No matter how far away we are from CES 2022, we still have CES-related finds and announcements to cover here! This time, we got our hands on a 2022 CES Innovations Honoree, the Cleer ALPHA Adaptive Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. The Cleer ALPHA features Cleer’s own patented Ironless drivers, Qualcomm’s cVC dual mic solution, and a 35-hour battery life. Needless to say, we were pretty excited that our first Cleer review is not only for their latest wireless flagship but also an award winner, no less.
So, let’s dive right into the Cleer ALPHA Adaptive Active Noise Cancelling Headphones for $249.99.
Cleer ALPHA Headphone Specs
|Frequency Response (Bluetooth)||20Hz-20kHz|
|Frequency Response (Line-in)||20Hz-40kHz|
|Microphones||Qualcomm® cVcTM 2-mic Beamforming|
|Inputs||Bluetooth, Passive Line-in 3.5mm|
|Audio Formats||MP3, SBC, Qualcomm® aptXTM Adaptive|
|Range||Up to 15m|
A purchase of the Cleer ALPHA wireless headset comes with the headset itself, a carrying case, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, an in-flight adapter, and a 3.5mm cable for using the headset in passive wired mode.
Build and Comfort
The Cleer ALPHA looks to dazzle in the sound department with its patented 40mm Ironless Drivers. These drivers are geared towards delivering distortion-free Hi-Res sound. This sound presentation is then reenforced by Qualcomm® aptXTM Adaptive high-quality music streaming and Dirac Virtuo spatial audio. However, the Cleer ALPHA also looks to impress with outbound sound as well with its Qualcomm® cVcTM (clear voice capture) beamforming mics.
The Cleer ALPHA is an over-ear headset with two connectivity options: wired and Bluetooth 5.1 technology with aptX Low Latency. The headset houses leatherette cushioning on its ear pads and headband, with cooling materials residing within the earpads. The right ear cup features the headset’s touch controls on the side of the ear cup, with the power button and 3.5mm jack along the bottom. On the left ear cup, you have a USB-C charging port and a listening mode toggle button. This button toggles between Active Noise Cancelation, Ambient Awareness, and “off”.
Going deeper into the Cleer ALPHA’s touch sensors and controls, the headset also features Wear Detection. This is where your media pauses when your headset is removed and resumes when it is placed back on. As for the media controls, all of the touch controls reside on the outside of the right ear cup. Double-tap to play and pause, swipe forward for next track, swipe back for previous track, and swipe up and down to control the volume respectively. Placing your palm on this ear cup triggers Conversation Mode, where the media’s volume lowers significantly, and Ambient Awareness activates. Simply place your palm again on the same ear cup to resume your original media listening levels.
As far as comfort goes, the Cleer ALPHA is a dream to wear from the moment you take it out of the box. The headset maintains a cozy fit on your head while also providing some solid passive sound isolation with its leatherette ear cups. The headset also stays comfortable during the longest of listening sessions. I found myself using the headset for five hours straight without any noticeable wearing fatigue.
The Cleer ALPHA is also surprisingly simple to handle. The touch gestures are not only easy to get accustomed to, but they are also registered quite accurately by the headset. Having used touch controls with so many headsets, I made sure to manage my expectations on how effective they would be on the Cleer ALPHA. To my surprise, all of the gestures easily triggered their intended functions with no issues whatsoever.
At the surface level, the Cleer ALPHA sports an impressive build that looks sleek, feels great and handles cleanly. Even the headset’s battery is impressive, touting 35 hours of wireless use with ANC active. If you are ever in a pinch, the headset’s quick charge feature gives you four hours of usage with just 10 minutes of charging. Top marks all around in the build and comfort department.
Features and Performance
While you can toggle between listening modes using the button on the headset, the Cleer+ companion app for both Android and iOS opens up even more features and control. You can customize your own personal EQ for the headset, disable Wearing Detection, manage the Auto Power Off timer, and update the headset’s firmware.
Regarding the Cleer ALPHA’s sound presentation, I started with the default EQ settings, leaving Dirac Virtuo, ANC, and Ambient Awareness turned off. At its core, the Cleer ALPHA offers a solid sound presentation with deep lows, strong mids and crisp highs. The bass resonates without overwhelming you with deafening vibrations. Vocals come through clearly and instrumentals are clean.
However, the big player here is Dirac Virtuo. Dirac Virtuo is a soundstage simulation feature that immerses you in your audio, allowing it to feel as if it is playing around you. If you plan to employ your own custom EQ’s, the Cleer+ app will not let you use the Dirac Virtuo feature. Yet, unless you have particular headset EQ tastes, Dirac Virtuo is the best way to enjoy audio on the Cleer ALPHA. Once toggled on, sound is simply more vibrant and immersive, with very present boosts in the mid and low ranges. Impressively, Dirac Virtuo does this without noticeably taking anything away from the high ranges.
Active Noise Cancelation on the Cleer ALPHA is also very impressive. It did not matter whether I was in a lively bar or simply home, sitting a mere two feet away from the living room TV. When ANC was on, I was focused on my media. Best of all, the Cleer ALPHA’s ANC performed effectively with no noticeable affect on the headset’s sound presentation. Smart Noise Cancellation gets the job done in most scenarios. However, if I ever wanted to hear nothing but my connected media, I would simply switch Smart Noise Cancelation off to experience the ALPHA’s maximum level of ambient sound suppression. So far, the Cleer ALPHA’s ANC is the best I have experience in any over-ear headset I reviewed.
I also liked how Ambient Noise Control is handled on the Cleer ALPHA via the companion app. When Ambient Awareness is active, the app gives you a slider bar which lets you control how much background sound you want to play through the headset. It is a feature I have seen and welcomed in other headsets I have reviewed, so I was happy to see it here as well.
In fact, it made me wonder why a slider bar was not implemented for manual ANC control. Do not get me wrong. Being able to toggle between Smart Noise Cancelation and what feels like an absolutely suppressed background sound is not bad at all. It simply would have been interesting to be given the option to manually control ANC levels, even if it was something simple as three levels of intensity.
Finally, Qualcomm® cVcTM beamforming mics did not disappoint. I took calls while walking the busy midday streets of New York City. Call participants on the other end had no issues hearing me regardless of the noise scenario I put myself in. The headset does a great job on focusing on the wearer’s voice during calls. Even in the noisier scenarios I took calls in, call participants mentioned being able to hear my backgrounds, but never at a level that distracted from the conversation.
Right off the bat, Cleer came out swinging with a flagship headset that will be hard to beat in 2022. The Cleer ALPHA sets a bar in performance, quality, and build. It is easily one of the best over-ear ANC headsets that I have tried to date. You get quality sound, a long battery life, and the option to customize the sound presentation to suit your exact tastes. Not to mention, the headset’s high level of comfort allows you to listen for hours on end before noticing anything resembling fatigue.
As a tiny add-on, I would like to see a slider bar for manually controlling the ANC levels added as an option. Luckily, that is something that could most likely be added to the Cleer+ app, if Cleer ever chooses to do so.
It will sure be fun seeing if competitors can match what the Cleer ALPHA brought to the table this year. For now, it sits at the top, nice and early in 2022. If you are in the market for a wireless ANC headset, the Cleer ALPHA is definitely the first one to check out in 2022. Check out the Cleer ALPHA Adaptive Active Noise Cancelling Headphones for yourself by clicking here.
† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided a pair of Cleer ALPHA Headphones and some stock images for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.