While not exactly “technology” in the typical sense, Flare Audio’s Calmer “in-ear devices” are designed to enhance sound sources such as live or recorded music and environmental sound by reducing distortion that is experienced when sound enters our ears.
Flare Audio’s previous products run the gamut from high definition in-ear headphones (proper) to their flagship home cinema speakers. They also offer in-ear devices for sleeping or simply noise reduction as well.
Flare Audio’s Calmer product is unique. It claims to enhance audio without the use of active technology just by slightly altering the path that sound takes through our ears. Typically when sound enters our ears it ricochets through our ear canals like a pinball machine. This process creates small distortions as it bounces along to your eardrum. Inserting Calmer into your ears introduces a gradual curve almost like a sleeve that bypasses a sharp angle at the entry of the canal sending audio on a straighter path which eliminates the bouncing pattern.
I ordered Calmer directly from Flare Audio’s UK based website paying $35CAD with free shipping. I also opted for the aluminum branded storage capsule for an extra $9CAD (just because I’m a little “extra”). Flare Audio also offers a small round hard shell carrying case covered with neoprene fabric and branded with their logo for $14CAD. A word of caution for those ordering from Canada, I was charged an extra $17CAD in brokerage fees at the border. So with carrying case and fees, my grand total was $61CAD plus tax. A worthwhile investment if Calmer accomplished its claims. My order arrived as promised with the aluminum capsule, some stickers, and a knit drawstring pouch all bundled in 100% recycled packaging.
The first time I tried Calmer, I failed. Eventually, after repeated attempts to insert them into my ears, I got discouraged and gave up. As it happens, I was inserting them incorrectly. A day later I mustered up the courage to try again and this time consulted their website for more information. I highly recommend the video on Calmer’s page showing the creator quickly fitting these into his ears. Once they were correctly inserted, I noticed a curious and subtle (but very distinct) change in sound.
As I write this, I am listening to a familiar album that I often use for demoing new headphones, Bluetooth or home audio products on a high-end computer audio system with a subwoofer. Using Calmer, there is one immediate difference. The audio is very slightly muted but in a good way. Just as Flare Audio claims, it’s almost as if I’m listening through a filter that eliminates the shrillness or distortion that I didn’t even realize was present.
An even more interesting effect is that it is indeed “calmer”. Flare Audio says that wearing these throughout the day will lower the stress that our body experiences due to the constant low-grade distortion we experience. The silicone inserts fit comfortably into most ears and even after long periods of use, I am not even aware they are there.
Just to be sure I was not being swayed or influenced by Calmer’s marketing, I conducted a blind test on my wife and asked her to listen to a familiar selection of music using Calmer and then without. Her response was an almost exact description of Calmer’s benefits. A very subtle and improved (less distorted) sound. In my wife’s words, “Calmer eliminated the almost painful pinging that high pitched cymbals or high frequencies produced in her ears.
One other aspect that drew me to Calmer was the claims from their users that they reduced or eliminated tinnitus (a perceived ringing or constant noise in your ears). If you are one of the 15-20% that suffer from chronic tinnitus, you know how frustrating it can be. I can definitely say Calmer has reduced tinnitus symptoms while wearing them. Initially, this was not a goal that Flare Audio set out to accomplish in the design of this product, but it has certainly become an interesting side effect for those who have bought the product. Whether it has any lasting effects on tinnitus remains to be seen.
In conclusion, although Flare Audio’s Calmer in-ear devices may seem to be a niche product, their price point is very accessible and worth the investment. It’s worth repeating that this product is effective at eliminating distortion and in turn, reducing stress in a wide range of audio environments. If you’re on the fence about these, I encourage you to give them a try. I think you’ll be happy you did.