Elevoc is a company that came out of the backstage with their first consumer-facing product, but it’s been hard at work behind the scenes for quite a while now, garnering a lot of approval for their technologies: their ENC tech is used by tech giants such as Qualcomm, Intel, Lenovo and OnePlus – quite the names! The Elevoc Clear are their first earphones and they use those technologies in a way that’s more apparent to the user – they are almost a technological showcase of what Elevoc can do.
The world of noise cancelling is divided into two categories: ANC and ENC. ANC, short for “active noise cancelling”, is the technology most of us are more familiar with as it removes noise from our listening experiences, allowing us to better listen to music. ENC, short for “environmental noise cancelling”, is quite similar in principle but quite different in practice, as it uses techniques similar to ANC to remove noise from what the microphone captures, therefore making your voice sound clearer and cleaner whenever you are taking a call. Both technologies are quite important and quite useful, but they’re often seen in different contexts: consumers typically favour ANC, while professionals who take a lot of calls typically favour ENC. That’s because they’re complementary, but they’re usually most useful in different contexts. The Elevoc Clear use both technologies and very effectively so, though their ENC capabilities surely are their best quality.
Disclaimer: I received a unit free of charge from Cheryl at Elevoc – thank you! Elevoc is currently raising funds on Indiegogo, where they offer the Clear for $69 instead of the post-campaign price of $129.
|+ Very comfortable
+ Unbelievable microphone performance
+ ANC works well
+ Good battery life
|– Unbalanced tuning|
Packaging & Accessories
Elevoc kept everything simple here: the cardboard box holds a manual, a large set of eartips (it’s eight pairs!) plus a USB-A to USB-C cable. Nothing too fancy, but there’s everything you need.
Design & Comfort
The design of the Elevoc Clear is not quite revolutionary, being similar to that of earphones such as the Apple AirPods, but it does offer its own version of it. The earphones are covered with the same soft-touch plastic as the case, with the outer part of the stem being instead covered in hard, silver plastic. The shell has a pill-like shape with the nozzle pointing downwards, so that the stem actually points forward when you wear the earphones.
Overall it’s quite a simple design, yet it does basically everything right as the Clear are reasonably good to look at and they are quite comfortable. They are also well assembled, which is quite good. There is an IP54 certification which means you can take them on your workouts or under the shower without risking any damage.
Comfort, as I mentioned, is good, and I can wear the Clear almost indefinitely. Their curved shape makes it so that it’s quite comfortable to wear them even over prolonged periods of time.
Passive isolation is barely there and using ANC is almost mandatory if you are in an even moderately noisy environment. Isolation on its own may be sufficient if you are in a quiet environment, but otherwise it won’t suffice and you will need to use ANC to get some isolation. I found that this is quite dependent on the eartips as well: using the SpinFit CP100 I can hear an improvement in isolation, but at the same time treble becomes harsher, so there’s a clear trade-off there.
The case is simple yet elegant. It is made of plastic with a smooth finish that’s soft to the touch. It is rounded, so it has no hard edges – it surely won’t damage your pockets! The lid, which has a rim made of hard plastic coloured in silver, is easy to open and stays open in a reasonable manner (as in, it stays open unless you turn the case downwards). The only issue with the lid is that it won’t stay open if you put the earphones on a surface, plus the curved bottom won’t make the case stand. On the underside there are a USB-C port, a set of four status LEDs and a button; the button allows you to see the remaining charge without having to open the case, while the LEDs not only tell you about said charge, but also about the status of the earphones. In fact the outermost LEDs light up to tell you that the earphones are charged. That’s quite a useful feature!
Extra Features & Battery Life
Elevoc does not disclose much about the technical details of the Clear, but they do tell us that they use the Bluetooth 5.0 standard together with the standard SBC codec. Oddly enough, when I connect the Clear to my computer I see that the AAC codec is available, despite the company not including it in the list of the compatible ones. The range is quite good and the connection is relatively solid, though every now and then I can hear brief interruptions – probably due to the fact there’s a lot of interference.
The Clear employ touch controls that are quite good and easy to use. They respond promptly and they’re intelligent enough not to activate when one is simply adjusting their hair. A single touch on any earpiece plays or pauses music, or answers a call or hangs up; a prolonged touch switches between ANC, ambient mode and normal mode; two touches skip to the next track; three touches skip to the previous track.
ANC is quite effective and cancels most noises out with a good degree of efficacy. I’ve tried the Elevoc Clear on an airplane as well as on a subway and the result was that the background noise was much reduced, though not perfectly: I still had to raise the volume by a fair bit to hear the music correctly, though nowhere near as much as when ANC wasn’t on. I can attest that it is more than enough to exclude noises from around me when I am at home working.
The Elevoc Clear uses three microphones per side to get to this result, combining their input to remove the unwanted noises; there’s also a so-called “voice accelerometer” which contributes to the removal of noise as well. The microphone is actually the main selling point of the Elevoc Clear and it does keep its promises, in fact I think it’s absolutely incredible what Elevoc has achieved here. Let’s hear it:
So, while I was recording this I was listening to music through my iLoud Micro Monitor speakers, which you probably won’t hear unless you turn up the volume and really pay attention to it. You may also hear a mistake I’ve made as well. Elevoc’s promise of its AI technology to remove background noise is not empty and, in fact, it is kept to its fullest. I admit I did not believe in this promise when I first read it, nor when I saw the promotional videos: it seemed too good to be true! It turns out I should have had a bit more faith as it is every bit as good as the videos show.
