Flare PRO 2HD

General Information

This in-ear monitors are made from rhodium coated brass and based around 5.5mm beryllium drivers.
They use gold plated MMCX terminated at splitter level.
They're shipped with 3.5mm jack cable and a balanced bluetooth modul with aptX support.

More information:
https://www.flareaudio.com/products/flare-pro-2hd

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Pros: - Transparent sound
- Great dynamics
- Natural restitution
- Wide and very deep stage
- Solid finish
- Good insulation
- Sold with a good DAC/Bluetooth module
- The best foam tips on the market
- Great value for money
- Perfect rendering on all types of music
- The best sound heard
Cons: - Disturbing microphone noise with the cable
- No symmetrical jack
- No APT X Low latency protocol
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Since the beginning of April, I've been enjoying a recently discovered earphone model, the Flare Pro 2HD. I propose you a review on this model and to begin, here is a quick presentation of the brand:

Flare Audio is a young english brand that I first knew by buying noise reduction plugs from them and then earphone plugs, the "Audiophiles". They've derived their products for a few years and now offer headphones, several noise reduction plugs and even a revolutionary Hi-Fi speaker system called "ZERO". It is a brand definitely not like the others which offers very innovative products, often financed thanks to Kickstarter projects. Flare has released several earphone models in the past (R2, Gold, Pro...) and the Flare Pro 2HD is the current result. Flare is a brand that I will call a "researcher" in audio, they often file a lot of patents for their products. Here for the Pro 2HD you have several patented technologies explained on their website:

- HD Anti-Resonance technology
- HD Dual Jet technology
- HD Acoustic Lens technology

Looking for a new pair of earphones as I was left on my last pair with ISN H40, Final F4100 and a ton of tried and tested entry-level earphones like Klipsch R6i II, Cambridge Melomania, Erdre audio or Fostex TE-05 (which I liked but too fragile), I came across one or two articles talking about the Flare Pro 2HD and the previous model, the Gold (Sold for around £1000). I hesitated for a long time before buying them because they sold for £400 and then with this period of confinement, I cracked and I'm very very happy about it!

So these earphones look like this:

- The earphones are Rhodium plated and connected to a non-detachable cable of about 35 cm to 2 MMCX plugs. Then there is a female MMCX Y with a cable of about 1m which ends in a classic 3.5mm jack. All plugs are gold-plated, impedance rating 16 Ohm.

- There is a DAC/Bluetooth module with 2 MMCX female plugs that can be connected to the earphones by removing the Y jack cable with an operating time announced at 12h playing time, 150h standby time and 2h recharging time. This module has 3 buttons on its surface as well as an integrated microphone.

- The earphones are supplied in a very original and impressive packaging which contains 3 sets of 3 Flare tips, a hard storage case, a warranty extension card and various instructions.

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I did not try the old models released by Flare, they also currently have an "entry-level" model the JET which are also popular and come in 3 materials, polymer, aluminum and titanium. I ordered a pair of aluminum to compare and to make it short the Pro 2HD do everything better and are more neutral, balanced and defined. JET are very good for the price but Pro 2HD are awesome ! My old earphones were the ISN H40 and I have to say that the switch to the Flare Pro 2HD was disruptive at first.

So the earphones are plated with rhodium for a very solid finish and they use a 5.5mm beryllium diaphragm. Here it's a mono driver that reproduces the entire sound. The particularity is that there is a hole on the other side of the earphone which makes it open without causing a big sound leakage nor harming the insulation.

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SOUND :

The Pro 2HDs are pretty neutral overall, they remind me a little bit of the Fostex TE-05s on that point.

The medium is very well controlled, clear, limpid, there is nothing too much, everything is there and it punches! It's dry, fast and with a great release, the definition is the best heard and the timbres are just perfect.

Highs are very well balanced, full and precise without adding brightness, there is never any unpleasant sibilance or frequencies unless the recording is really bad. It's the first time I've seen this on headphones, usually the headphone doesn't go very high in the spectrum to avoid the problem, either there's a hole in this frequency band or it's unpleasant. Here the whole frequency band is there, it's crystal clear, detailed, dynamic, no aggressiveness.

The bass part is just beautiful, I think this is where Flare really stands out from the other competitors. It's very defined, dynamic and very textured. It's the best bass I've ever heard, well held, not bassy or muddy and it goes down very, very low while being very firm with perfect definition.

