Review: Flare Audio Flares Pro – top spot

Sound

On the wired hand, Flares Pro will sound only as good as your device is able to give. Viz., if you’re a devoted Block MP3 user, Flares Pro will hiss, lose hella bass definition, and bottom out all the time in flubbery, uncontrolled hi-cut bass. Conversely, if you’ve got a Mojo, iPhone SE, Onkyo DP-S1, AK380, or what have you, Flares Pro will sound as it is designed to.

I don’t understand Flare Audio’s live sound marketing. To me, the adjective live means greater high frequency openness and/or detail, all of which puts more audience, more high mids and low high air into a venue. To another it may mean something else.

And while Flares Pro hasn’t excessive high-end roll-off, its high end certainly tapers down as frequencies climb. Its most precipitous decline is from around 15kHz and there is a nice spike around 10kHz. The ascent from 20Hz to 20kHz is stereo wide, relatively detailed, and totally side-steps listening fatigue. But live isn’t what I’d call it if you’re into big-venue, large-crowd shows. It’s live as in edgy small venue, but even then, only just. Flares Pro have the sort of highs you get by mashing up a late-production HD650 and a HD600. Mids are a bit wetter than both, but not 650 warm. Transitions to highs from mids are the smoothest I’ve heard in months, reminding me of the Campfire Audio Andromeda, but warmer, and not as sweetly stereo detailed.

Stereo width is excellent throughout the range, and built around a largish cylinder that forms right at the base of your neck. It sits a bit top-heavy, giving more stereo space to cymbals than to guitars, but only just. Bass hovers around the bottoms of the ears, and gently springs up from the bass of the spinal chord. It’s the least stereo delineated of the bunch, but is so damn well resolved that you might get the feeling that bass stereo separation is wider than it is. Its sound pressure is flat out strong all the way down to 20Hz, measured, and well defined from there up.At the ear, bass skews above neutral, and warm. Bass is strong, but it’s not bass-monster strong. And it doesn’t duff-duff out when fed really low-res American hip-hop duffy duffy bits.

In fact, it is one of the most well-thought out basses I’ve heard in a single-driver earphone. Attack is speedy, and decay just a hair behind it. Low lows keep a linear track, enabling those near-inaudible intro seconds to Markus Schulz’s Mainstage to groan out, as perfectly described as I’ve heard from any earphone. Guarded warmth couples to slightly north-of-neutral sound pressure. As it climbs towards the mids, it lacks clangy, metallic edges. Marginally constraining low-frequency stereo spread, low-frequency sound stage is the most compact.

Mids are strong, stereo-detailed, and warmish. Female vocals tend to sound a bit more breathily diffuse at the top end than neutral, but that warmth is sexy. Male vocals are pretty much spot on.

While sound changes based on which tips you use, Flares Pro’s house sound is recognisable through each. Most of my listening was done with foams. They were the most comfy, and the least prone to cahnnel issues. The silicon flanges warped in the ear, causing the left channel to rub out like 10dB. Ergo, I’ll not bother too much about tips.

End words

It’s early, but I’m betting Flares Pro gets top earphone spot from me this year. There’s nothing more to say.

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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.

27 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 March 4, 2018

      ohm image

      This is insanely late. I own neither. The Shure is less prone to treble shine and is all together the best-sounding all-in-one earphone I’ve heard. Flares Pro is the best sounding and most capable wireless/wired earphone I’ve heard and is the most incredibly designed product in that category for fit and utility. But the SE846 sounds better.

  • 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.

  • Reply June 18, 2018

    Eihab

    Hi

    I’m about to purchase Flare Pro’s (at its dicounted price of $264) for its wireless pros as that is what I will be using 90% of the time rather than wired. I’m curious to the sound quality and Max Volume when connected to an iPhone X, Mabook Pro 2017 or Ipad 12.9 gen 1 as these are the main sources I will be using since there is no mention of AAC in the bluetooth specs.

    • Reply June 18, 2018

      ohm image

      That is such a good deal. The acceptability of Max volume depends 100% on you. Flares Pro and Gold aren’t sensitive earphones. If you typically use sensitive earphones at 50%, you’ll use Flares Pro at 75%. If you use sensitive earphones at 90%, Flares Pro may not get loud enough. But if you listen that loudly, it really doesn’t matter what you listen to; your ears are shot.

      • Reply June 18, 2018

        Eihab

        Its avilable on flareaudio.com for a limited time at that price.

        Thats fine with volume as I listen at around 40 – 60%. My concern is if there is any degradation of sound quality when listening throught bluetooth on apple devices vs an Android or other device with AptX? Would it be a big or slight difference if any?

        • Reply June 18, 2018

          ohm image

          There is more line noise from the amp on the bluetooth DAC but it is almost inaudible because the Pro/Gold are insensitive. I reckon it’s about as good as the regular cable line. And, it’s balanced.

  • Reply July 20, 2018

    Andrea

    Hi,
    I’m Andrea from Italy
    I need a suggest: I bought a Flares Pro one month ago, I use them with my Galaxy S9+ (I have a lot of Music in Flac in the MicroSD). I’m not happy about the max volume level.
    Could you please raccomando me an amplifier/DAC to pair with it?
    Thank you
    Andrea

    • Reply July 20, 2018

      ohm image

      Andrea, if you’re not getting enough volume from a smartphone with the Flares Pro, you may be listening too loud and may be damaging your hearing. I’m reticent to suggest a good amp as I fear you are damaging your ears.

  • Reply July 20, 2018

    Andrea

    Hoi Nathan,
    don’t worry I’m not a child, the problem is that is very low, for example when I use the subway, I cannot bear the music because of the loud outside. I asked Flare Audio but the don’t want suggest a particular brand and they send me the link of your website.

    • Reply July 20, 2018

      dale thorn

      A noise-canceling headphone or earphone is necessary for public transport. Once you have the noise canceling, then if you need more volume, get the DAC.

    • Reply July 21, 2018

      ohm image

      I find that I don’t need noise cancelling, even on loud trains, just enough voltage. Any old IEM amp will do, and if it’s during the commute, even a cheap one will be good.

      • Reply July 23, 2018

        dale thorn

        You’re the first person I’ve ever heard of who can hear the whisper-quiet details of fine audiophile recordings in the midst of loud train noise, when playing music at safe listening levels.

        • Reply July 24, 2018

          ohm image

          I’m not asking for whisper quiet details whilst on the train. I only care to listen to the general outline of music as I really really don’t want to pump up the jam. Or wear large noise-cancelling headphones. It gets way too hot here in Japan.

  • Reply July 20, 2018

    Andrea

    Sorry for the mistakes, I’m using my phone 🙂
    Andrea

  • Reply May 15, 2020

    Prince Zaid

    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.

  • Reply August 9, 2020

    Suraj

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