We road test Flare Audio’s next generation E-Prototype earphones and meet their maker, Davies Roberts, who explains exactly why they sound so damn good
Ancient amps, crackly speakers, crumbling headphones that have seen better days – so long as us music journos can listen, it doesn’t much matter what we do it on. That said, over the years we’ve been consistently impressed by the quality of sound Flare Audio have been putting in our ears. Set up as a pro audio company in 2010, they’ve been on a mission to improve our listening pleasure since they stepped into the consumer world in 2015.
“Our focus has always been on making the highest possible quality earphone,” says Flare co-founder and inventor-in-chief, Davies Roberts. “But everybody was still having a slightly different listening experience, so I started to wonder what was going on.”
The realisation he came to, which led to the groundbreaking tech that features in their new E-Prototype earphones, was a big one.
“I became aware that sound doesn’t travel very well inside our ears,” he says. “They’re great in the wild for the things that we need to be alert to, but they add around 20 per cent distortion.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter how good the product is, when it comes to music, our ears are letting us down. Roberts explains that sound is coming in like light hitting a glitter ball and smashing in all directions. As everyone’s ear structure is unique, no wonder what we’re hearing is subjective.
Taking inspiration from their own Calmer passive hearing devices – a silicone “lens” that minimises the detritus of daily noise by changing the way it arrives in our ears – Flare have created a replacement mechanism for what we were given organically. Ta-dah.
“The E-Prototype uses a series of waveguides that reflect sound without it becoming damaged,” says Roberts. “With a little jiggery-pokery, and with much more accuracy than traditional earphones, we’ve ensured sound is hitting your eardrums smack on. There’s no subjectivity, so everyone’s going to hear the same thing.”
These days, upgrades in high-end kit tend to give incremental gains, but the E-Prototype feels like a real leap forward. The detail is mind-boggling. You can hear everything with total clarity, each instrument occupying its own space no matter how complex the track.
“Our goal with Flare was to try and make sound quality universal, but I didn’t expect to take it beyond what was heard in the original recording studio,” says Roberts. “Artists spend a lot of time trying to get more detail into their mixes, but they’re held back by what I now know is their ears. I’m hoping this becomes a tool that allows the end user to experience exactly what the engineer wanted you to hear.”
The best part is you don’t need any high-end kit to get the full force. I was plugged into my Android phone running Tidal HiFi. No hi-res player, no headphone amp, no outboard DAC.
Once you’ve clapped ears on the E-Prototype there is no turning back. They are hugely impressive. At £250 the price point is high, but there’s a 100-day money-back guarantee. No quibbles. And if these are just the prototypes, you can only imagine what’s to come. What was I was saying about journos listening to music on any old thing? Not any more. flare.audio