Anker’s Soundcore range has a reputation for delivering big on sound and low on price. We tested a pair of portable Bluetooth speakers, the Flare and Flare+, to see if the brand can deliver on its promise of 360-degree sound for your next party.
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- ✓360-degree sound
- ✓Water resistance
- ✕Light mode a bit random
- ✕Poor EQ app
Anker pricing undercuts the compeition
The Anker Soundcore Flare+ is priced at $99.99 in the US and £109.99 in the UK. The non-plus version, the Flare, costs $59.99 in the US and £69.99 in the UK. The electronics retailer, Curry’s, has the regular Flare on sale for just £39.99 at the moment, in either blue or black.
You can’t really argue with the price of these speakers. There is nothing else out there that both sounds as good and that is hovering around the 100 quid mark. Anker has a habit of undercutting its competition on price without compromising on quality with its Soundcore range, and this is yet another example.
Familiarity with added curves
Hang on a minute, has that Amazon Echo been on a diet? Because it has developed some curves! The design inspiration on this speaker is clear, but the cylindrical format works for a reason. The cloth-covered Flare and Flare+ will blend into coffee tables and bedside tables easily, as we’ve come to expect from portable Bluetooth speakers these days.
Under that slightly flared lower half of the Flare and Flare+ is an LED ring. The Soundcore guys call this feature a Beat-Driven Light Show. The idea is that the LEDs change color and pulsate to the rhythm of your music. It’s meant to deliver a “completely immersive audiovisual experience,” according to the manufacturer.
I should, at this point, mention that the Flare I tested was part of a special Christmas gift edition. The regular edition comes in grey, like the Flare+ pictured in the image at the top of this article.
There are several modes for the lights. Party mode, for example, is designed to amplify the atmosphere, and you can expect rapid color changes and a hyperactive disco vibe. Bedtime mode is designed to help you unwind and is much more ambient with slow, pulsating color and brightness combinations. There are also Chill, Energy and Spring modes.
I enjoyed playing around with the Beat-Driven Light Show at the start, but found little variation between the modes. The Flare+ also struggled to deliver vastly different ambiance for fast guitar-based music versus a slow piano piece, for example. I preferred leaving it on a single color and brightness.
In terms of connectivity, you’re looking at Bluetooth 5.0. The Flare+ also supports A2DP, AVRCP, HFP profile, and SBC decoding. You can wander about 20m (66ft) away from the speaker before your phone will be out of range. There’s also IPX7 waterproofing to protect against splashes and unexpected rainfall.
Under a rubber-panel on the back is an aux-in port for those who still prefer a good old 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm lead. There’s also a MicroUSB port for charging the speaker and a regular USB port in case you want to charge your phone from the Flare’s battery.
There’s no integrated voice assistant on the Flare or Flare+ I tested, but a Flare S+ is in the pipeline to add Amazon Alexa functionality.
360-degree sound that delivers the goods
Sound on the Flare+ is delivered by two 2-inch full range speakers, two passive radiators for boosting bass and two tweeters - one on the front and one on the back. The output is 25W. The result is a 360-degree sound experience that delivers clarity and bottom end from any angle. The design is perfect for plonking this thing down in the middle of a picnic or dinner table where people are sat around it.
The problem with smaller speakers is always a lack of bottom end. The bass boosting passive radiators do a decent job here, but you are never going to move enough air with 2-inch speakers to feel the bass in your lungs. There is a bass button on the top, which I would recommend leaving on permanently.
Still, the sound is good at higher volumes, as well as low (for its size), and the 360-degree sound really helps to fill the room. Compared to an Amazon Echo, for example, the Flare+ sounds bigger and deeper.
The smaller Flare features two 1.75-inch full range speakers, two passive radiators for boosting bass and no tweeters. The output is limited to 2 x 6W. The younger brother still sounds great, but everything is just a little bit thinner. If you have the budget, go for the Flare+. It’s still really light (850 grams) and super portable.
EQ options are available via the Soundcore App, but as I mentioned in my Model Zero review, the tweakable parameters are quite limited. An update is much-needed for the app to really be useful, in my opinion.
Enough battery to keep the party going
The Flare+ has a battery life of around 20 hours with continuous playback. It takes around four hours to charge to zero to full and the charging is done via MicroUSB. It can be quite slow, but depending on how long your parties last, 20 hours should be enough to get you through the night without needing a recharge.
The smaller Flare can provide up to 12 hours of playback. It is also charged via MicroUSB and takes around 3.5 hours to fully charge.
Stump up for the Plus version
The Flare and Flare+ speakers from Anker’s Soundcore line are a lot of fun. The Beat-Driven Light Show isn't for everyone but the kids will love it, and you can always switch it off if you don't need any extra ambiance. They’re both light, relatively waterproof and super portable.
The sound quality is excellent when you factor in the price, too. The 360-degree sound works wonders when you get a group of people sitting around one of the two speakers.
If you are on the fence between the Flare and the Flare+, I’d recommend spending the extra money for the bigger one. The jump in sound quality is quite noticeable, especially in the bottom end, where the slightly larger speakers give the Flare+ extra bass and punch in the lower frequencies.