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Cleer Roam NC Review ANC Earbuds With Four Noise Cancelling Microphones

Friday, August 06, 2021

Anyone who is in the market for cute and quirky earbuds are likely to find the Cleer Roam NC very appealing. Roam NC are a pair of anc earbuds without cords, which resemble a pair of mini cast iron skillets. The front of the Roam NC earbuds have "cleer" engraving as well as responsive touch sensitive controls built-in, which only require a light touch to operate. 



You don't have to tap on the earbud, which is nice but you can easily trigger it by accident, causing you to accidentally skip audio, which in the middle of an audio book chapter means having to restart the chapter since most audio-books don't let you resume where you left off. Luckily, this isn't too much of a problem with Roam NC because the track skipping function requires a double tap.


Touch control functions include play/pause, voice assistant, calls, skipping tracks (next and previous) and ambient sound/anc. By default, the left earbud controls skipping tracks, voice assistant, calls, volume down and play/pause. The right earbud controls anc, ambient sound, volume up, voice assistant, calls and play/pause too. You can swap some control functions around but button remapping is very limited. 


For instance, you cannot assign "next track skipping" to one earbud and "previous track" to another earbud. Similarly, you cannot change the volume tap function, which requires two actions (double tap and long press) which is not as convenient as a simple long press. When toggling between anc and ambient sound, you will hear two voice prompts ("noise cancellation on" and "ambient on"). The voice prompts cannot be heard at max volume but, they can be heard at 75% volume. There is no way to disable both anc and ambient mode, which means ambient mode is always turned on when anc is turned off.


Button remapping is performed via the Cleer+ mobile app, which is the same app that supports the new Enduro ANC over-ear headphones. An account creation is not required in order to use the Cleer+ app and, you can view the battery status of each earbud. From the Cleer+ app, you can also adjust the level of ambient noise; hence you can regulate how much background sound enters the earbuds. 

There is also a 5-band EQ for changing the stock sound signature, which is flat sounding by default, even with anc turned on. This is likely due to Roam NC's feedforward anc setup, which doesn't boost the bass like hybrid and feedback anc does. Despite the small size of Roam NC dynamic drivers (5.8mm), they perform well without distortion or hissing the audio. 


Like most true wireless earbuds, the Cleer Roam NC ship with a case, which is designed to store and charge the earbuds at the same time. The charging case has a tall and narrow square frame with a flat base that allows you to keep the charging case upright during charging. The plastic hinged lid flips open 90 degrees, and the USB-C charging port is located on the bottom side. There is branding too with the word "cleer" engraved on the top of the lid. There is also a tiny battery status led on the front of the charging case, which is discreet and feedbacks battery status for the charging case and earbuds. The tiny led works well, although it's not as easy to read as a charging case with four or more battery leds. The charging case measures 3.5cm high, 5.5cm long and 2.5cm wide. It weighs 36 grams without the earbuds.


The Roam NC earbuds sit snugly in the charging case and can be easily removed by pinching the earbuds out of the charging case or by pushing them out at angle. The earbuds have a short and stocky nozzle neck with a tiny notched bump on the side of the nozzle tip, which is designed to secure the eartip. Having this tiny bump on an earbud nozzle is a bit unusual since the bore of most eartips is designed to fit snugly around the nozzle, preventing the eartip from falling off. Because of the tiny bump, the included eartips have been customized to integrate a tiny slit to go over the bump. This makes using aftermarket eartips a bit more difficult.


Roam NC are made of plastic with a soft rubbery body, which anchors the earbud comfortably inside the concha of the ear. You can use them for running as the earbuds are lightweight (5.5 grams each), although the earbuds are only IPX4 rated. There are two microphone for calls on each earbud, one of which is located at the tip of the stumpy stem. The microphones use beamforming noise reduction, which works well at cutting unwanted noise without compromising voice clarity during calls.


As far as active noise cancellation, there is just one microphone per earbud, which is located on the outside. Roam NC uses feedforward anc, which is an interesting choice because newer anc earbuds are typically shipping with hybrid anc (feedforward/feedback), which uses two microphones and, it's generally more effective at suppressing high and low frequency noise. Being feedforward anc, Roam NC works well at cancelling most everyday sounds in the midrange frequency (e.g. humming rather than rumbling noise). Feedforward anc does have an achilles' heel, which is wind, making them liable to picking up wind noise too.


The Roam NC earbuds support 5 minute quick charge, which gives 60 minutes of runtime. Full charging time takes 90 minutes and delivers 4 hours runtime with anc turned on and 75% volume (and 5 hours with anc turned off). The Roam NC charging case 500 mah battery takes around 2 hours to fully charge and provides two extra charges (so, a total of 16 hours). As far as bluetooth, Roam NC uses the latest bluetooth 5.2 chipset (Qualcomm QCC3046), which supports SBC and aptX, as well as absolute bluetooth volume but doesn't support multipoint pairing. With absolute bluetooth volume, you are able to control the volume of the source device the earbuds are connected to, which is convenient.


Because of the bluetooth pairing design, the Cleer Roam NC earbuds cannot be paired individually with separate devices. You can only switch between them from stereo to mono and viceversa. Pairing is straightforward. Open the charging case and the earbuds enter bluetooth pairing automatically, which means you can pair them while in the charging case. During audio playback, there is no blinking light. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a status led anywhere on the earbuds. Accessories wise, you get different size eartips with a quirky mushroom shape. There is no charging cable included, although this isn't really a biggie since most people are likely to have several laying around their house. You can buy the Cleer Roam NC from the Cleer Audio website.

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