Review: Flare Audio Flares Pro – top spot

Disclaimer: Flare Audio sent the Flares Pro for the purposes of this review. I paid nothing for them. They go for about 450$ USD. You can find out all about them here: Flare Audio Flares ProNote: I’m in a rush to leave, and apparently formatted the card with photos I took for this review. I will attach new photos later. Apologies.

 

Specs:

Dual Jet sound balancing technology
> Anti-Resonance technology
> Acoustic Lens technology
> Bluetooth® v4.1 with APT-X connectivity
> Balanced Class A-B outputs
> Balanced MMCX connections
> Grade 5 Titanium ear pieces
> Uniquely switchable between wireless and a 3.5mm jack cable, all included
> 12 hours playback
> 48/96kHz 16-bit
> MMCX
> 2 hours charge time
> 15m range
> 150 hrs standby time
> Balanced class A-B outputs

Not sound

It’s hard as hell to find niggles in these buggers. A lot of readers dislike the fact that they are hard-wired to their stock cables, detaching only at the y-split. I get that. I really do. However, Flares Pro’s cable is well implemented. Adding MMCX ports to its body would do little but biggun’ up the body, and possibly make the earphone less comfortable in the ear. As it is, after about two hours, the grommet can rub my ears the wrong way. At the end of a two hour workout, I’m ready to pull the earphones out from under my head towel whereas I could keep the Grado GR8e or Apple AirPods in ear for a lot longer.

Back to the cable. Unlike HiFiman’s otherwise-excellent RE800, Flares Pro’s cables brake against sturdy body-side rubber grommets. Could Flare Audio have installed rubber turtlenecks to further shore up the cable against harsh bending angles? Yes, but they didn’t; and it is my opinion that they didn’t have to. The current design works well. Flares Pro flex well, and their cable, while thin and a total barber pole rip, strong. I don’t expect anything to go wrong, but things can, and will, Murphy. Begging Murphy to do his/her worst, though, isn’t Flares Pro’s modus operandi. I bunch them up, grind them and the Bluetooth receiver in their tiny zippered case. The cables bend nastily. And yet my music goes on. You will have to really treat these phones wrong to break them.

The wired y-split is a bit unwieldy, and the wired cable’s straight-plug isn’t exactly pocket friendly. But, to be honest, I’ve been red-pilled: from here on out, it’s wireless or bust, baby. That is, if the wireless option is low-noise. And, Flares Pro is that and more. It is about as painless as you’ll find. Most long-charge bluetooth modules tether to shoulder-mounted horseshoes that bounce and dismount whilst running. They crunch under free-weight squats and look dorky. One such is Sony’s MUC-M2BT1, which ticks the following boxes: battery life, power, and sound quality; but is ugly, and a real bugger to exercise with. It also wrecks havoc on any sort of collared shirt and is a no-no with a necktie. Flares Pro’s cables reach long enough to comfortably clip to shirts, pack and helmet straps, and if you’re brave, hair. Unfortunately, its clip is fixed at a parallel angle, making the cables jut up at your chin if you clip it to a tee-shirt’s collar. I end up clipping it below that, onto bunched-up shirt fabric, which leaves a wadded up nipply jutting out just below my shirt collar.

Flares Pro fits solidly, and with the exception of its grommet position, comfortably. They squeeze into the ear, stay in place, and stay secure, a thing which Apple’s AirPods do not. They are also solid, if not terribly attractive.

Of course, Flares Pro also blocks a hell of a lot of noise, which makes bicycling a bit dangerous, and a major reason I put out for Apple’s AirPods. It also doesn’t connect with quite as strong a signal as AirPods. I get more than 15 metres at best; suffice it to say that you’ll get strong enough signal to ride a busy Tokyo train with no interference whatsoever.

Wired vs wireless

It’s my strong opinion that if you want the best sound from Flares Pro, stick with wireless. Sure, if you plug into an awesome DAP or amp, and all your other ducks are in order, wired may edge out wireless. But the DAC and amp in the wireless module is phenomenal in controlling the earphones’s tiny drivers. And, from my tests, it democratises the signal. iPhone, Onkyo, iMac: each sound, and perform roughly the same when spitting bluetooth to the Flares Pro. Plus you get at least 10 hours of playback. And balanced, which my meagre setup measures stereo separation and distortion that tracks well with what a good DAP does, wired.

Sound after the jump:

Review: Flare Audio Flares Pro – top spot
4.6 (91.11%) 18 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

12 Comments

  • Reply August 25, 2017

    Arysyn

    Nathan,

    Could you please expand on the issue you noticed with the hiss?

    Ever since I heard about the FlaresPro around the time I had the HiFiMan RE800, which had me disappointed by the bass being a bit too much for me and slightly recessed vocals (otherwise it sounded very good), I was pretty excited to hear it might be similar to the RE800, but with more neutral bass and less recessed vocals.

    After some very helpful responses from Flare Audio in communication with me, I received the FlaresPro yesterday, and was amazed by just how great everything seemed to sound. That was until I began hearing the hiss in certain vocals and instrumentals.

    I’ve received responses from Head-Fi, confirming the hiss in one of my test songs. I’ve heard the hiss in a few others too, all hi-fi Flac and Tidal tracks listened through the Meridian Explorer2, which other iems I’ve tried don’t hiss.

    I suspect this may be due to the emphasis Flare Audio made in the upper treble region. I have an official frequency response graph straight from Flare Audio showing they increased quite a bit of the upper treble, while the lower treble remains mostly flat with the mids and the bass.

    If FlareAudio did this for the “live” sound, then they messed with a region that is prone to treble that makes the whole point of neutrality moot. Whats the point in tuning an iem for neutrality to allow the music to be the focus, only then to color one of the most sensitive regions of sound that ruins the experience on certain songs?

