Monday, February 24th 2020

Quick Look: Creative Outlier Gold True Wireless Earphones

Following up on our coverage of CES goodies that are more than just swag, we continue exploring the wacky world of true wireless (TWS) earphones. The first set in this quick look series examined the Altec Lansing Nano Pods that clocked in at just $30, and today we up the ante into the oh-so-barely-under-$100 with the Creative Outlier Gold at $99.99. The company has impressed yours truly for three CES showings in a row with their Super X-Fi headphone holography tech, which we examined in the first retail iteration via their SXFI amp. This technology aims to replicate a surround speaker speaker audio experience into earphones/headphones, and requires their SXFI DSP to make the most of it. So when Creative said they have TWS earphones with SXFI, I was intrigued and simply had to test them for myself.

As it turns out, the Outlier Gold does support SXFI, but only with a software experience from their mobile app. This makes sense considering these are meant to be quite small and, well, wireless, and yet Creative claim a whopping 14 hours of battery life per charge. In addition, this set is an upgrade to their previous Outlier Air TWS earphones, which were quite popular for offering good value for money, and we see signs of it already with the packaging going with a two-piece unboxing experience with renders, marketing features, and product specs all over the box. Read past the break for more on these, especially if you are looking for a good balance of audio performance, battery life, and price point.
Opening the box, we see a plastic compartment with shaped cutouts to house the carrying case as well as the two individual earbuds themselves. There is a plastic cover on top to help keep them pristine and dust free out of the box. Creative adopts a layered packaging in this relatively small box, with the accessories found underneath, including paperwork on warranty and a handy quick start guide, as well as three pairs of small and two pairs of medium sized replacement silicone rubber ear tips, which is in contrary to the two each mentioned in the product page, but more is never a problem here. There have been some online complaints about allergies and infections with these ear tips, but I have not had any issues and they are the same bio-compatible and hypoallergenic silicone used by any other company, so take that for what you will. Also seen here is a charging cable that goes from USB Type-C to USB Type-A, hinting towards the adoption of Type-C on the case that will be nice for travel.
The carry/charging case is more in the shape of a pill box, with a rectangular form factor instead of something that resembles the Apple Airpods case as someone else did, but that's a story for another time. Despite the metallic gold finish, the case is made of a plastic, as are the actual earbuds inside but with an aluminium housing where it counts most. This is one of the ways Creative has managed to hit that $100 price point while still looking like something which costs much more. The earbuds are on the larger side of average, come marked L or R, and fit snugly into the compartments inside the case via magnets for charging as well. They have an outer LED ring to denote charging and connection status, and the LEDs turn off after a few seconds to preserve battery life. The case itself has more indicator LEDs to visualize battery level, charging status, and the presence of the earbuds themselves, and indeed use a Type-C port for charging. The case weighs ~55 grams with each individual earbud at 10 grams, making for a portable solution that is also light on the ears in use.
The earbuds connect via Bluetooth 5.0, and support Qualcomm aptX (not aptX HD, Adaptive or Low Latency, unfortunately) as well as AAC, thus covering both camps for mobile audio. Pairing these is different in that you have to first pair the left earbud, which then automatically initiates the process of pairing the right earbud. The left one is the master by default if you took it out first, but can be swapped out for the right earbud as needed. This separate pairing is for a good reason, since the Creative Outlier Gold is actually capable of running in mono mode with a single earbud as well.
The ability to paid with both Android and Apple mobile devices also comes with call and smart assistant control, in addition to the expected playback and volume control. You have to physically press into the center of the earbud until you feel a tactile response, which is awkward to do when they are in your ears and you apply what seems to be undue pressure into your ears. I found that supporting the back of the earbud with my index finger while pressing in with my thumb finger to work out, but this too is a corner cut in not having touch controls or a more tactile physical button. The earbuds use a 5.6 mm graphene driver each, which isn't really being used to its max potential here since graphene drivers are more suited for larger size mass savings while retaining a high electrical output, but Creative and a few other companies tout it as a marketing feature, and likely source it from the same factory too. There are also acoustic differences compared to a more typical diaphragm driver, but again the relative differences are minor in this size range.
The Creative Outlier Gold supports software Super X-Fi, which I see more as a bonus than a problem of not having the full SXFI experience. Without the SXFI app, you still get a really good user experience. Across the weeks of testing, I had an average of 12 hours per charge (I had music and podcasts at 50-65% volume) and the case was good enough to give me over 30 hours before I charged it. This meant I could easily take these along for a week without worrying about charging, which solves my biggest complaint about TWS solutions. Creative has tuned these towards the lower and middle end, with a raised bass response and weaker on the highs and vocals compared to, say, an over-the-ear headphones at this price point. It's of course not a direct comparison, but I found myself wanting another set of earphones for podcasts as well as certain genres of music, including classical, blues, and jazz. Of the various in-ear headphones at my disposal, these fared very well for pop and thumping bass as expected.

