Flare Audio is a tiny company based near Worthing in West Sussex. I mentioned its very nice R2 in-ear headphones last year in a review of some customised moulded ear-inserts from the Somerset company Snugs.
Things have moved on for Flare since then. Its professional loudspeakers, which can cost £250,000 a set, have been finding a market in ultra-high-end cinemas. At the same time, Flare’s range of £24-£50 patented titanium earplugs named Isolate has become wildly popular, especially with rock concert goers anxious to protect their ears. Over 250,000 pairs of Isolate have been sold.
With all that going on, you would imagine a 28-person company would have its hands full. But now it has developed a new set of in-ear headphones, Flares Pro, which a considerable number of professional musicians, sound technicians and other serious audio geeks are proclaiming as the best in-ears available.
You think I exaggerate? Here’s Tony Visconti, a Grammy Award-winning producer: “These are the best earphones ever. I mix on these.” And this is Nick O’Malley of Arctic Monkeys: “It’s a natural, big, live sound that really makes listening to music a whole new experience.” Others, from Richard Hawley to Danton Supple, who has produced Coldplay, Morrissey and Starsailor, are piling in to heap public praise on the Flares Pro.
I’m normally wary of celebrity-endorsed products. But the Flare story is different. Its founder, inventor Davies Roberts, is 47 and for 13 years was a fireman. His wife and business partner, Naomi, was an art teacher. Flare seems to be a genuine grassroots phenomenon.
So what are the headphones like? Well, they’re a bit fiddly, with a slightly homemade look and feel. They can plug in like normal headphones, but the Robertses prefer you to hook them up to an underwhelming-looking Bluetooth unit – which clips to your clothing – and run the Pros wirelessly; they have their reasons for this, all explained on their website. I find the wireless connection a bit quieter than I like, actually, and the wired version brilliant.
And the sound? Yowser. The hype is spot-on. It’s fresh and natural, deceptively light, but with a firm, confident, if not massive, bass. And, I should add, the most wonderfully over-the-top packaging, which you will not want to throw away. This should not matter, but it adds to the sense of an immensely serious labour of love, which these headphones are.