- Development of USQ could reset the standard for audio professionals, enabling artists to record in higher definition
- Results are demonstrated in the company’s first USQ product, the E-Prototype earphone, 3D printed in the UK.
Flare Audio has unveiled ‘Universal Sound Quality’ (USQ), the first patent-pending technology that reduces HRTF distortion by improving how sound is reflected inside our ears.
The company’s extensive R&D, including testing at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), has investigated how the design of the human ear distorts sound far more than most of the audio equipment we listen to. By minimising this distortion in the ear itself, industry users are already predicting how the application of USQ could be used as a benchmark of sound quality.
Flare’s first product using USQ technology is the new E-Prototype earphone, launched this winter. The E-Prototype works uniquely by channelling sound directly into the eardrum and inner ear, eliminating the reverberation and distortions naturally created by our ears. Flare states that as a result, the E-Prototype delivers ‘a sound of unrivalled purity’.
Already praised by a host of music and arts influencers including Producers Tony Visconti and Chris Kimsey, Liam Howlett (The Prodigy), David Arnold (Composer, James Bond) and Mark Radcliffe (Broadcaster / Musician), the patent-pending technology used in the E-Prototype recreates ‘the closest sound possible to that produced by musicians when they perform’.
Flare hopes the level of clarity achieved by the E-Prototype, through its application of USQ, will become a benchmark for quality throughout all sectors of the music industry. They also predict that the E-Prototype and future USQ products will even advance music recording techniques, as the extra audio clarity revealed by the technology allows musicians and producers to work at a more detailed level.
Flare Audio co-founder and CEO Davies Roberts explains: “Over the last ten years Flare has set out to identify what was wrong with audio products throughout the music sector. We started with loudspeakers, moving on to headphones and in-ear devices, and discovered that our own ears
add far more distortion than most of the audio equipment we listen to. Known as the HRTF this distortion is unique to each person due to the individual size and shape of people’s ears. On average there is 21dB of distortion being added to everything we hear which destroys our ability to listen to high-definition sound. Depending on the listening level and each person’s ear shape this can equate to 20% or more of added and unwanted distortion. This is why everyone hears music slightly differently. USQ is the first patent-pending technology that reduces HRTF distortion by improving how sound is reflected inside our ears.”
“By exploring the point where physics meets biology, we’ve minimised distortion and moved ever closer to pure sound,” Roberts continues. “Our development of Calmer and earHD, a passive device which focuses sound as it reaches the outer ear, showed us how decayed audio frequencies create stress and how we could remove those frequencies.
Our ‘OMG’ moment was when we applied that principle to earphone sound. It was a quality we’d never heard before. When we took away natural distortion the quality was extraordinary - beyond what you hear in the recording studio. All music producers to whom we’ve shown E-Prototype so far have been astonished that such an unassuming earphone can produce such exceptional sound quality.”
The E-Prototype is 3D printed in limited quantities at Flare Audio’s headquarters near Brighton, UK. Each E-Prototype is made from a bio-compatible non-toxic polymer material in a manufacturing process that minimises material waste and energy consumption.
The E-Prototype retails at £250.
Music professionals wishing to experience E-Prototype first hand can attend limited demonstrations staged by Flare in London, or order via Flare’s website.
The E-Prototype uses the same principle deployed by Flare’s hugely successful Calmer earbuds, a non-electrical product which reduces stressful frequencies. Calmer has not only improved people’s audio experiences but also helped many with hearing sensitivity conditions.
E-Prototype comments by industry users include:
“…this tech is going to beach the audiophile whale and force it to evolve on the spot, or perish.”
Michael Piskor - Headfonics
“For me… the best I’ve heard.”
David Arnold - Composer
“One of the best sounding IEMs at any price that I’ve heard.”
Janine Elliot - HiFi Pig
“The new E-Prototype model by Flare Audio in Sussex sounds astonishing. They are one of the occasional audio products that make you want to re-listen to all the music you know.”
Jonathan Margolis - Technology Columnist: Airmail
“I’ve been testing out these Flare Audio E-Prototype earphones for a few months now, I’m not somebody who throws cheap praise around just to get a free pair, that’s not me. But without doubt they are the best I’ve ever used.
I don’t usually use headphones when I’m doing a final mix in the studio, but I have been with these because of the level of detail I can hear, right down to the lower end frequencies too. The stereo Imagining is the best I’ve heard and above all accurate and also no distortion in the ear.
Studio headphones I’m used to using are always much bigger, so these are something new because of what they deliver. On an everyday level when I’m out and about listening to tunes, for me - they deliver power, clarity and bass just better than anything else I’ve heard.”
Liam Howlett - The Prodigy
“Very impressive in-ear headphones. 10/10 recommend the bass on these bad boys, whew! So small yet so powerful.”
FFSYTHO: Grime MC
“I cannot take these off. I am hypnotised by the sound coming from the E-Prototype. They have such a wide stereo image, much deeper bass and more depth of sound than I’ve heard before. They are light as a feather and sit perfectly - they float in my ears!”
Chris Kimsey - Producer (Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Yes)
“A very balanced and easy to listen to pair of earphones. The low end goes deep down for an exciting sound and the mid-range and top is very detailed without feeling harsh on the ears at all.”
Romesh Dodangoda - Producer / Mixer (Motorhead, Bring Me the Horizon, Funeral For A Friend, Twin Atlantic)
“What’s quite unique about these is the purity and the clarity. The low frequencies to the high frequencies - just absolutely seamless. The stereo width, the stereo picture incredible.”
Stephen W Tayler - Sound Artist, Producer, Mixer, Composer
“Simply incredible. I think it’s the clarity that so stuns me, clarity without any hint of the coldness and loss of warmth that is the usual trade-off in achieving that level of precision… clarity + depth = joy.”
Stephen Fry - Actor, Author, Broadcaster
“I've been looking for earbuds like this ever since they were invented. Flare has always made great audio drivers, but the new system of delivery to your eardrums is a big game changer. Fidelity and imaging are the best I've ever heard."
Tony Visconti – Producer (David Bowie, T-Rex, Sparks, Iggy Pop)
“These buds are unbelievable. So light and comfortable you kind of forget you’re wearing them except for the wonderfully full sound in your ears. Thanks Flare. A triumph.”
Mark Radcliffe - Broadcaster, Musician, Author
“E-Prototype… JOYFUL BLISS. Transported back to the console at Sarm East.”
Gary Langan - Art of Noise / Producer (Spandau Ballet) and Engineer (Queen, Yes)
“Having had a little time to experiment with Flare Audio’s new E-Prototype earphones I can only say that this is the closest I’ve come to hearing the pure transmission of the artists’ intention without any distortion or additional colouring, qualities or characteristics. The earphones are based on a ground-breaking design developed through original conceptualization and research and I predict that USQ will set a new standard in sound across the audio production chain.”
Dr Sadia Sadia MSc FRSA - Installation Artist
“I think the E-Prototype is the best earphone Flare have done to date. The sound is laser-sharp. I’ve had them on since December and they are definitely crisper than their ancestors. Win, win. Boom.”
Jason Williamson: Sleaford Mods
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T: +44 (0)7909 905 882