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Creative Outlier Air V3 review: Third time’s a charm

Ben Johnston
1 Dec 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
65
inc VAT

Improvements in key areas make the Creative Outlier Air V3 the brand’s best value earbuds yet

Pros 
Customisable touch controls
Great battery life
Balanced, impactful audio
Cons 
Bulky charging case
No in-ear detection
SXFI still isn’t very accessible
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The Outlier Air V3 offer great value for money at their RRP of £65 and they're an absolute steal at this discounted price. With active noise reduction, balanced sound, customisable touch controls and bumper battery life, you simply won't find better earbuds for the money.
Creative
Was £65
Now £45

The Creative Outlier Air V3 are the latest true wireless earbuds from a brand that has consistently impressed us in recent years. Since the release of the original Outlier Air, which we described as a “superb bargain”, Creative’s earbuds have gone from strength to strength. The Outlier Gold improved on their predecessor by vastly increasing battery life and we then saw the Outlier Air V2 add a comprehensive set of touch controls into the mix.

With that kind of pedigree, the Outlier Air V3 have a lot to live up to. For the most part, however, these earbuds deliver: while they don’t represent a huge leap forward in terms of features or specifications, Creative has made enough impactful improvements to justify the upgrade.

Central to their appeal is an affordable price tag of just £65, which actually makes them cheaper than any of their predecessors were at launch, despite offering several new and fine-tuned features. They lack in-ear detection and a couple of things have been cut from the previous model, but the overall package is still incredible value for money.

Creative Outlier Air V3 review: What do you get for the money?

Like the V2 before them, the Outlier Air V3 are IPX5-rated true wireless earbuds that are certified “Super X-Fi Ready”, meaning that they are compatible with Creative’s SFXI holographic audio technology.

The buds operate over Bluetooth 5.2 and support the AAC and SBC audio codecs. Somewhat surprisingly, the Air V3 don’t support the aptX audio codec. Their predecessors did, so I can only presume it was ditched as a cost-cutting measure.

For your £65, you also get the charging case, which offers an additional three full charges for the buds, a short USB-C charging cable and three sets of silicone ear tips, to help you get the most comfortable fit possible.

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Creative Outlier Air V3 review: What’s new for V3?

As well as the upgrade to Bluetooth 5.2 and the lack of aptX support, the Creative Outlier Air V3 have seen several changes from the V2, and most of them are positive.

The drum-shaped housings are a very similar design to the previous iteration, but these are a metallic midnight green colour rather than a metallic blue. Each bud now houses a 6mm bio-cellulose driver as opposed to a 5.6mm graphene-coated driver diaphragm and there’s an extra microphone in each bud, too. Despite this, the V3 come in lighter than the V2 at 5.2g per earbud compared with 6g.

On the audio front, the V3 are the first Outlier model to feature ambient and “active noise reduction” modes. The former filters external sound into the buds, allowing you to keep one ear on the world around you, while the latter uses feedforward microphones to reduce the impact of environmental noise on your listening experience.

These settings can be easily cycled through with a double-tap on the left earbud. The touch controls, while similar in ease and efficacy to the V2’s, can now be customised via the Creative mobile app. As with the V2, the controls still omit single tap inputs, which helps avoid accidental commands when adjusting the buds. This leaves you to program double taps, triple taps and long holds on both earbuds to create a setup that best suits your needs.

The final change is either a positive or a negative one, depending on how you look at it. While the Air V3 have the longest total battery life of any entry in the Outlier range, their in-ear battery life falls some way short of both the Outlier Gold and Air V2.

The buds themselves offer up to 10 hours of audio playback, with the case providing three full charges for total battery life of up to 40 hours. That’s an hour more than the Outlier Gold and six hours more than the Air V2 but the Gold last four hours longer in your ears, while the V2 also outlast their successors by a couple of hours.

