Cleer has made fairly a reputation for itself in high-quality, high-value headphones, such because the noise-cancelling Circulate II I reviewed in 2020. However the firm additionally makes wi-fi audio system, together with the flagship Crescent, which was unveiled at CES 2021.
Once I first noticed the Crescent throughout an internet briefing, I used to be intrigued by its distinctive design and the promise of some fairly superior know-how. Now that I’ve spent a while listening to it, I’m glad to say its compelling sound lives as much as its fashionable beauty.
The Crescent’s most evident characteristic is its namesake crescent form with a Midcentury Trendy vibe—no easy rectilinear field right here! It’s pretty giant, measuring 26.zero x four.7 x 7.2 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs in at a hefty 12.Three kilos. The construct high quality is top-notch, with a handcrafted, champagne-colored, stainless-steel grille masking many of the floor.
Behind that grille are eight forward-facing, 1.6-inch full-range drivers in a curved line array, and two rear-facing, Three.Three-inch woofers with two rear-facing ports. The smaller drivers are every powered with eight watts, whereas every woofer will get 25W, for a complete of 114 WRMS from the built-in Class D amps. In line with Cleer, “Undesirable sonic resonance is eradicated due to a glass-reinforced substructure and geometrically vaulted design.”
The frequency response is specified from 55Hz to 20kHz (-6 dB) with a THD <1% for the electronics. Cleer touts the speaker’s capacity to breed high-resolution audio as much as 24 bits/48kHz and assist for FLAC and Apple Lossless in addition to WMA and MP3 audio codecs. However for the reason that frequency response doesn’t exceed 20kHz, I discover that declare to be of doubtful worth. The utmost sound strain degree is claimed to be 90dB with a pink-noise enter measured at 1 meter.
The linear driver array and highly effective DSP assist superior beamforming, permitting for versatile placement and listening positions with three sound modes: Stereo Widening, 3D, and Room Fill. Because the names clearly point out, Stereo Widening mode is designed to current a large stereo sound stage, whereas 3D mode is claimed to encompass the listener with three-dimensional audio no matter wall areas or reflections. Room Fill mode is meant to current a big candy spot that sounds much like listeners wherever within the room—in different phrases, a celebration mode.
The Crescent is a wi-fi surprise that helps Bluetooth four.2, Chromecast, and Apple AirPlay 2. Its Bluetooth capabilities are fairly fundamental, with assist for the A2DP and AVRCP profiles and SBC codec, which has a most bitrate of 345 Kbps, although 200 Kbps is extra widespread. It affords no assist for aptX, AAC, or some other superior Bluetooth codecs.
So, it’s finest efficiency is clearly through Chromecast and AirPlay 2, which transmit music on your own home wi-fi community at 2.four or 5 GHz with its Wi-Fi 5 consumer adapter. Supported codecs on this case embody FLAC, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 in addition to uncompressed PCM. AirPlay 2 can convey PCM audio as much as 24/44.1 (2.1 Mbps) in addition to ALAC, AAC, and MP3, whereas Chromecast helps PCM as much as 24/96 (four.6 Gbps) in addition to FLAC, AAC, MP3, Opus, Vorbis, and WebM.
The streaming providers listed within the person handbook embody YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio utilizing the Google Residence app. However I used to be ready to make use of Tidal and Qobuz through Bluetooth, Chromecast, and AirPlay as effectively. Once I requested Cleer about this, I used to be knowledgeable that solely Spotify Join is constructed into the speaker, whereas the opposite listed providers depend on the Google Residence app. The corporate added Chromecast and AirPlay 2 to allow prospects to stream content material from different suppliers utilizing iOS or Android units.
Along with wi-fi, the Crescent gives two bodily inputs on the again: a Three.5mm analog aux enter and an optical digital-audio enter. Additionally among the many connections is an ethernet port and the receptacle for connecting the speaker to AC energy.
The onboard controls are situated on high of the speaker. There isn’t any energy button; the speaker is all the time on when it’s related to AC energy. Naturally, there’s a play/pause button in addition to quantity up and down buttons. One button lets you choose the supply, with devoted LEDs for every supply. One other button cycles via the sound modes, and a single LED signifies the chosen mode. Lastly, a mic button permits and disables the 2 built-in far-field microphones, that are used for Google Assistant voice management.