But then the SXFI app comes in and changes things further. When paired to a phone with the app installed, they are recognized immediately as an SXFI device, and you can toggles it within the built-in player of the app. Software SXFI means that you are limited to audio files locally stored on your device only, and even then simulates the experience without the hardware DSP to back it. Having become used to hardware SXFI with not only head mapping profiles, but also inner-ear measurement profiles from CES, this is not as good an experience to me, but in isolation is a general improvement for those wanting a more neutral response. Think of a V-shape audio profile before, and now the dip at higher frequencies is not as pronounced. This was my experience anyway, and unfortunately the thing with SXFI, and especially software SXFI, is you may feel something else entirely. Feel free to try it out, you have little to lose but time.

At $99.99, the Creative Outlier Gold are arguably the overall best true wireless earphones I have personally used to date. The long battery life and powerful drivers with software SXFI as an option work out well, and the earbuds were a snug fit for my ear canals as well. The IPX5 water resistance came in handy for workouts in the gym, as did the convenient pairing when taking them out of the earbud. For when I needed one ear hearing the environment around me, the ability to run either earbud in mono mode was a nice way to get around the absence of a dedicated environment mode which, let's face it, are more miss than hit. Just don't use these for actual calls or teleconferences, the microphone is arguably the weakest part of the product and another place where Creative saved money to get this under the 3-figure mark.
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8 Comments on Quick Look: Creative Outlier Gold True Wireless Earphones

