When I first saw the prototype for Cleer’s Crescent speaker at CES a couple of years ago, I mistook it for a decoration and walked right past it.
As you may have figured from its name, the Crescent speaker is crescent in shape; it looks like a champagne-colored wedge (think orange slice) that would fit into most living rooms without disruption.
But how does it perform? Is the sound quality any good?
Before I dissect the highs and lows of this smart speaker, let’s look at the specs.
The speaker is approximately 26 inches long, 7.25 inches high, 4.75 inches deep, and weighs in at a solid 12.25 pounds.
Its sides are made of a champagne-colored perforated mesh with a narrow solid strip along the top. This strip contains the control buttons for source, audio mode, microphone on/off, volume up/down, and play/pause, along with the accompanying indicator lights.
The back panel has power, Toslink, Auxiliary, Ethernet and service ports, and a reset button. A line of eight, 40MM full-range drivers in a beamforming array fires out the front with a pair of 84MM “woofers,” reinforcing the lower end.
Cleer doesn’t provide much information about the amplification, but there are many connectivity options, including 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wifi; Ethernet; Bluetooth 4.2; AirPlay2, and an auxiliary analog input. It also has Chromecast and Spotify Connect built-in, as well as Google Assistant.
The Crescent came nicely packaged with a simple, easy-to-follow instruction manual. I placed it on a table in our den, and thankfully the power cable was long enough, so the power brick could rest on the floor. Using the Google Home app on my phone, I had the speaker up and running in a couple of minutes.
The Crescent’s connectivity options allowed me to select from a wide variety of streaming services and play music from my library. It has three unique processing modes: Stereo Widening, 3D, and Room Fill.
Stereo Widening provides a well-defined stereo image extending beyond the boundaries of the speaker. 3D mode offers an immersive three-dimensional experience, regardless of room acoustics. The Room Fill setting is best for creating a large sweet spot for parties or other scenarios with multiple listeners.
Stereo widening was my favorite of the three available modes as it provided a well-defined image that extended beyond the size of the speaker. The 3D and Room Fill options didn’t sound as natural and were reminiscent of the “hall” processing modes found on so many surround receivers from the 1990s. If you need to, you can control Bass and Treble through the Google Home App.
The Google Assistant voice control worked well. Even when the music was playing loudly, it could discern my voice and respond to commands.
I’ve heard “Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello (Tidal, Island) on numerous stereo systems in recent years, given its widespread popularity. Meaning it was a good fit for testing these speakers.
The tonal balance was slightly brighter than normal at first; this was most noticeable when listening to the guitar strings. A quick adjustment with the tone controls in the Google Home App brought the balance pretty close to neutral, allowing the Crescent to playback this track with a natural, well-balanced presentation at reasonable listening levels.
When I cranked it up, there was some compression to prevent clipping. The details, particularly the bass notes, were not as tightly defined as on any of my traditional stereo systems but well above average for a self-contained, powered music system.
I wanted to test the bass further, so I loaded up “Rockstar” by Post Malone from his album Beerbongs & Bentleys (Tidal, Republic). It is a track with a lot of deep, synthesized bass.
The Crescent’s woofers could not reach deep enough to recreate the lowest notes, but the bass was full-bodied.
The first thing that caught my attention about the Cleer Crescent was its style, so I thought I would focus on other wireless speakers with a strong aesthetic design.
At a similar price point, The Marshall Stanmore II Voice or Klipsch’s The Three II, both have a retro style. The Marshall speaker uses Amazon Alexa, whereas the Klipsch speaker uses Google Assistant and Chromecast like the Crescent. The key difference with the Klipsch speaker is that it has a phono input.
Moving up in price, the McIntosh RS100 ($1,000) is very stylish with the classic McIntosh blue meter, DTS Play-Fi, and Alexa.
The Naim Mu-so ($1,690) is another option. While it is rectangular, it has a clean, modern vibe and would look at home in an upscale, contemporary setting.
The Crescent may be Cleer’s first smart speaker, but it is easy to recommend as it looks and sounds good.
One caveat is that the Chromecast and AirPlay2 provide limited multi-room functionality. If you want a system that can scale to numerous rooms, you may want to look at a Sonos or Denon Home system.
However, if the Crescent’s size and price fit your needs, it is a suitable unit with playback for just about anything except vinyl. It does so with sound quality that exceeds what you would typically get from a wireless speaker of this size.
It is a hard package to beat when you add a stylish design that facilitates prominent placement without embarrassment and robust build quality.