quite a bit more with the use of the Qualcomm QCC5141 system on a chip offering aptX adaptive for better connectivity and lower power consumption at the same time.
Cleer has made the most of Qualcomm’s noise cancellation with an industry leading 34 dB of noise reduction and the ambient mode option gives those who need to be aware of their surroundings a way to do just that as well.
Call quality is also improved with CVC echo cancellation and noise suppression that reduces background noise and wind when using the Ally Plus II in loud environments.
The other thing that I really like about the Cleer products is the Cleer+ app. Unlike some apps that actually do very little other than take up space on your phone, the Cleer+ app offers a lot of functionality.
The Cleer+ app offers pairing and battery strength monitoring as expected. A nice perk is that tapping the battery meter switches between percentage and time remaining. I find the time a lot more useful so I set mine to reflect that.
The app also offers a five band EQ for tuning the sound to your liking as well as the option to turn the noise cancelling or ambient modes on/off. I also like the ability to control all of the playback functions through the app; something that I think a lot of people prefer as the controls on the earphones themselves have proven to be somewhat wonky for most brands.
In addition to the main page, a settings page exposes more options including the ability to rename the device so the SSID shows as your personal device. This can be monumentally useful in a house with several users using the same make and model and you want to know who is paired to which device.
You can also tweak the touch controls to your liking which is especially handy for us lefties. Finally you can also update the firmware of your Cleer devices via the Cleer+ app.
The various tuning options give the user a lot of ability to customize the sound to their liking as it is, but come July a new feature will change the game. This new feature is the reason this is kept to a quick intro and I don’t have sound notes like I do in my normal reviews.
Cleer has partnered with Mimi to allow the end user to test their hearing and then custom tune their Cleer earphones to match the tests findings. This customization is remembered across platforms so using a Cleer Ally Plus II with any phone or tablet that supports the Cleer+ app will allow the end user to customize the sound to their ears.
The EQ still works as well so different songs can still be tweaked with EQ to add a bit of extra here or take away a little bit there. I had the opportunity to speak to several members of the Cleer team and they are very excited about this technology and I am too.
I think it has great promise, but like so many things today, a promise has to be implemented well to be useful. Check back in late July or early August for the second part of our review when I have mimi fully configured and can really speak to the differences it can make.