It’s been a while since I’ve heard a solid over-ear wireless headphone from a company that isn’t one of the big players. Cleer Audio has been around, but I haven’t become familiar with many of their products until now. I’ve gotten the opportunity to listen to one of their most features wireless headphones, the ALPHA, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on it. This is a wireless headphone with a ton of features for the price of $249, with a discounted price of $219 going on right now. Should the ALPHA be a headphone to look out for?
What You Get
- Cleer ALPHA headphones
- Carrying case
- Detachable 3.5mm cable
- USB type C charging cable
- Airplane adapter
- Quick start guide
Look and Feel
When looking at the Cleer ALPHA there’s definitely one headphone on my mind and that’s the Sony WH-1000XM4. Not because they look similar and use the same type of carrying case, but the style of fit is also reminiscent of its design. The earpads here are soft and comfortable while being easily removable as well. The extra foam padding just outside of the driver also helps as well. It’s the type of over-ear headphones I can see myself never getting tired of wearing.
Design and Functionality
Inside of the ALPHA is a 40MM ironless driver with two beamforming microphones for call clarity. There are some buttons on the side cups to control power, Bluetooth pairing and noise-canceling, but no volume control. The ALPHA doesn’t need physical buttons or touch gestures for playback, as simply taking the headphones on and off will play/pause your music. Touching the right ear cup will actually put the headphones in an ambient mode, where your music will play, but your environment will be audible. This is great if you want to hear something going on around you without taking the headphones off.
I couldn’t talk about the ALPHA’s functionality without talking about the Cleer+ app. With this companion for your Cleer headphones, you can gain access to a wealth of features like EQ and Dirac Virtuo. This gives the ALPHA its own spatial audio feature which I’m starting to see pop up in a few places. It gives these brands a chance to compete with Apple and Sony respectively. Unfortunately, you can’t use EQ with this feature on. The ALPHA also uses “smart” noise-canceling on top of its standard ANC feature. This mode adjusts the level of ANC according to the specific environment you’re in. It’s a bit like Sony’s adaptive ANC. The actual noise-canceling mode itself is pretty great on the ALPHA, attenuating all the right distractions and granting you a level of isolation that feels up to par with the biggest noise-canceling products on the market.
Bluetooth 5.1 is supported here, coming with a variety of CODECs, including Qualcomm aptX Adaptive. You get a range up to 15m and you can use the ALPHA as a multipoint connection, putting it up there with all of the top-of-the-line wireless headphones on the market. The connection was quick and easy, and I never experienced any dropouts.
You’ll get up to 35 hours of battery life off a single charge, and with USB type C charging, only 10 minutes of charge will grant you four hours of playtime.
There are two distinct versions of the ALPHA in terms of the soundstage. There’s the ALPHA without DIRAC and with DIRAC. Listening to the ALPHA in its most natural state, with DIRAC turned off and no noise-canceling, these headphones exhibit a great sense of clarity for a Bluetooth product. The width is what you’d expect, but it never feels congealed as some other wireless headphones do. There’s a surprising bit of separation going on in the ALPHA’s natural state, placing sound elements more or less where they’re meant to appear in a mix. It’s mostly linear, but there’s some solid height to vocals and some effects to note as well. The noise-canceling fills in the space a bit more and brings some of the imaging closer together, but it doesn’t end up being destructive to the soundstage as a whole.
Putting the ALPHA in DIRAC mode is a whole new experience for the soundstage, as any wireless headphone with spatial audio would be. For starters, the height of the soundstage is enhanced greatly. It’s as if certain sounds are floating over you, especially vocals which appear like the lyrics are being sung at you. The rest of the instrumentation wraps around your headspace culminating in a dome of sound that encapsulates the sound signature. I find it a bit artificial here, not compared to the natural immersion of a great open-back headphone, but still retains a cool effect that is sure to be enjoyable.
The bass here is a booming tone that also doesn’t suffocate the timbre in its resonance. Its thickness is on full display, pulsating the timbre of the lows in a coat of rumbling engagement. It establishes a tight grip on the sound signature, enticing you with its broad texture and thumping grooves. It can touch pretty deep in the sub-bass but mostly brings its tone to the surface. However, the frequency content is much easier to make sense of than other bass-focused wireless headphones that are much boomier than the ALPHA.
Bluetooth headphones like the ALPHA tend to veer into a v-shaped territory, recessing fundamental mid bands and accentuating the ones that provide the most coloration to the sound signature. The ALPHA does its best to provide a clear midrange and mostly succeeds. It does its best to accomplish a spacious response while maintaining a respectable level of fidelity that’s impressive for a wireless headphone. Vocals receive the most clarity, taking a stable shape with a smooth timbre overall. There are still some sections of cloudiness but it is minimal compared to a lot of other wireless headphones on the market.
I find it admirable that the ALPHA doesn’t skimp out of the treble frequencies as some bass-heavy headphones tend to do. There’s a natural smoothness to the highs when in its standard state, and never extends into a harsh tone. However, with DIRAC turned on the treble is granted a bit more forwardness, and it brings out a bit more sibilance and piercing textures to the timbre.
It’s surprising to me, but the Cleer Audio ALPHA is a top-of-the-line Bluetooth headphone. A lot of its qualities are just made better by the Cleer+ app, but on its own, this is a fun sound that’s so easy to like. The noise-canceling is strong and effective in any setting, and all of its controls are instantly responsive. Using the ALPHA goes off without a single hitch, making it one of the most modern wireless headphones you can buy right now. For that price, I wouldn’t miss out on the Cleer Audio Alpha.
The Cleer Audio ALPHA is available from their website here.