Flares are a phenomenon best left in the past, much like scarlet fever or the guillotine.
But with these Flare Audio in-ear headphones having been endorsed by record producers such as Tony Visconti, Gary Langan and Chris Kimsey, this could be an infinitely more palatable trend than their bell-bottomed namesakes.
Using a host of the pro audio company’s sonic technologies, the Flares Pro can switch between wired and wireless connection thanks to the included Bluetooth bolt-on module – the size of a 9V battery, only lighter – with built-in DAC and playback controls interchangeable with its 3.5mm analogue connection.
MORE: DACs: everything you need to know
Build and comfort
Built for durability as well as performance, you get what you pay for here, with aerospace Grade 5 Titanium tips and gold-plated connections.
There may be little aesthetically to distinguish one pair of in-ear headphones from another, but in terms of build, you’d struggle to be disappointed with what you get for the £350 outlay.
Of course, many manufacturers like to promote their own technology – in such a competitive market, there’s little virtue in being coy – but the Flares Pros actually display the performance to back those words up.
MORE: How to choose the right pair of headphones
We play Atoms For Peace’s Amok, and dig deep into contrasting acoustic and electronic strands, unearthing textures that many headphones, even at this price, would struggle to detect.
Given the clarity through the midrange in particular, we can see why they’d be a smart pick for music production.
The Flares Pro are equally adept handling rhythms: whether it’s the fast-paced jittering of Before Your Very Eyes or grimy syncopation of Ingenue, the beat is effusively delivered, conveying musicality as much as articulation.
MORE: Best headphone deals: in-ear, over-ear, wireless and more
As ever, that relates to the organisation, which here needs to work hard defining leading beats as much as framing the typically understated expression hiding in Thom Yorke’s vocal.
A strong sense of dynamics is more immediately revealed in sombre or emotive tunes, such as Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren or Patrick Wolf’s Demolition, but it is often the subtlest inflections, which the Flares Pros do well, that set a performance apart.
MORE: How to avoid buying fake headphones
However, we stop short of giving the Flare Audios a fifth star, and the reason lies at the extremities of the frequency range.
Overall, the balance is even, with a healthy yet not overbearing amount of bass weight, but the sweetness and clarity of the middle register does not quite stretch to cover either end.
Rather than being soft or slow in the low frequencies, the Flares Pro sometimes experience difficulty in differentiating tonally, with one note blending into another rather than being presented with clear, defined edges.
MORE: Best in-ear headphones 2018
There is a slight ringing toward the height of the treble too, as well as a little coarseness that rankles slightly though without detracting from the rest of what is a fine performance.
It’s the same with each of those minor deficiencies; they’re noticeable but not distracting, keeping intact what is an overall impressive presentation from a company priding itself on its pro audio heritage.
There aren’t a huge amount of great in-ear headphones available at this price – our most expensive 2017 Award winner was AKG’s N40, available at £269 – but the Flare Audio Flares Pros represent a genuine talent in their market.
See all our Flare Audio reviews