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  • Cheryl Tan

Creative Outlier Air V3 Review: Third Time's The Charm?

So I tried the Creative Outlier Air V2 when it came out, and while it was improved over the V1, there were things I wanted to see changed with it. Well, the Outlier Air V3 is out now.

If you’re on the lookout for an inexpensive pair of earbuds that still sound good, the earbuds from Creative should definitely be on your list, because these cost just S$89 or around US$70.

So, let’s talk design first. The case is pretty much unchanged from V2, actually, aside from the new silver-green colour that’s quite nice. The case is slightly heavier than the V2’s, a few grams, but the earbuds are also slightly lighter, so I guess it all balances out.

On the bottom of the case, there’s a plastic strip for wireless charging, which is a feature I didn’t expect to see at this price point. The addition of wireless charging also gets rid of one of my biggest pain points of the V2 that wasn’t changed and is still present on the V3. The fact that the charging USB-C charging port is on the side of the case, and it’s on the side that slides out. So if you’re charging it through a cable like so and you wanna pull it out, you need to have a thumb or finger keeping the case closed, otherwise you’ll end up opening the case while trying to unplug the cable.

So while it’s a bit annoying to still have to deal with that, thank god for wireless charging. I haven’t had to plug a cable into this case ever since I got it, and I’m thankful.

As for the earbuds, they’ve got that same green colour to them. It’s interesting how Creative has gone with different colours for all their Outlier Air generations, the previous one was blue by the way, and yeah. There’s a circle around the touch control pad that lights up red when you take them out of or put them into the case. The exterior is pretty much all plastic, but I do like how it looks. The green with a sort of metallic sheen to it is pretty nice.

The earbuds also fit in the ear very nicely and they’re not too bulky or heavy, so they can be worn for a pretty long amount of time.

But one of the real reasons why you’ll want to get these is because of the features, specifically the ability to experience Creative’s Super X-Fi tech. The problem with these though is that you still only can activate Super X-Fi when you’re listening to music that you’ve downloaded onto your device. In this day and age of music streaming, it’s certainly not very convenient. In fact, I had to search for my old FLAC files and send them across to my iPhone. Anyway, it’s definitely a fun experience being able to listen to music with the audio spatialisation tech turned on. You’ll just have to find downloaded tracks to put on your device.

You’ll have to download the SXFI app to get a personalised head map or scan of your ears, software updates, and access the EQ function, but that’s about it. You don’t get touch control customisation or anything like that on this app, you’ll need to download the Creative app for that. It’s a bit mindboggling that you need two separate apps for one product, but I guess it is what it is.

Speaking of controls, Creative is sticking with touch controls. The only thing to really take note of is that there’s no single tap and that there’s no track skip backwards by default. Easily changed though, so yeah.

Some people had connectivity issues with the V2, and Creative seems to have fixed them in this version with Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity. I can say that I didn’t actually notice any connection drops or stutters, but I’m a bit puzzled as to why there’s only support for SBC and AAC codecs, with aptX support being dropped.

Battery life is decent, Creative claims 10 hours in the earbuds with three charges in the case for a total of 40 hours.

These are rated IPX5, which is pretty consistent across all of Creative’s Outlier earbuds, and I’d say they’re okay for bringing out for light exercise because of how lightweight and snugly they sit in the ear.

Now, there’s no ANC here, but there is active noise reduction. Honestly, it didn’t do all that much for me. Perhaps there was slightly less rumble and such, but don’t expect it to work wonders. There’s also an ambient mode if you need to hear your surroundings. When the noise reduction was on though, I noticed something odd. Public transport like buses tend to have these vibrations and whenever the vibration was particularly strong, I’d notice the earbud introducing noise, almost like the driver itself was affected by the vibrations.

It definitely has to do with noise reduction because once I turned it off, there wasn’t anything wrong at all. So yeah. I’d say that in those situations, if you hear that noise, turning noise reduction off will be the best move. It’s not like it’s really cancelling out a lot of noise anyway.

There are two mics on each earbud now, as opposed to one mic on the V2, so yeah, clarity is definitely improved over the last generation.

Moving on to the sound, it’s, as always, very decent for the price. Creative makes some of the best budget earbuds and speakers I’ve tried, and I’m always impressed at the quality. This is no different. They sound slightly more balanced than the V2, with mids that are no longer as recessed. The bass still has plenty of punch and my one quibble is that the treble is still somewhat tapered down, but this is really my own personal preference because I like brighter treble.

With Super X-Fi turned on though, you get an immediate enlarging of the soundstage. Instruments get a bit more space between them and yeah, it does make it feel a bit more like you’re listening to music live. The one thing you might pick up on is that there tends to be a bit of an echo from time to time, which does detract from the listening experience. For S$89 though, can you really complain?

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