(For info Flare does not want to provide frequency curves, so you have to believe your ears, it changes! )

Bass is often the main problem with many audio systems, it is very difficult to get a good bass reproduction at the sound level of the original recording. Generally it is set back, or present but soft or with an emphasis between 80Hz and 200Hz and therefore causes masking effects on other frequencies without going really low and therefore you don't really feel it. Here it's perfect and moreover it's ultra dynamic which is for me the hardest to set up technically. Attention it is not for as much basshead, if your song contains a good bass with peach, a sub bass part and well you will just hear it perfectly like the rest of the spectrum simply, nothing is added and yet what an impact!
My approach in the listening of the sound consists in wanting to hear the work of an artist such as he conceived it in studio, thus I seek the most faithful listening possible what implies neutrality, musicality and especially to be able to hear the whole sound spectrum of the song and these Pro 2HD do it with brilliance. I have the sensation of rediscovering the sound present in the music that most other earphones and loudspeakers are unable to reproduce in this way, it's bluffing!

It's disturbing at the beginning to listen to music in these conditions, very neutral sound, clear but with all the frequencies in the low frequencies and great dynamics! It's very very dynamic, all the transients of the song are transcribed so be careful with the listening volume, I insist on that!

The sound stage is according to me the other remarkable part of the Pro 2HD. It's very deep and natural, contrary to the H40 in comparison, very wide too and above all very accurate on the placement of the instruments. With my ISN H40, I sometimes had the impression that the placement of the instruments in the sound space was not good, especially the kick, bass and snare drums so in fact everything that plays in the middle. I think this is due to problems caused by the multi-driver technology which causes problems with crossover, placement of the different drivers in the shell of the earphone and therefore phase. With the Flare Pro 2HD, the placement of the instruments is exactly the same as with my mixers, with much more detail, relief and definition. Compared to electronic tracks with a lot of mid and high mids, I feel that the H40s produce resonance-related distortion that I don't perceive at all on the Pro 2HD. Probably due to the anti-resonance technology of the Flare, a tuning with added brilliance on the ISN H40 and their front end. It's a subjective opinion of course and it's only based on the neutrality and depth of sound field of the Pro 2HD in comparison.
Everything sounds right, no metallic effects like with other so-called "clear" or "precise" earphones and you can hear perfectly the various natural or added acoustics on the instruments and the song in general. It feels like listening to open headphones with the passive isolation that an earphones produces, it's very special. The result is superb definition, it's full of micro details and you really understand the work of the artists and the sound engineer.

CABLE :

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Well built, rather thin, quite rigid with the particularity to be detached with MMCX plugs not at the earphones but in the middle of the cable to connect the earphones to the DAC/Ampli/bluetooth Flare provided. If the cable is designed as non-detachable, it is still possible to open the earphones, this will require a perfect skill but some have already tried the experience and have installed an MMCX connector to attach a cable of their choice for example.

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The MMCX plugs are therefore connected to a Y-base which ends in an unbalanced 3.5mm jack. It should be noted that cable is balanced but not the jack... At first glance it's quite strange that Flare doesn't make a detachable cable for the earphones like most of the competition does now, especially at this price. Now the cable and its attachment seem very solid so I don't worry too much about the reliability and duration of this one. So it's an oxygen free copper cable, here no silver or other "higher end" materials and that's good! Being a trained sound technician and knowing electronics, I don't believe much in "magic" materials such as silver except to justify the price of a more expensive product... Now it is certain that a well designed silver cable will be superior to a mid/bad copper cable :wink: I think Flare is a pragmatic brand with very good researchers and engineers looking for the best possible product with the best possible materials, reminding the beryllium membrane and rhodium shells. This being said, the Flare cable is not flawless, it produces quite a lot of microphonic noise, especially in the upper part of the cable after the plastic Y-base. From my point of view, an earphone of this quality should simply not produce any at all. A 100€ Fostex TE05 for example produces none at all. Now by passing the cable over the ear, the noise disappears and it even allows the earphones to be pushed deeper into the ear while being very discreet.

TIPS :

The most important thing about these earphones are the accessories and especially the tips. There are 3 categories of tips delivered with :

- Memory foam with silicone inside called "Audiophile".

- Thicker, longer and softer memory foam with silicone inside called "Everyday".

