It’s about time Creative entered the truly wireless earbuds realm, and they have done so by introducing the Creative Outlier Air, as part of its Outlier series. They are selling at S$119, which is a really attractive price for a brand like Creative. And if you had seen the spec sheet, you might be pleasantly surprised at the price.
The Outlier Air comes in a pretty small box, and inside it contains:
- Outlier Air earbuds
- Charging case
- A pair of spare eargels
- USB Type C-to-A charging cable
- Quick start guide & Leaflets
First let’s talk about the good, which is the usage of USB-C to charge. The main benefit here is convenience. Most Android users would be pleased with this since you can now charge the charging case with your phone charger. Furthermore, if you have a laptop that charges via USB-C, such as the MacBook Pro, you can use that charger to charge the charging case. I’ve reached out to Creative, and they were able to confirm that you can even use the 87W MacBook Pro 15″ charger to charge the charging case! With USB-C being introduced to more devices, I am glad that Creative has chosen to go with USB-C charging!
Now let’s talk about the bad – the lack of eargels. Creative decided to only supply just two pairs of eargels. This might be a small issue since most people generally fit the regular ones supplied, but it’s always good to have an option. But to make matters worse, you can’t really use third party eartips such as Comply on the earbuds because of the way the charging case is designed (I’ll get into that later).
This is the part you get impressed. At just S$119, you’re getting ALL of this:
The most impressive spec of them all is the whopping 10 hour battery life. Next, you’re also getting aptX compatibility so those of you rocking Android will stand to benefit from this. Bluetooth 5.0 is also a great addition at this price point. The option to use either side to do voice calls is also a plus. IPX5 means there is no problem going to the gym with these buds.
The design of the Outlier Air is pretty nice, the earbuds look sleek and minimal while the charging case comes in a gun metal finish. The charging case measures 7.8cm x 2.6cm x 4.2cm, so it should be pretty convenient to bring around.
As the Outlier Air rocks a minimal design, with only one button on each side, it brings a downside – the playback controls. One click on either side performs a play/pause, two clicks performs skipping of tracks or activating Voice Assistant, a click and hold performs volume change.
The most inconvenient part of the playback controls is when you’re increasing/decreasing volume. You have to click and hold which does not seem very intuitive. At the very least, the longer you hold, the more the volume increases/decreases. And because you’re using silicon eargels, it can feel uncomfortable when clicking on the earbuds’ buttons. Having said that, I would still prefer buttons over touch controls.
I feel that the indents in the charging case may not be the best designed as the earbuds or not fully magnetically latched on to the magnetic pins when I put them back. So sometimes I will have to manually readjust the position to get the “magnetic snap”. Unlike the X-mini Liberty Xoundpods where you can just casually “throw” them back in to the case and they will magnetically snap into place, you have to just a little bit conscious of the way to put the Outlier Air back into the case.
One thing to note is that, even if you are not playing music, as long as you have a music/media app open, a double click will trigger a skip track instead of Voice Assistant. You gotta have zero media apps in the background to be able to trigger Voice Assistant (tested with iPhone).
The battery life on this is truly astounding. Even after an hour of use the battery life drops by only 8-9%. I have not been in a situation where I will have to use the earbuds for 10 hours straight so unfortunately I am unable to test for that.
It is also interesting to note that the battery life of each earbud is not the same. My guess is that it is due to the master-slave connectivity, where the master earbud will consume more battery. But I seem to having a weird issue that my right earbud (slave) does not start at 100% when taken out of the case (will investigate further).
These earbuds sound really good. They sound similar to the Jaybird Run, but the Outlier Air does sound slightly better than the Run. The Outlier Air have great immersive bass, good mids, and provides a pretty wide soundstage. Bass is firm and packs a tight and reverberating sub-bass boom. Playing “Black Eyed Peas – Boom Boom Pow”, you will be able to hear the reverberating bass at the start, and the punchy beats along with song.
Mids are well balanced, offering great amount of detail and plenty of energy. The same tuning for the mids follow through with the highs. The highs are bright and transparent, but may at times get a little grainy on certain songs. But where the Creative Outlier Air shines is its soundstage. With a wide and open soundstage, you can discern the different audio frequencies’ placement and experience a sense of spatial awareness. Playing “Enya — Orinoco Flow”, you will be able to get a good mix of the quality of the earbuds and test the soundstage they offer.
Creative Outlier Air vs X-Mini Liberty+
Exact same price, and similarly spec-ed. Creative Outlier Air is priced at S$119 while the X-mini Liberty+ comes in at S$119.90. Both use Bluetooth 5.0, and based on my use, both are super reliable when it comes to connectivity. Both on on-par with battery life – X-mini with 9 hours, Creative with 10 hours, but X-mini’s case extends the total playtime to 54 hours compared to Creative’s 39 hours. Fit wise, Outlier Air is the clear winner with it contoured design to fits one’s ears. However, the X-mini offers an option to switch out to Comply foam tips. Now with regards sound quality, both earbuds comes close. The X-mini Liberty+ delivers better sub-bass response elevating the boom sounds in bass heavy songs, but falls a little short in the highs. On the other hand, the Creative Outlier Air produces more punchy beats and delivers more crisp and brighter treble. Soundstaging is also wider on the Creative Outlier Air. Ultimately, the Creative Outlier Air edges out for me. Playing “Train Song by Holly Cole” and you will be able to tell the difference in sound quality of both earbuds.
Creative Outlier Air vs X-mini Liberty Xoundpods
They are almost in the same price range. The X-mini Liberty Xoundpods comes in at S$69, while the Creative Outlier Air is priced at S$119. Despite both having Bluetooth 5.0, the Outlier Air feels more reliable in connectivity during my use. The Outlier Air also feels more premium and provides better fit and sound isolation. But when it comes to sound quality, it is where both earbuds comes close. Both offer very good bass and produces well balanced sound. Ultimately, the Creative Outlier Air edges out for me due to the wider soundstage, better mid-range and clearer clarity. Playing “Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles”, you will be able to tell the difference in sound quality of both earbuds.
Creative Outlier Air vs Jabra Elite 65t
The price of Jabra is much higher than that of Creative, so is it better? In terms of sound quality, no. Outlier Air has wider soundstage and punchier bass as compared to Elite 65t which sounds rather flat and treble focused. Although there is EQ tuning available for the Jabra Elite 65t, you cannot get nowhere the sound Creative provides. Creative also manages to provide a comfier fit. But with the Elite 65t you do enjoy fancy features such as transparency and auto-pause when you remove your earbuds. Mic quality is also better on the Jabra, buttons are less fiddly too. Having said that, sound quality and fit are the prime considerations when choosing earbuds. So, Creative wins this round (plus it’s cheaper!).
The Outlier Air fit my ears well with the supplied eargels. It fits snug and feels like part of your ear. How I usually test for fit is to perform a yawn test. Pretend to yawn with your mouth wide open, if the earbuds start to come loose in your ears, it means the fit isn’t the greatest. Outlier Air managed to stay snug and tight in my ears when I did the yawn test. And I think because of that, this brings out one of the greatest strengths of the Outlier Air – sound isolation.
Having tried so many wireless earbuds to date, the Outlier Air is so far the best fitting earbuds I have used.
Previously when using the Jabra Elite 65t even with comply foam tips, I found that the sound isolation wasn’t the greatest as I had to bump the volume up whenever the train travels in tunnel.
And speaking of comply foam tips, this is where some of you guys may be bummed out by this: Truly Wireless Comply Foam Tips work on the earbuds, but not in the case. This means that you can fit the foam tips on the Outlier Air (as seen in the pictures below), but they don’t “fit” in the charging case.
When you put the Outlier Air back into the charging case, the earbuds will not magnetically snap back into the case. You can still close the case shut but the earbuds will not disconnect and charge in the case. I think this is because the charging points on the earbuds are not in contact with the charging points in the case due to foam. Instead, the earbuds will remain connected to your phone when in the charging case.
Even though the silicon eargels fit well on me, I prefer using foam tips as they are very comfortable and you won’t suffer from ear fatigue after long hours of use. Quite a bummer for me. If only Creative designed the case to have larger space at the eartips section, then this wouldn’t be a problem.
Since Creative actually markets the Outlier Air as a workout earbud, it would be nice to see them throw in a pair of comply foam tips (something that Jaybird did with its X3) in the box. Hopefully they do that in the next version, or sell it as an accessory at S$8 perhaps? But of course, you can still switch out the eargels for foam tips to use for one-off situations such as running where you want a greater fit.
Pairing and connectivity
Pairing the Outlier Air to your phone is pretty straightforward, though there are slight nuances. Usually when you pair a truly wireless earbud, you get only see one device on your Bluetooth list. For example, “Jaybird Run — Connected”, the left and right buds are seen as ONE unit.
But for the Outlier Air, they appear on the search as “Outlier Air L” and “Outlier Air R”. The one that you select to pair will be the master, while the other is the slave. After selecting the master to pair, your phone will prompt you with a Bluetooth pairing request to pair the slave with the master.
This is because Creative is using Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo Plus for low latency to help improve the stability of the Bluetooth connection and to improve battery efficiency.
As for connectivity, they are great. They connect to my phone in approximately 4 seconds after I remove them from the case. After 2 weeks of use, I have yet to experience any audio dropouts so the connection is pretty good. Also, there is no electrical interference problem like with the Jabra Elite 65t especially when you are in the bus sitting near the EZ-Link tap out pads.
If you’re looking for a truly wireless earbuds which has amazing sound quality and battery life, then this is the one you should get. For me so far, the sound quality is the best out of the many truly wireless earbuds that I have tested before. It does not have those fancy features such as auto pause or audio transparency, but at S$119 it is an amazing value for money and has almost everything you need in a truly wireless earbuds.
With the specs this earbuds has, it would seem absurd to pay anything more when you can just buy this. Sound quality truly beats some of the expensive competition as well. Furthermore, some of the competition out there aren’t even providing some of the small great features on this (eg. charge via USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX). If these pair of earbuds fit your ears well, then I highly recommend it.
To Creative: If you’re reading this, all you have to do is make Comply foam tips for the Outlier Air and design playback controls that resembles the Jabra Elite 65t, and I think you have a perfect device. Oh and perhaps throw in a Creative EQ app that allows us to tune the EQ like what Jaybird does. That would be awesome.
Where to buy
As of now, you can only buy it from the Creative Online Store (with free shipping). But before you click away, here’s how you can save $2 by being a member. First, sign up for a Creative Account. Next, subscribe to their newsletter to get 40 member points. And lastly, redeem those points at checkout for $2 discount.
And if you’re interested in a value-for-money 2.1 speaker, check out the Creative Pebble Plus!
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