A solid true wireless package with impressive noise cancellation for the price. Just activate the Mimi Sound personalisation if you want to get the maximum out of the Cleer’s performance.
- Effective ANC
- Strong wireless connectivity
- Good call quality
- Mimi Sound Defined
- Responsive controls
- Rather gentle presentation… at first
- Bass lacks depth
- Loose fit
- BluetoothSupports SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- ANCFeatures Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode
- Call qualityDual microphone set-up with Qualcomm cVc 8th-generation noise-reduction tech
As you can tell by their name, the Cleer Ally Plus II true wireless are a sequel. Unlike most sequels, though, Cleer doesn’t believe that bigger and more expensive is better.
The Ally Plus II are much less dear on the wallet than the original, but they still feature active noise cancellation, joining a group of true wireless earbuds that look to silence the world around the listener without them having to fork out a king’s ransom. There’s plenty of value here, but what about the performance?
- Slightly loose fit
- Attractive looks
- Excellent control functionality
The Ally Plus II have a corkscrew-shaped design, which initially had me worried. It isn’t a design I feel produces the most stable fit, and every now and then they require a nudge to keep them in place.
But there’s a bulkiness to Cleer’s shape that means there isn’t too much movement, and while there’s still a degree of looseness, the seal the buds produce is more effective than the similar-looking Kygo Xellence. If you do find the Ally Plus II are loose, Cleer has included a selection of angled ear-tips (S, M, L) and round ear-tips (XS, S, L, XL).
Like the rest of Cleer’s output, the Ally Plus II feature a golden ring that surrounds the outer rim of each bud. They’re available in two colours: Midnight Blue and Stone (this review sample).
The Cleer’s touch controls are well-judged in terms of sensitivity, responding well to prods and taps; a double-tap on the right earbud enables ANC and Ambient sound modes. For playback all avenues are covered, so there won’t be any need to fish out your mobile device.
- Good call quality
- Impressive noise cancellation
- Good endurance
A double-tap on the right earbud cycles through the Ambient modes and, on the strength of their performance and at this price, Cleer puts in a similarly proficient performance to the likes of Beats and Samsung in how effectively these earbuds block out noise.
Mid to low-end frequencies are the main focus; higher-frequency sounds still manage to evade the noise cancellation – which is no surprise. However, and almost in spite of that slightly loose fit, the Cleer’s suppressive talents impress.
Conversations are muffled, journeys on public transport are reduced in terms of overall noise, and the intensity of traffic as I walked through Soho and Piccadilly Circus was impressively reduced. While the ANC won’t zap sounds as thoroughly as the best, the Ally Plus II’s ANC performance is a convincing one.
Like the ANC, the Ambient sound isn’t up to the level of the most talented true wireless, but is effective at providing an idea of what’s around you. I can tell the difference between various vehicles, as well as hearing people around me without it merging into an incoherent muddle.
The Ally Plus II are au fair with the Cleer+ app, which offers customisation of touch controls and audio personalisation. The Ambient sound level can be tweaked from full transparency to none, while you can assign functions to either left or right earbuds.
More personalisation arrives with the shape of the Mimi Sound Defined profile. It works like it does on the Kygo earbuds, as you listen out for the receding ‘beeps’ among the white noise. Once done, a sound profile is created that’s specific to your hearing. When I tried this with the Kygo, there wasn’t much difference between the before and after. However, the Cleer Ally Plus II fare better, which I’ll get to later.
Battery life is 33 hours, an increase over the original by three hours; and there’s the option of charging them via USB-C cable or via a wireless mat – a five-minute charge boosts battery by a further hour. I did have an issue with the right earbud draining faster than the left, but an update resolved that.
The Ally Plus II have aptX Adaptive Bluetooth and, aside from the briefest of blips in Waterloo, they haven’t been fazed by busy transport terminals or large crowds. IPX4 is water-resistance is sufficient to fend against some rain and sweat, and they pack Qualcomm’s cVc microphone technology for calls.
Of the earbuds I’ve tested recently, the Ally Plus II rank among the better ones, with the person on the other end describing the reception as being similar to what you’d get if I was talking through the smartphone itself. I’d rate that as pretty solid.
- Gentle approach to sound
- Solid enough balance
- Much improved after Mimi Sound Defined personalisation applied
Given the abundance of affordable noise cancellers in the market, the Ally Plus II face strong competition. The ironless driver tech in the original is replaced by 10mm graphene drivers instead.
Balance is mostly good, with a focus on mids and high frequencies – but bass is lacking. Listen to Q-Tip’s Vivrant Thing and there isn’t as much depth or weight present; the low-end failing to have much impact compared to the Beats Studio Buds.
This does affect dynamism in terms of highs and lows, but the Cleer earbuds offer good rhythmic ability; the jaunty, jazzy vibe of the Whiplash soundtrack engages – but, again, lacks the weightiness of the Beats. In terms of detail, there isn’t a huge difference between the two; but the spoils go to the Studio Buds, which offer better clarity and definition.
Where the Cleer earbuds come into their own is at higher volumes, conveying more energy and scale, and producing a solid stereo image on a track such as Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way. But like many true wireless at this price, the soundstage depicted is small, and there’s a cold sense of tonality to their sound. In addition, vocals don’t quite have the presence I’d like; they’re quiet and a little distant.
At this point, the Cleer Ally II Plus would rank as a decent effort, but turn on the Mimi Sound personalisation and things improve for the better. With the sound personalisation on, vocals have a greater presence, detail is more apparent, and there’s more energy and life to the percussion in Caravan from the Whiplash soundtrack.
Rhythmically there’s a better flow to tracks, bass is better (still lacking some depth), and the earbuds deliver a sharper, crisper tone without expressing sibilance. This might differ depending on your hearing ability, but the gains to be had with Mimi Sound Defined makes for a stronger listening experience.
Should you buy it?
If you want sound tailored to your hearing When the Mimi Sound personalisation is added, the Cleer’s performance becomes a much more engaging (and healthy) listening experience.
If you’re after true wireless buds that integrate better with your smartphone In terms of what they offer, the Ally Plus II have wide appeal. However, iOS and Samsung Galaxy owners may want features that add a little more symbiosis to their experience.
If you can excuse the horse racing analogy, the Cleer Ally Plus II get off to a decent start (design), ride a more impressive bend (features), but fade in the last stretch before picking it up in the final furlong with the Mimi Sound personalisation (sound).
As an overall package, the Cleer Ally Plus II are a confident and satisfying pair of true wireless buds. ANC is impressive, the wireless connectivity and call quality are rock solid, and the Mimi Sound Defined tech improves sound without harming your hearing. Give them a look and I think you’ll be fairly impressed, too.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested over several weeks
Tested with real world use
Tested with various music streaming services
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Yes, we’d say so. The touch controls are very responsive but not overly so, and the control scheme is easy to learn.