The Anker Soundcore Flare 2 ($79.99) is a lot of Bluetooth speaker for the price. It’s portable, it’s waterproof, and it can produce an LED light show that syncs with whatever you’re listening to. On the audio front, the drivers can get loud and project a decent sense of bass depth for the speaker’s size. So while it isn’t necessarily a standout, the Soundcore Flare 2 represents an excellent value, delivering solid sound from a modest, waterproof frame.
Available in black, with multi-color LED light strips lining the top and bottom panels, the SoundCore Flare 2 measures roughly 6.4 by 3.5 inches (HW). Its cylindrical exterior is lined with cloth speaker grille that covers the 20-watt drivers and dual passive bass radiators. The base is lined with rubber to keep the speaker from moving around due to vibrations.
The SoundCore Flare 2 has an IPX7 rating, which means it can handle water pressure or being submerged up to one meter, so it can definitely withstand rain or poolside splashes. Just make sure the USB-C charging port cover is closed tight.
The speaker’s top panel houses controls for power, volume up/down, a central multifunction button (for playback, track navigation, voice assistant control, and call management), and a button that switches through the various LED light show modes. A panel on the back of the speaker houses the covered USB-C port for the included charging cable, which is of generous length and the only included accessory. On this same panel, there’s a button for switching the bass boost mode on or off, and a Bluetooth pairing button. It’s worth noting that multiple Flare 2 speakers can be linked together.
The Soundcore app (for Android and iOS) allows you to control the lights and adjust audio preferences. It recognizes your paired speaker and lets you switch between various EQ presets, though there’s no user-adjustable EQ bands within these presets, which is a disappointment. You can add extra bass to any mode, and control playback and volume levels within the app. It’s also the easiest way to select which light mode you want, though you can also cycle through these modes with the button on the top panel. There are various modes designed to recognize the beat of whatever you’re playing, and some do it better than others. The LED light show is entertaining enough, and you can always turn it off.
Anker estimates battery life to be 12 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
We tested the Soundcore Flare 2 in default EQ mode, but we opted to turn the extra bass on—arguably this should simply be the default mode for the speaker, which needs any help it can get to create a real sense of bass depth. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Soundcore Flare 2 delivers a decent low-frequency presence, but it’s more about the resonators than any actual serious depth the drivers deliver. From a short distance away—say 10 feet—the bass depth feels far less powerful. The Soundcore Flare 2 can get quite loud for its size, but the low-frequency rumble doesn’t have much power.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on bass-forward speakers, but the Flare 2 can’t quite muster that level of bass depth. Instead, the most commanding low-frequency presence is that of Callahan’s baritone vocals. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits get a reasonably crisp presence. At lower volumes, the DSP (digital signal processing) is less smothering and the track sounds both richer in the lows and brighter.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness in the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are more implied than delivered—we only really hear their raspy top notes, and the bass depth of the drum loop is lacking, as well. The vocals are delivered cleanly and clearly, without much added sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, actually sound better than most other genres through the Soundcore Flare 2. The lower-register instrumentation gets some natural-sounding boosting (not unlike the boosting on Bill Callaahan’s vocals we discussed earlier), and the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals have a crisp, bright presence to them without sounding overly sculpted.
The mic offers average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but the signal was faint, and there was typical Bluetooth fuzzy distortion clouding up the signal. This is more or less par for the course for Bluetooth speakerphone mics, but we’ve heard better.
What’s not to like about a waterproof speaker that has programmable, beats-driven LED lights for just $80? The audio performance isn’t mind-blowing, but for the price, the bass depth is decent enough and the speaker gets quite loud. That said, you can get stronger sound quality by ditching the lights. We like the Sony SRS-XB12 for $20 less than the Flare 2, as well as the less portable, but more sonically impressive Ikea Sonos Symfonisk WiFi Bookshelf Speaker for $100. Or, if you’re willing to spend even more, the JBL Charge 4 delivers significantly more power in a waterproof design for $180. For $80, however, the Flare 2 definitely offers plenty.