Creative Outlier review: Wireless audio with a few compromises

Souvik Das | Published 13 Jun 2016
Creative Outlier review: Wireless audio with a few compromises
  • The Creative Outlier wireless headphones pack in a bunch of features, and even deliver decent audio, but do not feel well-built.

Digit Rating: 73/100

Pros: Good clarity, Bright and powerful audio, Wide range of connectivity options

Cons: Flimsy build, Slightly overpowering bass, Compromised soundstaging

Creative has been a strong, commendable name when it comes to audio equipment, delivering commendable devices like the EP-630 in-ears and Sound Blaster Roar portable Bluetooth speaker. The Outlier, from Creative’s stable, is an attempt at presenting to you a pair of lightweight, wireless headphones that can also work as a standalone MP3 player.

In terms of features, the Creative Outlier does offer a lot on paper. An in-built MP3 player with memory card support, play/pause/call reception button, volume and track controls, USB charging and audio, 3.5mm analogue audio port, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and six rubber acoustic rings included in the box to let you adjust the type of audio delivery you prefer. At 93 grams (without the rings), the Creative Outlier is also very, very light, and is one of those few on-ears that are easy and comfortable to wear for long hours.

All of this, at market price of Rs. 4,860, makes the Creative Outlier a very, very appealing package. While even this amount is a comparatively high amount to spend on a pair of headphones for most Indian buyers, the Creative Outlier has the potential of alluring you into spending that extra dough for headphones that offer more than just amplifying the audio in your ears. Does it live up to the expectations? Find out, in our detailed review of the Creative Outlier headphones.

Build and Design
The Creative Outlier is an incredibly lightweight pair of headphones, weighing only 93 grams without the rubber acoustic rings. With the rings, the headphones weigh 100 grams, which still makes for a very lightweight headphone body. The light plastic body adds to the comfort during prolonged wear, and the headphones do not apply much pressure on the head or ears, while wearing. This has been one notable problem for many on-ear headphones, and the Creative Outlier excels in this area. The ear cups are light and small, with shallow cushioning. The light frame ensures no discomfort, but Creative could have provided deeper cushions to make it even more comfortable.

Nevertheless, the cushioning does not lead to sweating, even if you’re wearing the headphones outdoor, in the heat. The plastic build is also quite durable, and the overall flexibility of the headphones mean you will be less conscious about handling. The Outlier deals quite well with rough handling, and the headband is flexible to make sure it fits on your head well. The plastic adjusters are long enough, and most people would find a comfortable fit with the Creative Outlier.

As a downside, though, the Creative Outlier feels nowhere close to being well built. There are jarred edges on either sides of the headband, and the overall quality of the plastic used on the headphones is uninspiring. If you’re spending around Rs. 5,000 on a pair of headphones, it would be fair to expect decent build quality, and the Outlier disappoints on this aspect. The extenders are also made of plastic, and there is a notable lack of refinement that I did not really appreciate. Even the buttons on the Outlier have a very plasticky feedback, and feels somewhat flimsy. Comparatively, the likes of SoundMagic BT20 and Jabra Move feel much better in terms of build material and quality, and relatively more expensive on-ear wireless headphones like Sony MDR-XB650BT (Rs. 7,200) and Plantronics BackBeat Sense (Rs. 8,000) feel a class apart.

If you manage to get over your headphones looking lacklustre, the Creative Outlier packs in every essential that you would wish for, from wireless on-ear headphones. The number of features it packs catapult it to the top of the chain, while the lacklustre build somewhat drags it down to make it best aligned as a pair of mediocre headphones.

Audio Performance
The Creative Outlier’s audio performance, too, has a balanced mix of commendable response and missing details. Before I elucidate, here are the specifications of the Creative Outlier headphones:

Drivers: 2x32mm Neodymium; Frequency Response: 20Hz - 22kHz; Impedance: 24 ohms; Operating Range: 33 feet; Audio Codecs: mSBC (HD voice), SBC (Low Complexity Subband Coding), FastStream (Low latency wireless bi-directional audio streaming); Connectivity: USB audio, 3.5mm analogue connector, Bluetooth (A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP), NFC; Battery: Rechargeable Li ion 200mAh

The Creative Outlier has its strength in delivering tight, clean audio. The warm timbre of audio that it delivers is very pleasant on the ears, and makes for a comfortable listening experience. The light body, coupled with no noise cancellation framework means ambient noise will interfere, when you are listening at or around the 50 percent volume level. Unfortunately, it is at this point that the Creative Outlier sounds its sweetest best, when attached with the acoustic rings. The range of audio response is wide, with very distinctly demarcated highs, mids and bass frequency deliveries. The 32mm Neodymium drivers do well in driving clean audio, with marginal distortion incurred at highest volume levels. Creative has also maintained a 24 ohm impedance factor with the circuitry of the headphones, making it pliant for mobile pairing and playback.

What is particularly likeable is the crisp, clean and powerful delivery of audio. The lows are slightly accentuated, and somewhat dominate the audio performance. The tightness in bass delivery adds a powerful spine to the audio, which is enjoyable. The only problem here is that it is a tad too powerful, which made the bassline seem like a loose layer on top of balanced, pristine highs and mids. This is what you get even with the acoustic rings, removing which enhances the bass delivery.

When it comes to mids and highs, the Creative Outlier does well. The mids are pronounced and clear, while the highs are slightly attenuated to form stable, loud support to the mid frequencies. The good thing here is that the audio is not primarily driven by the highs, which, coupled with the heavy bass response, would have made the headphone devoid of crisp details. What you get with the Creative Outlier is good attention to vocal detail, pristine instrument solos and riffs and warm, pleasant and elaborate beats. The Outlier breaks down the audio to deliver clarity across the entire frequency range. The only point of muddle in low frequency ranges is almost made up for by the excellent clarity of mids and the well-balanced highs. The headphones are still somewhat biased towards low frequencies, but the overall effect is not one that would term the Outlier one for the bass heads. You’ll still love it if you prefer heavier bass in your audio, and lovers of balanced audio would find it pleasantly enjoyable, too.

Soundstaging is somewhat compromised, and the audio delivery sounds a bit narrow. This, in turn, affects your audio noticeably, if you prefer an overdose of Hans Zimmer or Johann Sebastian Bach at work. The sweetness and warmth of the audio, though, will make up for the lack of illustrious range of audio delivery. It still affects, on an overall note.

Connectivity and Battery Life
The Creative Outlier connects through as many options as you could have wished for. You get USB audio, inbuilt playback via microSD cards, 3.5mm analogue audio delivery, and wireless playback with Bluetooth and NFC. The most convenient is to pair it with Bluetooth and/or NFC, and connection retains for about 30 feet from source, should you end up needing to answer the door and do not wish to interrupt the song you were playing.

The Creative Outlier takes about an hour and half to charge from 0 percent to 100 percent. One full charge, on Bluetooth playback, lasted for 10 hours and 18 minutes. With about two hours of listening everyday, it takes you through the weekdays. The good bit is that you get wired connectivity, too, in case you run out of charge.

As long as you can overlook the somewhat flimsy build, the Creative Outlier is a pair of decent headphones. The light weight adds to comfort, and the audio performance, while having a few elements missing, is decent enough. At Rs. 4,900 market price, you will be hard pushed to find a more equipped pair of headphones. You should, though, check out the SoundMagic BT20 and Jabra Move, before choosing this. Alternatively, if you can spend about Rs. 2,000 more, the Plantronics BackBeat Sense would be a great pair of headphones to consider.

Souvik Das
Souvik Das

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