The Soundcore Flare 360-degree Bluetooth Wireless Speaker offers excellent sound quality, super-long battery life, and is priced just-right.
I’ve a good amount of experience with portable Bluetooth speakers. Ranging from the cheap micro units you can find in a drug store, to the high-end designer products that you would only in a music equipment retailer. The last couple of years have seen an explosion in the mid-level range speaker groups with a bevy of gimmicky features to try to differentiate themselves from the pack. However, Anker has managed to provide high quality and a fun feature-set with the Soundcore Flare series Bluetooth speaker.
Anker has quickly become one of my favorite low-to-mid range brands for purchasing portable chargers, multi-port wall plugs/adapters, and USB cables. When Anker first started appearing heavily in the market, I swore it would be another typical Chinese manufacturing clone that would pump out trash, unreliable products. Thankfully, the experience has been quite the opposite. Anker has accumulated a lot of trust over the years as they have succeeded in delivering a wide range of tech accessories that have consistently exceeded expectations, all while keeping prices low. Having never previously tried an Anker manufactured speaker (which is marketed under the Soundcore banner), I was looking forward to seeing if it would offer the same positive experience.
Opening the box, you’ll find the 18.7-ounce speaker (which, weight-wise, felt like holding an almost full, regular-sized bottle of water), a micro-USB cable, the User’s Manual and the product pamphlet. The inclusion of a micro-USB cable as the sole method of charging may annoy some who probably wish Anker would adopt a USB-C approach. Still, you can use the speaker while it’s charging. While this older micro-USB standard does slow down the charge time, it didn’t bother me as much considering I (and I’m sure millions of others) have tons of micro-USB cables lying around that could serve as stand-ins in case the cord that comes with the speaker somehow grew legs.
On top of the speaker are five buttons: the dual control Play/Pause button, Plus and Minus signs for the volume control, the BassUP enhancer, and the LED control. On the front of the speaker is a Bluetooth connection indicator, the power indicator, and a flap which protects the AUX connection (“pass me the AUX!”) and the power slot. When I handled the speaker for the first time, I let out an audible “oooo” reminiscent of Homer Simpson as its covered in a premium, soft fabric material. Ironically enough, the speaker is shaped like a nuclear cooling tower which makes it a bit boring to look on its own, but provides functionality as the shape makes it easy to grip. The top and bottom of the speakers are rubberized which gives it a sturdy build and provides peace of mind that it will stay put wherever you place it—especially outside; and that’s what Anker is betting on.
They’ve outfitted the Flare with an IPX7 waterproof rating which means if you get it wet or it somehow gets knocked into a nearby pool, it won’t die on contact. That isn’t to say that it’s made to be in water–don’t go snorkeling or scuba diving with this. However, it can be submerged for up to 3.3 feet for 30 minutes and still live on to tell the tale.
The flare has an onboard 4400mAh battery which takes about 3.5 hours to charge to 100 percent and a reported 12 hours of playtime; only of course if you don’t have this thing going at full blast with all the LEDs blinking like a rave. Once the speaker is charged and you turn it on, an unmistakable “power up” sound effect emanates from the mesh housing, as well as a secondary set of chimes to indicate that a Bluetooth connection is active. Turning off the Flare triggers a similar “power down” sound effect, so even with the absence of lighting you can be sure what state the device is in.
The bottom of the speaker features a 360-degree ambient LED light ring. You can turn the lighting system on or off, adjust the dimness and brightness, and cycle through some of the LED settings by pressing the “sun” button on the top of the speaker or through the Soundcore app. If you opt to use the app, you gain greater LED control through various settings such as “M-Sync”, which provides multicolor strobing based on the BPM of the audio, “Glow” which is a static color, “Fusion” which cycles through various complementary colors undulating into each other, “Pulse”; a rapid cycle of the spectrum and “Breathe” which slowly glides through colors as it dims and brightens in intensity.
There are also five LED presets: Party, Energy, Chill, Bedtime, and Spring that are fairly self-explanatory in giving you an idea of what to expect in the LED behavior. If you happen to have the app open while controlling the speaker from the onboard buttons the app responds immediately and vice versa. While all of this was great, I was still disappointed that there wasn’t a direct way to choose the exact LED colors to be displayed. Perhaps that will be something Anker releases in a future firmware update.
As mentioned in my Bluetooth headphone review, I listen to a variety of music genres, so I was happy to see that I could adjust the Equalizer settings through the app. The options are pretty basic—you get your choice of Default (which features the bass boost tech), Flat, Chill (?), and Voice. That said, the app does provide a Custom setting to allow you to adjust the Bass, Treble, and Midrange frequencies on your own. However, in order to access it, you’ll have to download the latest firmware.
Perhaps Anker did a good thing here by keeping the EQ settings simple, considering the target audience is an average, on-the-go user and not necessarily an audiophile. Regardless, novices and pros alike will enjoy the strength of this portable as the speaker can get very loud. I was more than happy with the volume as it beat out my first gen Google Home, Snap-on Tools Bluetooth Microbox, and the ZoeeTree S5 TWS portable in personal tests. The overall sound quality is clean, levels are generally crisp, and the BassUp enhancement technology which is touted by Soundcore to “dynamically enhance frequencies” actually works. My only complaint was that there was up to a one second lag between the video playing on my phone and the sound coming from the speaker, depending on the app in use. I tried YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Netflix with varying results, which may be a slight nuisance for some. For me, the lag was not enough to be truly bothersome with one speaker, but I wonder how things fare if you pair two speakers or if you use the Flare as part of a home entertainment system to enhance activities such as movie watching.
The Soundcore Flare retails for $59.99 and comes in the colors of black or blue. If you want twice the power with a stereo experience, you can purchase a two-pack for a discounted $109.99. I would suggest going for the latter if it’s in your budget and you are looking to host a function in your house or a cookout; otherwise one is more than enough to fulfill your wireless speaker needs. Overall, you’ll get a lot of booming audio for your buck in the Anker Soundcore Flare Bluetooth Speaker.