Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: The Outlier Gold combine an IPX5 design with excellent sound quality and 12 hours of music playback between charges. They work over Bluetooth 5.0, feature AptX and AAC codecs, and charge over USB-C. If you're looking for $100 true wireless earbuds, the Outlier Gold should be at the top of your list.
Outstanding sound quality
Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
AptX and AAC audio codecs
IPX5 water resistance
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Creative isn't the first name you think of when you're in the market for true wireless earbuds, but the brand has rolled out interesting products in the sub-$100 segment in the last 12 months. The Outlier Gold offer Creative's 3D surround sound, and come with a laundry list of features that include IPX5 rating, Bluetooth 5.0, AptX and AAC codecs, and 12-hour battery life.
The true wireless segment is very crowded, with plenty of great options available across all price points. So why should you pick up the Outlier Gold over the Galaxy Buds+ or the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro? Let's find out.
What's great about the Creative Outlier Gold
The Outlier Gold look upmarket thanks to the gold accents around the earbuds, and they're available in a single Champagne Gold color option. The earbuds feature an angled design with the tips going into your ear canal for a tight fit. You get three sizes of tips in the package, and the angled 'buds ensure you get great noise isolation.
There's a single button on each earbud that's used for controlling music playback and invoking Google Assistant. You'll need to press twice on the left earbud to go to the previous track, and press and hold for volume down. Similarly, pressing twice on the right earbud lets you go to the next track, and holding down on the button lets you increase the volume. You can pause and resume by pressing once on either earbud. You have to press twice on either earbud to invoke Google Assistant.
The earbuds work independently, and you can make or receive calls with a single earbud as each one has a built-in mic. The earbuds weigh just 10g, and the charging case at 54g isn't too unwieldy. The case has LED indicators that light up when it's charging the earbuds, and you also get an indicator for when the case's battery is low, and when the case itself is being charged.
The standout feature with the Outlier Gold is the battery life. Creative touts battery life of up to 14 hours on a full charge from the 80mAh battery on each earbud, and in my usage I got close to 12 hours' worth of music playback. That's with the volume turned up to 60%, and streaming from the likes of Spotify and YouTube Music.
The best part is that the 450mAh charging case has enough power to charge the earbuds 1.5 times over, so you essentially get over 30 hours of music playback — which is incredible. What that means is that you'll only need to charge the case once every week, and the fact that it has USB-C charging makes it that much more enticing.
It takes just under two hours to fully charge the Outlier Gold inside the case, and the case itself takes over 3.5 hours to charge. There's no fast charging here, but that doesn't matter — the battery life on offer with the Outlier Gold make them the runaway leader in this category.
As the earbuds nuzzle into your ear canal, you get a secure fit that ensures they don't fall out when running. I could not dislodge the earbuds even after vigorously shaking my head, and the fact that they have a sweatproof IPX5 rating makes them ideal for workouts. Combine that with the incredible battery life on offer and you have the ideal TWS earbuds to throw in your gym bag.
The earbuds connect over Bluetooth 5.0, and in the two weeks I used them I didn't face any issues with connectivity. There's AptX and AAC audio codecs for high-fidelity streaming over Bluetooth, and as each earbud works standalone, you get stereo calls as well. Range isn't as issue either, and I got a reliable signal for up to 25 feet without any issues.
The Outlier Gold feature 5.6mm drivers that deliver excellent audio quality. The soundstage is warm and inviting, with a tight low-end and clear highs joined by a decent mid-range. I streamed a lot of difference genres, including folk metal, classic rock, house, and instrumental jazz, and the Outlier Gold handled everything with aplomb.
The sound signature is particularly suited to classic rock and instrumental music, and the clear separation between instruments makes it a delight to stream Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and Queen. Of course, if you like listening to music made this century, the Outlier Gold are pretty decent for that too. Bass-heavy tunes from the likes of Bonobo, Com Truise, Skrillex, and Deadmau5 come through clean and punchy without any distortion whatsoever.
The marquee addition on the Outlier Gold is Super X-Fi, the brand's headphone holography tech. Creative went with a software-based version of SXFI on the Outlier Gold, and as such the feature is limited to the SXFI app on Android. When you're setting up SXFI for the first time, you'll have to map the outline of your ears — this is to provide a customized listening experience. Because it is a software-driven effort, the processing is limited to tracks that are locally saved on your device, and the feature doesn't work with streaming services like Spotify or Tidal.
But if you're like me and have a lot of lossless music stored locally, SXFI makes a tangible difference. SXFI creates better depth perception and opens up the soundstage, and it leads to a much more immersive listening experience. It's similar to what Dirac is doing in this space, and Creative says the implementation on the Outlier Gold is designed to give customers a taste of what SXFI is capable of. If you like what the feature has to offer and use it for all media sources, you should get your hands on the Sound Blaster X3 DAC or the portable SXFI Amp.
What's not so great about the Creative Outlier Gold
My main issue with the Outlier Gold is the button on each earbud. As the earbud is angled into your ear canal, pressing down on the button to control music playback led to the earbud pushing even further into my ears — often uncomfortably so. I resorted to holding down on the top portion of the earbud with my index finger and pressing down gently on the button with my thumb as a workaround.
While this isn't an issue as such, pairing the earbuds is not as straightforward as it seems. The first earbud you take out of the box will be the main unit, and this is what you should connect to from your phone's Bluetooth device list. So if you remove the left earbud first, you should connect to Outlier Gold L. You'll know that the earbud is ready to pair once it starts flashing blue and red. As each earbud works standalone, you'll only see the earbud you're pairing to initially, but once it's connected to your phone both earbuds link up.
It doesn't matter what earbud is the main unit, but make sure you don't connect to both earbuds during initial pairing. You'll have to hard reset the earbuds if you do that, and that's never fun. Also, if you're connecting the earbuds to a new phone, all you have to do is press and hold the button on one earbud for three seconds for it to go into Bluetooth pairing mode.
For $100, the Creative Outlier Gold are an absolute steal
The Outlier Gold offer everything you're looking from in this segment. They provide a secure fit with great noise isolation, and the sound quality is fantastic out of the box. Think of SXFI as an added bonus if you have a lot of locally stored music, and these earbuds become that much more enticing.
You also get Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity with AptX and AAC codecs, IPX5 rating that makes them ideal for workouts, and stereo calls. But what ultimately makes the Outlier Gold out stand out from the dozens of options in this category is the battery life. With a 12-hour battery life in real-world usage conditions, these are the true wireless earbuds to buy if battery life is your primary consideration.
The fact that the earbuds cost just $100 is the icing on the cake. If you're looking for TWS earbuds that offer great value, excellent sound, and incredible battery life, look no further.
4.5 out of 5
There's no shortage of true wireless earbuds, but the Outlier Gold's sound quality combined with the IPX5 rating and 12-hour battery life on offer makes them stand out in this category. The plastic design works in their favor as it allowed for a larger battery, and barring the mushy physical button, there really isn't anything at fault here. If you're looking for a robust set of earbuds for workouts or everyday commutes, the Outlier Gold are an easy recommendation.
The gold standard
TWS earbuds with outstanding value
The Outlier Gold combine an IPX5 design with excellent sound quality and a class-leading 12 hours of music playback between charges. They work over Bluetooth 5.0, feature AptX and AAC codecs, and charge over USB-C. There really isn't anything missing here, and if you're looking for $100 true wireless earbuds, the Outlier Gold should be at the top of your list.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.