- Full silicone called "Universal".

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(Audiophiles on the left, Universals in the centre and Everydays on the right).​


All in 3 different sizes S, M and L for each type. Personally I have small ears with very narrow ear canals so it's a challenge to put earphones in them. With my ISN H40 which are appreciated for their fit, it is impossible for me to get a good seal that fits with the stock silicone tips. It was for this pair of H40s that I originally bought Audiophile Flare tips, after trying different brands including cp145 spinfit and a lot of memory foam. The insulation and comfort side is superb with memory foam but the sound, whether it's with cheap foam or Comply, it wasn't that at all. I often noticed a bass attenuation, a poorer definition and a narrowing of the sound field. Well the Audiophile Flare tips were a miracle for me and my ISN H40s. The sound is better, the comfort is good and the fit is incredible, I stopped putting my earphones back on every 5 minutes. I thought I had some knocks, but I'm reassured! The "Audiophile" foams have the particularity to have a silicone guide inside but not on the whole length of the tip, they are flared at the end and quite short in fact, which allows not to crush the top of the tip once in the ear and therefore not obstruct the passage of sound. The concern now is durability, you have to provide several pairs of replacement but frankly for their price they are much better performing and durable than other brands and I won't come back on silicone anymore. There are small differences in listening between the 3 types, we lose a little body with the "Universal" for example but they are a little more comfortable, the "Audiophiles" remain the most neutral and precise. They are for sale on the web site and I highly recommend them if like me you have trouble with silicone ear tips or if you want to improve your listening to your earphones. Personally it is a more logical investment, cheaper and more convincing than a new cable at 200 euros.

DAC/BLUETOOTH :

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Finally, let's talk about the DAC/Bluetooth supplied with the Pro 2HD. This is for me the very good idea of Flare, if you want wireless and well everything is provided. We have here a module that uses Bluetooth in 4.1, compatible with Apt X and other less audiophile supports. Here no compatibility Apt HD, LL, or Apt X low latency (too bad for this one). This is not a big black spot for me because having experimented with various formats, I'm simply not a fan of Bluetooth links that I often find bad compared to wired. Lossless protocols often don't change much because the DAC and amplification integrated in these devices are quite poor. Here it is rather different, the bluetooth module embeds a double symmetrical A/B amplification which thus allows a good amplification of the earphones in wireless and a symmetrical link which does not propose the wired version. Flare does not wish to communicate the chip used, we simply know which decodes only PCM signals maximum 16Bits and 96KHz. The sound is very good even if I find it a bit below the wired configuration. Now it's a comparison that uses auditory memory so it's not reliable at all, my priorities influence me too and I use a different DAC/Amplifier system in wired configuration, here an Objective 2 and a Topping D10 for the tests. The bluetooth connection is very good in terms of distance and stability, no problem to fit a LG V30. What to make me change my mind a little bit about the sound in bluetooth so ... For convenience the module has 3 buttons that will manage the volume, change song, hang up the phone (there is a microphone built into the module), the on-off of the module and the pairing. Charging is done by a small USB A to micro USB cable provided.

The general shape of the earphones is also well thought out, they are very easy to insert, hold well and are very comfortable. On the other hand, they protrude a little from the ear, about 0.5 cm so they are not suitable for sleeping with. The rhodium metal finish guarantees great durability and even with the cable they are very light. If we add the DAC/Bluetooth combo, we are dealing with an ultra nomadic and discreet product.

SUMMARY OF PRO 2HD :

It's a typical listening, very precise, dynamic, very deep and wide. All the frequencies are there, well balanced and the whole is very musical. Never any hissing or harshness in the sound, unless present in the original song. Now its neutral and deep signature with a full and level low end may not convince people used to clear listening with a medium often put forward and/or a rather frontal restitution. Very surprising at the beginning because I was not used to listen to a restitution of this quality, so you have to know how to tame them. It is for the blow very easy to discern an mp3 of a lossless file with this pair (without falling in the very analytical side) thus attention with the source used and its amplification. With an impedance of 16 ohm, these headphones still require a little juice to be fed because they are very dynamic and the bass goes down to 5hz. On a phone not equipped with a good DAC and a minimal amplification, the listening can be a little disappointing but the bluetooth module is there to make up for that. On my LG V30 using Tidal, I put the volume at half for a comfortable listening.

