The Outlier Pro is Creative’s latest entry into the true wireless in-ears market, keeping the good and fixing the bad of its earlier models, and they have finally nailed it.
Creative’s latest in-ear devices does everything it needs to do and well, with clear audio playback, great active noise cancellation, a comfortable fit, responsive touch controls, and excellent audio pick-ups for calls. On top of that, it is IPX5-certified to resist sweat and light rain, allows for customisation through the Creative App, and lasts more than 10 hours per charge.
It’s not perfect, but few things are, as it has a bulky profile, both the case and the earbuds, which are visible when worn in your ears. Fire up the volume and there will be distortion at the highest volume. It also only supports SBC and AAC codecs.
But even with these hiccups, the S$119 devices are easy to recommend for anyone looking for a good, functional true wireless in-ears that works from the get go, whether for commuting, teleconferencing or to wear on your runs and workout.
The most important part of any earphones is the audio quality, and the Creative Outlier Pro doesn’t disappoint with its two 10mm graphene-coated drivers, though only low-complexity subband codec (SBC) and the better advanced audio coding (AAC) are supported.
When tested on selected soundtracks, the sounds are rich, with fuller bass, warm mids and adequate treble. Andrew’s Song (I The Mighty), Star Sky (Two Steps From Hell), Jump (Two Steps From Hell), Dragonborn (Jeremy Soule), Sugaan Essena (The HU), Hootsforce (Gloryhammer), Sound of Silence (Disturbed), and Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel) all come across distinctly, hitting all the highs and lows, with clear vocals and strong crescendos.
At the highest volumes however (which we only tried for science), everything gets too loud, details get lost, and you can certainly hear the distortion in the playback. But unless you want to deafen yourself, it’s not a volume to even consider. We stayed between 30% and 50% of max volume on the Poco X3 Pro, which is loud enough for most regular use, especially when coupled with the Outlier Pro’s hybrid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC).
Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation
As the units feature both feedforward and feedback mics in each earbud, the Outlier Pro is able to suppress most background noise in ANC mode. It doesn’t create a total sound vacuum (which is great since we hate the disorienting effect of total silence), so you can still hear some background noise, such as a motorcycle roaring down the street next to you, the light hum of your fan, or when someone calls out to you.
In a noisy hawker centre, it suppresses much of the background noise that if you close your eyes (and pretend not to smell the tasty food around you), you can barely tell where you are. Switch the ANC off and the sounds immediately roar back into existence.
You can toggle the earphones between three modes: ANC, Off, and Ambient. In Ambient mode, the background sounds actually get amplified. You’ll often hear the wind howling, when it is actually only just a slightly strong breeze. In this mode, expect the sound of the music being played to be drowned out often. You’ll likely use this mode only for short periods, such as when you need to converse with someone or when you need to be aware of the traffic while crossing the road.
Customisation in the Creative App
The degree of the noise cancellation in ANC mode and background amplification in Ambient mode can both be adjusted in the Creative App. The app also allows you to customise the equaliser settings to your liking, or pick from a long list of presets. Here, you can also set what double tapping, triple tapping and long tapping do for each of the earbuds.
The app also lets you toggle a low latency mode, which reduces transmission time-lag to allow for better synchronisation between video and audio. We didn’t find any noticeable latency during our review period of two weeks, but it’s good to have that option if you need it for your gaming or movie-watching needs.
The Creative Outlier Pro also works with the SXFI App, which delivers a spatial multi-speaker audio experience that makes it feel like the audio comes from outside your earpiece. When it works, it is quite amazing. Its main drawback is that you cannot apply the Super X-Fi holographic effects on songs from streaming sites like YouTube and Spotify. The music files need to be on your device and must be launched from the SXFI App, which makes it somewhat difficult to use in 2022, where streaming is ubiquitous.
Fit and Comfort
The Outlier Pro comes with three sets of ear tips in the box. The regular ear tips fit well on us, and are soft enough for prolonged use. Put the earpieces into your ears, twist them slightly towards the back, and there they’ll remain until you pull them out yourself.
It has such a secure fit that when we took it out for a couple of runs and some jump rope workout, we never felt the need to adjust them midway. It just felt natural where it sits. Some people may find the Outlier Pro looking a little obtrusive jutting out of your ears but we don’t mind the aesthetics at all.
We also tried wearing the earpieces for 10 hours straight, and we can safely say that these earpieces felt light (at only 7g) and comfortable enough that they are certainly fine if you want to wear them for hours on end. For our trial, we only took them off after 10 hours because the battery ran low (which is when you will hear ‘your battery is low’ every few minutes).
Creative claims the 85 mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery in each earbud can last 10 hours in ANC mode, with the 900mAh charging case providing three more full charges, for a total of 40 hours.
