Global audio brand Creative recently sent out its latest true wireless earbuds for review, the Outlier Air V2. And, after a thorough test, these are arguably some of the company’s best to date.
Not only are Creative Outlier Air V2 great in terms of both audio playback and calls. Creative designed these earbuds well, with long-term listening in mind. And undeniably with some of the longest battery life around. Especially when it comes to in-ear wearables. Touch controls, support for app-powered Super X-Fi features, and balance are all hallmarks of this gadget.
Of course, that’s not without caveats. These earbuds do, after all, only cost $80 MSRP. And they cost even less — $69.99 with an ongoing promo at Amazon and the official site. But those are something that’s best understood with a bit of explanation. So let’s dive in and take a closer look at Creative Outlier Air V2.
Subtle hardware design decisions equate to a great experience on that front
Upon unboxing Creative Outlier Air V2 for review, the carry case appeared to be fairly standard. Namely, it appeared to be a flip-open style cylinder, squared off at the corners. There is also just enough weight to the carry case to feel like it isn’t cheap, without being too heavy.
Setting that aside for a moment, the contents of the box are extensive. Medium-sized earbud tips are installed on unboxing but there are four other sizes included too, both larger and smaller. So there’s plenty of tips to ensure a good fit for just about any user. And there are enough size variations that those with differences between their ears should find a near-perfect fit. Even if they need to use two different sizes.
The charging cable, conversely, was a bit shorter than I’d have liked to have seen and no wall adapter is included. But the USB-A to USB-C plug should suit just about anybody.
Upon opening the case, however, it became immediately clear that Outlier Air V2 isn’t run-of-the-mill fare. The case slides open horizontally rather than opening up like a box. And the earbuds fit in cleanly with the slots arranged to make putting the right bud in the right slot effortless.
The exterior of the casing, shipped in a dark navy blue coloration that appears almost black under certain lighting, contains three LED lights. Those show clearly the charge of both left and right earbuds as well as the case. And they’re positioned on the same side as the USB-C plug, making it easier to view the LEDs while charging.
The case itself isn’t too slippery either, which was another pleasant surprise. It’s definitely built from a rigid and smooth material. But there’s just enough texture to ensure it’s not too easy to drop.
In terms of earbud design, that’s fairly familiar too. Creative started with a round bud aesthetic for Outlier Air V2 that was a little larger than expected when I received the item for review. But not so large as to be uncomfortable for my ears since the tip is really the only part that enters the ear canal. There was, of course, one caveat to that, but we’ll discuss that later on, in the audio segment.
The earbuds themselves are ‘sweatproof’ with an IPX5 rating. So they won’t be damaged if they’re worn during a workout or in light rain.
Around each of the buds’ touchpads, which are also incredibly intuitive to use, Creative installed a ring-style LED that shines in either red or blue depending on what the buds are trying to tell users. All also clearly explained without any digging in the included user manual and card-shaped guide for getting started.
Battery life from Creative Outlier Air V2 is as advertised and that’s great
Now, battery life for any listening device — or just about anything else — is entirely subjective. With that said, for my test, I used these earbuds at nearly full volume and at an average distance of 15-feet. And, despite that, these earbuds lasted just short of what’s advertised. The company claims they can last up to 12-hours on a single charge. And that’s not counting the extra 22-hours from the charging case.
Of course, those times fell short during my review of Creative Outlier Air V2, given the conditions of the testing mentioned above. But it wasn’t a massive enough difference for me to believe they won’t last 12-hours with reasonable usage. In fact, the volume is good enough at between 30- to 40-percent that louder listening shouldn’t be needed under most circumstances. And that’s without the need for noise-canceling, as long as the proper tips are chosen.
In terms of charging, it takes just short of 2-hours to charge the earbuds up once they’ve been completely drained. And just short of three for the entire package via USB-C. There’s no wireless charging and that’s unfortunate since many true wireless stereo earbuds ship with that. But that’s not necessarily going to be a deal-breaker for most users.
