Bottom line: Creative corrects some key elements from the past with these new true wireless earbuds, even if it didn't get everything right. The point is they sound better than their predecessors, which also means they sound better than what you're paying for. That's the kind of value you'd want when sticking to a tighter budget, and the performance here justifies the cost in spades.
- Great audio quality
- Awesome bud battery life
- Comfortable fit
- Improved onboard control
- Affordable price
- Touch controls aren't all great
- No ANC or transparency modes
- Bulky case
For Creative, the Outlier Air V2 are actually a third kick at the same can. The original Outlier was followed up by the Outlier Gold, which included the company's Super X-Fi technology — albeit in a reduced capacity. But those two essentially sounded the same, whereas the Outlier V2 come with audio improvements that make them a serious player in their price range.
It's not just the sound that makes these worth consideration, it's also the excellent battery life and comfortable fit round out an impressive set of features for less than many competitors.
Creative Outlier Air V2 What I like
Except for the new midnight blue color scheme, Creative essentially went with the same design for these earbuds. There are slight changes in the craftsmanship, changing the location of the magnetic charging connectors, but the earbuds are pretty much the same, otherwise.
The comfort level is high with these, though you might not think that at first. Creative made these earbuds a tad larger than others, with slightly recessed ear tips that nestle into the ear. They stay in place, too, adding to the convenience when wearing them for longer periods.
One major thing Creative tried to address was the finicky controls from the previous models. It got half of that right here, where the touch-sensitive outer edges do fine with single taps, yet struggle to be consistent with double or triple-taps. That makes it easy to play/pause, or even raise and lower volume, but trickier to skip or repeat a track. The control scheme is simply laid out, so they're not hard to remember, only that their execution is mixed.
The earbuds are also easy to set up. I was paired in no time once I first opened them up, and the process is no different from the previous Outliers. While Creative's Super X-Fi app is an option to do more in setting up that particular technology with the earbuds, it's not a requirement. I'll get to that part later.
That's great news because the sound quality speaks for itself out of the box. Creative engineered these earbuds to sound cleaner and brighter than their predecessors — without affecting the bass. The results are a balanced and lively sound signature that may surprise you if you've never given Creative's headphones a chance before. The main reason why is because Creative actually left the bass alone. Rather than try to amp it up or skew it, the company just focused on improving the other aspects. It's a unique strategy that ultimately pays off.
While they certainly aren't going to match far more expensive pairs in every audible respect, the gap won't feel quite as wide as the prices do. It also helps that Creative added support for both the aptX and AAC Bluetooth codecs, a combination you don't always find in budget-minded earbuds.
I was also impressed with the call quality on these. Callers were clear, and I never had anyone complain about how my voice carried through. It was a case of the best results coming in quieter confines, though. Since there are no noise-canceling mics here, there's nothing to offset the ambient noise and enhance your voice. For that reason, they're not going to be great if you're in a louder place. At least you have the option to use either earbud independently in mono mode.
Creative also managed to maintain the outstanding battery life of the previous Outliers, even improving it just a little bit. The buds themselves last up to 12 hours per charge, with the case adding another 22 hours. The total 34 hours is actually pretty crazy compared to what competitors routinely offer, but it also makes sense, to some degree, given Creative also has no battery-taxing ANC modes constantly at work.
Even so, it's hard not to like a pair of true wireless earbuds that can last a full day or go several days before needing to recharge. The case does have USB-C for fairly quick charging, but no wireless charging, despite the case's thicker design.
Creative Outlier Air V2 What needs work
Despite Creative giving the Outlier Air V2 support for its Super X-Fi 360-degree audio technology, it's neutered from the start. For starters, it only applies to audio and video files you actually load onto your phone or tablet. It doesn't work with any streaming content, even if you download it for offline viewing. If you've already gone through the process of setting up an SXFI account, you won't need to manually select it because the software already recognizes it. It's just a shame that it doesn't do anything unless you do things the old school way of downloading music and movies.
The app also has an equalizer that I wish was more intricate. The multi-band EQ doesn't use sliders, so honing the sound is a lot of trial and error. The only easy part are the bass and treble sliders. Better than nothing, I suppose, just not as functional as I think the earbuds deserve. Creative is fortunate these sound as good as they do, otherwise, this omission would sting even more.
When Creative first launched the original Outlier Air, it wasn't unusual for cheaper earbuds to be missing ANC and transparency modes, but that's been trending in the other direction since. I can't dock the company too much for leaving them out because more expensive pairs have done the same thing. But it still would've been nice if at least one of those modes was thrown in. The long battery life would've clearly been able to handle it, too.
I mentioned the onboard controls earlier and should note that they're touch-sensitive for the first time. The previous models used physical buttons, which you would think would be better, but the touch controls are, for the most part, better here. It's just unfortunate that not all of them feel seamless.
If you are going to use these while working out or running, the IPX5 rating is modest at best. Some sweat with a splash of water, sure, but these are hardly rugged earbuds. If you sweat all over them, you will definitely need to clean and wipe them down afterward. The case also is big by any true wireless standard, so they aren't going to be as pocket-friendly as others on the market. It's one of those trade-offs you have to live with for the awesome battery life.
There's heavier competition in more expensive price points, but things are heating up with more affordable options, too. That's evidenced by the best cheap wireless earbuds that can already available. There are even cheap AirPods clones that make for some interesting choices. If you wanted the Creative Outlier Air you could get those for a real bargain nowadays, too.
Those were our choice for the best cheap wireless earbuds, and there have been some other standouts as well, like the Aukey EP-N5 and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2. Those both use AirPods-style designs, but if you wanted something without the stem, the Jabra Elite 65t are still viable despite their relative age.
Creative Outlier Air V2 Should you buy it?
Who it's for
- You have a tighter budget
- You care about audio quality and bass
- You look for longer battery life
- You want to feel comfortable
Who it isn't for
- You want ANC and transparency modes
- You want an EQ from the dedicated app
- You prefer physical, not touch-sensitive controls
- You'd like to pocket a smaller case
Creative followed up what was already a solid pair of earbuds for an excellent successor in the Outlier Air V2. It addressed shortcomings and improved some of the key features that needed help. When you consider how much they cost, these earbuds are easily one of the best you can find under $100. There is growing competition in that range, mind you, but these hold up really well against all of them.
4 out of 5
In fact, they are easily one of the pairs to beat. If the combination of sound quality, battery life, and comfort ends up appealing to you, you won't go wrong rocking these earbuds.
Creative Outlier Air V2
Playing all day
Creative crams in all but unmatched battery life into these excellent true wireless earbuds, though it's the superb audio quality out of the box that ultimately makes these what they are. As a value proposition, it's hard to argue against the package available here when it doesn't cost as much to get the good quality these earbuds provide.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.
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