What is the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus?
The Anker Soundcore Flare Plus is the big brother of the Anker Soundcore Flare, one of the better low-cost speakers you can get right now.It’s around twice the price at £99, almost twice the size by volume, and sounds about twice as large too. You won’t find many speakers hovering around £100 that sound as powerful.
Plus, it can put on a light show to accompany your music, and it’s rugged too.Like the smaller Flare, the only issue is the quality of its mid-range. Wireless speakersfrom Jam, UE and Bose sound more refined, but almost none at the price have as deep a bass or as much power at higher volumes.
Anker Soundcore Flare Plus – Design
The Amazon Echo is the clear design inspiration for the Soundcore Flare Plus. It’s a living room-ready tower whose sides are covered by dark grey fabric. It flares out at the bottom, though, the beginnings of a ‘bell’ shape.
The upright design keeps the footprint small, and the look makes the speaker appear not suited to life outdoors. However, the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus is much better prepared for such a life than the Echo.
It’s a Bluetooth speaker with a built-in battery, not a Wi-Fi smart speaker that needs plugging into the mains to work. If you want a smart version, a Flare S+ is on the way.
You won’t be conversing with Alexa or Google Assistant here, but the Soundcore Flare Plus is useful for festivals, camping holidays or to take to a friend’s BBQ. It’s also far more rugged than it looks. IPx7 water-resistance will allow you to rinse off the speaker under a tap; it will happily survive being submerged in water up to a depth of 1m.
Do so and the outer fabric will soak up water, which will slowly drip out of the bottom of the unit over a period of around 30 minutes. Drying can take several hours. But better that than the Soundcore Flare Plus stops working, eh?
The Flare Plus also sports a fabric carry handle on its rear. It isn’t at all obvious, but is there should you want to hook the speaker to a rucksack using a carabiner.
This speaker is small and light (850g) enough to carry around easily, but I find it just slightly too big to take on one-bag weekends away. While not double the height or thickness of the smaller Flare, the increase in volume is noticeable. And that matters if you treat bag-packing like a game of Tetris.
Anker Soundcore Flare Plus – Features
For water-resistance purposes, the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus’ controls sit in a rubbery surface on the top of the unit. They’re far stiffer than those on the original Flare, which is a shame, but the volume and play/pause buttons still have click feedback.
Two other buttons up top are LED-lit. There’s one to toggle the extra bass mode, and another that switches the reactive light on and off. This is the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus’ most notable extra.
There’s a transparent plastic ring on the Flare Plus’ bottom, under which sits a series of multi-colour LEDs. Turn the lights on and you’ll see a light show that reacts to the music.
It’s hyperactive more than reactive, and in the default mode not really suitable for relaxed listening. However, it is possible to tame the lights through the Soundcore app. Party, Energy, Chill, Bedtime and Spring categories offer differing colour palettes, and each has modes that are far better suited to a chilled-out listen. They scroll, “breathe” or pulse through different tones.
The Anker Soundcore Flare Plus suddenly turns from a juvenile-looking light show speaker to one with a character closer to a Philips Hue or LIFX light bulb. There’s no option to stick with a single colour, but a slider enables you to control brightness.
Battery life is great at up to 20 hours, and a USB port on the unit’s rear lets you plug in your phone to charge it using the Flare’s battery. The micro-USB alongside charges up the speaker itself, but since this only supplies 10W of power, the process takes over four hours.
There’s also an aux-in – handy if you still have an iPod Classic or other non-Bluetooth source you might want to use. All of these sockets are covered by a rubber flap with a meaty seal, to ensure waterproofing remains solid.
Anker Soundcore Flare Plus – Sound quality
The Anker Soundcore Flare Plus has two 2-inch drivers, each matched with a bass-boosting passive radiator on the sides, and tweeters on its back and front. Drivers covering much of the surface give the speaker 360-style sound, although the tone isn’t entirely position-agnostic; this is a real room-filler.
Bass depth and power, maximum volume, and the sheer scale of the sound on offer here are the main highlights. The low-end is deeper than that displayed by theUE Boom II, the Jam Zero Chill or the Jam Heavy Metal. For the price, it’s brilliant.
To get a closer comparison for scale and weight, I had to dig out the £349 B&O P6. The P6 offers greater depth and authority, and a much sweeter sound overall. However, that it and the Flare Plus can be mentioned in the same paragraph without the Anker seemingly hopelessly deficient in every area is a big win for the latter.
I’m also a fan of the Bass button. For a budget speaker, the Soundcore Flare Plus has fairly decent EQ management. If I want background music while at work, I’d turn off the bass. But for almost any other occasion it would remain on. You get extra weight, and an injection of fun without lots of mid-bass bloat or boominess that would otherwise ruin the sound.
The app has other EQ profiles too, with a nice visual that shows what each does to the mids, bass and treble. However, I find that for most situations “default” works best. It scoops out the mids, has plenty of bass presence, and treble clarity you can often only get with a dedicated tweeter.
Mid-tone is where the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus starts to sound worse than some similarly priced speakers that don’t try for such scale and bass power. The mids are rougher, less refined, than those of the Jam Heavy Metal or Zero Chill. This leaves vocals sounding more crudely rendered.
The mids don’t become hard or harsh until you really start to push the volume, and even then the Flare Plus sounds more comfortable than a smaller speaker at the same level. However, when playing a track led by a full-bodied vocal such as Chilly Gonzales’s/Jarvis Cocker’s ‘Room 29’, there’s a slight crudeness to the Flare Plus’ delivery.
For such tracks, played at reasonable volumes, the Jam Heavy Metal sounds significantly better. Even if its bass and overall output aren’t quite as impressive at higher volumes.
Why buy the Anker Soundcore Flare Plus?
The Anker Soundcore Flare Plus has all the benefits and drawbacks of the smaller version. It offers a neat light show feature and super-impressive sound scale and bass power for both its stature and price.
If you want to fill fairly big spaces for little money, you can’t do much better.
It’s not a master of refinement, though, so if you want a speaker to relax with around the house then you may be better off with the often-cheaper Jam Heavy Metal.