I think that if Flare does not wish to communicate curves of frequencies nor its DAC used it is to let people the care to listen to the sound of Pro 2HD and to make an opinion by themselves. In fact, some audiophiles have too much judgment given to certain components even if it means missing out on a good experience, which is a shame. Of course this is just a personal interpretation.

To do this review I contacted Flare for more information and I must say that they were very nice, listening and easy to reach. So I don't worry about the after-sales service, as a reminder, the product is guaranteed for 2 years.

The credo of Flare on this pair of earphones is :

"We believe that Flare Pro 2HD generates the highest quality sound ever heard in an earphone at any price point. In fact we are so confident of this, we are offering our first ever Sound Quality Guarantee".

Well for me the bet is won, I don't think about buying more headphones, I don't need them anymore. I even use them in sound editing and cinema pre-mixing as comparative listening. A tip, try them, Flare often makes promotions and they can be returned within 30 days.

A small suggestion would be to make like other brands, a size of XS tips for very small ears like me. :)
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awayeah
awayeah
I use different tips.
Flare had 2 versions of audiophile tips - 1 version sounded better and was way more comforable. Unfortunetely it was also extremely fragile. Current version is less comfortable, at least for me, because the foam is no longer squishable and current version make the sound a bit harsh, at least to my ears (friend of mine has no trouble with it).

I use Klim foams - they are more comfortable, sound just as good and they make the sound more smooth.

Anyhow, its best to try at least several different foams as it all depends on our specific ear anatomy. Plus the source have pretty big impact on the sound - so different foams may sound their best with different DAPs or AMPs as they can eliminate or emphesize some shortcomings.
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bhima
bhima
The bluetooth DAC/amp puts out consistently more accurate and dynamic sound than my Fiio E17K which I find is a bit too warm and create resonances that are not there in the bluetooth module. Anyone have some good suggestions about another amp/dac that stays more true or is better than the bluetooth one? Thanks!
awayeah
awayeah
You have to keep in mind that bt module itself sounds very good, so you need very good dac/amp or dap to hear tangible improvement.
I haven't try a lot DAC/amps, more DAPs but Flares like power, so that's one thing to look for.

You can use Sony ZX-300 as dac/amp and its a very good pairing fo PRO 2HD but only in balanced, so you'd need to mod the stock cable.
Xduoo TA-03s sounded good with Flares but that's desktop source and not really neutral.

You might consider stg like Aune BU1. Though in my experiences Flares plays better with higher end AKM DACs.
Pros: Simply the best sound in an IEM that I have heard so far.
Cons: None until now.

Intro

A bold claim.

I was more than a bit skeptical when I read the following statement of the CEO of Flare Audio, Davies Roberts:

„We believe that Flare Pro 2HD generates the highest quality sound ever heard in an earphone at any price point. In fact we are so confident of this, we are offering our first ever Sound Quality Guarantee“.

Sure. Whatever. I had just bought a pair of Campfire Audio Dorados 3 months ago and was very happy and content with them sound-wise. But curiosity was nagging and since they offered a 30-day money back guarantee if not satisfied, I ordered a pair of Flares Pro 2HD.

I was almost sure to send them back. After all I had just spent 999,- Swiss Francs on the Dorados. The Flares couldn’t possibly stand a chance, especially at half the price and an additional DAC/Bluetooth module included. Boy was I wrong!

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Disclaimer

I am in no way associated with Flare Audio. I regularly bought the Flares Pro 2HD from their website. My review is solely comprised of my own thoughts, opinions and impressions of the product. All pictures were taken by myself.


Review gear

Acoustic Research AR-M2 DAP
AKG 701 over-ear headphones
Beyerdynamic T51P on-ear headphones
Campfire Audio Dorado in-ear monitors

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Music selection

Rock/Metal

Korn – MTV unplugged
Alice in Chains - MTV unplugged

Rap/Hiphop

Ana Tijoux – 1977
Wu Tang Clan – The Saga Continues
Method Man – The Meth Lab
Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty Remastered

Singer/Songwriter/etc.