These figures are based on playback at 50% volume, and with Ambient Mode and Active Noise Reduction turned off, in the case of the Air V3. I haven’t found the slightly lower in-ear battery life to be an issue, but it’s worth taking into consideration if you like to use your buds for extended periods of time without charging breaks.

Creative Outlier Air V3 review: How do they sound?

The Outlier Air V3 mark the first time Creative has changed the speaker drivers of its earbuds since the original Outlier Air were released. The 5.6mm graphene-coated driver diaphragms have been replaced by 6mm bio-cellulose drivers and the V3 deliver sound quality on par with, if not a touch better than, their predecessors. Those expecting a significant boost to audio performance will be a little disappointed, however.

This would be a problem if Creative followed the standard model of charging more for the newer version, but as the V3 are actually cheaper at launch than the V2 were, the fact that they sound this good is something to be applauded.

Using the default settings, the sound profile delivers well-articulated mids and clear, crisp trebles. Low-end frequencies get the most airtime though, with dynamic and impactful bass standing out across a range of genres. While most definitely prominent, I never found this to be distracting or unbalanced.

If you do find the bass overwhelming, the Creative app includes a handy equaliser to dial it back a bit. You can adjust the treble and bass manually, saving your preferred settings for quick access, or choose from one of more than 40 EQ presets. In addition to options for genres like rock, pop and jazz, there are presets designed for specific video games, allowing you to fully appreciate the funky synth in Cyberpunk 2077 or the skull-shattering metal in Doom Eternal.

You can also use the app to toggle the active noise reduction and ambient modes on and off. At the highest setting, the noise reduction is decent – the belaboured whirs of an overworked laptop fan disappear completely, but the shrill cries of a doorbell still come through. If you want to be aware of your surroundings, the ambient mode is pretty much a necessity due to the surprisingly good passive noise cancellation afforded by the snug fit of the ear tips.

As with the V2, the Outlier Air V3 support Creative’s holographic audio technology, Super X-Fi (SXFI). This clever feature maps your head and ears and uses those measurements to construct a bespoke sound profile that seeks to communicate audio as though it’s coming from multiple speakers around you.

With the app downloaded, set-up is fairly simple, though I recommend enlisting someone to help you take pictures of your face and ears to complete the holographic audio profile (I managed it with just a mirror and determination, but it was a struggle). The end result is most definitely worth the effort, producing an incredibly spacious soundstage that articulates positional sound in a highly immersive manner. It’s a weird sensation at first, but a deeply impressive one.

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Creative Outlier Air V3 review: What could be improved?

We noted in our review of the Outlier Air V2 that the SXFI technology only works with locally stored audio files played through the SXFI app, and unfortunately, that remains the case here. This isn’t an issue for anyone who keeps their library downloaded, but for those who primarily use streaming services like Spotify, SXFI audio is pretty much redundant.

Another issue the V3 fail to address is the size of the charging case. The slide tray design is unique and the case’s size facilitates impressive battery life, but at nearly 8cm long and over 4cm wide, it’s significantly bigger than most of its competitors.

Finally, it’s a shame the Outlier Air V3 aren’t one of an increasing number of affordable earbuds to include in-ear detection. Having your earbuds automatically pause when one or both are taken out of your ears and resume again when put back in is very convenient, though its absence isn’t a dealbreaker.

Creative Outlier Air V3 review: Should you buy them?

Absolutely. The Outlier Air V3 are the best earbuds Creative has released and are right up there with the best earbuds available for under £100.

While still lacking in-ear detection and saddled with a beefy charging case, the V3 deliver better audio quality and battery life than most at this price point – not to mention several more expensive competitors.

They also offer useful noise reduction and ambient modes, a rock-solid wireless connection over Bluetooth 5.2 and in-app customisation options for their audio and touch controls. If you already own the Outlier Air V2, you can probably hold off on upgrading, but if you’re looking for affordable, feature-rich earbuds that also deliver in the sound department, the V3 are a top-notch choice.

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