Cleer Roam NC
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The Cleer Roam NC earbuds promise big things and are attempting to break into a congested, difficult market space. While the prospect of budget ANC is enticing, the Roam NC doesn't quite deliver. However, the sound quality is good and carries Cleer's reputation for delivering overall balance, if perhaps a little lacking in bass. Throw in the Cleer+ companion app, and the Cleer Roam NC adds up to a decent if not excellent set of budget true wireless earbuds with ANC.
- Brand: Cleer
- Battery Life: 5 hours on earbuds, 10 in charging case
- Bluetooth: 5.2
- Additional Tips: 8
- Noise Cancellation: Yes
- Charging Case: Yes
- Codecs: aptX Adaptive, SBC
- Drivers: 5.6mm Neodymium
- IP rating: IPX4
- Good audio quality
- aptX and ANC at a budget price
- Cleer+ companion app actually useful
- Reasonable build quality
- ANC is so-so
- Battery life could be better
Cleer Audio is an audio hardware maker on the move, quietly going about its business of making great products without attracting a huge fanfare.
It's Cleer Roam NC true wireless earbuds are attempting to crack a very difficult market segment: budget active noise-cancelling buds. Finding the balance between excellent audio and brilliant ANC is tricky for audio manufacturers, let alone those working to a specific budget.
So, how do the Cleer Roam NC earbuds stack up? Do they deliver good budget active noise cancellation? And do they provide decent audio for the money?
Cleer Roam NC Sound Quality and ANC
Let's start with the biggest question of all: do the Cleer Roam NC earbuds deliver decent budget ANC?
Unfortunately, it's a bit hit and miss. The Cleer Roam NC earbuds are rated for 25dB noise cancellation. The difficulty is that in most scenarios where you want proper noise cancellation, the volume is often louder than that. So, while sitting at the table and writing this review, my family is playing a relatively noisy board game. The sound is absolutely reduced, to the point where their boisterous grabbing of items and card dealing isn't all that distracting, but it's definitely not completely dulled, either.
In that, the Cleer Roam NC active noise cancellation works more as a low-level reduction tool that blocks out a chunk of volume but doesn't create a complete sense of isolation.
When testing the Cleer Roam NC's ANC feature up against an in-flight white noise video, it's a similar situation. The whining background noise is appreciably dulled but isn't quite negated entirely.
Now, you do have to weigh that 25dB ANC against what you're likely to pay for the Cleer Roam ANC, which at the time of review is around $50. Hence why the introduction made it clear that even attempting to rollout proper ANC at such a price point is a difficult choice and in all honesty, a bit of a gamble.
I'm not completely disappointed with the Cleer Roam NC's ANC feature. In the right environment, it works nicely enough to put an extra layer between yourself and the outside world—you certainly won't get run over at the next crossing when you forget to check where you are. I'd also add that you can customize the Roam NC ANC via the Cleer+ companion app, which we'll take a look at in a moment.
Despite the issues with ANC, the Cleer Roam NC sound quality is good. The custom 5.8mm Neodymium drivers are tuned with the mid and high-end in mind, particularly notable when listening to music involving snare drums or higher-pitched tones in dance music. The Roam NC can sometimes sound a little tinny, especially when the volume is cranked up, but you can adjust the EQ using the companion app.
Interestingly, Cleer has applied bass sparingly to the Roam NC buds. Unlike other earbuds tuned with a specific output in mind, the low-end of the Roam NC is smooth and gentle, and you won't find it overwhelming tracks where it has no business interfering.
Overall, the Cleer Roam NC ANC feature may be a bit lacking, but the audio quality for earbuds at this price point is decent enough. One thing that will make a big difference to your listening experience is selecting the right ear tips. In the box, you'll find four round ear tips and four angled ear tips. Play around until you find a nice, snug fit, and it'll boost both audio quality and ANC.
The Cleer+ Companion App Adds Extra Options
Cleer's companion app brings some extra customization to the Roam NC's audio settings. Once downloaded and connected, you can customize the EQ, although only using the five frequencies set out by Cleer. Although that isn't heaps to work with, it's more than enough for most users to slide up the bass or toggle some treble. Handily, the Cleer+ EQ uses an undo/redo bar of notches, allowing you to try different EQ settings without forgetting where you were before. It certainly makes it easy to attempt small customizations to the EQ and to find your way around what sounds good.
You'll also find custom ANC settings in the Cleer+ app. From here, you can adjust the level of ANC, sliding the Roam NC buds between full active noise cancellation and transparency mode. The app also allows you to switch the limited touch controls options between each earbud.
Cleer Roam NC Features, Build Quality, and Battery Life
The Cleer Roam NC is clearly a budget option, especially when compared to Cleer's other audio products, such as the Cleer Enduro ANC and the Cleer Ally Plus II (considered the premium version of these budget buds). For example, there is no charging cable in the box, which for most users won't be an issue as USB-C is ubiquitous at this point, but it may catch some buyers out.
Battery life is another area that's taken a slight hit, with the Cleer Roam NC providing up to five hours of playback with another 10 hours on the charging carry case. Five hours of playback isn't bad, though this drops if you use ANC consistently. The fast charging option is good, though, delivering around one hour of playback on a rapid five-minute charge. The entire unit is also fairly quick to reach a full charge too, so while the overall battery life might not be outstanding, you'll never find it difficult to grab a quick bit of power before heading out.
In terms of build quality, despite the budget ticket, the Cleer Roam NC feel well built. It's an entirely plastic affair, as you might expect, but the IPX4 rated earbuds feel solid enough. The rounded, pill-shaped charging carry case is also okay, though it didn't withstand the hold upside and shake test, which sent the earbuds sprawling across the floor. The earbuds were fine, but it's something worth considering if you're going to chuck the Roam NC in your bag or have them rattling around in your car.
One thing that Cleer has done well with is integrating Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive audio codec. aptX Adaptive provides a powerful dynamic low latency mode that will keep your music playing and in sync in all manner of listening scenarios, while its adaptive audio bitrate can ramp up and down to deliver better audio quality where possible. The Roam NC buds also support SBC. The actual Bluetooth connection is 5.2, making connecting to any device an absolute cinch.
Are the Cleer Roam NC ANC Earbuds Worth the Money?
The Cleer Roam NC true wireless earbuds currently retail for $50, a drop-off of $10 since its launch.
As mentioned, Cleer has attempted something difficult here, rolling out active noise-canceling true wireless earbuds for a relatively low price. The problem is, the overall execution isn't quite there. The Roam NC ANC feature works more as a reductive option rather than an outright noise cancellation feature and labeling them as a "proper" ANC earbud doesn't feel quite right.
That said, the ANC does block out some sound. With proper fitting ear tips, you'll find the Roam NC reduces a decent amount of external noise input but never quite blocks out everything. When you combine this with the Roam NC's better-than-expected audio quality, Cleer has worked up something more than half good.
To clarify, Cleer's other products sound great, but the budget approach to the Cleer Roam NC did have me wondering if it would compare. Furthermore, the option to customize your EQ through the Cleer+ app is another bonus point, as is the fast charge, though the overall battery life is definitely on the lower side of wireless earbud capacity.
As I'm sure others will agree, it seems that Cleer may have been better focussing the Roam NC on providing a larger battery capacity rather than the ANC option. Other earbuds at this price point (and some cheaper) provide similar or even better audio quality and battery, but no ANC. Conversely, actually having ANC sets the Roam NC apart from those other earbuds, and along with the companion app and other customizations, make the Cleer Roam NC an interesting (if not quite excellent) set of true wireless earbuds.