REVIEW: CREATIVE OUTLIER AIR TRUE WIRELESS EARPHONES
We shared the news about Creative's Outlier Air true wireless earbuds not so long ago. As Creative rarely appears in publications such as StereoNET, we thought we'd take them for a spin.
True Wireless Earphones
Creative is a brand that we usually associate with PC audio. In fact, the company's Sound Blaster offerings have accompanied a variety of our gaming PCs over the years.
However, as well as external sound cards, you will find speakers, DACs, gaming headsets, and earphones. That latter is what piqued our interest when Creative told us that they had launched their Outlier Air true wireless earbuds.
Outlier Air Design
There appears now to be two leading schools of design when producing true wireless earphones. Firstly, there's the curvy-dome variety which the Outlier Air follow. Or, there is the electric-toothbrush head stylings of the Apple AirPods, Huawei FreeBuds and RHA True Connect (review to follow soon).
The Creative buds are black with gunmetal highlights, although we have noticed that there is now a premium gold version with some extra skills for another £20.
Each earphone has an onboard battery and recharges via the accompanying case.
The case charges using USB-C. The quartet of indicator lights on the case shows the charging status of each bud. Additionally, the case indicates if it is being charged, as well as if the buds within are being re-juiced.
Just a gentle shove is needed to open the curvy case. The inside reveals magnetically grabby receptacles for the buds and their respective charging points.
Each earphone sports a single button and, depending on how many times you press that button, activates a different function. Button presses can operate playback, call answering, or enabling your hands-free voice assistant, be that of the Google or iOS flavour.
You do need to give the button a liberal press, but we are sure it will free-up after more use than our review set has had.
The 5.6mm drivers in the Outlier Air are made out of graphene, a material that's both lightweight and durable.
When not in your ears, the Outlier Air slips neatly into that charging case. The case weighs only 54g and measures 7.5cm x 4cm x 2.5cm (L x W x D). Yes, you'll notice it in your pocket but dropped in a bag it will not only charge your ear-pleasers but protect them too.
The Outlier Air are comfortable to wear although only come bundled with one alternative set of tips. Thankfully, the ones already fitted to the buds were perfect for our lugs.
This type of true wireless earphones do protrude from your years a little — not an issue for this long-haired reviewer, but still something to be aware of.
Furthermore, when in use, the earbuds do light up to show when in pairing mode and the state of the battery.
All that said, they were a good, snug fit. Also, you do not need to worry if you're caught in the rain or decide to use the earphones to play your high-energy workout playlist as they sport an IPX5 water/sweat resistance rating. Just remember to wipe them down before putting them back to recharge.
The Outlier Air is equipped with Bluetooth 5. Naturally, you'll need to use a Bluetooth 5 compatible device to get full use of that particular skill. Also onboard is Qualcomm's aptX for wireless transmission and the AAC codec for sound quality.
Get a Pair
When you remove the Outlier Air from the protective charging case, they will flash red and blue, which means that they are ready to be paired with your phone, or another Bluetooth device.
The first bud to be paired becomes the primary earpiece for that session - handy to know should you decide to go mono using a single earphone. Don't worry, though, if you have the wrong side, just place that one back in the case while leaving the other one connected - that then becomes the main bud.
All that also means that the Creative Outlier Air follows the master/servant arrangement of wireless earphones. Thankfully, we did not suffer any lag when watching videos which other similar arrangements can be prone to.
The Creative Outlier Air maintained a reasonably consistent connection during our testing. However, there was some drop-out when put up against the horrors of Kings Cross and Liverpool Street stations during rush hour. These locations seem to be hell for all but the strongest of Bluetooth headphones.
Battery life was impressive. We managed to eke out just under 9 hours from the buds on a single charge. The case adds two rounds of charges and takes around 2 hours to recharge with the buds inside once all are spent.
The Outlier Air are energetic and entertaining performers. The graphene drivers pack quite a punch and have plenty of low-end grunt. Although not the last word in evenness or detail, they do a great job of cutting through the hectic London streets.
The earphones do present impressive stereo separation and did on occasions cause us to stop and listen - one such time was during listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela's Mettavolution. The pair's acoustic guitar-work didn't sound overblown or bass-heavy but well-weighted and clear. Granted, throw on something a bit more low-end loving such as the JLE Dub Mix of Puscifer's Lighten Up, Francis and you will get the full 'urban' aural workout. Speaking of workouts, we imagine that the Outlier Air's sound profile will be just the job for powering through a gym session.
The Creative Outlier Airs are an extremely competent set of true wireless earphones.
They are comfortable to wear, have excellent battery life, and sound quality is pretty darned good. They did lose points as we found the dynamics were lacking subtly and poise. However, if you are looking for a set of buds that will help you push through your workout, then the Outlier Air may be just the ticket.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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