Anker recently released the Soundcore Flare, a portable Bluetooth speaker with a built-in LED lighting system. It’s very clearly designed for being a social speaker, since the lighting reacts to music to liven things up a bit, but it’s also ruggedized and water resistant so you don’t have to worry about any spills or drops taking it out.
We got our hands on one to see if it can hold up to some other Bluetooth speakers, including Anker’s own smaller Soundcore offerings. Is it worth your cash to bring to your next house party? Let’s find out.
While the Soundcore Flare isn’t large or bulky by any stretch, you’re not going to have an easy of a time carrying it around like some of Anker’s other small Bluetooth speakers. It’s actually pretty close in size to a Google Home, just a bit taller and thinner.
It’s made of a mesh fabric, also pretty similar to the bottom section of a Google Home, with a flared base at the end. That base is part of the LED fixture so you can actually see the lights flashing while music is playing, which come from an LED ring all around the bottom of the speaker.
On the top you’ll find your playback controls (play, pause, skip, rewind, bass boost, and brightness controls) and the back of the speaker houses the power button and Bluetooth pairing button. The microUSB charging port and direct audio in are behind a rubber flap to keep the whole thing IPx7 waterproof.
Outside of those lights, this thing really looks pretty plain. It can hide away when you want it to be heard, not seen, but those light tricks can really spice it up when you bring it front and center.
The extra size and limited positioning does make it a much better house speaker instead of something to carry around with you all the time, so keep that in mind.
The cylindrical design of the Soundcore Flare means you’re also getting a full 360 degrees of sound from this speaker, which is something that you don’t even always get on more premium speaker brands. The Flare can sit on a table in the middle of a room and fire sound at everyone around it, filling up a room with sound and taking the headache out of trying to position the music so everyone can hear it.
That outward firing sound helps create a really great listening experience with the Soundcore Flare, even if it’s not a perfect speaker. It’s got plenty of volume and a solid amount of bass, and it’s a very clear speaker even without any EQ adjustments. The high end can get a little harsh if you’re cranking the volume, which is one of my only complaints about it, but overall it’s an excellent speaker for the price.
Anker’s Soundcore companion app will let you tweak the sound slightly, but it’s probably one of the least effective EQs I’ve ever used. None of the settings here will make your speaker sound bad but ultimately it seems like they won’t really change the sound much at all. Some user controlled EQ settings might have been a better choice here instead of just a few presets.
The other part of the Soundcore app is what you’re excited about though. There’s quite a few lighting options for this speaker so you can tweak and tune that LED ring to perfectly fit your mood, and it’s genuinely pretty fun to play with. Again, there’s no fine-tuned user controls here, but the presets and options you have to work with still play out very nicely.
You can pick between a few different color options based on your mood, so you’ll get Spring, Chill, Energy, Party, and, lastly, Bedtime. The first four use colors to match those moods, with lots of blue and purple for Energy, oranges and reds for Chill, greens and blues for Spring, and a mix for Party. Bedtime sticks to more muted warmer colors to help you relax, although it’s pretty similar to Chill.
It’s a speaker, so if you want your lights to flash in rhythm with the music you’re playing that’s an option for all of the color presets. It’s probably the most fun to use, since you’ll see more active lights on high energy songs and slower pulsing for slower songs.
You can also simply have the speaker glow through its color palette independently of the music, which is better for just observing the colors and using it for mood lighting.
Lastly, you’ll a Pulse option for Party, Energy, and Spring, which very quickly scrolls and swaps colors like a marquee of lights, while Chill and Bedtime swap that for a Breathe option. Instead of quick switching, Breathe will slowly fade the colors in and out for a more relaxed tone.
On any of these you can choose Fusion, which mixes the Glow function with either Breathe or Pulse, depending on which color preset you’re using. Personally, I think Fusion is the best way to go, since it mixes the more static approach of the Glow lights with the more lively second option. I honestly prefer that to syncing it with the music just so it can consistently display a few different colors and entertain without any slow points.
Like some of Anker’s other products, you can also pair two of these speakers together for a much bigger stereo soundstage, and they’ll sync up their lighting effects, too.
All in all, I think this is a really good speaker that doesn’t sacrifice its sound quality just for a gimmicky light bar. Most of these kinds of speakers tend to focus only on the lighting and forget that they still have to sound good, but Anker pretty successfully manages both ends.
The lighting isn’t incredibly bright, so I think this product might be a little misleading for someone that’s looking to really make a room vividly change colors, and I don’t see it faring well outdoors, either, but for anyone that wants to add a little something extra to smaller gatherings, this thing’s pretty cool. You’re guaranteed to get some compliments on it, too.
Buy it now: Amazon