Review: Creative Outlier Air V3 True Wireless Earbuds

Creative is a name that has been around for a very long time. In fact as a kid in the 1980’s and early 90’s I would insist on having a Sound Blaster audio card in every PC that I built on the kitchen table.

There. I’ve dated myself.

Creative past the 90’s then fell off my radar screen. Largely due to the fact that sound cards started to be built into every PC motherboard. But thanks to the Creative Outlier Air V3 True Wireless Earbuds, Creative is back on my radar screen as these are very good true wireless earbuds at a pretty compelling price. Let’s start with what comes in the box.

Here you get the earbuds which can be used independently as they connect as two separate devices to your phone, and the charging case. You get up to 40 hours of total playtime factoring in the case with up to 10 hours of battery life per charge of the earbuds which is none too shabby.

You also get small and large ear tips (mediums are installed), a USB-C to USB-A cable, and the usual documentation. But if you have a Qi wireless charger, you won’t need the USB cable as it is Qi compatible. Simply drop it on your charger and watch it charge.

One thing that I really have to highlight is that the case makes it really easy to discern what the charge status is.

The above video shows three red lights that are flashing. This means that the case as well as the individual earbuds are not fully charged. I have this placed on this wireless charger which is charging them.

In this video you’ll note that there’s one green light in the middle. That means that the case is charged, but the earbuds are still charging.

Alternately in this example, the earbuds are charged as shown by the green lights on the left and right side. But the case isn’t charged as shown by the red light in the middle.

If everything is charged, you get three green lights. You can also see the USB-C connector that you can use to charge via a cable. All of this makes it crystal clear what the state of the earbuds are. I applaud Creative for making it simple.

Here’s the earbuds in the case which slides to the left to give you access to the earbuds. I have to say that while you can still put these in your pocket, they are not going to fit comfortably in the pockets of your skinny jeans.

With all of that out way, here’s the key specs:

  • 6mm drivers
  • AAC and SBC audio codec support
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • IPX5 Water resistance
  • Support for virtual assistants such as Siri or Google Assistant
  • Two microphones per earbud for a total of four
  • Ambient Mode and Active Noise Reduction
  • Support for Super X-Fi
  • Touch controls on each earbud

I want to draw your attention to the fact that it has IPX5 water resistance. That’s kind of unusual in a good way as most truly wireless earbuds have IPX4 water resistance. That makes these perfect for those who work out and sweat heavily. But on the flip side they aren’t waterproof. So if you submerge them, they will likely die.

Pairing them is just like any other pair of truly wireless earbuds. But to make sure that you have the best experience, I would recommend downloading the Creative App which is available for Android or iOS. This will help you to update the firmware and set up the touch controls to your liking. And as a plus you have total control over most things that matter like volume, switching between Ambient Mode and Active Noise Reduction, going to the next track or back a track, or summoning your smart assistant. Not to mention tweak the Ambient Mode and Active Noise Reduction to your liking. Now there’s a second app called the SXFI app which according to Creative helps you to “Create your Super X-Fi profile and enjoy a preview of Super X-Fi Headphone Holography’s cinematic audio wirelessly on your mobile device’s local content. The Super X-Fi Headphone Holography works for local music files downloaded onto your device; it does not support streaming content (e.g., Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix).” In other words, it’s Creative’s answer to Apple Spatial Audio. It’s also available for Android and iOS and I’ll talk about that more in a bit.

My first test was to do a voice recording and see how it sounded like if I was on a phone call, a Zoom call or a Teams call. I’ve got the recording below and I’ll let you listen to it before I share my thoughts.

Like I said in the audio test, it sounds a bit hollow. But the audio is otherwise fine. Thus if you need them for Teams or Zoom calls, people will be able to hear you just fine. Ditto for old fashioned phone calls.

Music however is where the Outlier Air V3 start to shine. I tested these against the AirPods Pro in a variety of scenarios. Some of which included background noise so that I could see how they would handle blocking out the noise, or letting it in. My test song was “Let’s Do This” Danell Arma and here’s my thoughts:

  • Compared to the AirPods Pro, the Outlier Air V3’s had a bit more bass but bright treble and mids. The result is that music doesn’t sound as “flat” as the AirPods Pro. This is a sound that I personally like. The Outlier Air V3’s also do a great job of picking up small details as well.
  • The active noise reduction is good, but not as good as the AirPods Pro as that will eliminate things like HVAC units while the Outlier Air V3’s simply reduces the noise. Having said that, these will work well in an office environment as they eliminate all but the loudest of spoken words.
  • The ambient mode is pretty good as it does let in the outside noise pretty decently. But it doesn’t measure up to the AirPods Pro which are freakishly good. But I doubt that you will have any reason to complain in terms of what the Outlier Air V3’s deliver.

Now let’s get to Super X-Fi. As mentioned above this is Creative’s answer to Apple’s Spatial Audio. I tried this out with the same song that I used with my earlier testing and found that X-Fi does make what are pretty good even better. The catch is that you have to use their SXFI app and create an audio profile using your phone’s camera to listen to music this way. Creating the audio profile was a bit of a challenge as I had to use a bathroom mirror to help me position the rear camera relative to my ears and my face. But once you do that, you never have to do it again.

My final test was to test how well they performed in a workout seeing as Creative advertises them as being ideal for workouts as they are marketed as being “sweat proof”. To that end, I did two bike rides on Zwift. The first was an all out 7 kilometre ride which made me sweat a lot. The second was a moderate 1 hour ride that had two all out efforts lasting 40 seconds each and one all out effort lasting 7 minutes. The all out efforts made me sweat a lot. The result was that once I had the proper ear tips installed, they had no issues staying in my ears and felt comfortable the entire time. And I had no issues with sweat as the earbuds still worked fine after both rides.

Gripes? I have three that are sort of minor:

  • The first is that these earbuds don’t support multiple connections. While they can pair with up to nine devices, you can only use one device at a time. So connecting with a phone and a laptop at the same time for example is a no go. That functionality would be handy for those of us who spend a lot of time on Teams and Zoom calls on the computer, but at the same time you still need to answer a call on a smartphone. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but it would be nice to have that functionality as I am used to it with the AirPods Pro. And there are other earbuds that do this as well. Perhaps Creative can bring that functionality to these earbuds via a software update in the future.
  • The sensitivity of the touch controls is kind of finicky. For example, I tried to go from Ambient Mode to Active Noise Reduction and I got Siri instead. While I am sure that you will eventually get used to the touch controls, it would have been nice to have tactile physical buttons to make life easier.
  • Finally, there’s no in-ear sensor that stops the music when you take one of the buds out of your ears. It’s not a deal breaker for me as I’ve turned that functionality off on my AirPods Pro. But it may be a deal breaker for someone.

Now to the cool part of this review. The price for these is $69.99 USD. But Amazon Canada has them for $79.99 CAD and Amazon US has them for $54.99 USD. So you can find a deal if you look around. The bottom line is that the Creative Outlier Air V3’s are a great value given the sound quality and the feature set. Thus they absolutely deserve your time and attention if you are in the market for truly wireless earbuds.

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