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Creative Outlier Air V3 Review: Just $55 for Killer Sound and Battery Life

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $45
The Creative Outlier Air V3 earbuds next to their charging case.
Andrew Heinzman

It’s easy to get entranced by high-end wireless earbuds, which offer a ton of wacky features but rarely push for new levels of sound quality, battery life, or comfort. These are the three features that actually matter, and shockingly, I found them in a $55 pair of earbuds—the Creative Outlier Air V3s.

Here's What We Like

  • Great audio quality for the price
  • Crazy battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Improved call quality
  • They're $55

And What We Don't

  • Bulky and annoying case
  • No ear detection
  • The "active noise reduction" stinks
  • No aptX support

If you’re familiar with the Creative Outlier Air V2s, then these earbuds will look and sound familiar to you. Creative basically took the previous model, fixed some mistakes, and called it the Outlier Air V3. And hey, that’s fine; Creative got a lot of stuff right last time, and it got even more stuff right this time.

Specs

  • Drivers: 6mm bio-cellulose driver
  • Earbud Weight: 5.2 grams each
  • Case Weight:  68.8 grams (80.2 with earbuds)
  • Active Noise Cancelation: No, active noise reduction
  • Transparency Mode: Yes
  • Bluetooth: 5.2
  • Codecs: AAC, SBC
  • Battery Life: 10 hours on earbuds, 30 hours with case; 40 total
  • Charging Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Wireless Charging: Qi
  • Control Type: Touch controls (customizable)
  • Additional Tips: Small, Medium, Large
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000Hz
  • IP Rating: IPX5

Earbuds You Can Wear All Day

The Creative Outlier Air V3 earbuds.
Andrew Heinzman

To be honest, I’m not the kind of person who wears earbuds all day. I spend my entire workday (and a good chunk of my afternoon) listening to music, but not with earbuds—they’re just too uncomfortable.

The Creative Outlier Air V3s are an odd exception. They’re comfortable enough that I forget they’re in my ears, which is the opposite experience I’ve had with most bulb-shaped buds. It seems like Creative  made comfort a priority this time around, as the Outlier Air V3s are actually smaller and more ergonomic than previous Outlier Air releases.

But comfort isn’t the only thing that keeps these buds in my ears. As always, Creative managed to achieve a stellar battery life with the Outlier Air V3s. You get ten hours of playtime out of the buds, plus an extra 30 hours of battery from the charging case.

The Creative Outlier Air V3s next to their charging case.
Andrew Heinzman

To put things into perspective, the latest Apple AirPods only offer 6 hours of playtime, and their charging case only holds 24 hours worth of battery.

Clearly, the Creative Outlier Air V3s are a solid option for anyone who wears their earbuds all day. And thanks to an IPX5 water-resistance rating, they can endure most of life’s challenges, including a trip to the gym. (That said, if you come out of a workout dripping buckets of sweat, you should look for earbuds with a higher IP rating.)

I should also note that this is the first pair of Outlier earbuds with wireless Qi charging. It’s a neat feature at this price, and it sort of makes up for an annoying quirk that I’ll discuss later.

Creative Sound at a Bargain Price

The Creative Outlier Air V3s in their case. The pop-out drawer is extended to show the earbuds.
Andrew Heinzman

At just $55, it’s no surprise that the Creative Outlier V3s fall short of “premium” sound quality. But they still sound great, especially when compared to other earbuds in this price category. They’re well-balanced, with a decent amount of detail in the mid-range (which is rare for cheap earbuds) and a surprisingly wide stereo effect.

Creative claims that new bio-cellulose drivers are responsible for this impressive sound quality. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole, but yeah, bio-cellulose drivers would explain the Outlier Air V3’s detailed mid-range. (They also explain the earbuds’ reduced size.)

And unlike previous Outlier Air earbuds, the Outlier Air V3s actually offer a great call quality! Creative stuck four microphones in these earbuds, likely to address complaints about call quality in past models.

My only complaint is that the Outlier Air V3s can sound a bit icy or sibilant at high volumes. Of course, piercing treble is par for the course with cheap earbuds, so I’m not surprised. If it makes you feel any better, messing with Creative’s in-app EQ settings can minimize nasty treble.