Andreas Vollenweider – Vox
Mercedes Sosa – Misa Criolla Live

Orchestra/Classical Soundtracks

Howard Shore – Lord of the rings OST
The Witcher 3 OST
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim OST
Ramijn Djawadi - Game of Thrones OST
Hans Zimmer – Interstellar OST
Johann Johansson – Arrival OST
Harry Gregson-Williams – Metal Gear Solid 4 OST
John Williams – Indiana Jones Collection OST
John Williams – Star Wars Collection OST
Erich Kunzel/Hans Zimmer - Epics

Jazz/Blues

Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles
Tom Jones – Praise & Blame
Sara K – Hell or High Water
Johnny Cash - American IV


Packaging

Ridiculously spectacular.
This is probably the most pompous box for an IEM. At least I’ve never seen anything that’s even close. You can see it on my pictures and, of course, on Flare Audio’s website. Its exterior resembles the linings inside a recording studio. It’s huge. It’s unique. I like it.

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What I don’t like is the fact that it also produces a lot of waste and is therefore not exactly environmental friendly. It’s quite the opposite to say Campfire Audio where you will get a tiny, unassuming (and thus environmental-friendly) cardboard box no matter what the IEMs inside cost.

But still - Cudos for the idea.


Accessories

All you need.

- the IEMs
- the Bluetooth/wireless DAC module
- 3 types of different ear foams
- the user manual
- USB charging cable
- the carry case
- the warranty card
- one spectacular box

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Build quality

IEMs

Excellent.
The Rhodium-coated brass housing is flawlessly executed. I also like how the cable is attached to the earpiece - by means of some kind of rubber plate that prevents cable noise and also doubles as strain relief. But yes, the construction does not allow the use of aftermarket cables. And that takes us to the cable itself…

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Cable

Mixed bag.
There has already been some discussion about the cable used in the Pro2 HDs since it is the same cable used in its predecessor. People state that it is flimsy, prone to breaking and not worthy of being used on those superb IEMs. People think there should have been a more premium braided cable.

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I disagree with most objections:

1. The cable/IEM combination produces the lowest cable noise I ever experienced in any IEM even with expensive aftermarket cables. This is due to the rubbery coating of the cable as well as its termination on the IEMs themselves.

2. Braided cables do often get stuck in zippers. For me this is a big issue. I have, among others, the Campfire Audio Lyra IIs and CA Dorado whose litz cables (150$) permanently get stuck while I’m on the move when wearing a jacket or hoodie. This never happens with Flare Audio’s cable.

3. I like the black/white/grayish look. It is distinctive and does look modern in my opinion.

4. The cable does not feel flimsy at all and does not get tangled easily.

5. The MMCX connectors / 3.5mm plug are high quality.

6. The y-split has a plastic casing and could definitely be more premium. Still feels high quality though.

7. Yes, the cable tends to coil up and is less flexible than i.e. a braided one.

8. It is fastened to the IEMs and cannot be replaced by an aftermarket cable unless you go DIY.

All in all the cable solution has its ups and downs but quality wise you need not worry.


Sound

Highs

Crystal clear.
It does indeed reveal every detail of recordings without being sibilant. Best I ever heard in an IEM.

Mids

Well defined.
Voices are neither recessed or overly focussed but right where they belong. Instruments have volume and body.

Bass/Sub-bass

Oh dear.
It’s simply the most substantial bass in any IEM I have ever heard. For me on par with very good over-ear-headphones. I’m not a basshead though. I believe that bass/sub-bass should give music it’s foundation. It should support and elevate everything that is there. And it does! The music is given room to breathe, to spread, too soar so to speak. The sub-bass can not only be heard, but felt. It will make your arm’s hair stand up.

Sound stage

Natural.
Superb instrument separation. Good impression of the room/stage. There may be IEMs that have a more 3-dimensional feel to them, but this just feels right - at least for me.

Neutrality

Emotional.
If you like flat response and neutral sound - this is probably not for you. The sound produced by these IEMs brings out the emotions in the music you love rather than meticulously reproducing it. To me that’s not a bad thing - on the contrary - it pulls me into the music.

Bluetooth module

Not tested.
As I tend to not/seldom use Bluetooth, I have not yet tested the Bluetooth module. Fellow reviewers praise it for the best Bluetooth sound available. When I find the time, I will update this review accordingly.


