TWS true wireless earphones - under $100
FOUR STARS - The Creative Outlier Air and Gold are true battery champions among TWS true wireless earphone under 100 dollars. But the theoretical 10-hour playtime of the Air and 14 (!) hours of the Gold, aren't its only strengths.
Creative Outlier Air specs:
Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX codec
IPX5 water proof (sweat and rain resistant)
8-9 hours listening on a full charge
Charging case can charge earpieces fully 2,5 times
Comes with 2 sizes ear tips and a USB-C charging cable
Creative Outlier Gold specs:
Design, charging and comfort
'That looks fancy'. 'That is a cool gadget'. It's just two of the comments heard when pulling out the case of either the Creative Outlier Air or Gold. While the charging case is not the most compact, their brushed dark grey of the Outlier Air and light gold of the Outlier Gold look good. The box looks premium too, thanks to the well-known brand name on it. When you push out the side to slide out the tray with the earphones, the cool factor is complete. These are well designed.
The same goes for the earpieces of the Outlier Gold and Air themselves. They carry the same color as the charging cases, with a round black button in the center - with a LED-light ring around them. Fortunately, that LED doesn't shine when you carry them in your ear and listen to them.
The earpieces of the Creative Outlier Gold have a Pebble-like design on the inside. They're easy to put in most ears, but it may require some time to get used to the fit. They feel smaller in your ears than the Jabra Elite 65t and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, and a bit bigger than the cheaper Wavefun X-Pods 3/ Ytom T1.
The upside from this design, is that the earpieces already go deep in your ears, so you don't need a big rubber tip to fill out your ears completely - which can be uncomfortable. The downside is that the earpieces are quite big themselves. Your ears may have to get used to them to enjoy their seal. The Creatives don't provide the tightest fit, and it may not be recommendable to sport with these earpieces. Still, it doesn't fall out of your ear easy when just listening or commuting with them.
The biggest star of the show, however, is the enormous battery life of these models.
Creative claims a 10 hours battery life on the Outlier Air and a whopping 14 hours on the Creative Outlier Gold. It's important to know that these are theoretical scores, however, which can likely only be achieved when you're listening on the lowest volumes.
In different real usage tests - of myself and other reviewers and users - the Outlier Air scores a whopping 8-9 hours of battery life. The Outlier Gold even beats it, with up to 12 hours of listening time on medium volume. The charging case is capable of recharging the earpieces 2,5 times fully before needing power itself, thus providing the earpieces of more than 30 hours on a single charge of the case.
The battery scores of the Creative Outlier Air and Gold are top of the bill in the industry, and a fantastic achievement under the 100 dollar price point.
Connectivity and controls
You wouldn't say it from the design, but the Creative Outlier earpieces have physical buttons you have to press to control them. Press once to play or pause music, press twice on the right bud to skip a song, or the left bud to return a song. Changing the volume is also possible, by long-pressing the right or left bud. Because the buttons are in the center of the earpieces, you will press the Outlier Air and Gold in your ears somewhat when controlling them - not the best feeling.
The Outliers activate differently than most other wireless earbuds. On the first use, you take one earpiece out, press its button for three seconds, connect it - and then connect the other earbud to your device. The brilliance about this is that you can use both earpieces also independently from each other.
Connectivity, unfortunately, is a weak spot on the Creative Outlier Air and Gold. Especially when walking with the phone in your jeans pocket, the connection is tacky. The Bluetooth connection regularly drops when you're walking with them. Both the earpieces and your device and the earpieces can have disconnections between them. What's worse, is that the earpieces sometimes speed up or slow down the music for a slight second to catch up again. Surprisingly, sitting or standing still with them, or cycling with them with your smartphone in the same jeans pocket, doesn't offer those issues.
Furthermore, on both models, the earpieces disconnected to my Android Bluetooth 5.0 smartphone sometimes, before re-establishing a connection out of themselves again afterward. On the iPhone, both the right earpiece of the Outlier Air and Outlier Gold stopped working just after getting it out of the case, requiring to put it in the case again and take it out again to reconnect.
Creative states these as steps to solve the biggest Bluetooth connectivity problems:
1. Place both earbuds into the case till they pulse red
2. Press and hold both earbuds for 10 secs till it flashes blue
3. Forget the device on your Android phone
4. Take the L and the R earbuds out and repair it with your phone
The Creative Outlier Air and Gold have a Bluetooth 5.0 connection that works most of the time flawlessly - but it's the little moments that it doesn't, which counts.
Calling and watching movies
When you're on an Android smartphone that supports Bluetooth 5.0, synchronization between audio and video is excellent. On iPhone, the scores are less convincing, with a delay while playing games and a very noticeable lag in the YouTube-app. That remains tricky, from the cheapest to the most expensive true wireless earphones.
