Creative Outlier Air V3
Creative turns the tables on sub-$100 earbuds with the Outlier Air V3. A surprisingly feature-rich product with great sound. Qi wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.2, and an IPx5 rating top the features you won’t find in most sub-$100 earbuds. The case could be more compact, but that’s a minor issue for a product that only works when it’s not in the case.
Creative Outlier Air V3 Review
What does it mean to “sound like a million bucks”? What it means is I’m exaggerating, but doing so in honor of Creative’s very impressive Outlier Air V3s. Creative’s engineers delivered outstanding sound but kept the earbuds affordable. Their apps, while they could be better, offer enhanced value not found in similarly priced earbuds. A million bucks sounds like an aspiration you are one step closer to realizing because you put $100 or more in your retirement account when you bought the Outlier Air V3s over another, more expensive brand.
What we like
The main reason people buy earbuds is, well, to listen to music. And these earbuds offer outstanding sound through their 6mm Bio-cellulose drivers. They deliver better sound than most earbuds twice their price. I can’t emphasize too early or too often that these earbuds only cost $69.99, and they are often discounted.
Creative wanted to upgrade their sound, but it’s hard to do via streaming over Bluetooth. So they implemented their own sound enhances via their Super XFI App. This app only works with downloaded music, but it punches up the sounds with what Creative calls Super X-FI Headphone Holography. I’m not sure those words actually mean anything, as Holographic sound usually refers to a fringe idea of healing with sound. I think terms like Spatial were already taken, so Creative picked up Holographic to denote a more immersive listening experience, one that expands the stage and wraps around the listener.
Setting up Super X-Fi requires taking pictures of your head so the app can build a personalized sound model.
I do a lot of writing. I often choose music without lyrics. I have spent many hours in ambient solitude, with the soothing sounds of Alex Lustig, Merkari, Hoavi, and Earthen Sea. Downloaded and played through the app. A solid rumbling base underlies the clear trebles and rich mids.
Creative also offers the Creative app for managing the earbud’s buttons, updating firmware, and selecting equalizer settings. Not only does the equalizer offer music EQ settings, but also setting optimized for various games.
Unlike many headphones, Creative keeps controls simple, with double, triple, and long taps. The Creative app allows owners to reassign any button actions. Depending on the OS a triple tap on the left bud will bring up Siri or Google Assistant.
So for $70, you get great sound, but you have to put up with noise, older radios, poor phone call quality. Not at all. The Creative Outlier Air V3 buds come with all of the latest features, like quad mics for good phone quality, active noise reduction with ambient mode, and Bluetooth 5.2.
All of that and they are also sweatproof, rated at IPX5.
Playback time runs 10 hours, with the case holding enough juice for 3 additional charges. And again, $70 earbuds. They support Qi wireless charging.
All of that, and I find the Air V3s comfortable for extended listening sessions, and pretty cool to look at.
What could be improved
I’m not a big fan of the Outlier Air V3’s case. It is a larger case compared to most cases for earbuds of this size. But it’s not just the size, it’s also the shape. This is not a pocket-friendly case. Don’t get me wrong, it will fit in most pockets, but its flat ends won’t likely make that a pleasant experience compared, for instance, to the rounded cases from JBL or Jabra.
The one feature missing from earlier Outlier Air buds is aptX™ support. Most likely this results from a move away from Qualcomm’s technology.
I would also like to see Creative tap deeper into the Apple Music ecosystem to support shuffle, visibility of playlists not downloaded, with the option of downloading them on demand.
Out-of-ear sensing would be a nice feature, mostly missed when shopping. As an alternative double-tap right to stop and double-tap left to turn on ambient sound.
Creative Outlier Air V3: The Bottom Line
A lot of companies make a lot of earbuds. Earbuds for every budget range. Most sub-$100 earbuds either drop features, use older components, give up great audio, or perform poorly. Creative chose to implement premium features, but keep their earbuds affordable.
Creative provided the Outlier Air V3 earbuds for review. Images courtesy of Creative.
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