In practice, we’ve managed to get it running over 12 hours in ANC mode on one charge so far, which makes Outlier Pro one of the longest lasting true wireless earpieces in the market, at least when brand new out of the box. It’ll certainly outlast your long-haul flights. The minus part of this equation is that the charging case is somewhat bulky and will be hard to fit into your jeans (but that won’t be a problem if you wear cargo pants).
The most common use case is to pop your earbuds into the charging case any time you aren’t wearing them, but if you forgot, 10 minutes in the case gets the battery up to about 20%, which is around 2 hours of listening time. Creative doesn’t call it quick charging but that is pretty fast in practice.
The charging case can be charged with the provided USB-C cable or on a Qi-certified charging pad. It takes up to three hours to completely charge the case.
Touch Controls and IPX5 waterproofing
The Outlier Pro uses capacitive touch controls on both earpieces for you to control your audio playback without hassle, and they become second nature after a few tries. We find the default settings are perfectly fine, but you can customise it to your liking from the Creative App as mentioned. The sensors are responsive to light taps and react within a second, though they can sometimes be a little too responsive.
Get sweat on them, either from sweaty hands or by accidentally sliding your damp clothes over during exercising, and we’ve had it randomly adjust the volume or switch off (both of which are controlled by tapping and holding onto the earpiece). We find the only way to circumvent this is to not get sweat on the earpieces, so that’s something you have to pay attention to. This may also mean that the Outlier Pro may not work that well in the rain (we didn’t test that), even if it is IPX5-certified.
Speaking of dust and weather protection, the earbuds have held up so far against sweat and humidity from regular exercising sessions, with none the worse for wear. We haven’t subjected the earbuds to the shower test, so we can’t attest to that part of the claim. But for regular use, the Outlier Pro certainly holds up well.
Some complaints of Creative’s earlier true wireless models were that the Bluetooth connection sometimes breaks for no particular reason. It seems Creative has managed to fix this problem. The Outlier Pro uses Bluetooth 5.2 and so far, we haven’t had any issues with audio breaking during regular use, even when separated by three walls.
The only exception is when we purposely tried to test its operating range. Going beyond 10 metres will drop the audio instantly, but the connection gets picked up once you step back within the range.
Another reported issue with Creative’s earlier models was that they do not automatically disable the Bluetooth connection when paired to laptops, meaning the battery will keep draining out even while in the charging case. We did not have the same issue when using the Outlier Pro with the Poco X3 Pro mobile phone, but if you are pairing the earbuds with a laptop, you should check whether the Bluetooth is disconnected when not in use, to avoid unnecessarily draining the battery.
Swap between two earbuds and one seamlessly
You can use the Outlier Pro with either both earbuds or just one of them. To swap between either is easy and seamless. Unlike some other brands, there is no master earbud and each earbud can function just as well independently.
If both are in the charging case, the earbud you pop into your ear will automatically connect to the Bluetooth connection. If both earbuds are in your ear, just remove the earbud you don’t want to use and pop it into the charging case, which will disconnect its Bluetooth connection. When you do wish to use it again, just grab it from the case, pop it into your ear and it will seamlessly link back up.
You can possibly double the already extensive use time of the Outlier Pro by using one earbud but you’ll be losing the full hybrid ANC effects, and is not recommended. The respective touch controls still remain with each earbud so you’ll be handicapped by what you can do.
One likely use for it is when you want to hear your surroundings, and instead of using the Ambient mode, you prefer to take one earbud out. Both methods work, depending on your preference, but just remember not to misplace the earbud that you remove.
Microphone, Calls, and Virtual Voice-Controlled Assistant
Each earbud comes with three microphones, which makes the Outlier Pro very good at picking up your voice, even when you are speaking softly. When we spoke through a surgical mask with ANC mode on, the listener on the other end could hear the conversation clearly, without the echo that you sometimes hear during hands-free calls. Surprisingly, the listener couldn’t even tell that the call was made from outdoors. The call quality is close to what you can get with a gaming headset and microphone, made from inside a quiet room.
One thing that didn’t work as well though is the receiving of calls. We had no issues with normal calls, but when we tried to pick up a WhatsApp call by double tapping the right earpiece, it didn’t work. You can still receive the call by tapping on the phone itself, but that’s one minus for the hands-free experience.
On the other hand, the Outlier Pro works decently when paired with Siri and Google Assistant. To activate them, we just triple tap the left earbud. So far, Google Assistant has been able to pick up the majority of the commands and execute them. It did fail a few times though, which may be due to speaking too fast, so your mileage may vary.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
All in all, there are no big flaws in the Creative Outlier Pro. Like we said earlier, we love it and would recommend the earbuds to anyone looking for true wireless sweatproof in-ears with ANC that won’t break your bank (retails for S$119), especially if you commute regularly or work out frequently.
Aesthetics - 8/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Performance - 8/10
Value - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 10/10