With ANC, strong sound and epic battery life, the Outlier Pro are Creative’s most complete earbuds yet, just not its best value for money
- Outstanding battery life
- Warm, detailed audio
- Effective active noise cancellation
- No wear detection
- Bulky charging case
- SXFI accessibility issues
That’s a tricky double act to follow, particularly given the Outlier Pro have a list price of £85, which is more than either of the aforementioned models cost at launch. But with the addition of hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC), consistently strong audio and better battery life than ever, the Outlier Pro don’t disappoint.
They may not offer quite the same value as the Air V3, but they’re some of the best-sounding and longest-lasting earbuds in their price bracket and Creative’s most complete buds yet.
Creative Outlier Pro review: What do you get for the money?
The Outlier Pro have an RRP of £85 but, at the time of writing, can be picked up for under £65 using the code OUTLIERPRO when bought directly from Creative.
Just like the Air V2 and V3, the Outlier Pro are IPX5-rated earbuds that are “Super X-Fi Ready”, meaning that they’re compatible with Creative’s proprietary SXFI holographic audio technology. Accessed via the SXFI app, this tech maps your head in a bid to emulate a multispeaker sound system in your earbuds, producing a greater sense of space and more precise instrument separation.
The buds operate over Bluetooth 5.2, with support for the SBC and AAC audio codecs. This is in keeping with the selection offered by the Air V3 after support for the aptX codec was dropped following the Air V2.
Design-wise, the Outlier Pro don’t differ too dramatically from their predecessors: they’re a fair bit bigger but feature similar drum-shaped housings and nozzles that end in silicone eartips to seal off your ear canals. Each bud weighs 7g which, compared to the 6g of the Air V2 and 5.2g of the V3, is rather hefty. But the extra weight doesn’t feel too noticeable while you’re wearing them, and the inner surface of the buds is cleverly contoured to match your ears. Pick the best fit from the three pairs of silicone eartips provided and you’ll be able to achieve a comfortable and stable fit, as well as a decent level of passive noise cancellation.
Sealed-off ear canals aren’t your only defence against external sound, as the Outlier Pro are Creative’s first earbuds to feature ANC. There’s also a Transparency mode and both it and ANC mode can be fine-tuned within the Creative app, with five levels of each to choose from.
On the highest setting, the ANC fared well in all my usual tests, successfully blocking out the sound of a boiling kettle and reducing the roar of a busy road to a low rumble. The lower levels of Transparency mode were useful for non-specific ambient sounds, such as staying aware of your surroundings when near a road, but only the highest setting was any good for hearing someone speaking.
You can cycle through the three listening modes – Normal, ANC and Transparency – via the Creative app, but it’s a lot easier to use the Outlier Pro’s touch controls. By default, you switch modes using a swift double-tap on the left earbud, but the controls are fully customisable, so you can set this key command to whatever feels most intuitive.
The charging case included with the Outlier Pro measures a couple of millimetres more than the already bulky Air V3 case but delivers the best battery life of any Outlier earbuds to date. In-ear playback clocks in at around 15 hours, with a further three charges available in the case, for an impressive total of 60 hours with ANC off. These figures drop to 10 hours in-ear and 40 total with ANC enabled, which is still a highly impressive showing. The case also supports wireless and fast charging, with the latter producing roughly two hours of playback from 10 minutes on charge.
Creative Outlier Pro review: How do they sound?
The Outlier Air V3 saw the V2’s 5.6mm graphene-coated drivers replaced by 6mm bio-cellulose drivers. For the Pro version, Creative has returned to using graphene-coated drivers, though on this occasion they’re significantly larger at 10mm.
The default sound profile has a clear focus on delivering a weighty bass response, with the audio produced veering decidedly towards the warmer end of the spectrum. This prominent low end avoids overwhelming the mids, however, and leaves enough room for well-articulated vocal frequencies to shine through. Trebles sound a little subdued on particularly thumping bass tracks and the soundstage could be wider, but effective stereo separation helps ensure the Outlier Pro never feel too claustrophobic a listen.
Those that prefer their audio a little less bassy can tweak the Outlier Pro’s sound via a ten-band graphic equaliser or take advantage of a wide selection of EQ presets available in the Creative app. These cover genres ranging from R&B to country, as well as movie categories like Action and Adventure and even game-specific options such as Doom Eternal and Red Dead Redemption 2. It took some work, but I found that taking the rock preset and boosting the trebles and upper mids a couple of notches effectively smoothed out the issues I had with the standard profile.
If you’re willing to put in a bit of extra work, you can make use of Creative’s impressive SXFI holographic audio technology while listening to locally stored audio files. Setting this up is a bit of a pain – you’ll likely want someone to take pictures of your face and ears to help build the holographic audio profile – but the end result is worth the effort. SXFI content is characterised by a wider soundstage and improved instrument separation, giving an incredible sense of depth to tracks and delivering a more immersive listening experience.
Creative Outlier Pro review: What could they do better?
That being said, it’s disappointing that SXFI still only works with local content. If you have a large library of music stored on your phone this isn’t an issue, but in the age of streaming, the continued lack of integration with popular platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music means that SXFI remains a novelty, rather than a game changer.
While the lack of high-resolution Bluetooth codec support is understandable at this price point, the continued absence of wear detection is a little more glaring. Models such as the Oppo Enco Free 2 and the 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini offer wear detection for just a few pounds more than the Outlier Pro, while the 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro and Edifier’s TWS NB2 Pro manage to squeeze it in despite retailing for less.
Creative Outlier Pro review: Should you buy them?
The Outlier Pro are Creative’s most fully featured earbuds and the pinnacle of the company’s true wireless efforts to date. Audio requires a little tweaking but is great across most musical genres, battery life is up there with the longest-lasting buds around and the hybrid active noise cancellation is pretty effective for what are eminently affordable in-ear headphones.
However, if ANC isn’t a high priority, you’ll find the Outlier Air V3 offer better bang for your buck. Though lacking ANC, they still offer noise reduction, as well as excellent audio and the same battery life as the Outlier Pro with ANC enabled. Best of all, they’ve recently been reduced to just £45.
So while the Creative Outlier Pro are excellent earbuds in their own right and among the best true wireless earbuds available under £100, they’re not quite the Best Buy their predecessors were.