Cleer the way for a competitively priced dual driver closed headphone. The Cleer DU dual driver headphone with detachable cables.
Jun 10, 2016 at 6:00 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5
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Since Head-Fi is currently having some technical difficulties when it comes to adding new products, I will use this thread to introduce the Cleer DU. Once new products can be added to the directory, this review will be copied to an official review format. 
 
 

At the time this review was written, the Cleer Audio DU dual driver headphones were for sale on Amazon.com. Here is a link for purchase:
 
http://www.amazon.com/Cleer-DU-High-Definition-Driver-Headphone/dp/B010NN74XE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1464448476&sr=8-2&keywords=cleer
 
Introduction
The Chicago Axpona Audio Convention may have ended in April, but the experience has not yet ended for me. I was able to get my hands on some nice review samples which I will be covering in the upcoming weeks. One of them is the dual driver headphone I will be covering today, the Cleer Audio DU..
 
During the convention, I didn’t take much notice to the Cleer Audio booth. For starters, they are rarely discussed on Head-Fi forums. Having not heard of them, I decided to save my visit for later on that weekend. I visited all of my predetermined “hot spots” based on the vendors list first, then stopped by their booth to chat about their headphones afterwards.
 
The gentleman I spoke to was named Tom. I asked him to tell me a little bit about what he has displayed. The first headphone he showed me was the Cleer Audio DU, a dual driver headphone. When asking him where these can be purchased and why I don’t see them in any retail stores, his response was that they sell rather successfully in airports and on Amazon, therefore retail sales aren’t necessary.
 
I don’t say this to sound arrogant, but when I speak to vendors I like share an honest initial impression on what they are offering. This isn’t done with the intention to make things awkward, but more to share an honest opinion of their product so they can get a general idea of how their lineup compares to the competition. Some people will take things I say personally, while others will take it as constructive criticism.
 
When I sampled the Cleer Audio DU, most of what I had to say was positive. We discussed Cleer Audio’s status in the headphone industry, and what I did in terms of reviews on Head-Fi. Tom appreciated the feedback, and was kind enough to offer a sample in exchange for a unbiased review.
 
My Background
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
 
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with  enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, while having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
 
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.
 
Review

The DU comes in a White box with red and black accents and lettering. A side side shot of the headphones is on the front of the box, along with a brief description of the product.
 

The back of the package has another picture and description.
 

Opening the package reveals a certificate of acoustic calibration and serial number. This is a very nice touch that shows the attention to detail that went into their production. Also included is a thirty day free trial for Tidal music streaming. Register your product at Cleer Audio and you will receive a voucher for a free month of service. Add this to the already free first month, and you have two months of free FLAC streaming. Very nice! Also included is a owner’s manual.
 

As far as accessories is concerned, the DU comes with a synthetic leather carrying case with a zippered top. Also included are two cables, one with a three button microphone and remote for Iphone (only center button works for Android), and a single button microphone and remote that works for both Android and Iphone. Both cables are constructed from a heavy duty flat cable and have a ninety degree gold plated 3.5 mm jack that is slim in profile and will work with most smartphones with cases installed on them. Both cables are approximately four feet long and geared for portable use.
 
Specifications and Accessories
 
Specifications:
Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
Sensitivity: 102dB
Impedance: 32 / 38 Ohm
Speaker Diver: Custom dual driver, 40mm
Magnet Type: Neodymium
Distortion: <1%THD IEC3181mW at1KHz
Audio Connection: 3.5mm stereo jack socket
 
Accessories:
1X Carrying pouch
2X Audio cables with inline remote (1.2m)
 
Build Quality
The first thing I said when Tom handed me a pair of the DU was “Wow, these are built like a tank.” The DU is made of what appears to be mostly aluminum, with a few components being very durable plastic (which you wouldn’t even notice unless closely inspected).
 

The top of the headband is a curved piece of flexible metal with a soft piece of padding where the headphone makes contact with the user’s head. The padding exterior is a synthetic protein material that feels very premium and comfortable. The headband ends at two solid metal components with left and right channel markers.
 

The headband adjusts via two metal arms that slide in and out of the headband. The slides are durable metal and seems very sturdy. At the end of the slides, two metal hinges connect the slides to the arms that lead to the cups. Again, the arms of the DU are made of heavy duty aluminum.
 

The cups of the DU are connected to the arms via a single oscillating hinge that allows the cups to swivel inwards. Guess what the outer rings of the cups are made of? If you guessed heavy duty aluminum, you are correct! The exterior plate is the only part of the cup exterior that consists of plastic. Had I not tapped on it to see what material it was made of, I would have said it was also metal. The outside of the cup displays the Cleer Audio C along with the words “high definition” in small print.
 

The pads of the DU are detachable. They unscrew from the cups, revealing two angled drivers. The cups are made of the same padded synthetic protein membrane that is attached to the headband. I really like the material used. It sits comfortably, and never seemed to make my ears overheat (unless used on a hot day).
 