The call quality on both the Creative Outlier Gold and Air is impressive. While the other end of the line may hear you're calling through an earpiece-microphone, your voice comes through with great clarity - inside and outside. On moments when you're talking, background noises are kept to a minimum as well.
Sound quality of Creative Outlier Air and Gold: minor differences
The Creative Outlier Air and Gold have no-nonsense sound signatures with a lovely bass, smooth mids and highs, and a sweet, airy feeling.
The bass on the Outlier isn't the most textured, but it strikes fast and delivers a nice thump. It's easy to dance to these earpieces - but they won't force you. If a song is intended more laidback, it will sound laidback on the Outliers. The sub-bass, besides, delivers a powerful rumble when called for, such as in James Blake's Limit to Your Love.
In the mids and highs, the Outlier Air and Gold sounds smooth. Upper mids and highs are pushed forward, yet they never touch the limits. They never sound harsh, and they have no sibilance (emphasis on sss's). You won't turn down the volume anytime soon, because cymbals or female vocals suddenly sound too hard. The Outliers have decent tonality for the price too. They don't color music overly warm.
The best part of the Creatives is their soundstage. The sound is all around you, with vocals in front of you and instruments coming in from left and right. It doesn't have the biggest depth, and it can be hard to place each instrument - still, it fares way better than samely priced competitors shown below.
The main thing about the Outliers, is that they sound just right. The sound is cohesive - it just works.
Both have a funny addition too: you can use them with the SXFI-app from Creative, available on iOS and Android. When you import your own music in that app, a SXFI-toggle gives the track a live concert-feeling by placing the music all round you. On paper, that is. It makes music sounds more artificial mostly, with some huge tonal differences in mid-centric instruments. It's a neat gimmick - nothing more.
Are there any differences when you put the Outlier Air vs the Outlier Gold? Yes, tiny ones. On both the iPhone X and Xiaomi Mi A1 as the source, the Outlier Gold sounds a tad darker than the Outlier Air, with a little more emphasis on the low-end frequencies, such as darker sounding instruments. The bass of the Outlier Gold has a slightly bigger punch - although this shouldn't be mistaken for a heavy pounding one. It is, however, a bit tighter, a bit more striking than the one on the Outlier Air. As its counter-offensive, upper mids get a bit more room to breathe on the Air. Drum kicks and female vocals shine a bit more.
The differences aren't big by any means though - both the Creative Outlier Air and Creative Outlier Gold are good, balanced allrounders. They provide the same smooth sound signature on lower and high volumes that work for all genres.
Creative Outlier Air/ Gold vs Mifo O5
The Mifo O5 is another battery beast in the same price range, with around 6 hours of playtime on a single charge and 15 (!) recharges with the charging case. Comfort on the Mifo is better, thanks to its shape and button placement. The sound of the Mifo O5 is a bit more laidback, even though it has a more pronounced bass and warm, full lower-mids. Highs roll off earlier, and male vocals sound somewhat tinny in comparison. The Creatives sound more balanced and versatile and offers better call quality. The O5 has better connectivity.
Creative Outlier Air/ Gold vs 1more Stylish TWS
The likewise priced, popular 1more Stylish TWS offers 5 to 6 hours of battery life and is more suitable for sports and active movement due to better connectivity and the ear-rings that keep the earphones in your ears. The 1more has a more prominent bass, but mids and highs are thinner. The 1more can also sound congested in more crowded tracks. The Outlier Air and Gold offer better balance and sound more open.
Creative Outlier Air/ Gold vs Samsung Galaxy Buds
The more expensive Samsung Galaxy Buds offer around 6 hours of playtime, almost half of the Outlier Gold. The Creatives sound more engaging and dynamic, with more power in the bass and a bigger soundstage. Even when the Buds is in the Dynamic-preset. Tonality and details in the mids are better on the Galaxy Buds, however.
It's easy to buy the Creative Outlier Air or Gold for its extraordinary battery life alone - but they also impress with their versatile, balanced sound and convincing call quality. It's only the wacky Bluetooth connection when walking, that prevents the Outlier Air and Outlier Gold from being absolute top tier.
FOUR STARS - RECOMMENDED
Buy Creative Outlier Air/ GOLD:
Buy Creative Outlier Air on Amazon EU (Germany)
I received the Creative Outlier Air and Creative Outlier Gold for testing and reviewing purposes. I test and review all audio products equally honest - read about it here.
Update September 24, 2019: The Creatives were accidentally rewarded 5 stars for sound quality. That should have been 4 - corrected now.
Consider buying this earphone? I'd really appreciate it if you use the links in this article. It won't cost you extra, yet it will financially support me a bit in my ongoing quest for great affordable audio. <3