Creative Outlier Air V3 review
Outlier Air V3 is Creative’s best true wireless to date. Active Noise Reduction and Transparency mode are both well implemented, and the sound quality is an improvement over previous models. Problems with touch controls and wireless connectivity persist, but to a lesser extent. One of the best genuine wireless earphones under £ 100.
- Clear, detailed, wide performance
- Very good function set
- Even better fit than before
- Better wireless connection than previous models
- The touch controls can be more responsive
- Bluetooth connectivity can still be eccentric
- No aptX
- Great BritainGuide price: £ 64.99
- USARRP: $ 69.99
- EuropeGuide price: € 69.99
- CanadaRRP: CA $ 89.99
- AustraliaRRP: AU $ 99.95
Super X-FiTakes mono and stereo sound and turns it into 3D
Active noise reductionReduces the effect of external sounds
ChargerSupport for fast and wireless charging
In the budget-true true wireless arena, Creative has been almost the man (or woman). Each successive pair in the Outlier Air series has delivered a lot that is good, but has also been plagued by problems – with each real wireless set of knobs awarded four stars and nothing more.
But can the Outlier Air V3 be the peaks to sling the range into elevated territory? Creative delivers increased battery life, the addition of a Transparency mode, plus wireless charging, and does it all at a price that is cheaper than previous models.
Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride, ringing the bells for the Outlier Air V3?
- Lighter and smaller than before
- Appearance identical to previous models
- Excellent seal and comfortable fit
I would like to say that the appearance of the Outlier Air V3 gives a radical change compared to what came before, but that would be untrue. And to be fair to Creative, just like Sennheiser’s cheaper wireless, the company has come up with a design that works, requiring just a nip and tuck with each iteration.
The operation here means a less glossy surface for the touch controls. V3 has also been treated with a little liposuction, with lower abdomen on the buds that are slim. This has shaved several milligrams from the V2s 6g, down to 5.2g. To borrow Tesco’s slogan, every little one helps.
The fit is the most comfortable it has ever been, the headphones remain plugged in the ears on many runs. An IPX5 rating is stronger and more waterproof than most earphones provide, apart from dedicated training options. Ear tips include a pair of small, medium and large silicone tips.
However, touch controls require a few prods to get things started. The knobs respond to more affirmative jabs, but as has been the case with the V2s, while the touch controls work well enough, there is definitely room for improvement. The controls cover playback and volume, so there is at least less need to fish the mobile device out of pocket.
Outlier Air V3 is available in green, and offers a similar polished quality as previous generations. With the mirroring of the earphones, the dimensions of the charging bag have shrunk slightly. The cover remains one of the larger units around, but I like the extension tray for the charging cradle.
- Fewer problems with connecting earphones
- SBC and AAC Bluetooth streaming only
- Active noise reduction to reduce external noise
With every pair of Outlier Air knobs I have received for consideration, there have been issues with the connection. Outlier Air V3 are the least problematic, but still have a strange desire to disconnect right after pairing with my smartphone. Although this does not happen all the time, it is strange that it does.
Battery life with the V3 has jumped to 40 hours, from the V2’s 34 hours, although the charge per knob is down to 10 hours from 12. I can imagine that the smaller size has meant a reduction in the charge that each knob can hold. This means that the Outlier Air V3 offers three full charges, which is much and better than what most premium headphones offer.
You do not have to think about charging too often, but when you do, you can rely on fast charging support. A 10-minute refill will provide two more hours, and there is support for (the slower) wireless charging with Qi compatibility.
The move to Bluetooth 5.2 seems to have resulted in a smoother connection apart from the issues I mentioned above, with no sudden disconnections or an earplug that accidentally decided it had enough. However, the connection can disappoint in busy places, get choppy and jump in busy signal areas. Bluetooth codec support is SBC and AAC; Creative has dropped aptX (it’s done for the more advanced Outlier Pro model as well).
Call quality is ok, but for best performance, Active Noise Reduction (ANR) must be enabled in the Creative app. Without it, the microphones go from being nice indoors to pretty bad outdoors.