4 LEDs on the entrance of the speaker alongside the underside mild up when the speaker is related to AC energy. If you change the amount, these LEDs momentarily point out the amount degree as effectively. That’s high quality, however it looks as if a little bit of overkill to have 4 LEDs on on a regular basis simply to let you already know the speaker is powered on, particularly since you possibly can inform that by the truth that a number of the LEDs on the highest are lit as effectively.
Cleer has no app for the Crescent; playback is managed from the streaming app, whereas all different app-based management is supplied by the Google Residence app. You employ the app to call the speaker, join it to your Wi-Fi community, and activate Google Assistant.
After setup, you possibly can management the amount and regulate the two-band EQ (bass and treble) from the Google Residence app. You can too set some parameters relating to recognition and personalization, notifications, who can management the speaker from their machine, and whether or not or to not ship utilization knowledge and crash studies to Google. Lastly, you possibly can see some details about the machine, together with identify, placement, Wi-Fi community, firmware model numbers, and MAC and IP addresses.
Nonetheless, I want there was a devoted app for the Crescent with a graphic EQ and the flexibility to pick out inputs and sound modes from the listening place.
I began by making an attempt to pair the Crescent with my iPhone XS through Bluetooth holding the input-source button for 5 seconds as instructed within the handbook, however the machine by no means appeared within the checklist of Bluetooth units on my telephone. And after I tried to hook up with my Wi-Fi community through AirPlay 2, I obtained an “surprising error” message.
In line with Cleer, AirPlay can generally trigger such issues, and the answer is to unplug the unit and plug it again in, or reset the unit utilizing a paper clip inserted within the pinhole close to the connections. It seems that I didn’t have to try this, as a result of connecting to my Wi-Fi community with the Google Residence app did work, so I might use Chromecast. And as soon as I began enjoying music from Qobuz, AirPlay 2 by some means began to work, and I used to be finally capable of join through Bluetooth as effectively.
For many of my analysis, I listened to high-res audio tracks on Qobuz from my iPhone XS utilizing Chromecast. That’s a a lot greater high quality connection than Bluetooth—1.Three Gbps on my Wi-Fi community and iPhone XS versus ~200 Mbps through Bluetooth—and it was comparatively straightforward to change between the Crescent and the Sony SRS-RA5000 (extra about that later). The Sony doesn’t assist AirPlay, and switching between Chromecast and AirPlay was problematic—AirPlay stopped working after I did that—so I caught with Chromecast.
I began with “L.A. Mysterioso” by the David Angel Jazz Ensemble from their new album Out On The Coast. The group options a number of the finest jazzers in Los Angeles enjoying the music of David Angel, which is outstanding. Within the default Room Fill mode, the sound was wealthy, thick, and clean, although a bit closed in. I walked across the room whereas it was enjoying, and the sound remained fairly constant no matter my location. However the sound gave the impression to be coming virtually fully from the speaker itself.
The Stereo Widening and 3D modes really work, increasing the soundfield effectively past the speaker cupboard. However you have to be far sufficient away; I used to be initially too shut, however after I backed up and sat on the middle axis, the impact was startling.
The 3D mode had an excellent wider soundfield than Stereo Widening, however I didn’t hear something behind me or straight overhead. Additionally, the impact collapsed after I moved far off axis, and each of those modes misplaced some excessive frequencies in contrast with Room Fill mode, which had probably the most well-balanced sound from wherever within the room.
Subsequent up was “Say You Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac from Stay (Deluxe Version). The album contains recordings from varied performances in several venues; this observe was recorded within the Kansas Coliseum. As earlier than, the sound was wealthy, thick, barely congested, and really clean in Room Fill mode. The Stereo Widening and 3D modes did their factor admirably.
I’m not a giant Taylor Swift fan, however I’ve been studying current information tales about how she re-released her album Fearless on her personal phrases, so I listened to “Hey Stephen” from the brand new model. As soon as once more, the sound was wealthy with deep, satisfying bass, although it was only a bit sharp and brittle within the mid-highs. The vocal was very current but in addition barely sharp-edged.
