The Outlier Air V3 are Creative’s best true wireless yet. The Active Noise Reduction and Transparency mode are both well implemented, and sound quality is an improvement on previous models. Issues with touch controls and wireless connectivity still persist, but to a lesser extent. One of the best true wireless earphones below £100.
- Clear, detailed, wide performance
- Very good feature set
- Even better fit than before
- Better wireless connection than previous models
- Touch controls could be more responsive
- Bluetooth connection can still be eccentric
- No aptX
- UKRRP: £64.99
- USARRP: $69.99
- EuropeRRP: €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 impact of external sounds
- ChargingSupport for fast- and wireless charging
In the budget true wireless arena, Creative has been the nearly man (or woman). Each successive pair in the Outlier Air series has delivered plenty that’s good, but has also been beset by issues – with each true wireless set of buds awarded four stars and nothing more.
But could the Outlier Air V3 be the buds to catapult the range into exalted territory? Delivering increased battery life, the addition of a Transparency mode, plus wireless charging, Creative is pulling out all the stops at a price that’s cheaper than previous models.
Always the bridesmaid but never the bride, are the bells ringing for the Outlier Air V3?
- Lighter and smaller than before
- Identical looks to previous models
- Excellent seal and comfortable fit
I’d love to say the appearance of the Outlier Air V3 offers a radical change over what came before, but that would be untrue. And to be fair to Creative, much like Sennheiser’s cheaper true wireless, the company has come by a design that works, requiring only a nip and tuck with each iteration.
The surgery here translates to a less glossy surface for the touch controls. The V3 have also been treated to some liposuction, with the underbelly of the buds being slimmed down. This has shaved several milligrams from the V2’s 6g, down to 5.2g. To borrow Tesco’s slogan, every little helps.
The fit is the comfiest it’s ever been, the earphones staying plugged in the ears on numerous runs. An IPX5 rating is stronger and more watertight than delivered by most earphones, aside from dedicated workout options. Ear-tips include a pair of small, medium-sized and large silicone tips.
Touch controls require a few prods to get things going, however. The buds respond to more affirmative jabs, but as has been the case with the V2s, while the touch controls work well enough, there’s definitely room for improvement. Controls cover playback and volume, so at least there’s less of a need to fish your mobile device out your pocket.
The Outlier Air V3 are available in green, offering a similar polished quality to previous generations. Mirroring the earphones, the charging case’s dimensions have shrunk slightly. The case remains one of the bigger units around, but I do like the push-out tray design for the charging cradle.
- Fewer issues with the earphones connectivity
- Only SBC and AAC Bluetooth streaming
- Active Noise Reduction to lessen external sounds
With each pair of Outlier Air buds I’ve received for review, there have been issues with connectivity. The Outlier Air V3 are the least problematic, but still bear an odd desire to disconnect straight after they’ve paired with my smartphone. While this doesn’t happen all the time, the fact that it does is peculiar.
Battery life with the V3 has jumped to 40 hours, from the V2s’ 34 hours, although the charge per bud is down to 10 hours from 12. I’d imagine the smaller size has meant a reduction in charge that each bud can hold. It does mean the Outlier Air V3 offer three full charges, which is plenty and better than what most premium earphones offer.
You won’t have to think about charging too often, but when you do, you can count on fast-charging support. A 10-minute top-up will deliver two more hours, and there’s support for (the slower) wireless charging with Qi compatibility.
The move to Bluetooth 5.2 seems to have resulted in a smoother connection aside from the issues I mentioned above, with no sudden disconnects or one earbud randomly deciding its had enough. However, the connection can disappoint in bustling locations, becoming stuttery and skipping in busy signal areas. Bluetooth codec support is SBC and AAC; Creative has dropped aptX (it’s done so for the more advanced Outlier Pro model, too).
Call quality is okay, but for best performance Active Noise Reduction (ANR) needs to be enabled in the Creative app. Without it the microphones veer from being fine indoors to pretty poor outside.