    Flare Audio ought to have tuned the lower treble instead, and lessen the upper treble. The hiss is absolutely unbearable, made worse by the fact if it weren’t for that, this would be one of the very best earphones ever made.

    • Reply August 25, 2017

      ohm image

      Hello Arysyn,

      Are you listening wired or wireless? And, do you only hear hiss around certain instruments? If so, it’s probably not the hiss I’m referring to, which is created by electronic noise. You might be thinking ‘sibilance’ but that is different to hiss, and something I didn’t notice.

      • Reply August 25, 2017

        Arysyn

        The sound is noticeable to me during certain instrumentals. It differs from the type of sibilance heard after an “s”- like sound at the ending of vocals. The noise I’m referring to is in cymbal-like instruments, clashing, airy sparkle to the reverberation of these instruments, such as those sounding like tambourines.

        Two songs I’ve heard this in the background and semi-foreground can be heard on some music listed on the Tidal library, such as “Moment of Peace” by Gregorian, and “Rivers of Belief” by Enigma.

        Also, I’ve only listened using wired, not wireless. I really don’t have plans to use the Wireless Bluetooth on the FlaresPro, as I’m waiting to get either the LG V30 or Google Pixel XL2 and use Bluetooth 5.0 on there. Bluetooth 4.1 isn’t good enough to use in place of a 3.5mm connection for me.

        • Reply August 25, 2017

          ohm image

          Well, at least we’ve solved that one. It’s not hiss to which you’re referring- it’s some other artefact. It could well be electronic, if your player/phone of choice can’t properly drive the earphone, or a problem with tip mismatch, angle, or even the driver.

          As far as BT, it’s every bit as good as 3,5, especially if you’re source is of dubious quality, and Flare Audio’s BT DAC/amp is phenomenal.

          I’ve hardware tested (with measurements) outputs from both 3,5 and BT and don’t be believe that anyone in a properly controlled environment would be able to tell the difference between one or the other when driven by quality equipment.

          • Reply August 28, 2017

            Arysyn

            A very nice contributor over on HeadFi recommended I get the iematch by ifi audio, which I just received today. On the ultra setting, the hiss is completely gone! The hiss as I’ve been describing, more accurately sounds like a fizz, the type of sound heard after opening a soda can and pouring it into a glass, while waiting for the carbonation to melt.

            I highly suggest to people with or planning to get the FlaresPro, to get the iematch or another similar device if you’re planning on listening to certain music that may cause this noise. Together with the FlaresPro, everything sounds really amazing!

            • Reply August 29, 2017

              Arysyn

              Update to my comment about the iematch :

              While the iematch works great at eliminating the static noise in particular music, songs which I believe occurs as the result from taking advantage of the upper treble hump the FlaresPro has to it, the static is only eliminated in the ultra setting on the iematch.

              There is a problem I discovered with the FlaresPro using the iematch since my past comment here. Music that isn’t static/using the region where the treble hump exists, in the ultra setting of the iematch, the music breaks up so badly its barely audible. This music will only play in the high setting.

              Switching between modes is risky. The ultra setting requires a higher volume to hear music better. When going from music that needs the ultra setting to be free of hiss to music that is breaking up in ultra mode requiring of a switchover to high mode, you must remember to greatly reduce the volume before doing so. Otherwise, you’ll get a volume shock.

              I’ve heard from several people on Head-Fi, some who’ve said they have this issue with the FlaresPro, but seemingly to a lesser degree than I am. Others who don’t have this issue with their FlaresPro. I must reiterate that the FlaresPro are excellent sounding earphones in their very neutral signature, but it seems where they go wrong is in the upper treble which isn’t neutral, and on some units have this issue in its treble tuning.

              I definitely don’t discourage anyone to try the FlaresPro, but I advise new owners of the iem to run a test on the treble. I highly suggest if you have Tidal HiFi, listen to “Rivers of Belief” by Enigma, the second half of it will definitely answer whether you have a good treble tuning or not. I’ve emailed to Flare Audio about it, and hopefully will receive a response soon.

  • Reply August 25, 2017

    Arysyn

    Correction on my part “prone to treble” should be “prone to trouble”. Sorry about that.

  • Reply August 26, 2017

    Daniel

    Hi
    Great review! How would you say the Flares pro compare to the Shure SE846 and
    Sennheiser IE800? Thank you.

  • Reply September 5, 2017

    Rubin

    Hello Nathan. A few months ago, a friend of mine ( Who was also a big fan of Flare Audio) demonstrated his reshelled Flares Pro to me, which utilized a ergonomic shell made out of resin to house the whole earphone in. I thought the Flares sounded lifeless and dry. Now having read your comments, I begin to wonder if it was the shell that has altered the sonic performance of the Flares and caused my negative feedback.
    I own a pair of Vision Ears VE8 and a Lotoo Paw Gold 2017 – which some said were the pinnacles of modern portable audio. Yet this article still evokes my desire to try the Flares out again. Maybe I will have a different feedback this time?
    ( And yes, they are so cheap compared to the VE8.)

    • Reply September 6, 2017

      ohm image

      Rubin, shells can greatly change the sound, especially when the driver is dynamic, as it is in the Flares. The Flares Pro design is specific to its driver and necessary to let the driver breathe and create balanced and powerful bass. I hope you get the chance to hear an original.

  • Reply September 6, 2017

    Daniel

    Posting this again just in case you missed it

    Hi
    Great review! How would you say the Flares pro compare to the Shure SE846 and
    Sennheiser IE800? Thank you.

    • Reply September 6, 2017

      ohm image

      Daniel, I’m afraid my answer to that is tied up in memory. I’ve not used the IE800 for years, and the SE846 was on a short-time loan, and that loan finished years ago.

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