Although more phones are returning the headphone jack, many have continued to omit it. This absence has made true wireless earbuds evermore appealing. Enter the Creative Outlier Air, an affordable option for those uninterested in dongles.
Read the in-depth Creative Outlier Air review at SoundGuys
What are the Creative Outlier Air like?
Everything about the Creative Outlier Air, from the USB-C charging case to the earbuds, is lightweight. Initially, I was concerned by the size of the earbuds being too large. However, they proved secure thanks to the angled nozzles and array of silicone sleeves. Granted, the sloping shape of the earbuds makes it difficult to grasp them securely. There were a handful of times one or both earbuds slipped from my fingers to the ground upon removal.
One quirk of the Outlier Air is how much effort it takes to press the button on either housing for volume, playback, and call controls. Accessing Siri or Google Assistant requires a double-tap of the right earbud, which puts repeated pressure on the ear canal. On the other hand, changing the volume requires you to press and hold the button on either earbud. This puts prolonged pressure on the ear. Criticism aside, it’s a bearable nuisance. After all, these cost a reasonable $80 and merit an IPX5 rating, which certifies water-resistance.
Listeners with hearing impairments and those who need to be aware of their surroundings will benefit from mono mode.
Another useful feature is mono listening. This is automatically engaged when one earbud is placed back in the case. It’s great for those who are hard of hearing or who need to remain aware of their surroundings, such as during an outdoor run.
Related: Are the AirPods 2 worth it?
Battery life and connection quality
The Outlier Air’s standalone battery life makes these some of the best true wireless earbuds available. You get 7.78 hours of playback on a single charge. It takes two hours to fully charge the case, which provides an additional two charge cycles. If you need something better, get the Beats Powerbeats Pro. Those cost three times as much as the Creative earbuds, though.
Some listeners have reported connection strength issues, SoundGuys’ loaner unit demonstrated excellent connection quality. Bluetooth 5.0 firmware allows for a 10-meter wireless range. Additionally, aptX and AAC high-quality codecs are both supported to reduce latency on iOS and Android devices alike.
How do they sound?
These earbuds appeal to a wide swath of consumers because of their bass-heavy sound signature. Bass notes sound about twice as loud as midrange frequencies (vocals and string instruments). This is often preferred by athletes and commuters alike to drown out ambient noise where isolation falls short. Even though the earbuds insert into the ear (unlike AirPods) a significant amount of environmental noise can be heard. Ultimately, this can degrade audio quality and may compel some users to invest in Comply memory foam ear tips.
Fortunately, the reproduction of three-dimensional space is impressive for a pair of cheap true wireless earbuds. In all fairness, this is the company that brought us the SuperX-Fi amplifier and SXFI Air, two products noted for their abilities to recreate a realistic sense of auditory space.
What’s more, taking calls with the Outlier Air is a pleasure because, unlike other true wireless products, audio is relayed through both the left and right channels. The integrated microphone in each earbud relays the human voice well enough while filtering out background noise as heard in the example above.
Should you buy them?
Yes, the Creative Outlier Air are a superb value. Sound quality, while not neutral, should be enjoyable for most consumers. The substantial battery life is appreciated, as is the high-quality Bluetooth codec support. If you want a solid pair of daily earbuds, the Creative Outlier Air are a great choice with forgivable drawbacks.