Chinese tech megabrand Anker makes some remarkably decent Bluetooth speakers. These tend to be cheap and solidly utilitarian. They’re good, but they don’t come with many bells and whistles or much visual pinache.
However, the Anker Soundcore Flare bucks that trend. Not only is it the best looking Anker speaker I’ve ever tested, but it’s also the best sounding. The pièce de résistance? It only costs $59.99.
This is part of Anker’s strategy to capture the middle-ground of the consumer audio market, as explained to me by a company representative two months ago. Anker plans to offer higher-value, higher-end speakers under the spin-off Soundcore brand, and in turn capture the demographic of people who are prepared to spend a little bit more for their audio gear. In short, it’s moving out of the bargain basement.
How does that play out in practice? Tune in, as I put the Soundcore Flare through its paces.
When you think of a bluetooth speaker, what image immediately springs to mind? I’m guessing it’s a long “pill” of black rubber and plastic, right?
Yeah, they all kinda look the same, but this is different. It’s obvious that Anker took great pains to give this speaker a distinct look, and a premium feel.
The Soundcore Flare is a tube that’s clad in a soft, elegant fabric that looks and feels great. It doesn’t look too far removed from flagship devices like the Google Home smart speaker, or the enticing Fabriq Chorus, which we reviewed a few months ago.
Despite that, it’s no shrinking violet. The device feels remarkably solid, and could easily withstand a few knocks, scrapes, and jolts. It’s also IPX7 rated, which means someone accidentally knocking their pint onto it shouldn’t stop the music.
My only complaint is that it easily picks up dirt. When I took the device out of its box, it looked pristine. It wasn’t long after I took the device out of its box that it picked up a couple of scuffs and marks. And because it’s made out of fabric, it’s not particularly easy to clean.
The control panel at the top of the speaker doesn’t bring many surprises; you’ll just find the usual volume and playback buttons to fiddle with. The coolest part is the self-explanatory bass boost button, which adds a generous dollop of ‘oomph‘ into the low-ranges.
Oh, there’s also a button that lets you control the speaker’s light strip. Let’s talk about that.
The most eye-catching facet of the Soundcore Flare is the color-changing light strip, which can be found at the bottom of speaker. This accompanies songs with an entrancing visual show that keeps pace with the track.
This accoutrement doesn’t add much to the actual functionality of the speaker, but I’m a huge fan. It looks amazing, and guarantees it won’t pass unnoticed at a party.
A rubber flap on the back of the device hides its AUX-out port, as well as a microUSB port used for charging.
I know. MicroUSB in 2018. This is my biggest bugbear with the Soundcore Flare. The absence of USB-C is a genuine head-scratcher. I don’t know what Anker are thinking leaving out the latest greatest USB standard, especially when most phones are shipping with it as standard now.
The Soundcore Flare isn’t just a looker. It also sounds incredible.
A big part of the Flare is its 360-degree omnidirectional sound. It includes two powerful sound drivers, positioned back-to-back on each other. These positively flood wherever you are with sound, and ensure your tunes can be heard from anywhere in the room. I can imagine this coming handy in a house party.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can connect two Soundcore Flares together, should you want to listen to audio in stereo. Anker only seeded me with one unit, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to test this out.
I really appreciated the balance on the Soundcore Flare. It’s not especially bass-heavy, nor does it heavily emphasize trebles and midranges. It’s clear that Anker wanted to make this a solid all-rounder, as pretty much everything I threw at it sounded natural.
I mean, if you’re a fan of bass-heavy genres like dubstep, you won’t be disappointed with the performance of the Soundcore Flare.
It copes just as well with other forms of music, however. The quirky, jazz-inspired indie rock of Sidney Gish sounded absolutely amazing, as did the raucous pop-punk of Charly Bliss.
If you want a bit more control over your music, and you’re listening via an iOS device, you can install the Soundcore app to play with the equalization settings, emphasizing bass, treble, and midrange as you desire.
You can also activate and deactivate bass boost without having to walk over to the speaker and press any physical buttons.
The app also lets you play around with the light strip. The Soundcore App comes with a handful of presets, like Spring, bedtime, Chill , Party, and Energy.
Party, for example, uses all colors of the rainbow to create something that’s vivid and entrancing. Bedtime, on the other hand, uses softer colors to lull you into a state of relaxation.
You can also change how the colors appear. Activating M-Sync means that the light strip keeps pace with your tunes, while breathe creates a gentle pulsing effect.
Who is the Soundcore Flare for?
I think you’ve gathered so far that I’m a big fan of the Soundcore Flare.
Looks aren’t everything, but they’re important, and the Soundcore Flare is a genuinely gorgeous piece of kit. I’d argue that, up close, it looks more expensive than it actually is. From my time with the device, I could find no obvious cut corners.
This is a welcome change of pace for Anker, which has previously produced solid, if not visually unremarkable audio hardware. And if the Soundcore Flare is the sign of things to come, I look forward to seeing the next steps for Anker’s nascent standalone audio brand.
Audio quality is excellent too. At times, I had to pinch myself and remember that this speaker costs just $60.
If you’ve got a cheap, sub-$30 speaker and you’re looking to upgrade to something a bit more potent, the Soundcore Flare is for you. You can pick one up on Amazon today.
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Published May 21, 2018 — 08:22 UTC