Whether or not your phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, you’ve likely at least considered a pair of true wireless earbuds. After all, they’re as convenient as on-the-go audio gets. The market has quickly become saturated with passable products, but can the more affordable Creative Outlier Air standout from the rest?

Editor’s note: while our review unit performed well regarding connection strength, users have reported Bluetooth pairing issues.

Who is the Creative Outlier Air for?

The Creative Outlier Air is for general consumers who don’t want to be tethered by wire when out and about. It has the best standalone battery life of any true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, and can carry you through nearly an entire workday. Its IPX5 build can endure most workouts and unpredicted downpours alike. If you want some of the best true wireless earbuds for a reasonable price, the Creative Outlier Air is for you.

What’s it like to use the Creative Outlier Air?

Creative Outlier Air: The earbuds case being removed from a pocket.

The pocketable charging case is sleek but slippery.

The Creative Outlier Air earbuds and charging case are all lightweight and compact, making it easy to transport them in a purse or pocket. Pushing the inner portion of the charging case out reveals the earbuds. I was doubtful about the fit since the housings are slippery, but my doubts were quickly quelled after wearing them for an hour. Each earbud houses what Creative describes as a 5.6mm graphene driver. However, this isn’t graphene through-and-through; rather it’s either a sort of coating laid atop the driver itself.

If you’re navigating a high-trafficked area or exercising outdoors, simply engage mono listing by placing one earbud back in the case. This way, you can stay safe while still enjoying your music while working out or just walking about. If you do choose to exercise with the IPX5 water-resistant Creative Outlier Air, be sure to let the earbuds dry off completely before placing them back in the charging case.

The secure fit and IPX5 rating make these a great all-purpose option that can double as workout earbuds.

One of the Creative Outlier Air’s few drawbacks is the amount of force required to press either button on the earbuds. While it’s great that you’re afforded call, track skipping, and volume controls all from the earbuds, it’s odd how much effort it took to answer a call or access Google Assistant. This may very well loosen over time, though.

How long does the battery last?

Creative Outlier Air: Top-down image of the USB-C input on the charging case with the earbuds out of focus in the background.

The USB-C charging case provides an additional two charges.

Upon testing, we were able to squeeze a whopping 7.78 hours of playback from the 60mAh batteries found in the Creative Outlier Air earbuds. Although this is less than Creative’s boasted 10-hour standalone battery life, it still outperforms any other true wireless earbuds we’ve tested. The 380mAh charging case provides an additional two charge cycles, carrying you through nearly a full day of listening. Charging takes up to two hours, and the same applies to the USB-C charging case.

How do you connect the Outlier Air to your phone?

Creative Outlier Air: The earbuds outside of the case resting on a pink and blue comic book with the charging case in the background.

Remove both earbuds to pair to your phone; the LED ring on one will flash red and blue. That is the default primary earbud.

Initial pairing for each set of true wireless earbuds is a little different. For these, just remove both earbuds simultaneously and one of the circular indicators will alternate between red and blue, indicating pairing mode. Your phone’s menu will register two options: Creative Outlier L and Creative Outlier R, choose the one with the blinking LED. This is now the main unit, while the other is secondary.

Both aptX and AAC high-quality codecs are supported, which reduces latency on iOS and Android devices.

The Bluetooth 5 earbuds have a 10-meter wireless range and stayed connected through two layers of walls during testing. What’s more, the earbuds support both aptX and AAC high-quality codecs. Not only does this reduce latency on both iOS and Android devices but it affords improved audio quality over the standard SBC codec.

Reassigning a primary unit

To reassign which is the main unit, place the desired secondary unit into the case. Doing so automatically designates the active earpiece as the main unit and requires up to 10 seconds to take effect.

What does it sound like?

These sound like a fun pair of earbuds that puts bass before clarity. As depicted by the frequency response chart above, bass frequencies (pink) are going to be 10dB louder than midrange frequencies (green). This means that 100Hz sounds will be twice as loud as 1,800Hz sounds. There is a bit of auditory masking between the two ranges; however, the emphasized treble response (cyan) aids in reproducing a seemingly clearer sound.

While the bass response may be overpowering at times, the reproduction of three-dimensional space is quite impressive. Instrumental separation is easy to hear which may not be surprising seeing as it’s the same company that brought us the Super X-Fi amplifier.

Creative Outlier Air: Top-down image of the earbuds with the nozzles facing upward.

Bass frequencies are the star and often overpower vocals.

Media playback becomes significantly less clear when in a noisy environment. I took these out to my local coffee shop and could hear nearly everything around me. Increasing the volume counteracted this a bit, but doing so isn’t always the safest choice. Seeing as these are relatively affordable true wireless earbuds, it’s worth picking up a pair of third-party ear tips to improve isolation.

Related: How to read charts

Lows, mids, and highs

The song Man On Fire by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros is a great example of how well the Creative Outlier Air recreates a realistic sense of sound. At 0:29, the guitarist walks down the fretboard playing individually plucked notes as lead singer Alex Ebert vocalizes a melodic “oh.” The light drum and tambourine hits are distinguishable from one another and you experience a sense of spatial awareness that isn’t replicated as well by true wireless competitors.

There are some drawbacks to the Creative Outlier Air’s sound signature: at 3:16 a triangle hit comes through clearly, but vocal “ohs” are underemphasized and muffled by the overpowering kick drum strikes. Remember when I mentioned that certain midrange frequencies will sound half as loud as bass notes? Case in point: Jade Castrinos’ echoing vocals at 3:26. The harmonic resonances of her voice are completely masked by the underscoring drums and guitar.

Is the Creative Outlier Air good for phone calls?

Creative Outlier Air true wireless earbuds frequency response chart for the microphone, limited to the human voice range

The Creative Outlier Air microphone is deficient when relaying very low voices but effectively lessens external noise.

Absolutely. Unlike many true wireless earbuds, the Creative Outlier Air relays call audio through both the left and right channels. Additionally, each earbud is outfitted with an integrated microphone, which works wonderfully to relay the human voice.

Not how the chart above depicts notes below 160Hz as quieter than higher ones. This means if you have a low register, most males, you won’t sound quite as clear as someone with a higher pitched voice. For reference, 160Hz is the lowest end of my voice’s fundamental frequency range.

Creative Outlier Air microphone demo:

The example above was recorded while an industrial fan and dehumidifier were running in my apartment just ten meters from me. Even though the machines are slightly audible in the recording, they’re significantly quieted by the microphones. Safe to say the Creative Outlier Air’s ability to attenuate such loud, low-frequency noises is impressive.

Should you buy it?

Creative Outlier Air: earbud out of case and in with it open.

You can choose which earbud is the primary and which is the secondary, or forgo stereo listening altogether by enabling mono mode.

Yes. The Creative Outlier Air is a bargain for true wireless earbuds. Sound quality is excellent and both aptX and AAC high-quality codecs are supported. Additionally, battery life is bar none. If you’re looking for a pair of true wireless earbuds that can do it all and do it well for less, then the Creative Outlier Air is a brilliant choice.

Read up on our list of the best true wireless earbuds

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Creative Outlier Air