Oh yeah, there’s an app! The Creative app provides a ton of tweakable options for the Outlier Air V3s, including custom settings for the touch controls, a detailed multi-band EQ, and manual adjustments for active noise reduction and the ambient mode.

And that brings me to another complaint. These earbuds don’t have active noise cancelation; they have active noise reduction. It’s basically a crappy version of ANC that doesn’t block out much background noise and spews a weird hissing sound. I’m not sure why Creative even included this feature.

The ambient sound mode, on the other hand, is praiseworthy. It brings outside noise into your headphones, allowing you to hear your surroundings. I consider this an essential feature when going on walks or performing any slightly-dangerous activity, and I’m glad to see that Creative pulled it off in such an affordable pair of earbuds.

The Creative Outlier Air V3s in their case. The pop-out drawer is extended to show the earbuds.
Andrew Heinzman

There are just two things left to mention, at least in regards to sound quality. First, Creative included Super X-Fi support with these earbuds. Super X-Fi uses a bunch of weird AI to emulate a multi-speaker surround sound system, but in my opinion, it’s just a gimmick. You have to scan your ears to use Super X-Fi, it only works on local music files, and while Super X-Fi sounds neat, I prefer regular stereo sound. (Maybe Super X-Fi is more impressive on other Creative products—I don’t know.)

Creative also made an odd choice with audio codecs. Previous Outlier Air earbuds supported aptX, but the Outlier Air V3s only support AAC and SBC. That’s fine for Apple users (AAC is the Apple codec), but SBC isn’t exactly on-par with aptX’s data transfer rates. I still think the earbuds sound good, but hey, I can’t help but wonder if they’d sound better with aptX.

This Charging Case Drives Me Nuts

The Creative Outlier Air V3s charging.
Andrew Heinzman

Every Outlier Air release features a bulky, cylindrical charging case with a weird pull-out drawer for the earbuds. I get that you need a big charging case to accommodate a big battery, but man, there must be a way to make this thing smaller.

The Outlier Air V3 charging case isn’t for people with tiny pockets. It’s also just annoying to use. Pushing out the little drawer isn’t like flipping open the top of a case—it’s not quick or intuitive, and I really don’t like fishing the earbuds out of the case.

Also, because Creative stuck the charging port on the end of the case, it’s hard to remove a charging cable without opening the little earbud drawer. (Although this won’t be a problem if you use a wireless charger.)

The only thing I really like about this pull-out drawer design is that it keeps the earbuds nice and safe. When you drop an AirPods case, the AirPods go flying. That doesn’t happen with the Creative Outlier Air V3s. But increased protection feels like a minor trade-off for such a wonky design.

If you’re wondering about build quality, the Outlier Air V3 charging case is great. It’s lightweight-yet-dense, there aren’t any sharp plastic corners, and it looks high-end. Of course, that’s consistent with most of the Creative products I’ve come across.

Improved Touch Controls, But No Ear Detection

The Creative Outlier Air V3 earbuds.
Andrew Heinzman

Most manufacturers struggle with earbud controls, and Creative is no exception. It’s a difficult thing to pull off; the controls need to be responsive and accessible, but they can’t be so sensitive that they mistake every brush of hair for a button input.

But Creative managed to do a good job this time around. The Outlier Air V3s feature better, more responsive touch controls than their predecessors. And because you have to tap them twice to pause or play music, accidental inputs are rare.

I also like the customization options that Creative offers in its app. If you’re not a fan of the default control layout, you can just change it.

But man, I really wish that these earbuds had ear detection. That way, they could automatically pause when I pull them out of my ears. It sounds like a small thing, but I usually pause music or podcasts so I can hear something in the real world. Automatic pausing just makes more sense.

The Gist: At $55, It’s a No-Brainer

The Creative Outlier Air V3s and their box.
Andrew Heinzman

Despite its quirks and flaws, the Creative Outlier Air V3 is a solid set of headphones. You get good sound quality, a killer battery life, and all-day comfort for just $55. That’s all the essential features at an awesome price.

That said, those who want ANC, ear detection, or a smaller charging case should look elsewhere. Just bear in mind that you may need to pay around $100 to get these features.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $45

Here’s What We Like

  • Great audio quality for the price
  • Crazy battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Improved call quality
  • They're $55

And What We Don't

  • Bulky and annoying case
  • No ear detection
  • The "active noise reduction" stinks
  • No aptX support

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »