If there is one good thing that comes with the advancement of technology, is that yesterday’s top technology is now available for a fraction of the price. The Cleer Enduro ANC, despite being offered at just a bit less than $130, are comparable to the top-tier headphones of just a few years ago when it comes to their ANC capabilities.
Disclaimer: many thanks to Cleer’s PR agency in the UK for sending me a unit. The Enduro ANC sell for $129/£149.
|+ Very comfortable
+ Effective ANC
+ Very long battery life
+ Overall balanced sound signature
+ Dirac Virtuo technology
+ Equalisation in the app is carried over to all sources
|– Low passive isolation
– Doesn’t turn off automatically by default
– Quite fatiguing treble
– Background hiss
Packaging & Accessories
The Cleer Enduro ANC come with a soft drawstring pouch, a manual and a 3.5 mm jack to USB-C cable. The latter is required if you want to use a device with a headphone output port, as the headphones do not feature a 3.5 mm jack input. The company notes that the cable is only compatible with the Enduro ANC, so I wonder if there is some custom layout of the USB-C connector being used here.
Design & Comfort
The Cleer Enduro ANC’s design is quite similar to that we find on other headphones by Cleer. It is very streamlined and simple: the only concessions to form are a metal circle on the gimbal and a metallic line around the earcups. Everything is off-white, with the earpads a slightly rosy beige; the headband is made of metal which is exposed and the colour of which is used as a decorative element. There is also another version which is dark blue and gold. Overall I find the Enduro ANC very well designed and modern.
Build quality is high and there is no creaking nor other indicators of poor assembly. The headphones can fold to be more easily transported and the joints appear solid enough.
All the controls, ports etc are on the left hand side: there are the volume buttons, the power button (which has a protrusion to help locate it more easily), a button to control ANC, a status LED and a USB-C port.
Inexplicably, Cleer has designed the Enduro ANC in such a way that they offer very little passive isolation. This means that there is very little difference between wearing the headphones and not in terms of noise reduction. This also means that all said noise reduction is demanded to the ANC feature, which however can only do so much by virtue of physics.
Comfort is quite decent, thanks to the soft padding on both the headband and the earpads, though I find that my scalp starts being irritated after about one hour wearing the headphones. People with less sensitive a scalp than mine should find them comfortable for longer, though.
Extra Features & Battery Life
The Cleer Enduro ANC offer compatibility with the Bluetooth 5.0 standard as well as with the SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. The connection is incredibly stable, so much so that while the headphones are connected to my computer there is nowhere in the house I can go where the signal is interrupted or it starts stuttering. This is quite significant as usually there are two spots where every single headphone starts at least stuttering; not so in this case!
Controls are managed through the power button as well as the ANC button, but they do different things. A single press on the power button plays or pause music, two presses skip to next track or accept/hang up a call, three presses skip to the previous track and a long press powers on or off the headphones, or rejects a call. A single press of the ANC button cycles between the various modes (ANC, ambient mode, ANC off), two invoke the voice assistant, and a long press enters conversation mode, so you can hear what’s outside without having to take off the headphones (it stays on as long as you keep the button pressed).
The ANC works fantastically well on planes. The loud boom you hear while sitting at the back of an Boeing 737-800 is almost completely removed by the headphones, though only in its lower-end component. Due to the low levels of passive isolation, the other parts are not impacted too much, which leaves you vulnerable to higher-pitched sounds like the whining of the jet engine or the screaming of kids. Still, considering the price point, I find the Enduro ANC to be absolutely great in terms of noise removal and, in fact, they are quite close to the category leaders (and Cleer’s own flagship, the Alpha).
Battery life is superb: Cleer estimates it at 30 hours and I can attest that I got really close to it. It should also be mentioned that the headphones consume very little power when connected to Bluetooth without playing any music, so they can stay connected for a whole day (meaning “from morning until evening”) and only use around 10% of their battery.
Sound & Specs
I tested the Cleer Enduro ANC using both my desktop computer and a Hidizs AP80 PRO-X.
Cleer Enduro ANC
|20 – 40,000 Hz
|SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD
Interestingly enough, the Enduro ANC do not have much background noise when playing music and in fact are quite silent. When they are not reproducing music, however, after a while they crackle and start emitting a noticeable whistle-like noise which keeps on going until the playback starts again.
Soundstage isn’t too wide nor deep, but it is enough to convey the sensation of being in a moderately large space. Imaging is a bit limited, but it still allows you to place instruments on the stage with more than just the three left-centre-right positions. Instrument separation is somewhat hampered by the tuning itself, due to the way midrange is presented.
Bass is quite remarkable in its depth, as it reaches sub-bass easily. There is a bump in mid-bass, but overall this area is well balanced as there is enough sub-bass for it to not be overwhelmed by the mid-bass. The headphones retain very good control, with decently good speed and physicality; they’re great for tracks and genres that benefit from highly impactful bass. The level of detail is decent and it manages to showcase the texture quite well.
Much like the Cleer Alpha, the Enduro ANC also have an emphasised upper region which makes their tuning quite peculiar. This is especially evident in the upper midrange, which is quite emphasised and makes voices sound “breathy” and many instruments like strings, electric guitars and trumpets stand out a lot. While this can work for some specific tracks, the emphasis is such that it alters the overall tonality of the track and can become fatiguing after a while. Any track which has a moderate amount of presence in the upper region has it boosted to prominence; the issue is that the middle and lower parts of the midrange are recessed, and therefore sound distant and difficult to hear.
Treble is quite problematic as it is too emphasised. It has several significant spikes which make it quite penetrating and aggressive. If you listen to tracks such as Aes Dana’s Jetlag Corporation, you can clearly hear the higher section is overly emphasised compared to the rest. Even in one of the following tracks, Conditioned, which has bass as its predominant part, you hear treble first and foremost. The good bit is that the treble is actually relatively detailed, so you can hear quite a few things going on in these tracks without any effort. Still, taming it a bit would have proved very beneficial to the overall enjoyability of the headphones.
I find that the ANC feature on the Cleer Enduro ANC is really their best quality. It is great, especially once we factor in the price. It doesn’t compete with the very best in this space, but it does cancel enough noise for it to be bearable – at a fraction of the competitors’ price. They also have fantastic battery life and a super-stable Bluetooth connection, which also sports aptX and aptX HD codecs. Still, the Enduro ANC fall short on other counts: their passive isolation is insufficient, which leads to noise in the midrange and treble areas to pass through the earcups basically undisturbed; the sound quality has some issues which would need fixing. I find that the Enduro ANC could have been so much better if the company had fixed these two aspects, as the other areas are very solid. They are good headphones which can work in a variety of situations, especially if you can find them on sale.