They pick up a lot of background noise, which often causes my voice to compete with it. On a windy day, the performance was so poor that the person at the other end could not hear me at all. Turn on ANR and it’s an improvement, with less noise and better vocal clarity; but the performance is still pretty average for a real wireless.
And since I mentioned Active Noise Reduction, I have to say that it is very good at taming sounds, similar to Bose Noise Reduction which was on the original Amazon Echo Buds. A lot of noise disappears, making it less hectic to walk around London or take the tube. It does not remove as much noise as a hybrid active noise reduction solution, but it is great for listening to music or streaming a Netflix show in relative peace on the commute.
There is also an Ambient mode, which is sharp and clear in tone and gives an open, spacious and detailed presentation. I could get a sense of where everything was and hold a conversation with someone else quite easily. Transparency modes at this price point may disappoint – as is the case with the Lypertek SoundFree S20 – but this is not one of them.
- Sharp, clear sound
- Stren bass
- Super Xi-Fi holographic support
With the Outlier Air V3, Creative has taken another step forward for sound. These knobs have as sharp a tone as the V2s, but the overall balance is better controlled by the V3 knobs. There are still traces of the similarity of voices that sneak in from time to time, but they are curbed when comparing traces between the new and older model.
The Outlier Air V3 retains the powerful, tight bass performance of the V2, even though the bass does not have as large a presence as it did on the V2. While this may disappoint some, I found that the Air V3’s predecessors were a little too strong, throwing out the balance of the earphones. With The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die, the V2 is better in terms of bass weight and presence; but overall, the V3 shows a better balance over the frequency range by keeping the bass more in check.
And better balance is the biggest improvement with this model. These knobs evoke more clarity and definition, as well as a little more distinction between the instruments in They Reminisce Over You (TROY). The midrange is treated for greater clarity and detail, with voices given a little extra care. V2 boasted of a more direct delivery, but the V3 buttons show more subtlety, so by switching between the two I heard more details through V3.
The extra definition extends to the top of the frequency range, which has more brightness and clarity taken from the treble tones in GoGo Penguin’s Raven – tonally the performance sounds more accurate than through the older model, the piano notes dance a little more delicately within the soundscape.
Super X-Fi performance (supported via the SXFI app) also benefits from the improved sound quality in midrange and high frequency ranges, as the voices are less weeded out. I’m still not entirely convinced about spatial sound mixing with Super X-Fi; The conversion has always led to a lack of detail, clarity and fidelity, but it depends on the track you are listening to.
One last thing to note is the presence of less signal noise through the Outlier Air V3, which immediately puts these knobs over the V2 in general clarity.
Should you buy it?
For fantastic value The new features work well, the battery life figures are strong and the sound is better. It has taken a few tries, but the Outlier Air V3 is up there with the best knobs under $ 100 / £ 100.
You are not a fan of touch controls Creative has still not fully figured out how to seamlessly implement touch controls. They are less frustrating on the V3 than previous generations, but there is still an element of fuss about operating these knobs.
V3 presents the best version of the Outlier Air series to date. The new features such as Active Noise Reduction and Ambient mode are well integrated; the performance of both is as good as you will get under £ 100. The design is less bulky and more comfortable thanks to the fact that it is smaller and lighter, and the Outlier Air V3 creates more clarity, details and definition from music.
These wireless connectivity issues are still present, but less annoying, and the controls can still benefit from a more responsive touch. Nevertheless, these are Creative’s best Outlier Air models to date, but with the Outlier Air Pro offering true hybrid noise reduction, they may not hang on the crown for long.
How we test
We test all the headphones we evaluate thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features correctly. We will always tell you what we find. We never accept money to evaluate a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethical guidelines.
Tested with use in the real world
Frequently asked questions
Outlier Air V3 has a different, smaller design and it has active noise reduction, while Outlier Pro has hybrid Active Noise Cancellation.
US Indicative Price
CA Guide price
AUD guide price
Creative Outlier Air V3
CA $ 89.99
AU $ 99.95
6 mm bio-cellulose driver
20 20000 – Hz
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