Comfort
Although a little bit heavier than the likes of the Audio Technica  ATH-M50 or Soundmagic HP150, the DU manages to be very comfortable thanks to it’s well thought out design and ergonomics. Weighing in at 320 grams, they aren’t light, but but the weight is distributed evenly, making them as comfortable as any closed pairs of headphones I’ve worn. DU’s headband is very flexible, so clamping force is a non issue. Unless you have a head the size of a beachball, you shouldn’t have a problem with this either.
 

The synthetic protein pads are somewhat breathable and never seemed to cause my ears to overheat. Even during long listening sessions I didn’t need to adjust them very much. One thing to note about the DU pads, they don’t have a large circumference. Although they fit my ears almost perfectly, I can imagine some people with big ears having an issue with where the pads make contact with them.
 
Sound Review
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP for high fidelity portable use. For desktops I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
 
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
 
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
 
Source Selection
Coming in at 32 ohms, the DU is very easy to drive and universally works with a smartphone or DAP. Their forgiving signature makes them work with just about any source I used. They are pretty forgiving with poor recordings and low bitrate files. Although they will benefit from higher quality recordings, I don’t consider it to be a significant improvement that makes it worth your while to listen to FLAC and DSD exclusively.  
 
The forward midbass and lower midrange of the DU is further emphasized by warmer and bassier sources. Use a neutral and more linear source for best results. The DU sounded great when testing them with my LG V10 and Iphone 4S. Adding a more linear portable amplifier like my VE Runabout or Topping NX-1 seemed to make the DU drivers have more definition and tighter dynamics. I made sure to volume match before reporting this. I will conduct my sound impressions using my Iphone 4S and VE runabout amplifier, as this seemed to yield the DU’s best sonic capabilities.
 
Sound Signature

The DU is a midbass and lower midrange forward tuning with good detail and top end sparkle. The forward lower frequencies make the DU a dynamic listening experience that works well with modern genres of music. While I don’t think these will appeal to those looking for a neutral and airy presentation, they are ideal for someone in the market for a entry level headphone that rivals the likes of the ATH-M50 or any closed cans in the $100-$200 price range.
 
The DU retains a good amount of clarity despite a slight veil in the lower midrange. Thanks to their crossover and dual drivers, they separate the frequencies well while preventing the DU from the dreaded midbass bleed you would normally hear with this type of tuning. I really enjoyed the DU with band pop, rock, hip-hop and EDM. With acoustic and live performances, there was a thick note presentation and lower midrange resonance that prevents me from being able to say they work well with these genres.
 
Bass
Sub bass isn’t the star of the show but it’s adequate. You won’t feel like it’s lacking, as there’s just enough to keep listeners satisfied. During Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right” I could hear the lowest of low notes, but not with the boosted presence of the mid bass frequencies.
 
Midbass is the most prominent thing you will hear with these headphones. Although it’s forward and carries a slight resonance in its tone, it still manages to be somewhat controlled. It’s hard to explain because I haven’t experienced this type of sound outside of some hybrid in-ear monitors the likes of the Sidy DGS-100 or T-Peos Altone 200. If you’ve heard either of these earphones, the midbass response is somewhat similar in terms of how it impacts the rest of the sound. You get a forward midbass that puts extra emphasis in this range without losing the detail and clarity at upper frequencies. At loud volumes with the wrong source and genres of music, the DU midbass and lower midrange can get fatiguing.
 
Midrange
Lower midrange carries on from where the midbass leaves off, making things like male vocals a weighted and somewhat unnatural presentation. Although this might turn some people away, the tuning works fantastic for modern genres like hip-hop, pop and EDM. The weighted 50-200 Hz range make for a dynamic and engaging experience with these headphones.
 

NOTE: Using an EQ adjustment to reduce the midbass and lower midrange makes the DU sound pretty incredible and addresses the veil, while making male vocals sound much more natural.
 
Moving to upper midrange, things get a bit more relaxed and and natural sounding. There is an incredible amount of clarity and detail in this range. Listening closely, the upper frequencies of the DU seem to outperform the lower frequencies in terms of clarity and natural presentation. To my ears, the DU would benefit from adding resistance to the low pass, or a boost to the high pass. Even still, I don’t find this to be a deal breaker. The way these are tuned I can see many people enjoying the current tuning. Fortunately for me, a EQ adjustment like the one above helped me get the most out of my DU experience.
 
Treble
Treble carries a nice tone with plenty of sparkle and detail. You can hear pronunciations of the letters S and T without it being harsh or fatiguing. Cymbal crashes sound natural and not overdone. To my ears the upper midrange and treble tuning was the DU’s best aspect to their tuning.
 
Soundstage and Imaging
DU’s midbass and lower midrange hinders its ability to create a large stage. The fact that it jumps out in front of their sub bass response, it prevents them from much in terms of soundstage depth.  Add this to a somewhat relaxed upper midrange and treble frequency range and we have a headphone whose strongsuit definitely isn’t soundstage. It isn’t horrible, just know it isn’t going to be the DU’s biggest strength. The slight lower midrange veil takes away from there being a sense of space. The upper frequency range helps with this however. I would say that the DU imaging is slightly above average when used with a neutral or more linear source.
 
