If you’re looking for an excellent set of truly wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank, the Creative Outlier Air may be just what the doctor ordered. They sound great, are super comfortable, and only cost $80.
You’d be forgiven for not thinking of Creative when wondering which brand of earbuds you should buy—I’m not sure this company is on as many people’s radars as it should be. I’ve reviewed quite a few of its products over the years, and I can’t think of many times I didn’t come away impressed. The Outlier Air is no different.
The Outlier Air is the company’s first set of truly wireless earbuds, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value on the market today. I’ve had several sets of genuinely wireless earbuds stuffed into my earholes over the last few months, so I generally have specific expectations for ‘buds at various price points. The Outlier Air pretty much obliterated every expectation I had, however—they’re comfortable, have excellent audio quality, and killer battery life. What more could you want?
The Case is a Big’un, but Damn It’s Sleek
Before we get into pairing and using the Outlier Air, however, let’s first take a look at the case. Unlike most truly wireless earbuds, which have flip-top cases, Creative opted for a sleek slide-out mechanism. I initially thought this would be annoying, but it turns it’s pretty damn nice. I like it. It also charges over USB-C, which is a great addition— even though it’s 2019 and USB-C should be commonplace now, it’s not always a given on products like this. So shoutout to Creative for being forward-thinking.
That said, the case is on the bulkier side when it comes to truly wireless earbuds. It’s nowhere even close to as sleek as the case you’ll get with a set of AirPods, for instance. In fact, I have five sets of truly wireless earbuds within arm’s reach right now, and the Outlier Air has the largest case of all. Still, it’s not as thick as some of the other (I’m looking at you, Jaybird Run XT), so it still manages to not be terrible in a pocket. But if you’re looking for the sleekest case out there, this ain’t it, baby. Sorry.
No Frills, No Fuss
One thing I love about these buds is that they don’t have a bunch of frills. They just connect to your phone (which is a slightly weird process that we’ll talk about in a minute) and…that’s it. There are no apps to fumble with. In a time when every accessory seems to have its own app, it was nice to know that I didn’t have to mess with any additional installations just to listen to some music. (And before anyone says it: I know you don’t have to install apps for other earbuds, but what kind of reviewer would I be if I didn’t test this crap?)
But yeah, about the pairing process. Most truly wireless earbuds I’ve tried just pair like anything else—they’re automatically connected and pair to your phone as one unit. But the Outlier Air has a “main” bud—it can be either the left or right, as it’s just the first on you pair with your phone. You pair the main bud first, and then it asks for the other one to be paired, too. Once the second one is connected, it pairs up with the other side and disappears from the phone’s paired list. It works, but it’s just bizarre and slightly convoluted. Whatever—at least you only have to do it once.
Once everything is paired up, it’s smooth sailing. Pop the buds out fo the case, and they connect instantly. And, man, they’re crazy comfortable. They’re about the same overall size as the Jabra Elite 65t, but each bud is slightly lighter. They fit in my ears exceptionally well—probably better than any other earbuds I’ve ever used in my life—and show no signs of slippage no matter what I’m doing. Once they’re in, they’re in.
Because of the great fit, they also create an incredibly strong seal, which blocks out most outside noise. This is most excellent when that’s what I’m looking for, but there are also occasions when I want (or even need) to hear what’s going on around me, so the isolation goes both ways. And of course, everyone’s ears are different, so you may have a different experience than me. But these shape of these seems to be very well suited to my ears at the very least. That’s probably a good thing because they only ship with two sets of silicone tips. If one or the other doesn’t work for your head holes, then you’re on your own.
If I had to pick the biggest flaw in the Outlier Air’s design, it would be the buttons on each earbud. They are incredibly stiff and have very little travel, making them highly uncomfortable to press. Pushing the button requires so much pressure it feels like I’m jamming the tip further into my ear than I would ever be comfortable with. I am not a fan of that at all.
And that’s a shame because the controls offered on the Outlier Air are some of the best and most intuitive I’ve seen on a set of earbuds. A single press on either side will play/pause the music, a double press will skip forward or backward on the tracklist (right is forward, left is back), and a long-press will raise and lower the volume (right is up, left is down). If the music is paused, a double-press on the main bud will even bring up Google Assistant or Siri.
So yeah, the controls are great. I just wish I didn’t hate using them.
They Make My Earholes Feel Happy
And with that, let’s talk about sound quality. When it comes to sound quality of truly wireless earbuds, there are two general categories: AirPods, and everyone else. AirPods are the standard by which all other truly wireless earbuds are measured. I’m still not sure how Apple did it, but AirPods have such a nice balance of bass and definition, and I’ve yet to find anything else that really matches it.
But I’m surprised at how close the Outlier Air comes—especially at less than half the price of a set of AirPods. I’ve been using the same playlist (with a few minor changes here and there) to test earbuds and Bluetooth speakers for the last six or seven years, so I have a good feel for what songs should sound like (note: I also test all buds/speakers with additional equalization either off or on flat). And man, for $80, I’m convinced that you won’t find better quality sound than the Outlier Air. They sound fantastic.
They’re punchy in all the right ways, with plenty of crisp, defined bass—not that muddy, floppy garbage you’ll find on most cheap earbuds (if they have any bass at all). It’s super snappy. But that bass also isn’t overwhelming—it’s nicely blended with the rest of the music, as the Outlier Air has a terrific balance across the board.
The treble is sharp and defined without being tinny or shrill, and the mids do exactly what mids should do: tie everything together very nicely. It’s not much of a secret that I don’t care for the midrange overall—especially when it’s the defining feature of the sound quality—so the Outlier Air hits the balance out of the park.
…And They Outlast Me
On top of everything else that’s great about the Outlier Air, Creative somehow managed to pack crazy battery life into these. According to them, you should be able to get 10 hours of playback time from the buds themselves, as well as two full recharges from the case. That means you should be able to get a full 30 hours of playback time before they’re drained.
And while I don’t wear headphones for ten solid hours at a time, I can tell you this: I charged the Outlier Air before I started testing them and they haven’t needed to hit the charger even once during my two week test period with two to four hours of use five days a week. That’s a lot of playback, and while I can’t come up with a definitive number that I’m comfortable with, I will say that I’m very pleased with the battery life here. Even if you listen eight hours a day for a full workweek, you should only need to drop the case on the charger once a week. That’s pretty damn impressive.
For the price, the Outlier Air is easily the best set of truly wireless earbuds I’ve had the pleasure of testing. They offer 95 percent of the experience you’ll get from much pricier earbuds—all without breaking the bank. If you’re looking to pick up a set of truly wireless ‘buds and don’t want to spend more than a Benjamin, put these bad boys on your wishlist.
Even better, just put them in your cart. You won’t regret it.
Here’s What We Like
- Excellent sound quality
- Very comfortable
- Great battery life and USB-C Charging
- Insane value
And What We Don't
- The buttons are very stiff with very little travel