OK, I am confused with the Creative Outlier Air V2. They look and feel like premium buds, have a superb slide-out carry case and Creative (you remember the Sound Blaster people) are giving them away at A$109.95.
After two weeks use, I can safely say that this matches any True Wireless buds I have tried. They are not noise cancelling, but they last 12 hours, are IPX5 sweatproof, and use the Qualcomm BT 5.0 True Wireless chip with SBC, aptX and AAC codecs. And they have something called Super X-Fi that is quite amazing.
Price: Normally $129.95 but on promo at $109.95 with free shipping
From: Creative online
Colour: Midnight Blue
Warranty: 12 months ACL
Country of Manufacture: China
Singapore based Creative Labs (Est 1981) is famed for its PC soundcards and more recently speakers and headsets. It’s Super X-Fi launched in 2018 is just beginning to take hold to produce spatial sound from stereo technology.
First impression – fabulous, light and love the slide-out case
Look you could mistake them for any True Wireless bud – Sennheiser, Jabra, Samsung at al. That is because to get the tech inside requires a certain size outside. They are light at <6g each, and the case is a more solid 60g. But it is important to note that these are not Noise Cancelling buds.
Fit is important for comfort, and it comes with small, medium and large silicone tips. They sit well in the ear and just at the front of the ear canal. And just so you know the V2 update addresses any issues that V1 and the Gold versions had.
Battery – 12 hours claim
Over two weeks of use at around 2 hours a day – total 25-28 hours, needed three charges, So let’s say the 80mAh batteries give more like 10-hours at an average volume of 70%. Yes, you may get 12-hours at 50% volume. During an 8-hour stint to appraise comfort, we could get accurate battery use. In the end, it had 20% remaining. Not bad. Recharge time was well under 1 hour.
The case is a bit of a gamble. It is twice the size of the typical ‘ring’ case that others have but has 22 hours top-up in return. It has a 450mAh battery, and you can fully charge it in under two hours. The case is USB-C chargeable and has three LED indicators (left, right and power).
Hands-free – quite good
It has HFP (Hands-Free Profile), which reverts to mono and one mic channel during calls. It has two mics (one per bud). The buds have Qualcomm cVc 8.0 microphone ‘noise cancelling’ technology that allows for better voice pickup during phone calls or while using voice commands via Siri or Google Assistant. It works because it focuses on the voice sound frequency spectrum over extraneous noise. But it still struggles with windy days.
Sound – above average for the price
A ‘Read Me First!’ leaflet tells you not to connect and start using the earphones until you have installed the Creative SX-Fi app. This incorporates something called ‘headphone holography’. I won’t go into details as Thomas Bartlet has reviewed the Creative Outlier GoId earphones (here 9.2/10) and his ears are better than mine. This is not a gimmick. But all the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is done on the phone on music stored there.
We can’t measure frequency response and sound signatures inside buds. Testing using ‘raw’ sound from an audio streamer at defaults (no app) Bass is solid – quite low notes. Mid is slightly recessed. Treble is good but not as high range or crisp as some. It is called a balanced signature, and the sound stage is as expected – inside your head. Let’s say 8.5/10 for streaming sound, and audiophiles generally don’t like this signature. You can then adjust it all via the app – remember the app only affects music on the phone played via the app.
Wow – what a difference SX-FI makes. It brings otherwise dull tracks to life. Yes, you can create ‘frankensound’ too if you don’t know how to use an EQ, but hey, it is what sounds good to you. This has a much wider sound stage. Let’s say 9/10 for this sound. They are a step up from the mass-market buds and a step down from Sennheiser, Jabra, Sony, Samsung etc. Remember that you generally get what you pay for, which is more than you expect.
Interesting – aptX
I now appreciate the aptX codec so much more than the SBC one. You hear so much more detail. The Creative Outlier Air V2 show up as separate aptX buds in the Samsung’s Bluetooth devices. The first bud to connect becomes the master and can be mono. They connect rapidly, and over two weeks did not have any drop out issues.
Touch – still a bit iffy
The Left and Right bud are touch-enabled and do the same thing – great for a leftie like me. Basically, you have Playback mode, pause mode and call mode. It’s the typical two taps for play/stop or answer/hang-up the phone. Voice assistants have three taps.
Price is what you pay – value is what you get. These are excellent value with superior sound to most buds in this price bracket. If you use the app and play from downloads, you will get terrific computational sound. Without the app, it is still above average. And Creative is doing a run-out special on the original Outlier Air – a twin pack for A$119.90.
Creative Outlier Air V2 improvements all around
These are excellent value with superior sound to most buds in this price bracket.