The budget-priced true wireless earphones market is on fire recently, with a long list of mid-to-low-cost earbuds from lesser-known companies offering lots of features, active noise cancellation and varying results when it comes to the audio quality.
Creative’s new Outlier Pro true wireless earphones are playing in that market: Advanced features such as active noise cancellation and touch controls, truly excellent battery times, and good, though somewhat bass-heavy sound quality.
But the brand name recognition (Creative has been making audio products for more than 30 years) comes with a price tag – and the cost is a bit higher than similar earphones from other manufacturers.
So in this review, I’ll dig into the features and the sound quality, the value for money, and whether these are worthy of the Outlier name, a long-running critically acclaimed series of earbuds.
Quick Look – Creative Outlier Pro
What are they: Affordable True Wireless Bluetooth earphones with ANC and hefty battery times.
Value for Money
- Great audio quality (especially if you like bass)
- Exceptional battery times (up to 60 hours)
- Fast charging – 10 minutes for 2 hours of playtime
- Very comfortable (but big)
- The case is big and bulky
- Limited customisability
- No In-ear detection
- ANC is just average
Features and Specs
- Driver unit: 10 mm Graphene-coated
- Battery Playing Time: ANC OFF – 15 hours, ANC ON – 10 hours
- Additional Battery Time on Case: 60 Hours with ANC OFF, 40 Hours with ANC ON
- Full charging time: Case: 2-3 hours
- Case charging port: USB-C / Wireless charging
- Codecs: Bluetooth 5.2, AAC, SBC
- Extra Features: Smartphone app for extra personalisation / IPX5 Sweat & Water Resistant / Super X-FI Audio Ready
There’s a lot to like about the Outlier Pro: The sound is rich and warm (but the bass is clearly better than the high ends), the batteries last forever, and even the big form factor becomes a plus when you notice how comfortable the buds feel in your ears. But the lack of certain advanced features, and the mediocre ANC, take a few points off.
Table of Contents
Who Are The Outlier Pro Earphones For?
Even before you open the box, the Outlier Pro earbuds have two promising names behind them: first, the company, Creative, which has been around (first as Creative Labs) for 30+ years with the legendary Sound Blaster line of audio devices.
The second promise comes from the Outlier name: Creative’s Outlier series of true wireless earphones has been exceptional over the years, and was among the first to offer lower-cost earphones with excellent specs, long before most of the current Chinese manufacturers started doing it.
But has Creative been bested in the game they helped invent? Yes and No.
In a way, the Outlier Pro earphones feel like more of the same from Creative: that’s not bad, since the Outlier Gold and Outlier Air from years past were truly excellent for their times. But the competition jumped ahead since then, especially on the value for money front (and the features you get for that money), as well as with ANC, where some earphones offer incredible performance for such low prices.
All that being said – the Outlier Pro do a lot of things right. The sound is pleasing (especially for bass lovers like me), the battery times let you listen for days and weeks without having to recharge the case, and – they’re super comfortable.
Yes, despite being bigger than most of those tiny true wireless earphones that are common today – and maybe BECAUSE they’re bigger – they feel stable and comfortable in your ear, never pinching or feeling heavy, even after long hours of playing time.
And, there’s something to be said about buying from a well-known (and long-running) company such as Creative – hopefully, that also means better quality control, and a longer life span, when compared to some of the lesser known (and cheaper) companies.
Using The Outlier Pro
Size And Comfort
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the box, is that everything is… big. The charging case is big and heavy (at 73gram) and the earbuds are big (but not too heavy at 7g).
This is, in part, what gives the Outlier Pro their excellent battery times (as there’s room for bigger batteries) – but it means these are not your run-of-the-mill tiny earphones that you can hide in any pocket and easily carry everywhere you go.
The charging case could, perhaps, fit uncomfortably into your jeans’ pocket – but really, these are earphones you carry around in a bag or a pouch.
On the other hand, as mentioned above, the bigger earbuds were something I never knew I needed in my life – but turned out to be refreshingly comfortable.
All those tiny earbuds that are popular these days can be comfortable, but as it turns out, bigger earbuds that fill your ear feel so much more stable, without any pointy sticks and stems poking and prodding your skin.
So if you don’t mind the limited carrying potential – the size can actually be a plus.
In the box, you get two additional (3 in total) ear tip sizes – that’s not a lot (compared to some other models), but should be enough to find a good fit. You also get a short USB-C charging cable, and the case supports wireless charging.
In line with the unique form factor, the case opens up by pushing a “drawer” to the side – and that’s where the earbuds are hidden, when you charge them.
The earbuds have an IPX5 water and sweat resistance rating – which means you can safely use them in heavy rain or when working out, but you can’t fully submerge them in water – so please don’t drop them into a toilet.
Pairing and Controlling
Pairing the Outlier Pro with your phone (or other devices) is very easy – they immediately go into pairing mode when you turn them on for the first time, and thanks to Bluetooth 5.2 support, they STAY connected.
Having used them for a couple of weeks, I never once encountered disconnections or Bluetooth noises and crackles – even when I ventured into crowded places.
They promise a working range of up to 10 meters, and while that’s hard to test – because it depends on the type of walls and other interfering devices around you – I had no trouble listening when the connected phone was on a different floor.
Controlling the earphones is straightforward, but because of their size, tapping the earbuds repeatedly makes for a somewhat painful experience (and the fact I occasionally had to re-tap due to missed touches, didn’t help…)
Out of the box, a long tap on the left lowers the volume, a long tap on the right raises the volume, two taps on the right start and stop the music and answer a phone call, two on the left switch between ANC/Ambient/Normal modes, while three taps skip a track forward or backwards.
