Review: Elevoc Clear TWS – Using AI to Maximize Call Quality

The Elevoc Clear TWS.
The Elevoc Clear TWS.

Can cloud-based computing really improve a pair of inexpensive TWS earphones?

Thank you to Cheryl and Elevoc for providing the Clear True Wireless (TWS) earbuds for review purposes.
General Usage 67.4
Audiophile Usage 53.0

Score Breakdown

82.8
What We Like
  • Good voice clarity with ENC enabled
  • ANC, ENC, and pass-through active environmental mic options
  • Decent charging case design with 4 LED indicators
  • Acceptable battery life
  • Decent sound quality for the price
What We Don't Like
  • Some upper-midrange harshness
  • Limited app functionality
  • A bit large for my ears for extended listening sessions
  • Excels more at call and microphone quality than for music playback

Where to Buy

The Elevoc Clear are available at:

Introduction

Elevoc, founded in 2017, is one of Qualcomm Ventures’ portfolio companies focused on providing AI-powered audio solutions. They “…develop and deliver deep learning-based speech enhancement and voice interaction technologies for a wide range of products, including smartphones, headphones, PCs, VoIP applications, automobiles, smart home devices, and more.”

The Clear is Elevoc’s first product which uses their newly updated Vocplus, a deep learning-based voice enhancement solution, that extracts speech from background noise to enhance voice clarity. This technology has been deployed on millions of devices worldwide, from manufacturers including Qualcomm, Intel, Lenovo, OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi.

The Elevoc Clear uses its latest AI technology and 6 microphones plus 2 voice accelerometers to filter out all background noise from conversations, whether it be from a noisy office, children at home, or wind on the go. The Elevoc Vocplus algorithm is intended to effectively suppress background noise and elevate your voice to maximize professionalism and clarity.

The amount of environmental noise suppression for the microphones can be dialed in using the Elevoc App (available for iPhone and Android). Additionally, active noise cancellation (ANC) can be toggled on/off from the earphones themselves.

”One of Qualcomm Ventures’ portfolio companies, Elevoc, was built around a core competency, sound processing, and has evolved into a leader… When we first invested in Elevoc three years ago, the company was a pure tech startup in search of a business application. Now, after three years, their solutions are widely adopted by top-tier customers like Lenovo, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi.” – Song Mao, Senior Director at Qualcomm Ventures

Can AI learning and all that tech in an inexpensive pair of TWS actually make for a good user experience and sound quality?

Let’s find out just how ‘clear’ these things are!

The packaging is attractive.
The packaging is attractive.

Case

Battery

  • Battery Life: 30 hours
  • Connector: USB Type-C
  • Wireless Charging: No

Placing the earphones into the case automatically initiates charging. Total battery life is rated as 30 hours, although Elevoc recommends that if the battery level is lower than 20%, the user should charge before use. The 600 mAh battery in the case should be able to charge the IEMs 4 times.

A standard black plastic USB-C cable is included in the box.

Included in the box are a variety of ear tips and a USB-c charging cable.
Included in the box are a variety of ear tips and a USB-c charging cable.

UX

  • Can be opened easily with one hand: Requires multiple tries
  • Passes the shake test: Yes
  • Light Indicators: Displays battery level and charging status

There are 4 discrete white LED indicators on the bottom of the case to the right of the USB-C charge port. The left and right-most indicators will flash continuously with the earphones inserted until they are fully charged. When the case is plugged in, the four LED indicators will flash continuously according to the charging status (1 LED <25%, 2 LED 26-50%, 3 LED 51-75%, 4 LED 76-100%).

Without the cable attached, the LED indicators will display the current charging level when the cover is opened.

The LEDs on the bottom of the case indicate battery life and charging status.
The LEDs on the bottom of the case indicate battery life and charging status.

Design

  • Shape of the case: Rounded rectangle
  • Material: Plastic with soft rubber coating
  • Build Quality: Above Average

The case design is one of the finest aspects of this pair of TWS earphones. It’s coated in a touch-friendly, non-slip black matte rubber, and it feels terrific in the hand. It’s tough and very well made, and the hinges on the lid (unlike other TWS cases I’ve used) seem robust and made to last.

To quote my near-7-year-old, “the case is SO smooth and soft!”

Also located on the bottom (beside the charge port and LED indicators) is a flush reset button, that when held for 10 seconds with the cover open, will restore factory settings.

Portability

  • Weight: 56g (with earbuds inside, 5g each side)
  • Volume: 6.5 x 4.8 x 2.5 = 78 cm cu}} (4.76 in cu)
  • Portability: Good

The smallish case size of 6.5×4.8×2.5mm fits comfortably into a pocket, and it’s reasonably easy to one-hand open the lid. The IEMs slide vertically into slots in the case interior and are held securely with magnets.

The Elevoc are a great worry-free choice for throwing in a bag or pocket until you need them.

Comparing the size of the Elevoc Clear case (left) with other TWS earphones.
Comparing the size of the Elevoc Clear case (left) with other TWS earphones.

Earbuds

Battery

  • Battery Life: 6 hrs
  • Charge Time (15mins): Approximately 60mins playback time (Calculated based on 90mins earphones, 120mins charging case)

With 45 mAh internal batteries, the Clear have up to 6 hours of playtime battery life, with the case extending usage up to a claimed 30 hours (ANC disabled, or 25 hours ANC enabled). My experience is pretty much in line with the ratings when primarily using the Clear for audiobook playback, rather than making or receiving calls.

