Creative Outlier Review

Creative Outlier Review

Creative was a big name when CD-ROM drives and after-market soundcards were relevant, but recent years haven't been kind on the Singapore-based company. Today, Creative is more focused on audio products such as the Sound Blaster Roar and Sound Blaster FRee, which have been its more interesting recent launches.

 

With the popularity of Bluetooth devices, the company launched the Rs. 6,499 Outlier headphones last month. Apart from wireless connectivity, these headphones also pack in some interesting extras that make it one of the most feature-filled wireless headsets around. Read all about it in our review.

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Design, specifications, and comfort
The Creative Outlier is primarily an on-ear wireless headset, but it can also be used in wired form either using a standard stereo cable or through USB. A 3.5mm socket on the left earcup will let you keep using the headphones in case you run out of battery power. Alternatively, connecting an ordinary Micro-USB cable will also let you use the headset with PCs and gaming consoles, utilising its own in-built DAC. Both cables are included in the box.

That's not all - the device can also be used as a standalone audio player with a microSD storage card. It supports common audio formats, which makes this one of the most versatile headsets we've seen. There is no shortage of connectivity options, and the Creative Outlier is pretty much equipped for any listening scenario. There's also a microphone and audio controls on the device.

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The headphones weigh about 100g, and are powered by 32mm dynamic drivers with a frequency response range of 20-22000Hz. Bluetooth connections use the A2DP profile, and battery life is acceptable at about eight hours on a full charge. Additionally, you can also install the Buddy app, which reads out notifications on the headset from supported apps such as Line, WeChat, and Whatsapp.

The headset itself is entirely plastic, with a dull finish on the headband and around the sides of the ear cups. The outward-facing side of the ear cups have a glossy, reflective finish that is not only a grime magnet, but also scratches easily. The right ear cup has the power button, controls, microSD slot, Micro-USB port, and NFC sensor, while the left ear cup only has the 3.5mm socket for connecting a stereo cable.

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The Creative Outlier feels a bit cheap and tacky in our opinion. It isn't very comfortable to wear either, as the padding is inadequate and the band clamps down on your head a bit too hard. The adjustment mechanism felt loose and needed constant fiddling.

The only interesting aspect of the appearance of the headset is the ability to change the rubber 'acoustic' rings. The package includes six pairs of colourful rings, which can be put in place to change the accent colour of the Outlier. Having no rings in place exposes vents in the ear cup which changes the sound ever so slightly, by making it more open. We generally preferred the sound with rings on. All six pairs of rings have exactly the same effect on the vents, so you can even mix and match colours. This adds a little bit of flavour to an otherwise bland and cheap look.

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Performance
We used the Creative Outlier headphones with an Android smartphone and a Windows PC during our testing, and also tried it with music loaded onto a microSD card through its in-built audio player. Focus tracks for the review were Calvin Harris' How Deep Is Your Love, Shpongle's Brain In A Fish Tank, and Skrillex's The Reason.

Starting with How Deep Is Your Love, we found the sound of the Outlier to be very biased to the low-end. The sonic signature is excessively geared towards promoting the lows, and feels a bit too warm as a result. The lows tend to sound a bit droning and overbearing at times. While we'd expect there to be great bass response as a result, the truth is that there's absolutely no tightness in the bass whatsoever.

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Moving on to Brain In A Fish Tank, we studied the frequency responses in more detail. Apart from the aforementioned lack of oomph in the bass, there was also no actual strength or feeling in the mid-range or highs. The droning of the lows affects clarity and definition negatively, and there's barely any audible openness or detail. Vocals sound a bit recessed, and the result is a sonic signature that is unlikely to suit anyone.

Finally, we listened to The Reason, but this time we used the stereo cable for audio transmission. This made an immediate difference to sound quality, which not only opened up a bit but also had a bit more definition and drive. There was also noticeably more attack and thump in the bass, which could be heard with other tracks we listened to as well. Soundstaging and imaging were audibly better as well, and you can feel the openness in the sound immediately.

This brought us to the conclusion that the internal digital-analogue converter (DAC) on the headphones is simply not up to the mark. The DAC, which is used when audio is being transmitted over Bluetooth or when a microSD card is used with the in-built player, is poor and muddies the sound considerably. The use of a more capable DAC such as the ones on our phones and computers made an immediate difference. This is disappointing, because one poor component essentially ruins the sound quality on the Outlier and defeats its primary feature.

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Verdict
The Creative Outlier is a bit of a mixed bag, with some aspects that will please you and others that will leave you thoroughly unsatisfied. It's got lots of connectivity options, including the all-important Bluetooth, USB audio and standalone functionality through microSD, but a poor internal DAC means that sound quality is simply not up to the mark.

Furthermore, build quality is a bit poor, and comfort leaves a lot to be desired. The only good thing about the look is that the coloured rings can be swapped to give the headset a bit of flavour, but this is a rather inconsequential pro among more critical cons. While the Creative Outlier had the potential to be a good product, it has been let down by one poor component that makes the entire package weak and therefore not worth the price.

Price (MRP): Rs. 6,499

Pros

 

  • Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm and standalone audio player capabilities
  • Good sound with 3.5mm stereo cable
  • Coloured rings add some customisability

 

Cons

  • Internal DAC is poor
  • Bad performance with Bluetooth, USB and microSD
  • Build is cheap and tacky
  • Not very comfortable

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 2.5
  • Performance: 2.5
  • Value for money: 3.5
  • Overall: 2.5
Comments

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Ali Pardiwala writes about audio and video devices for Gadgets 360 out of Mumbai, and has covered the industry for a decade now. Ali is a Senior Reviewer for Gadgets 360, where he has regularly written about televisions, home entertainment, and mobile gaming as well. He is a firm believer in 4K and HDR on televisions, and believes that true wireless earphones are the future of the personal audio industry. Ali is available on Twitter as @AliusPardius and on email at alip@ndtv.com, so do send in ...More
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