Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: Creative comes back with another pair of entry-level wireless earbuds that pick up where the last pair left off. That's not just better sound, but also ambient sound and call quality to improve things even further. When your budget is tight and you want real bang for the buck, it's hard to argue against these earbuds.
Great audio quality
Ambient mode works well
Excellent battery life
Improved touch controls
Wireless charging support
Super X-Fi too limited
Not fully noise-canceling
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Creative has something going with its Outlier Air line of earbuds. While "V3" would suggest the Outlier Air V3 are a third-gen product, they're actually the fourth. With each successive pair, Creative has added something extra to make them more viable, be it the company's Super X-Fi technology or audio upgrades. This time around, it's addressing noise and call quality, among other things.
Combining all these features and performance serves to make these earbuds stellar for what they cost, especially when factoring in battery life, comfort, and app support — they're easily among the best wireless earbuds in this price range.
Creative Outlier Air V3: Price and availability
Creative first launched the Outlier Air V3 in other markets in June 2021, then bringing it stateside in August. They're usually priced at $70, but you can also find them for less at $60. That's a good price for earbuds that offer this much out of the box, and they may fall even further later on.
They only come in midnight metallic green.
Creative Outlier Air V3: What's good
The Outlier Air V3 are almost carbon copies of the Outlier Air V2, save for a different color scheme for the case. Rather than metallic blue, you get metallic green. The earbuds themselves have also shaved off a fair bit of girth, making them far more comfortable for a wider variety of ears. Under the hood, some things have definitely changed in much the same way.
Creative opted to go with different drivers made of bio-cellulose materials, which is essentially an organic compound that acts a lot like paper. That helps reduce the overall size of the earbuds, and in practical terms, pump out better sound. Without getting too technical over how this works, what I can say is that Creative's suggestion that it helps deliver a wider frequency range has some merit. These sounded more balanced than I expected, with more detailed mids helping the bass and treble. There is some sibilance that slips in at louder volumes, or with certain equalizer presets, but the overall results are excellent, otherwise.
To help things along, Creative has since revamped its app to better support products like the Outlier Air V3. The EQ now has multi-band fluidity to tailor the sound how you want. A plethora of presets are also there if you want them, and they even include popular video games. Good app support isn't always easy to find for earbuds in the sub-$100 price range, but there's at least some good stuff here.
Creative's app plays a bigger role because of the extra features the company brought into these earbuds. Ambient Sound finally snaps the streak of the Outlier Air line lacking anything related to noise cancelation or ambient noise. The reason why this works now is due to dual microphone setups for each earbud, finally rectifying an omission from the previous pair. It's just unfortunate that you get active noise reduction, rather than full-on cancelation when you want to drown out background noise.
It's not that there's no effectiveness to speak of, it's just that by "reduction", Creative implies that the frequency range it can cancel out isn't all that high. That's actually borne out in a chart the company displayed on its website indicating how much the Outlier Air V3 might be able to block out. In real-world conditions, mileage varies. Busy street sounds will seep through, and the earbuds won't completely muzzle low-frequency sounds on transport vehicles. I found the feature adequate in some scenarios, while lacking in others.
Ambient Sound works fairly well, and including it with noise reduction puts more of an emphasis on how well onboard controls work. They're still touch-based, only they're more responsive and consistent now. Better yet, you can also customize them to fit with what works best for you.
The other benefit of going with a dual-mic setup is the effect they have on calls. I actually liked the previous Outlier Air V2 for their call quality, but the V3 do improve on that with more clarity, especially if there's some noise going on around you. Plus, you still get the opportunity to use either earbud independently in mono mode.
Then there's the battery life, which continues to hit higher numbers. The earbuds last up to 10 hours per charge, though that's without Ambient Sound or noise reduction. Toggle between them, and you're probably getting down to eight hours, which is still a solid figure. The case has an extra three charges, and for the first time in a pair of Outliers, the case supports wireless charging.
Creative Outlier Air V3: What's not good
Creative likes to promote its Super X-Fi 360-degree audio technology, only the marketing for it was far more subdued this time. The Outlier Air V3 support it, except it applies purely to content you've downloaded and stored on the device you're playing from. You can't stream a movie on Netflix and get the effect, sadly. Even if you download it to watch offline later, the feature doesn't kick in.
Interestingly, Creative also left out the aptX Bluetooth codec, favoring AAC instead. Might be a shame if you're a fan of Qualcomm's codec, or if you were hoping there might be support for aptX Adaptive to access high-res streams that way. It also didn't make any changes to durability, so the same IPX5 rating applies. Good enough to get you through a light workout, but not quite ready to ward off a really intense and sweaty one.
I like that the case finally supports wireless charging, but am puzzled as to why Creative couldn't make it smaller. While shorter than the V2's case, the V3 have a thicker shell, so they're not the most pocketable. Place them next to a case from most competing brands, and the Outlier Air V3 case stands out as bulky.
Creative Outlier Air V3: Competition
More than ever, you don't have to pay a limb to get a good pair of wireless earbuds. The best cheap wireless earbuds already prove that, not to mention all the cheap AirPods clones taking up space with retailers. The Creative Outlier Air V2 are harder to find these days, and Creative may discontinue them in favor of making more of the V3.
Tighter competition in this space at the affordable end means you have other players worth checking out. The Jabra Elite 75t could be out there for a relative bargain, and they're still great in spite of their age. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 are also kicking around offering good value for the money. If you prefer something from a sportier point of view, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC could fit just right, so long as you're cool with the below-average call quality.
Creative Outlier Air V3 Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You are on a tighter budget
- You want good sound with good mics
- You want longer battery life
- You care about fit and comfort
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want something more rugged for workouts
- You want better active noise cancelation
- You prefer a smaller case
- You're looking to spend even less
It's doing it quietly, but Creative is producing some good earbuds, and the Outlier Air V3 prove that yet again. It finally brought in features to address ambient noise and noise reduction, while also rejigging inside components, like the drivers and microphones, to deliver a more complete package at an affordable price. It's easy now to find a pair of wireless earbuds in the same range, though perhaps not with the same level of features and performance.
4 out of 5
Right now, it's hard to see how they aren't among the best in their range. You get really good sound, long battery life, improved call quality, and (finally) features addressing the ambient sounds around you. That's a pretty good menu for an affordable pair of earbuds.
Creative Outlier Air V3
Back for more
Creative continues to take the right strides in making its earbuds better, and the Outlier Air V3 are a clear example of that. Not only is there improved audio and ambient sound, but also the kind of battery life and comfort that rounds out what is ultimately an excellent pair of budget earbuds.
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.