If you install Creative’s app on your phone, you can use it to customise the touch controls, though the customization is limited – there’s no Single-Tap function at all, and every set of taps is limited to a few options. Still, it’s better than nothing, so you can bring the controls closer to your liking.
The app also has an EQ function, along with a list of sound presets – Music, Movies, Flat, Pop and more – as well as several dedicated to gaming with profiles for specific games.
Creative Outlier Pro Audio Quality
Size, design and form factor are important – but as always, the sound quality is what we’re here for – and the Outlier Pro deliver – up to a point.
First, let’s get this out of the way – these are earphones for bass lovers first and foremost. If you have deep, strong bass, you should probably look elsewhere – as even though you can lower the bass level using the app’s EQ, it’s still the main event here.
Having said that, the bass isn’t overpowering – the highs have their own issues here, but it’s not because the bass is TOO strong. For me, as someone who likes to feel that deep thump when listening to music – the bass here is just right, even without any EQ tweaking.
Testing them with Cher’s The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), the bass is immediately prominent. The High end was lacking, but some EQ tweaking did help in this case, though the highs never got up to perfect. The Mids were somewhat harsh, which gave the sound a somewhat muffled quality at times.
Moving on to Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand, the bass was expectedly impressive again, with clear vocals and powerful drums. The high end wasn’t brilliant this time around either, and the electric guitars were, again, somewhat muffled.
All in all, the Outlier Pro are great at emphasizing the more beefy aspects of the sound, but the slightly muffled mid and weak hi paint some songs with a lo-fi quality that some may find enjoyable, but for others would sound too harsh.
Also note that there are no advanced audio codecs such as aptX – although those could have pushed the price up, there are cheaper earphones out there these days that DO support aptX.
Still, there’s only so much you can expect from a known brand at this price level, and while music audiophiles won’t be singing praises here – overall the sound is enjoyable.
The Noise Cancellation is a different matter. The passive part works well – with earbuds this big, the seal in your ear will work wonders to block outside noises.
The Active Noise Cancellation, however, is somewhat disappointing, even though it uses microphones on both sides of each earbud to control the sound filtering.
The ANC here works best with low, ongoing rumbles – so it’s perfect for travelling on a train or an aeroplane.
But it didn’t do a particularly good job with traffic noises around me on the street, people talking near me, or even the clicking sounds of my keyboard.
Wind noises were also bad – it’s something high-end earphones with ANC often struggle with as well – but it was particularly noisy here.
You do hear a difference with the ANC on and off – it’s just not as impressive as I’ve come to expect these days, even at this price level.
A couple of years ago, this level of noise reduction at this price would have been brilliant – but these days, it’s just OK, with better – and even cheaper – options out there (such as the ANC on Earfun’s Air Pro 2).
There’s also an Ambient Mode, which does the opposite of ANC – it amplifies outside sounds, so you’re more aware of your environment. That’s useful when you’re cycling, running outside, or generally need to know what’s going on around you.
And lastly, a word about Super X-FI, a Creative technology that the Outlier Pro (and most other Creative earphones) are compatible with.
SXFI is used to simulate a multi-speaker system (up to a 7.1) with just two headphones. Creative calls this award-winning effect “holographic audio”, and the unique part is the personalisation, which is done by installing an app on your phone that helps you map your ears.
I’ve listened to several Creative devices with Super X-Fi, and it typically does a pretty good job of simulating surround sound – either for music, films or gaming.
But in this case, the Super X-Fi support is almost a non-starter, since you can only use it for local content stored on your phone. You can’t use it with streaming music services like Spotify and you can’t use it with video streaming services, so you would have to find long-lost MP3 files on your phone, just so to hear what this technology sounds like.
Until there are additional use-cases for SX-FI on modern phones – it’s not all that useful, even if the technology itself is impressive.
The usage times on the Outlier Pro are quite impressive. Sure, it’s expected with a charging case this big (and big earbuds) – but it’s definitely one of the selling points here.
When fully charged, you can use the Outlier Pro for up to 15 hours without ANC, and 10 hours with the ANC On.
The case holds additional 60 hours of power without ANC, and 40 hours with ANC on.
As always with earphones, your mileage may vary, as battery times depend on volume levels, connection strength, and other factors. But all in all, I was able to use these for days and even weeks without having to recharge the case (and without running out of power mid-listen).
They’re not the best out there in terms of battery times – Lypertek’s PurePlay Z3 2.0 offer 70 additional hours in a smaller charging case – but 60 hours is amazing any way you look at it.
Bottom Line: Are The Outlier Pro Worth It?
On my first day with the Outlier Pro, I was a bit sceptical. Why are the earbuds so big? How am I going to carry that humongous case everywhere? Why am I hearing the buses around me with ANC on?
So yes, there are downsides to consider, and yet – after two weeks of use, these are now among my favourite earphones. I never knew I wanted big, comfortable earbuds until I got them. I forgot how convenient it is not to have to worry about re-charging the case and earbuds every couple of days.
And even the sound – which is a point of contention, especially if you’re not a fan of heavy bass – is warm and inviting enough to be pleasant, especially for someone who watches films or listens to lots of podcasts.
So if you don’t mind the size and form factor, and you don’t come with unrealistic expectations regarding music quality – the Outlier Pro are a great choice.
Note: The earphones were supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.