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Creative Outlier Air: Fantastic sound at an unbeatable price

Mala Bhargava | Updated on July 03, 2020

Creative earbuds

Singaporean makers of MP3 players and other audio devices slipped in a stylish TWS set of buds into India — and they’re good

Creative Labs were once very much more active in India and the rest of the world. This Singapore-based company brought in the first few MP3 players. And lots of speakers. But they quietened down a bit for a few years, though many Creative products have continued to be available. Now, they’ve decided to make their presence felt in the rapidly growing true wireless audio segment and they’re doing so with a real value-for -money product, the Outlier Air.

These true wireless earbuds sit in an unusual case. It’s sort of cylindrical with some flattening out on two sides and they don’t open up from the top, as do most others. To get to the buds, you push — gently please — on the right side and a tray with the buds sitting firmly inside slides out from the left. The ring of light around each bud immediate starts lighting up and blinking, either blue or red depending on status. The light rings really look like two round electronic eyes, a very catchy and unique look. The Outlier Air case is a metallic looking grey. There’s another slightly different model in champagne gold, but we haven’t seen that.

Firm fit

The buds are so firmly fitted into the case they take a little coaxing to come out, but that’s reassuring as you know they won’t fall out. The build of both the case and the buds seems nice and strong. The buds don’t stick out of your ears prominently or anything. Actually, they wedge themselves quite deep into the ear and don’t need any extra arches etc for balance, thank god. You pop them in and give a gentle twist to seal them in, and they’ll stay put.

The seal is so strong that it leads to a whole lot of noise isolation — you don’t need the active variety here as outside sounds are suppressed. But here’s where there’s the one problem with these earbuds comes up: the sealing in lets you hear your breathing, swallowing, and other unsavoury visceral sounds which is a bit disconcerting. This interferes with phone calls because you hear your own voice inside your head too loud but tends to get hidden over by music. But aside from this, the Outlier Air buds sound so good they’re forgiven the ‘inside’ sounds. They don’t fall out of your ears, just as they don’t out of their case, and can be worn for workouts as well as a walk in the rain because they’re IPX5 rated for water resistance.

There are a few other issues. One of these is that pairing the buds involves separate pairing for left and right buds. They continue to show up as separate devices in Bluetooth settings. If you’ve totally disconnected from a device, you’ll have to tap each bud separately to reconnect. Otherwise, if you’ve just taken them out of your ears and put them into the case and back on again later, they just reconnect one after the other, but quickly enough. Each bud announces a reconnect so you’ll know. It could have been done more elegantly, but the plus is that you can use one bud at a time for phone calls.

Another bit of a problem is that the buds have a physical button and because they’re already deep in the ear canal it’s no fun at all pressing those very stiff buttons. Plus you can hear them being touched and adjusted, which just adds to the discomfort. Using the on-bud controls needs you to remember how many presses for which action and on which side, which is a nuisance. The buttons also include personal assistant triggers.

One other issue is that occasionally the Bluetooth connection is a little thready. Again, only occasionally.

Sounding great

But all problems, big and small, are quite forgiven because of the excellent sound output from the Outlier Air earbuds. The sound quality is beautifully clear right through the spectrum. There’s satisfying bass that can get a little overwhelming and heavy on tracks that are bassy. On more neutral tracks, it sounds great and not boosted artificially. It’s difficult to find better sound on earbuds under ₹10,000. Each bud uses 5.6mm drivers. Music gets nice and loud and you actually have to be a little careful if you’re listening to tracks with widely varying volume levels int he recording. The buds work with the AAC and SBC codecs. They also are enabled with Qualcomm’s Aptx for good synchronisation when using the buds while watching movies. Look for Creative’s SXFI app for equaliser and other controls. The buds use Bluetooth 5.0.

There’s an app called SXFI which you can download for equaliser control but I gave up with it after it asked for a cumbersome head mapping.

The Outlier Air buds have 9 hours of battery life. After that’s exhausted there’s two additional charges you can get from the case, making about 30 hours in all, which is quite amazing. They don’t use wireless charging but they do charge up in about two hours

All in all, it’s the sculpted but nice sound, firm fit and big battery life that make these earbuds really worth it at the killer price they come for.

Price: ₹7,499

Pros: Excellent sound, firm fit, IPX5 water resistance, great battery life, unique look, great price

Cons: Overzealous sealing lets you hear your own breathing and voice etc, they pair separately for left and right, buttons uncomfortable to use when buds are in

Published on July 03, 2020

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