Tower of Energy is one among my all-time favourite bands, so I used to be delighted to seek out 50 Years of Funk and Soul: Stay on the Fox Theater. I cued up “What’s Hip?,” my favourite TOP track. In Room Fill mode, the sound was wealthy and only a tad closed in, however total, it sounded nice. The Stereo Widening and 3D modes created a really huge sound area whereas dropping some excessive frequencies.
For one thing a bit gentler, I performed “All within the Thoughts” by Peggy Seeger, half-sister of the late, nice Pete Seeger, from her album First Farewell. This observe contains vocals, guitar, piano, and concertina, so it’s a lot less complicated than what I had been listening to. In Room Fill mode, the vocals had been good and clear, although the midrange was a bit congested, particularly the piano. As earlier than, the Stereo Widening and 3D modes introduced a large soundfield with barely rolled-off highs.
Turning to classical, I performed the fourth motion of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A Main, Op. 92, as recorded by Musicaeterna beneath the route of Teodor Currentzis. Room Fill mode sounded wealthy and full with solely a touch of congestion, whereas the Stereo Widening and 3D modes expanded the soundfield approach past the boundaries of the speaker cupboard, this time with a little bit of brittleness within the violins.
I occurred to arrange the Crescent on a stand in entrance of my bed room TV, which put it low sufficient to not hinder the display screen. So, only for grins, I made a decision to provide it a strive as a soundbar. I related a TOSlink optical cable from the TV’s output to the Crescent’s optical enter and watched some TV.
Total, the sound was excellent; the Room Fill mode was the smoothest, whereas the Stereo Widening and 3D modes sounded only a bit harsh. Sadly, the amount management within the Google Residence app didn’t work, so I concluded that it’s not sensible to make use of the Crescent as a soundbar, particularly since there’s no approach to management it utilizing IR distant codes. It is likely to be okay if the TV enables you to management the optical-output degree, a characteristic that’s not out there on the TV I used on this check.
Comparability to Sony SRS-RA5000 and Urbanears Rålis
I lately reviewed an analogous speaker, the Sony SRS-RA5000, which affords a 360-degree room-filling mode and carries the identical checklist worth because the Crescent. I’m afraid my assessment of that speaker was not optimistic, however due to their similarities, I made a decision to match them anyway. I additionally pulled out the Urbanears Rålis, a extra fundamental Bluetooth speaker with a pleasant, clear sound that lists for $200.
I performed all check tracks on all three audio system. I set the Crescent to Room Fill mode and enabled the Immersive Audio Enhancement (IAE) mode on the SRS-RA5000, which expands stereo content material into an immersive sound area.
As I had heard throughout my assessment of the RA5000, its sound was much more congested, muddy, and boomy than the Crescent’s, and its tonal profile was whacked out. Particularly, vocals sounded pinched and synthetic. The IAE sound area prolonged considerably past the speaker’s cupboard, however it wasn’t a sound I loved listening to.
In the meantime, the Rålis sounded clear and clear with an excellent total tonal steadiness that skewed barely towards the bass. In fact, the sound appeared to come back fully from the speaker, however it was fairly constant from totally different listening positions.
Total, I actually just like the Cleer Crescent. It has a wealthy, full sound that’s solely barely congested, and the totally different sound modes work remarkably effectively to create their meant impact—so long as you sit on axis. One other plus is its assist for AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Bluetooth, although the Bluetooth implementation is fairly fundamental. And the elegant design is approach cool.
On the draw back, I actually want Cleer provided a devoted app that supplied a graphic EQ, which might assist the slight congestion, in addition to the flexibility to vary inputs and sound modes from the listening place. And in my expertise with it, AirPlay was considerably fussy, main me to make use of Chromecast more often than not.
At a penny beneath $700, the Crescent is far more costly than the opposite audio system in Cleer’s lineup, which checklist for lower than $200. And also you want a reasonably large house to accommodate it. However with compelling sound and a classy look, it’s price critical consideration.