If at first you don’t succeed…
After reinvigorating its brand with the Super X-Fi holographic audio technology, Singapore’s Creative has been releasing a series of audio devices, from in-ear, over-ear to wireless ones, in the hopes of capitalising on the technology. The original Outlier was its take on the wireless in-ears that have been the go-to device for many, and that was followed by the Outlier Gold, which included it’s Super X-Fi holographic audio technology.
Now, it has launched the Outlier Air V2, in what is arguably one of the best value wireless earbuds in the market. On the surface, the Air V2 looks virtually identical to its earlier counterparts, in that it comes in a rectangular case with round edges, and each earbud is more like a circular stub that fits in your ear. In fact, aside from the switch of colour from gold to metallic blue, there is very little visible difference in determining which is which.
On closer inspection, there are small differences in dimensions such that the casings cannot be interchanged, so the Air V2 won’t work on the Gold casing and vice versa. The case of the Air V2 is slightly bigger and yes, despite coming out in 2020, the design of the Air V2 is also relatively huge, making it bigger than its competitors and it really sticks out when you’re on conference calls, and the little knobs can be seen popping out of your ears.
A big external change would be moving from physical touch buttons of the original, to a capacitive one. So instead of pressing the earbud against your ear to switch tracks, which can be less comfortable in the long run, users simply need to tap on the circular surface to skip tracks or change volume. Since they are touch sensitive, tapping once doesn’t do anything and it takes two taps to pause and play music, or to take calls. Sensitivity on the touch panel can be a hit and miss though, with some taps not registering at times but once you get the hang of it, you figure out how much pressure to apply.
One big performance change with the Air V2 isn’t with the features, but more on connectivity. Having used the Gold as the primary device for music and conference calls on the MacBook Pro for the last few months, one performance hiccup was with its Bluetooth connectivity. Placing each ear monitor back into the casing didn’t always sever the Bluetooth connection the device had with the laptop, and the pairing remained. At times, this caused considerable battery drain on the Gold, and I had to manually disable Bluetooth on the MBP, to cut the connection.
On several occasions, audio only appeared one on side, evenly distributed on either left or right ear at times, which means it wasn’t necessarily a hardware issue with either of the units. With the Air V2, the use in the past 2 months didn’t bring about the same issue. The Air V2 was quick to connect to the MBP whenever the ear pieces were removed from their casing, and quickly unpaired when they were placed back in.
Audio has also improved, with delivery of a more precise and full bodied soundscape. There is now a sharper focus on vocals over instruments, with voices carrying a rich flavour. This was highly evident in the constant playback of Taylor Swift’s latest album, evermore, where her distinct voice came across in the mellow Champagne Problem, to the more upbeat percussive beats of Long Story Short complementing her more pop-infused singing.
Music is not left behind, as drums have a meaty bass to them, but are not overpowering in any way. The focus on voices also delivers a greater call during conference calls, and good or bad, the microphone pick-up is also sharp, as voices from the next room could also be heard by others on the call.
Battery performance, coupled with the better connectivity, also meant the Air V2 didn’t need as much charging. Each charge pumps in 12 hours of battery life, and the case itself holds another 24 hours, providing a whopping 36 of talk time.
One thing that Creative hasn’t been able to fix is that the Super X-Fi holographic audio technology continues to be dependent on using the accompanying app, and only applies when used on locally stored tracks – it doesn’t work with streaming content on Spotify and Netflix, which is a bummer.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
At a great price of S$119, the Air V2 is half the price of other competitor products, but offers the best performance at an incredible price point, now with improved performance.
Aesthetics - 8/10
Build Quality - 8/10
Performance - 8/10
Value - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10