Creative’s Outlier line of wireless earbuds are sleepers in that they continue to get better in spite of the kind of attention they may not be getting along the way. These are the first pair to get the “Pro” treatment, which is to say they offer features previous Outlier pairs don’t, namely active noise cancelation (ANC) and even better battery life.
The sum of all the parts makes for an impressive pair of earbuds that come well below the price of many competitors. If you’re running on a tighter budget, give these serious consideration.
Creative Outlier Pro: Price and availability
Creative released the Outlier Pro in April 2022 with somewhat limited retail availability, though you should be able to get them online. They started at $80, though it’s not uncommon for Creative to drop the price periodically over time. They only come in the metallic umber variant.
Creative Outlier Pro: What’s good
Previous Outlier Air earbuds, like the Outlier Air V2 and Outlier Air V3, retained very similar design principles, thus keeping things familiar with every incremental improvement. The Outlier Pro look more elegant, not just because of the glossy mirror-like cover on each bud, but also the overall construction inside and out.
What’s surprising is that Creative chose not to charge a premium for the additions, keeping them at a sub-$100 price to start. The good news is that there’s way more bang for the buck, even if I was to compare these to the Outlier Air models.
Even with the design changes, Creative uses the same ear tips, so the fit and comfort felt perfectly fine for me, partly also because so much of the body of each bud settles into the ear’s concha. I’m not sure how well it might feel for those with smaller ears, but I would say the Outlier Pro are a little deceptive when you first look at them. They don’t feel quite as big as they look.
They’re also a little more durable than they appear by way of the IPX5 rating, which isn’t what I consider rugged but is probably good enough to run or work out in. Best to make sure you wipe them clean if you sweat in them, though.
On the inside, Creative changed up the drivers by coating the 10mm ones here with graphene, a lightweight, thin layer of graphite made of carbon atoms that is also incredibly strong. With earbuds like this, it reduces the power necessary to run the drivers, which leads to greater efficiency. It’s certainly one of the reasons why the Outlier Pro offer such good battery life.
I’m not yet convinced graphene dramatically improves actual audio quality on its own, but I do welcome the efficiency. I mean, who wouldn’t?
The default sound isn’t bad, but it did come off feeling a little muddy to me, so I went to the Creative app to see what I could do with the onboard EQ. The multi-band layout is back, and Creative offers tons of presets, though you can also create your own. It’s worth tinkering to find what works best for your ears or the genres you like most and create a set you can fall back on.
Indeed, the EQ is really the best way to find out what these buds are capable of to improve the soundstage. You’ll note that the presets list includes many for specific video games or gaming franchises. There is a low-latency mode you can toggle on in the settings if you want to use the Outlier Pro as gaming earbuds.
I found overall sound more dynamic when ANC was on, though you can still get excellent results when it’s off or in ambient mode. It’s not the best noise cancelation, but given the cost, I’d say it’s better — and far more granular — than many in the same range because you toggle between four different levels of ANC. The same goes for ambient mode.
It’s always nice to see something more budget-friendly perform well, and the Outlier Pro are like a cheaper gift that keeps on giving. Call quality is excellent, especially indoors, whereas you may find mixed results in breezier conditions outside.
Creative also continues its much-improved work on making the touch controls consistently effective, and with such an open space to tap on, it would be almost inexcusable for them not to be. You have full control over how they lay out, too, choosing what each tap does on either side.
And then there’s the outstanding battery life. Creative rated the Outlier Pro at 15 hours per charge with ANC off and up to 10 hours with it on. Volume levels will largely determine how close you get to those numbers, but in my testing, I cracked nine hours at a tad above the default level. I also had another three full charges in the case, which is why it took me well over a week before I even had to think of plugging them back in to charge. Creative did throw in fast charging, where I could plug in for 10 minutes to get two hours of playback. Not to mention, you can always keep them laying on a wireless charging pad, when need be.
Creative Outlier Pro: What’s not good
I do wish Creative would at least throw a bone to Android users by including better codec support. AAC is fine for iOS users, but what about aptX Adaptive for everyone else? Sadly, you won’t find it here, and to me, that’s a big drawback because there’s so much already here to play off of it.
I can understand not having LDAC or hi-res support in a pair of sub-$100 earbuds, but it would be good to see Creative give earbuds it calls “Outlier Pro,” a codec worthy of the name. When something is “Pro,” it should have extras, and that includes elements that could improve overall audio quality for a large subset of listeners.
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t duds because of the omission, but it left me wondering “what if” had Creative taken that route. As good as the sound is, the company’s engineers also cut a corner by muddying the mids just enough to notice. While it’s possible to somewhat offset that within the EQ, I couldn’t find a way to truly make them burst out.
The Outlier Pro’s case might be the thing that bursts out instead. It’s a sliver bigger than the Outlier Air V3, so still generally bigger than a lot of the earbuds cases out there. Think of it as a consequence of the amazing battery life you get for these buds every time you look for a pocket to put them in.
This one is a minor gripe, but I’m not sure why Creative hides the Low Latency mode in the settings rather than just putting it in the main screen. The mode is useful for watching movies and shows, as well as playing games, so there should be a quicker way to get to it and toggle on when necessary.
Creative Outlier Pro: Competition
There’s no shortage of competitors when looking at the best cheap wireless earbuds. The Creative Outlier Air V3 don’t have ANC (they have noise reduction instead), but are a good budget buy if you can live with that being missing. The Anker Soundcore Life P3 are an excellent choice among the best earbuds below $100, what with ANC and great app support.
The Soundpeats Mini Pro lack an app to customize things, but ANC is good and audio fidelity superb for what they cost. Plus, they’re on the smaller side, so may feel more snug if you feel your ears are too small for the Outlier Pro.
Creative Outlier Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if…
- You are on a tighter budget
- You want good sound you can customize
- You want long battery life
- You care about fit and comfort
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You want something with aptX support
- You feel your ears might be too small
- You prefer a smaller case
- You’re looking to spend even less
Creative just keeps on rolling out improvements each time it releases a new pair of Outlier earbuds, which is how they often end up among the best wireless earbuds available. The Outlier Pro are not an entire departure from the previous Outlier Air pairs, but they do look and play differently because of how they were built. Good earbuds for less money aren’t hard to find nowadays, though there still is such a thing as good value at budget levels.
The Outlier Pro fit that bill. They are, in my opinion, among the best affordable earbuds you can plug your ears with. Beyond just the sound quality and ANC, battery life, call quality, touch controls, and app support round out an impressive set of features and performance.
With the Outlier Pro, Creative continues its steady approach in improving on its earbuds with each successive iteration. The audio sounds good, they fit well, and battery life lasts for more than just days.