It’s a wireless world and completely wireless Bluetooth headphones are all the rage. Creative Labs, longtime digital audio company, has its own entry, the Outlier Air. Creative is trying to push quality sound into the sub-$100 price range with the $80 Outlier Air. Do they succeed? Keep reading to find out.
I don’t find the Outlier Air to be particularly handsome. To me they are kind of lumpy. They look a bit like a tiny lump of coal with a protruding ear canal armature. There is a nice LED ring around the main button on each earbud. The button is used for controlling playback – tap to pause, double tap to skip, that sort of thing. The problem with it is that the buttons take a lot of force to activate and when the earbuds are in your ears that can be quite painful. It’s better to grip around the back of the earbud and hit the button but, in my experience, that caused a lot of unintended double tapping.
On the plus side, the headphones are comfortable to wear even for long periods. I’ve worn them almost an entire work day without experiencing any ear fatigue. They fit snugly in the ear chamber and stay put even when you move around.
As is typical with wireless earbuds the Outlier Air comes with a carrying case that doubles as a charging case. It’s an oval cylinder with a slide out tray. It effectively triples the battery life and it charges via USB-C. Bravo, Creative, well done.
PERFORMANCE – BATTERY
If design is the Outlier Air’s weakness then battery life is it’s strength. Creative claims up to 10 hours of use per charge with two additional charges in the case for a total of 30 hours. I can’t confirm 30 hours, but I’ve definitely gotten through a business day on one charge. In fact, battery life is so good that with off-and-on usage I’ve gone a couple of weeks without having to recharge the case. Thankfully, when the case does need charging, it supports USB-C. Never underestimate the convenience of consolidating chargers, especially when travelling.
PERFORMANCE – AUDIO
It’s impossible to go into a review with a completely open mind. Reviewers can be influenced by previous products, other reviews, etc. In this case, my expectations were tempered by the cost of the product. It’s hard to believe that an $80 set of wireless headphones can sound as good as the Outlier Air. They sound fantastic thanks to their 5.6mm graphene driver and support for the aptX and AAC codecs. Seriously, they sound just as good as sets that cost twice as much and they have killer battery-life to boot.
The headphones can be used in pairs or singly. They are also IPX5 sweat resistant. This makes them versatile and appropriate for the gym, the office, or wherever.
To try and maintain some consistency between my headphone reviews I have put together a short list of songs that encapsulate diverse musical styles. My thoughts on how those songs sound with the Creative headphones are below.
Led Zeppelin – Fool In The Rain (2012 remaster): The Outlier Air handles Fool in the Rain perfectly. This song is quite busy but remarkably clear, especially in the remastered version, and the Outlier Air rises to the challenge.
Humble Pie – 30 Days In The Hole: 30 Days in the Hole is a classic. The voices are warm and the subtle dialogue at the beginning of the track really stand out on the Outlier Air.
The Piano Guys – The Cello Song: The Cello Song sounds great on the Outlier Air headphones. Bright and clear.
Harry Roy – Wah De Da De (Remix): Again, the Outlier Air headphones do a great job handling the extra bass in Wah De Da De. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big bass music listener but the headphones seem plenty deep to me.
I really can recommend the Creative Outlier Air. The price is right, battery life is fantastic, and audio performance is great – don’t forget about the USB-C charging! The only knock on them is the button system but that’s pretty minor when compared to the positives Creative has brought to the table. These are class-leading wireless earbuds and a no-brainer for anyone looking for sub-$150 headphones. They are a steal at $80. The Creative Outlier Air gets all of my thumbs up.