Comparisons
 
Audio Technica ATH-M50 ($120-$150 USD on many sites)
The M50 is a gateway drug in terms of high fidelity headphones. They are a reasonably priced pair of closed cans that provide a pretty neutral tuning with slight lower frequency emphasis. They remain a staple in my collection and are used as a reference pair of headphones, especially when comparing them to headphones similar to the the Cleer Audio DU.
 
Comparing the two, the M50 is thinner in the midbass and lower midrange areas. Upper midrange and treble responses are very similar, with the M50 being just a touch more emphasized and extended in the treble region. Because of the more balanced tuning, the M50 has a better sense of soundstage and imaging. The M50 is geared more towards being a reference studio monitor, with the DU being tuned more for music enjoyment.
 
Build quality on the DU trumps the M50. Their almost all metal makes the M50 feel cheap and flimsy in comparison. The DU has two detachable cables while the M50 has a fixed cable that is ten feet long and comes in either straight or coiled variations. Audio Technica now carries a M50X which has a detachable cable. Comfort is a draw.
 
Torque Audio T402V ($399 on Torque Audio’s website)
Torque Audio’s T402V headphone is an incredibly well built pair of earphones with magnetically removable pads that alter the headphone’s bass response. Although they are bass heavy in just about every setting, the leanest bass setting on their over the ear pads yields a sound that I thoroughly enjoy. I will do this comparison with the pads set this way.
 
Comparing the two, they have similar sound signatures. The T402V is a little more extended at sub bass levels, offering a deeper soundstage. The mid bass of the DU is just a bit more forward, and treble slightly more relaxed. The T402V midrange seems lifeless in comparison to the DU’s dynamic and musical presentation. Still, overall the T402V seems to be slightly more refined and detailed.
 
In terms of build quality I give them a draw. Both of them have phenomenal build quality and replaceable pads. Accessories goes to the T402V, thanks to their interchangeable over and on-ear pads, and neoprene carrying case. Comfort goes to the DU. They have less clamping force and are easier to wear for long listening sessions.
 
At the end of the day, I consider the T402V to be a slightly better headphone. The question to ask is if it’s worth a $270 leap in price. In this hobby we pay a lot for minor improvements. This is a classic example of this. I can’t answer this because it depends on a buyer’s preference and budget.
 
Conclusion

The Cleer Audio DU is an incredibly well built headphone with a musical sound signature that makes the most of modern genres.  It is musical and dynamic, with slight veil at lower midrange frequencies, and has a respectable level of detail and clarity at upper frequencies. While I don’t think the DU’s tuning will make it a game changer, it’s good enough to be a very competitive product at its price range.
 
In ranking these headphones, I think Cleer Audio’s DU headphone has five star build quality, four and a half star comfort, and three and a half star sound (four and a half star after an EQ adjustment). Averaging the three, the DU gets four stars. They are a great headphone for their asking price.
 
If you are looking for a great all around headphone for home and the road for under one hundred fifty dollars, consider the DU from Cleer Audio. They are built for the long haul, and offer a musical tuning that will make listening to them a fun experience.
 

Thanks for reading and happy listening!
 
Jun 10, 2016 at 7:41 PM Post #2 of 5

Beagle

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Looks kinda cheap & junky IMO
 
Jun 10, 2016 at 10:26 PM Post #3 of 5
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Looks kinda cheap & junky IMO
They definitely aren't buddy.

The picture you chose, I want you to think about something. If you put metal instead of plastic (mind you it's durable stuff) it would end up scratching and eventually rattling.

And junky? If you look you'll see a very unique pair of angled drivers in each side. That's the opposite of junky if you ask me.

I respect your opinion friend, but these things are some of the most solidly build headphones I've seen.
 
Jun 10, 2016 at 10:59 PM Post #4 of 5

trellus

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A very interesting pair of headphones. There are so few dual-driver headphones (not counting IEM's where two or more drivers aren't uncommon) that I almost compelled to buy these just to see how they sound. :D

(I actually have some Pioneer headphones which are dual-driver, but these look far more comfortable and probably have better sound, too.)

I also like the way they fold!
 
Jun 11, 2016 at 9:53 AM Post #5 of 5

Beagle

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They definitely aren't buddy.

The picture you chose, I want you to think about something. If you put metal instead of plastic (mind you it's durable stuff) it would end up scratching and eventually rattling.

And junky? If you look you'll see a very unique pair of angled drivers in each side. That's the opposite of junky if you ask me.

I respect your opinion friend, but these things are some of the most solidly build headphones I've seen.


It looks like someone melted two Koss Porta-Pro's together, really weird. Also looks like one of the drivers is half blocked, despite the angled position of the top one.
 

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