One other noteworthy point worth making is that, at least for my review of Creative Outlier Air V2, the battery didn’t die symmetrically. That’s to say, my right-side bud died approximately a half-hour before the right. Now, that’s not likely going to be a widespread problem, if it is one at all. I experienced enough difficulty draining these all the way down within a day — charging at night — that I only saw this happen once. With consideration for the battery life, it wasn’t really an issue at all.
Creative Outlier Air V2 delivers on audio quality
One of the biggest caveats noted during my review of Creative Outlier Air V2, at least in my subjective opinion, is comfort. As touched on above in the hardware-specific segment, the company includes a wealth of earbud tips. And those earbud tips do ensure a snug fit.
The issue here arose from just how snug the earbuds fit. When properly fitted, at least for me, I noted an immediate increase in pressure on the inside of my ear canal. That’s as soon as I inserted them and music started playing. The effect wasn’t painful but definitely made them less comfortable to wear over long stretches. Especially when listening extended beyond a few hours.
It goes without saying that won’t be a problem for every user. But it is one area that I feel as though this listening device falls short of expectation.
Of course, these earbuds also ship with support for Creative’s Super X-Fi technology. That’s an ear-mapping and head-mapping tech that works through an app on a smartphone. From there, the audio is individualized to better suit each user. And, during my review of Creative Outlier Air V2, that made a big difference.
With Super X-Fi, these earbuds just sound and feel more balanced. The audio split between left and right ears seems to work better with the feature turned on too. So having the feature available, although dependent on an app to work properly, is definitely a bonus for Outlier Air V2. At the very least, it makes them sound like much more expensive earbuds. With the feature, the earbuds just do a better job of representing proper sound placement.
As to sound quality itself, that’s actually pretty great, to begin with. Even at low volume, audio across the bass, mids, and treble spectrums is clearly represented. And even bass tones don’t lose too much power at the low end of the volume range.
Connections won’t let you down with these earbuds
Moving over to the side of the equations pertaining to connections, Creative Outlier Air V2 didn’t throw any surprises under review. Aside from the above-mentioned Super X-Fi application, the arrangement here is fairly straightforward.
One complaint I might lodge is that the battery life indicator shown in the Bluetooth Settings on the smartphone side of the equation doesn’t show everything. Or, at the very least, doesn’t show the remaining battery for the carry case. Other earbuds I have reviewed have shown that there. So I had hoped the feature was becoming more universal. But since the earbuds themselves have such long battery life, that’s not really a pain point.
Otherwise, connections from these earbuds are rock solid. I didn’t notice any drops or cut-outs even when stepping outside with the source device left inside. That’s at distances greater than 20-feet. Most users will listen to these earbuds with their phone nearby on a table or in their pocket. And I can say with confidence that users won’t notice any issues at most distances under 40-feet thanks to Bluetooth 5.0.
For calls, the sound quality doesn’t drop either. And that’s for both inbound and outbound audio. The audio picked up by the mics is clear, even in noisier environments. Albeit, not quite as clear as headphones that ship with noise-canceling. But, regardless, these earbuds didn’t sound — on the receiving end — as though I was speaking through a speakerphone. And there didn’t appear to be any artifacts or latency on the receiving end for myself or for the person I called either.
Looking for earbuds under $100? You can’t go wrong with Creative Outlier Air Vw2
Whether or not any individual will love Creative Outlier Air V2 is going to be a matter of pure subjectivity, as this review undoubtedly shows. But, bearing that in mind, they’re going to be hard to beat for the price.
Creative went above and beyond in terms of battery life, just for starters. In effect, they turn the typical 6-to-7-hour battery life expectation on its head. While these earbuds won’t be the most comfortable for every user, that’s something just about everybody wants to see. Put simply, 12-hours of battery life is nothing to scoff at.
Audio quality is another area these earbuds excel. All without sacrificing build or features. And that’s without relying on fancy technology such as noise-canceling. In fact, that’s without even using the company’s app to add in Super X-Fi features. With those in place, however, the audio becomes much more balanced overall. Ultimately making the experience much better.
Simultaneously, these earbuds do better in calls than a good majority of those I’ve had the opportunity to test. And, on that front, they’ll likely be among the best on the market. Just as with sound quality for the price and battery life. The primary caveat to that, again, is long-wear comfort. And that’s just not going to be an issue for every user.