UX

  • Control Mechanism: Touch
  • Touch Accuracy: Average
  • Control Symmetry on both earbud: Yes
  • Mono Use: Yes for both sides
  • Voice Assitant: No
The touch surface on the sides is quite small.
The touch surface on the sides is quite small.

The Clear integrate touch controls on the outer surface of both earphones (left and right perform the same functions). While playing music, a single tap plays or pauses, while a double-tap skips to the next song. During calls, a single tap answers, and a double-tap declines or ends the call.

Pressing and holding the outer surface of either earphone for two seconds toggles between active noise canceling (ANC), ambient (active microphones allow you to hear surrounding sounds), and default (no active mic, no ANC) modes.

Design

  • Profile: Medium
  • Material: Plastic
  • Comfort: Average
  • Fit: Average
The polywog shape of the Clear is a bit large for my ears.
The polywog shape of the Clear is a bit large for my ears.

The shape of each Clear earphone is the currently popular bulbous body with a straight tail that extends downwards out of the ear. The bodies are primarily matte black plastic, with the exterior of the tails clad in graphite-colored shiny plastic. Fit and comfort are only mediocre in my ears, as while the Clear are ergonomic and smooth, the body is big enough to exert a little pressure.

I shall hereby refer to this TWS form factor (round with a tail) as ‘polliwog’ shaped.

One of my primary uses for TWS earphones is listening to audiobooks, which I often do from a reclined position, and the Clear polliwogs protrude a bit too much to be comfortable for lying on my side with my head on a pillow.

The Clear do come with 6 different silicone ear tip options which do help dial in personal comfort and seal and improve sound quality.

The Clear fit securely in the charging case.
The Clear fit securely in the charging case.

Mic

  • Noise Cancellation: Good
  • Voice Pick-up: Good

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Elevoc and Qualcomm are all-in regarding their AI-based, noise cancellation technology. In fact, it’s the only thing you can change in the companion app, and although it provides a dial to tune the level, the app recommends simply leaving ENC turned on fully.

My test pair are an early version and according to Elevoc the ENC has been further improved on production pairs.

Based on my test recordings with ENC enabled and disabled, both in a noisy (air conditioner on high, fan, and background sound all on) and also in a quiet environment, I have to say it works. My voice sounds significantly clearer in both environments with ENC enabled, and background noise essentially disappeared.

It turns out that 6 microphones plus 2 voice accelerometers actually works as intended!

Mic demo

Sound

  • Driver: 10mm dynamic driver
  • Sound Signature: V-shaped with a bit of an upper mid boost
  • Sub-bass: Average
  • Bass: Average
  • Mids: Average
  • Treble: Average
  • Sound Detail: Average
The Clear sound best with calls and audiobooks.
The Clear sound best with calls and audiobooks.

Overall sound signature

Elevoc promises a “Premium sound: 10mm dynamic drivers deliver a full 360° listening experience”. Overall, the Clear perform about as I’d expect a pair of TWS earphones in this category to perform, and the sound quality is quite acceptable. No, they aren’t going to replace your dedicated pair of wired audiophile IEMs, but that isn’t their primary purpose.

“The most powerful noise cancelling earbuds ever…Don’t let background noise get in the way of what you want to hear or say. With Elevoc’s leading Vocplus™ voice capturing and processing technology, you come through loud and clear while all the other noise fades away.” – Elevoc
Elevoc Clear frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).
Elevoc Clear frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).

Exercising, listening to audiobooks, and taking calls while on the go, are all non-critical listening situations, and it’s here where the Clear excel. Elevoc positions the Clear to be primarily for voice calls, with little to no mention of music reproduction prowess, so let’s set our expectations accordingly.

The ANC works well to cancel out environmental noise but it creates that feeling of unpleasant pressure in my ears with nothing playing. I’d rather live with the passive noise cancellation of the Normal mode in most circumstances.

My biggest complaint with the sound is that the upper midrange is a bit too prominent, creating a somewhat nasally sound signature. Bass extends reasonably low and has decent punch when called for. Treble is present and controlled, with no sibilance detected but with fairly rolled-off upper frequencies. It’s all quite possible that the sound signature is purposely more focused on vocal clarity than music reproduction.

There is only minimal technical information included with the Clear.
There is only minimal technical information included with the Clear.

Connectivity

  • Audio Codec: SBC
  • Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 5
  • Bluetooth Chip: Bestechnic BES 2300YP
  • Auto-connect when: Removed from the case
  • Average drop-outs in an hour: 0
  • Multi-point connection: No
Elevoc does not list Codec support, nor the internal Bluetooth chip in the current literature or with the Clear themselves. I had to inquire from the company itself for this information.

Although multi-point connect is not supported, Bluetooth performance is very good, and I experienced no unwanted dropouts with lengthy usage, and the Clear are quick to reconnect upon removal from the case.

Pairing is done with both earphones in the case, and by holding the button on the case for 5 seconds. The case LED indicators will flash alternately (two on left, then two on right) before emitting a solid light for 3 seconds which indicates pairing mode is active.

The Clear are a good pair of TWS at a bargain price.
The Clear are a good pair of TWS at a bargain price.

Waterproof

  • IP Rating: IP54

The Clear are IP54 rated for limited dust ingress and protection from water spray from any direction. This should be sufficient for most active use, such as gym, running, etc, but isn’t sufficient for the pool or where they are likely to get very wet.

Leave a Reply