Comparison

No match.
As stated in my introduction - I didn’t believe Flare Audio’s claim that „Flare Pro 2HD generates the highest quality sound ever heard in an earphone at any price point.“

Well, I cannot claim to have listened to all IEMs at a higher price point. But as a fan of Campfire Audio I have bought Lyra II (699 $) and Dorado (999 $). In my favorite earphone shop I have also compared Vega (now 1099 $), Andromeda (1099 $) and the new Atlas (1299 $). In the end I decided for Dorado as I liked their musicality more than even the higher priced models.

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To put it plain and simple: The Dorados don’t stand a chance sound wise. Flares Pro 2HD win in every regard. The highs are more clear and detailed, the bass, which is no slouch on the Dorados, is just more profound and substantial. As for the mids, especially voices: I feel they are more forward and pronounced with the Dorados but seem more balanced with the Flares. It basically comes down to personal taste.

Others may disagree - for me the Flares have a distinct edge over the Dorados and therefore over everything I heard from Campfire Audio up until now. I plan on comparing them to CA Solaris when I eventually get the chance.

Build quality wise the Flares look impeccable - but time will tell. As for the CA Dorados, they are well built but not perfect. Especially their coating is very delicate and the provided litz cable is prone to discolorations.



Amplification/Matchability

More Power!
The Flares Pro 2HD match exceptionally well with my Acoustic Research AR-M2 whose output is designed for power hungry headphones. With the CA Dorados I always have to use an impedance adapter (iFi iE-Match) or else I get constant noise/hiss plus it’s way to loud. The Flares however seem to profit from ample amplification. I have not (yet) tested with smartphones or other DAPs.

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If you are using the DAC/Bluetooth module you need not worry - it will certainly provide the power necessary since it was designed for the Flares.


Verdict


A claim fulfilled.
You already guessed it when you read through my review: I love these IEMs. To me they’re what I was always looking for in an IEM. Build quality flawless, accessories and usability/versatility excellent, sound reproduction top-of-the-line. I could hardly ask for more.

Well, maybe one minor thing: If you order from outside the EU, Flare Audio will not refund you the VAT that is already included in the price of the IEMs. Usually - like many other companies do - you will get a refund for the EU VAT (20%) as soon as you send them the tax-receipt you get from customs in your country. So as it stands - non EU customers will pay VAT twice. As I live in Switzerland this means +7.9% VAT + customs duties which, all in all, amounts to roughly 60+ Swiss francs ( 55+ Euros) extra. So please Flare Audio: Fix this issue to keep it fair for non-EU customers. Beside that their customer service is great as well - responsive and helpful.

I think Flare Audio is a company to watch closely in the years to come. They deserve to be recognized.
I have never before given 5 stars in a review. Here I wholeheartedly do!


Pepocoyo
Pepocoyo
I just ordered 2HD today, hope it better than my old Westone 4. Anw, really love the way Flare has improved themselves through each product.
Btw, do you think the Earstudio ES100 Mk2 drive them (Flare Pro 2HD) well? I already have 2Stepdance amp and plan to buy a new Dac/Amp pairing with my Galaxy Note 8. What is the best 100$ DAC/AMP to drive an earphone?
awayeah
awayeah
Nexum Aqua is cheap and quite good pairing for 2HD.
Though best pairing so far is Sony ZX300 with Oriolus BA300s tube amp. I'm guessing Sony WM1A/WM1Z or ZX507 should be as good or better.
bhima
bhima
I know this seems a bit ridiculous but, how do they sound compared to your AKG K701?
Pros: Very neutral, detailed but at the same time natural
Big soundstage with amazing depth
Strong, extremely clean bass
Great texture / resolution
Cons: BT module doesn't support aptX HD and LDAC
Flare PRO 2HD are the latest and greatest iteration of PRO range first introduced by Flare Audio in 2017.
They were introduced in the last weak of March 2019.

According to Flare Audio:
"...PRO 2HD generates the highest quality sound ever...".

Let start with some history...

Flare Audio started their adventure with in-ear monitors in 2015 when R2 range was introduced via Kickstarer campaign. The range included aluminium R2A, stainless steel R2S and titanium R2PRO. And boy, did they sound good... You can go ahead and check reviews on Headfonia and Headfonics - I dear you to find any review in there that would praise earphones in more enthusiastic and enticing way.