#1
fb020997
I have the non-gold ones. I’d rate them 3/5 with stock (awful) eartips, and 4/5 with better ones.
First, my sample has an awful lot of sibilance with the awful stock tips, so much that I didn’t want to listen to some music with those earbuds, and there wasn’t a lot of bass.
And second, those stock eartips are horrible for sealing the ear canal unless you spend a couple of minutes fiddling with them.
But, with a pair of normal eartips I found somewhere at home, most of the sibilance disappeared (I said most, because there is still some on certain songs) and the bass increased to good levels, not overpowering the rest. A bit kore won’t hurt anything, but still, those aren’t bass heavy. t’s fine. They sound very good in general. And also, they’re super easy to put in the ear canal, just like wired earbuds.
The best thing is the battery life though. Right on the money, around 10 hrs.
P.S. I use them paired with my iPhone XR
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#2
VSG
Editor, Reviews & News
fb020997
I have the non-gold ones. I’d rate them 3/5 with stock (awful) eartips, and 4/5 with better ones.
First, my sample has an awful lot of sibilance with the awful stock tips, so much that I didn’t want to listen to some music with those earbuds, and there wasn’t a lot of bass.
And second, those stock eartips are horrible for sealing the ear canal unless you spend a couple of minutes fiddling with them.
But, with a pair of normal eartips I found somewhere at home, most of the sibilance disappeared (I said most, because there is still some on certain songs) and the bass increased to good levels, not overpowering the rest. A bit kore won’t hurt anything, but still, those aren’t bass heavy. t’s fine. They sound very good in general. And also, they’re super easy to put in the ear canal, just like wired earbuds.
The best thing is the battery life though. Right on the money, around 10 hrs.
P.S. I use them paired with my iPhone XR
It's weird because there definitely is mixed feelings about the ear tips online, and much more so than usual. These are the most comfortable earbuds for me, and then there are some reports of ear infections on the other end of the spectrum.
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#3
Zakin
Kind of doubting these are worth much of a damn, but, they're pushing price point here. Plenty of audiophile companies are ruining the 100-200 dollar price area, I have a pair of Noble Audio Falcons and I can almost get my whole twelve hour shift out of one go, let alone 40 more hours in the battery. Not to mention they don't sound terribly worst off than my home audio setup that costs quite a bit more.
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#4
DeathtoGnomes
Zakin
Kind of doubting these are worth much of a damn, but, they're pushing price point here. Plenty of audiophile companies are ruining the 100-200 dollar price area, I have a pair of Noble Audio Falcons and I can almost get my whole twelve hour shift out of one go, let alone 40 more hours in the battery. Not to mention they don't sound terribly worst off than my home audio setup that costs quite a bit more.
Agree with this, pretty expensive to have one fall out and get stepped on. $30 set, not so much.
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#5
VSG
Editor, Reviews & News
DeathtoGnomes
Agree with this, pretty expensive to have one fall out and get stepped on. $30 set, not so much.
This is why it is so critical to ensure a snug fit inside the ear canal, since that will not come out anytime soon. I've had these on when running and the sweat didn't make a difference, but another set of more expensive such TWS earbuds don't stick in as well.
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#6
Zakin
VSG
This is why it is so critical to ensure a snug fit inside the ear canal, since that will not come out anytime soon. I've had these on when running and the sweat didn't make a difference, but another set of more expensive such TWS earbuds don't stick in as well.
Have to agree with this, I switched my Falcons to some complys and I never worry about it, I work in a factory environment with a lot of heavy movement. Plus if the sound starts to drop in the slightest I know I cracked seal slightly, and re-adjust them when I have a moment. Happens maybe twice in a twelve hour shift though.
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#7
Sir Alex Ice
True Wireless = we did not pay BlueTooth licencing fees so we can't use the name or logo.
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#8
GreiverBlade
well i wonder why big brand like Creative ... do not design their product ...


oh well ... they have the "SXFI" magic help ... (tested after the SXFI Amp review here... not convinced), a more than good battery duration (well if they really do 14hrs ) a USB-C (at last! although i don't see the issue to have Micro instead ) and a price point which is not too bad ... 100$ is cheap for a TWS BT5.0 with AptX support

although battery duration is not an issue anymore with TWS ... even with buds with only 3hrs duration and a 7hrs backup case ... they are always charged and up for the week, unless you wear your buds more than 3hrs straight per day, i wear my TWS every day for a set time then i put them in the charging case and i only charge the case once it's depleted (but still manage to get one run more from the buds ) and they only have 10hrs combined, the non TW set i have :any MMCX used with a Fiio RC-BT or the Pionner SE-MS7BT-S are a little more annoying since they have no charging case that keep them up (tho the RC-BT 10hrs duration is quite enough for a whole week before charging them and the SE-MS7BT-S 12hrs is too )


"well if they really do 14hrs " ah someone answered 10hrs ... to be spot on ... i didn't know a 4hrs error margin was spot on :laugh:
also really? 39hrs total ... oh can they get 39hrs total with a base duration of 14 ... the Sudio Tolv had 35hrs combined and 7hrs for the buds alone ... which was logicall : 7x5=35 (the Skullcandy Sesh have the same issues ... 3hrs duration plus 7 in case = 10hrs total ... totally illogical over, for example, 3hrs buds 6 or 9hrs case 9 to 12hrs total the extra 1hrs charge that 7hrs case 10hrs total is weird ).
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