Disclaimer: The R1 was sent to us for this review and it will have to be returned to Flare later. I asked Ricky to do it for us. It’s the same Ricky that did the Koss BT540i review. The review hasn’t been edited in any way. Ricky, take it away.
Flare Audio R1
Well, it’s time for another review. New tech, new implementation and a new sound. Flare Audio recently reached out to Headfonia asking if they would like to give their newest product, the Flare Audio R1 headphone, which is their first headphone by the way, a test run. It looked pretty and shiny so they of course agreed.
For those of you who don’t know of them, Flare Audio is a British based loudspeaker company whose main focus is on making loudspeakers that replicate everything as accurately as possible using the principle of waveform Integrity; the signal feeding into the loudspeaker is replicated precisely by the sound wave coming out of the loudspeaker.
The Build Quality And Accessories
The Flare Audio comes in an inconspicuous, almost Grado-esque packaging. No frills or sparkle. Just a plain white box identifying it as the Flare Audio Reference R1, in grey lettering with the country of origin below that. Opening the box, the headphones are presented on a bed of white foam, the only accessory being the small carrying pouch emblazoned with R1 on the front of it, a small pack of silica gel tucked neatly inside.
Flare Audio has done an admirable job on the build quality of their first headphone. The Reference R1 is solid. With beautifully machined, albeit a bit Spartan looking, titanium cup housings, metal gimbals and rod blocks, as well as a solid metal headband. Throwing this thing around (not recommended by the way) wouldn’t be a problem, in my opinion. It feels like it could handle the abuse in the same way a tank could handle a battlefield.
The cable is a bit odd. It doesn’t quite match the aesthetics of the rest of the R1 being a headphone of somewhat smaller size. Very robust, thick and long with a kind of DIY feel to it around the Y split with its massive use of shrink wrap. It is relatively long and stiff and just… well… odd. Similar in look to the old Dx000 cable in a way. It does feel very sturdy and doesn’t seem like it would need any replacing though, unless you listen at lower volumes where microphonics delivered up through the cable would bother you. It is terminated in a straight gold plated REAN 3.5mm headphone jack that, like the rest of the headphone, seems very solid. That being said, I would much prefer a right angle jack that would make for less stress on my laptop headphone port, but that is just my personal preference.
I am probably not the best reference for how comfortable a headphone is weight-wise since I am one of those people who can wear an LCD-XC for over 8 hours at a time with almost no neck strain at all, but I would say these are relatively lightweight at about 300 grams, give or take. For me, weight isn’t an issue affecting how comfortable these are (not). I actually find the R1 to be a very uncomfortable headphone after about 30 minutes of use. In spite of its small size, this headphone never really “disappears” on your head, due largely in part to the insane amount of clamping force that they provide. The clamp is also a part of the overall design though, providing you with a better seal. The drawback is your ears pressed directly against the driver. The sparsely padded headband using a thin line of slightly hard foam and the thinness of the ear cup padding do nothing to help with the feeling of uncomfortableness. I did speak with Flare Audio however, and while they don’t seem to have a solution for the foam, they have assured me that they will have much more comfortable, much more thick ear pads for those of us who want them. Whether they will be included or need to be bought separately (probably the latter) I am unsure of.
The First Fully Open Headphone
Before I get into the way it sounds, I’d like to touch a little bit on the driver implementation in the Reference R1. Flare Audio has done something a little unique as far as implementation of the driver. Claiming to be the first fully open headphone on the market, this is not in regards to the headphones ear cup housing having an open mesh grill like the usual headphones we think of when talking open backs, such as the Sennheiser HD650/600/800 or other models. They are referencing the driver inside. By porting the housing of the headphone around the outer edge on either side, Flare Audio was able to “pressure balance” the driver internally, effectively removing all standing waves in the sound, creating linear driver movement, which is crucial to achieving distortion free sound according to the Managing Director, Davies Roberts, over at Flare Audio. They do this by implementing their SpaceTM and VortexTM technology.
It continues on the next page, after the click!