I've bought R2A (entry level) on Kickstarter and then R2S (midrange) and R2PRO (flagship) as well. They're still one of the best IEMs ever in my humble opinion. They combine good technical skills with musicality and ability to play great with just good enough source. Even though there was quite big price gap between R2A (180£) and R2PRO (400£) I would't say that one was actually better than other - it depens on the source. All of those models used the same cable, the same driver and the same enclosure (design-wise). The only difference was the material of the enclosures and it turn out it did have big impact on the sound. R2PRO was the fullest sounding and has highest musicality factor, R2S was closest to armature driver sound with more clinical and precise approach and R2A was what I would call thinner, lighter R2PRO (but that could change with proper source). I think their biggest flaw was the inability to scale up with better sources and amps. Most of the time those earphones sounded better from various Samsung Galaxy phones than from high-end DAPs...


Source: Amazon.co.uk



In 2017 Flare introduced Flares Pro and it was quite a different beast than previous range. It used beryllium driver and while it might be considered similar in design to previous R2 range, it actually wasn't similar in sound. Flares Pro were much more neutral, technical and deprived of any sound coloration. They were definitely on higher technical level but at the cost of musicality and pure pleasure from listening to music. And they had a flaw, which make them sound a bit metallic and thin in highs and upper midrange. But the texture, resolution, soundstage were sublime. And all that sublime sound came from bluetooth module, that they shipped with. So you didn't need any great DAP or DAC/amp to enjoy high quality audio - just any smartphone with aptx BT...


Source: flareaudio.com



Then, not even a year later, Flares GOLD were introduced. Again, as with previous range - it use the same driver, the same cable, the same BT module and it was shipped with the exact same box (albeit with different emblem colour) and with the exact same accesories. But this time, instead of using titanium enclosures, they use brass with gold plating. This again affected the sound, though less than in R2A range - GOLDs have a bit deeper soundstage, less metalic and thin upper midrange and highs and maybe a bit more detail and better texture (but the difference was not day and night). So it was the same old good Flares Pro but with more polished enclosures and more polished sound. And they were almost 3 times more expensive :/


Source: flareaudio.com



Not a long after there was Flares Pro 2 model but this one I haven't heard yet... It supose to sound less V-shaped than first Pro and take more musical approach. I think the changes were subtle though, as usual. Owning Flares Gold, I wasn't really interested in buying this model, as it was positioned below GOLDs in Flare Audio range.

And finally, just week ago, when I was visting Innsbruck, I've got a mail, that Flare PRO 2HD is launching... What surprised me most, was the information that it takes GOLDs place at the top of Flares range and its actually 60% cheaper than GOLDs starting price. It wasn't because of no longer using expensive gold to plate the earphone, no. This time they used rhodium, which I think is even more expensive than gold. It was because they wanted to introduce a great product available to wider range of people, than expensive GOLDs. Kudos for them :) When the whole industry is going different way, with more and more expensive products (not always, or rarely even better), Flare Audio takes much more pro-consumer approach.

And here they are:


Source: flareaudio.com

So what's different? As with GOLDs, PRO 2HD use brass but with rhodium plating this time instead of GOLD. And that's the only "hardware" change. The other changes are in shape and thus acoustics of the enclosures (rhodium is also a factor here).



So, with the same driver, the same cable and what would seem like similar enclosures, they should also sound almost the same, right? Well, surprise surprise, this time around the changes are not so subtle. Gone are the sound flaws of previous models (as small as they were) and enhance are the sonic capabilities.

More clarity, more texture, better resolution... Even though Flares Pro and Flares GOLD were at the very top level of what modern IEM flagship is capable of delivering, new model is somehow even better. I was sceptic at first, but when I heard them, I believed their slogans. They actually deliver. Amazing.



Gone are somewhat harsh highs of first PRO gen. and now the sound is smooth as it can be, given how good these sound. There seem to be no compromise at all. I mean, sure they're not musicality kings or most analog sounding IEM but they definitely are the best dynamic driver earphones on the market that I've heard and I've heard a lot. I would say that multi armature IEMs are also beaten by those, at least those I've heard (including stuff like Andromeda or tia Fourte). They still extremely neutral and colorless but in good way this time around. It doesn't bother me any more and if I want some more musicality I can always hook them up to some tube amp (BTW. Flare IEMs like tube amps a lot :) - especially R2A - pure analog magic).

How would I decribe them to someone who never heard any Flare Audio product?