They pick up a lot of background noise, often leading to my voice having to compete with it. On a windy day, performance was so poor that the person on the other end couldn’t hear me at all. Turn ANR on and there’s an improvement, with less noise and better vocal clarity; but the performance is still pretty average for a true wireless.
And since I’ve mentioned Active Noise Reduction, I should say that it’s very good at taming sounds, similar to Bose Noise Reduction that featured on the original Amazon Echo Buds. Plenty of noise is dissipated, making walking around London or going on the Tube less of a hectic experience. It won’t remove as much noise as a hybrid active noise-cancelling solution, but it’s fine for listening to music or streaming a Netflix show in relative peace on the commute.
There’s an Ambient mode, too, which is crisp and clear in tone and delivers an open, spacious and detailed presentation. I could get a sense of where everything was and hold a conversation with someone else pretty easily. Transparency modes at this price point can disappoint – as is the case with Lypertek’s SoundFree S20 – but this isn’t one of them.
- Crisp, clear sound
- Taut bass
- Super Xi-Fi holography support
With the Outlier Air V3, Creative has taken another step forward for audio. These buds bear a similarly crisp tone as the V2s, but the overall balance is managed better by the V3 buds. There are still traces of sibilance to voices that creep in from time to time, but they’re reined in when comparing tracks between the new and older model.
The Outlier Air V3 retain the punchy, taut bass performance of the V2, although bass doesn’t have as large a presence as it did on the V2. While this might disappoint some, I found the Air V3’s predecessors to be a little too strong, throwing off the earphones’ balance. With The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die, the V2 are better in terms of bass weight and presence; but, overall, the V3 display a better balance across the frequency spectrum by keeping bass more in check.
And better balance is the major improvement with this model. These buds elicit more clarity and definition, as well as a tad more separation between instruments in They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y). The mid-range is treated to greater clarity and detail, with voices given a little extra care. The V2 boasted a more forthright delivery, but the V3 buds exhibit more subtlety, so swapping between the two I heard more detail through the V3.
That extra definition extends to the top-end of the frequency range, which features more brightness and clarity eked from the treble notes in GoGo Penguin’s Raven – tonally, the performance sounds more accurate than through the older model, the piano notes dancing a little more delicately within the soundstage.
The Super X-Fi performance (which is supported via the SXFI app) also benefits from the improved fidelity in mid-band and high-frequency ranges, since voices are tonally less weedy. I’m still not entirely convinced about spatial audio upmixing with Super X-Fi; the conversion has always led to a shortfall in detail, clarity and fidelity, but it does depend on the track you listen to.
One last thing to note is the presence of less signal noise through the Outlier Air V3, which instantly puts these buds above the V2 in overall clarity.
Should you buy it?
For terrific value The new features work well, battery life numbers are strong, and the sound is better. It’s taken a few attempts, but the Outlier Air V3 are up there with the best buds below $100 / £100.
You’re not a fan of touch controls Creative still hasn’t quite figured out how to seamlessly implement touch controls. They’re less frustrating on the V3 than previous generations, but there remains an element of fussiness about operating these buds.
The V3 present the best version of the Outlier Air series yet. The new features such as Active Noise Reduction and Ambient mode are integrated well; the performance of both is as good as you’ll get below £100. The design is less bulky and more comfortable thanks to being smaller and lighter, and the Outlier Air V3 eke out more clarity, detail and definition from music.
Those wireless connection issues are still present but less irritating, and the controls could still benefit from a more responsive touch. Nevertheless, these are Creative’s best Outlier Air models yet, although with the Outlier Air Pro offering true hybrid noise cancellation, they may not hang onto their crown for long.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for several weeks
Tested with real world use
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The Outlier Air V3 has a different, smaller design and it has Active Noise Reduction whereas the Outlier Pro has hybrid Active Noise Cancellation.
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