Elevoc declares 6 hours of battery life and I can attest this estimate to be true, as I have often hit that mark in my trials. The case provides more or less four additional charges, which bring the total to about 30 hours of usage.
The Elevoc Clear come with a dedicated application, available for both Android and iOS. The app is quite simple and easy to use and gives you controls for the microphone noise cancellation feature. It really is simple, almost bare: you get a circular slider to select the desired level of noise cancellation on the microphone and a couple of other settings, but nothing more. Ideally, the company will add more features like firmware updates, settings (e.g. touch controls) and ANC controls in future updates, though I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen.
The ENC setting can be saved so that the eaarphones will use the same setting across devices without needing you to keep them connected to your phone.
Sound & Specs
I’ve mainly used my notebook as well as my Honor 9 smartphone to test the Elevoc Clear.
|Frequency response||20 – 20,000 Hz|
The Elevoc Clear use a single 10 mm dynamic driver per channel which hasn’t apparently been tuned with music in mind, as its sound signature does have a few peculiarities which make it a bit fatiguing and less than ideal for music. I used the stock eartips, because I have also tried the Clear with the SpinFit SP100 and they emphasised the treble too much, making it too fatiguing for me.
Now, all that follows is from we might call an “audiophile perspective” when listening to music. None of this actually matters for the main use case of the Elevoc Clear, which is calls. I found them to be quite effective in this regard, as I have used them during various conferences and presentations in my day job and I have always been able to hear voices clearly, if with a bit of sibilance. Overall I am very satisfied in this regard and I think the Clear are exceptional as earphones you can use to manage your calls. Playing music is basically a nice bonus.
Soundstage is sufficiently wide, though not at all deep; the impression I have is that the instruments are playing close to me, but in a relatively large space. Imaging is quite decent as you can place instruments with enough accuracy on the stage, each with its own specific place. Instrument separation is sufficient, but it does suffer a bit with moderately complex tracks (e.g. Blind Guardian’s Into the void).
Bass is quite emphasised and concentrated in the mid-bass region, but not without decent depth that balances it out a bit. Its emphasis is quite noticeable, but it never goes so far as to become overwhelming or to overshadow mids, even in bass-heavy tracks: Elevoc did manage to keep control in good shape. Still, speed is not great and transient sound wet and slow, also due to a long decay. This, in turn, makes details less apparent than they should. On the positive side, though, there’s very good physicality, so you can really feel the lower notes.
Mids are a bit recessed, but still perfectly audible. They are themselves V-shaped, with the middle region being the inflection point. The downward slope that starts with the mid-bass continues well into mids territory, then it stops around the middle and starts climbing again as it approaches treble. Overall midrange stays quite audible and it’s never too distant. Mids are presented with a good level of detail which is, however, limited as the tracks become more complex. Once again, speed is not the best and there’s also long decay but, on the other hand, there’s very good physicality.
Although bass is emphasised and sometimes oversteps its boundaries, the only part of the tuning that I deem problematic is actually treble. There are in fact a few peaks that make it a bit harsh at times, and surely fatiguing in the long run. They surely do add energy to the area, but more often than not I find this energy to be excessive. This is the reason why I have often tested the Elevoc Clear at a lower volume than I usually do, as I otherwise found it to be fatiguing; with a lower volume level (15% on my Linux computer) I can hear everything quite well but avoid the fatigue. The level of detail is more than sufficient, as it allows you to hear what’s going on correctly, save for the most minute details.
Elevoc Clear Comparisons
The thing with the Clear is that they are mainly meant to be used to take calls. In that regard they have no competition whatsoever. Even the best TWS earphones out there are not able to match their performance here. Surely the Clear do not have such an advantage when it comes to music reproduction, as earphones such as the Shanling MTW300 or the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 are much better in that regard, but as a device you can use on your calls they simply are in a category of their own and that’s why it doesn’t really make sense to do any comparisons – pick your device and you’ll know the Clear are better, it’s that easy.
You know that famous quote by Arthur C. Clarke that says that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”? Well, Elevoc has achieved something that looks pretty close to that, even by modern standards. The rapid progress in noise cancelling that we have witnessed in the past ten years, which is since I’ve been reviewing consumer electronics products, is simply astonishing and awe-inspiring. The solution created by Elevoc is not perfect, but it’s damn close.
Now, I don’t think the Clear are the perfect wireless earphones and in fact they are far from that from other perspectives: the tuning has some problematic peaks in the treble area and bass is a bit invasive, while the passive isolation is not the best you can find and therefore has a negative effect on the effectiveness of noise cancellation. But if we take these earphones for what they are, which is a device for remote collaboration, then they’re absolutely fantastic and possibly the best wireless earphones for taking calls you can currently buy. They get my full recommendation as earphones to do your Zoom calls with – they are extremely effective and really make a difference.