They are big sounding IEMs, with great and big soundstage (not extremely big though), with amazing depth to the sound and with unbelivable clarity and texture. I would't call them V-shaped or even U-shaped, they kind of neutralish, but bass is very strong (not Vega or Atlas strong but with better texture and quality), mids are forward and natural and highs are sharp (not overly though). I guarantee you'll hear things you've never heard before, even on well known songs.

The isolation is very good, I would say 8/10 even though the driver is practically bare naked at the back end.

The comfort is good to very good, depending on your ear size. These are fairly big, considering deep insertion but rather small comparing to other TOTL IEMs or even very small.

These are TOTL IEMs and top of what you can get sound quality-wise, no matter what price point to consider.
Flare is also offering 30 days return policy, so you can'g go wrong with this purchase even if you don't like the tonality of those (we all have different preferences after all and these are extremely neutral). What I can promise is that you won't be dissapointed with the quality of sound, because there's simply nothing better out there... Though I haven't heard Shure KSE1500 yet :wink:

What do you get in the box? A lot....

There are 9 pairs of tips (3 pairs of what they call audiophile foam tips, 3 pairs of regular foam tips and 3 pairs of silicone tips - all made by Flare Audio).
There's a balanced, great sounding bluetooth module.
There's a nice enough case, standard 3,5mm cable and usb cable for charging BT module.

It all looks impresive at first and the box itself is also very special and nice.

I've tested them using mainly Sony NW-ZX300 and the BT module.



Selected comparisons:

Campfire Audio Vega / Atlas - these are more bassy and less balanced than PRO 2HD and there's less overall clarity. They also hiss a lot, even on sources with relatively small hissing problem. You won't hear any hiss on Flares, even on hissy sources. Flares seem more elagant and polished sound-wise. Campfire are also bigger and less comfortable in ears. Beside more bass quantity, Campfire loses on every front here.

Sony MDR-EX1000 - legendary dynamic driver IEMs, still great even by today standards. There are 2 outstanding things about this earphones - subbass and soundstage... How do Flare compare to these? Well, there's no such outside of head experience as with Sony's but there's also isolation... MDR-EX1000 don't isolate a bit - it's like listening to fully open headphones. Flare is on the same level soundstage-wise but offers more traditional for IEM experience. Sony do seem to have larger overall soundstage but at the same time Flares have better depth and width, it's just more congested (there is still an excellent separation). When it comes to subbass, I think Flares beat Sony here with better texture and more details. Mids are better on Flares and highs... I thnik Sony might actually be better in high frequencies but that's due to the characteristic sounstage and more open sound.

64 Audio tia Fourté - I very much liked tia Fourté combined with SP1000. There might be a bit better layering than on PRO 2HD but other than that I can't see anything that tia Fourté would do better than PRO 2HD. They somewhat comparable generally but Flares have better bass and resolution.

I could do a lot more comparisons but in the end they would all end up the same - PRO 2HD are a bit or a lot better. I simply haven't heard anything as good as new Flare Audio product.
fablestruck
fablestruck
Hi. Any comparisons with CA Andromeda?
awayeah
awayeah
PRO 2 HD is more holographic, has better bass quality and more natural quantity (Andromeda has dip in midbass to make everything seems more clear), mids are fuller and more organic.
Andromeda might have a bit better high freq., which is usually the case with best armature dirivers but not always. Not to say that PRO 2HD is bad, but they dont't emphesize this part - it's still great quality though.

PRO 2HD are great in one other area - you won't hear any noise on almost any source, while Andromeda will hiss on most gear. This also means that PRO 2HD can be used with vacuum tube amps and they love vacuum tube amps.

Anyhow - Andromeda is too uncomfortable for me (sharp edges and big enclosures) but I can see why some people praise them so much. With Flare you get even better sound and what's most important, much more natural and musical at the same time - though still neutral (don't expect warm, cozy sound).
fablestruck
fablestruck
Thanx for the info

Comments

Hi,
do you suggest the Pro 2HD to listen also to drum and base, progressive electronica, new wave or metal?
Would you favor it over the Periodic Audio Be?
Thanks
Lacas
 
Thanks for the helpful review. I've been onboard with Flare since R2A, R2Pro and Flares PRO and looks like I'll be riding the hype train to PRO 2HD. Great to see a company bringing their flagship product to market at a relatively affordable price point.
 
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