Barely 3 months after the immensely successful launch of the Outlier Air, Creative Technology has announced their second true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds. The Outlier Gold comes in Champagne Gold colour which easily distinguishes from the black Outlier Air. Creative makes it clear that the Outlier Air continues to be sold alongside with Outlier Gold and is not being replaced. You can probably think Outlier Gold as “Outlier Air Bonus Edition”.
Outlier Gold vs. Outlier Air
Here are the major differences between the 2 products.
|Features||Outlier Air||Outlier Gold|
|Battery Life (Earbuds)||10 hours (60 mAh)||14 hours (80 mAh)|
|Battery Life (Case)||30 hours (380 mAh)||39 hours (450 mAh)|
|Super X-FI||Not Supported||Yes, Software|
|Bluetooth 5.0, QCC302x, SBC, AAC, aptX||Yes||Yes|
|Water Resistance Rating||IPX5||IPX5|
|Ear Tips||1 extra pair||2x S pair, 2x M pair|
For S$20 more, I think it’s a better deal to get Outlier Gold.
Design and Fit
The casing of the Outlier Gold is in aluminum with the internal housing in plastic. It is easy to slide the dock out. There are 4 LED to show the charging indicators of the 2 earbuds and the case. USB Type-C charging port puts the Outlier Gold at the forefront.
The magnets that hold the earbuds to the dock are exposed and very strong. It might require a bit more finger muscles to lift the earbuds off the dock. The hardware buttons on each earbuds cover the entire back, outlined by the swirling LED lights that pulses during pairing or charging, and slow periodic blinks when connected.
The buttons are quite stiff, and the only comfortable way to operate them is to hold on to the earbud and click so that you do not push the earbud deeper into the ear canal. To change tracks, double-press. To change volume, press and hold for one second until you hear a beep. To play-pause, tap quickly. To pair, press and hold for 3 seconds. To activate voice assistant (Google, Siri), double-tap when music is paused.
TrueWireless Stereo Plus
One little known fact is that the Outlier Air and Outlier Gold use the Qualcomm QCC302x TrueWireless Stereo Plus chipset, which connects both left and right earbuds directly to the device instead of passing audio data from one earbud to another. This reduces audio lag and improves battery life. You will see on the Bluetooth settings that both earbuds are connected at the same time. Depending on the smartphone model, it might take a while to connect and sync both earbuds. Some smartphone models may also encounter minor bugs. For instance, when trying to adjust volume on the Outlier Air/Gold connected to Xiaomi Mi 9 smartphone, the volume level cannot be synced to both earbuds. The workaround is to adjust volume from the smartphone, but at the max level, the volume might not be loud enough. Xiaomi owners might want to skip this earphones.
For devices that do not support TWS Plus, the usual transmission process will apply where the primary earbud will pass the audio data to the other secondary earbud, and the volume issue does not occur. The beauty of Outlier Gold (and Air) is that it is possible to change the primary earbud by selecting the preferred earbud (L or R) on the smartphone Bluetooth page. If you encounter some signal interruptions, switching sides might improve.
The Outlier Gold delivers firm tight bass with sufficient boom without too overpowering the higher frequencies. The treble is bright, crisp and well-defined, with a small tendency to get a little pushy when encountering strong sibilance, but the tolerance depends on your ears and the source. The midrange offers adequate support but nothing memorable.
When I tried to compare the Outlier Gold with the Outlier Air, I find that the Outlier Air offers slightly more bass response and tamer, more comfortable treble, but the difference is probably not that obvious when sampling separately. Overall, the sound signature for both models is identical and any difference could be due to production variance, audio device, or just my imagination.
Overall wireless connectivity is stable, especially on TWS Plus mode. There are no notable issues on the transmission stability compared to previous TWS reviewed over the past few months. On the whole, true wireless earphones have improved in the connectivity, especially products from established brands, but break-ups could still happen in some situations. For that, the Outlier Gold still cannot achieve perfection. One probable reason could be the aptX codec that demands higher bitrates than SBC or AAC. If you insist on owning a pair of earphones with zero break-ups, the Outlier Gold – or any wireless earphones for that matter – will not offer that guarantee.
Audio quality is also satisfying without any discernible compression artifacts to ruin my listening joy, all thanks to aptX. The highs are clean enough for my ears, and I wouldn’t compare too deep with audiophile-grade wired headphones.
Software Super X-Fi
For users who have not tried Super X-Fi, the Outlier Gold is the most affordable way to experience wireless SXFI without purchasing the separate SXFI Amp or the SXFI Air wireless headphones. Install the SXFI App from the Google or Apple App Store, do the head mapping, and you are ready to experience. Software SXFI is only supported through audio tracks played from within the SXFI App.
Being a software emulator, the audio dynamic range is aggressively compressed when playing modern pop tracks with high peak levels, but the holographic audio effect is still present. Music appears to come from the front of a virtual room, with the bass positioned in rather close proximity, providing good intensity. The low-treble sounds rather hazy, but after applying EQ to boost the 8K Hz, the treble is more transparent.
The Super X-Fi sound is something that not everyone can appreciate, but once you experience it, it will really change the way you enjoy headphone music. Music no longer feels tight and compact, but sounds more comfortable and roomy.
Comparing the Outlier Gold to Sudio Tolv, the Outlier’s treble appears more distant with more room feel. With Sudio’s close staging, the sound is more compact, more impact.
Compared to AVIOT TE-D01b, the Outlier’s treble is more transparent and revealing, but AVIOT’s treble is more refined. Outlier’s bass is firmer, more pushy.
Creative Technology has always been very generous in their product pricing. Outlier Gold retail price of S$139 is very competitive among the entry-level TWS, but what makes it more attractive is the extensive 14-hour battery life, conforming IEM fit, and the bonus SXFI capability. Technophiles will also appreciate the latest Qualcomm QCC302x TrueWireless Stereo Plus chip, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX and USB Type-C charging connector which are only found in more expensive earphones.
When the Outlier Air was launched, it was an instant sell-out, which goes to show that the Creative brand is still very much trusted. Based on my review experience with other Creative Outlier series, the audio quality is good enough for the masses, and even for myself. What I always look for in a “listenable” pair of headphones is that the bass must be substantial enough to feel and be fun but not too heavy and muddy, and the treble must be clear and detailed enough to give me goosebumps but not too bright and fatiguing. In the midst of the sound balance, the usage experience rounds up the product impressions. I cannot find much fault on the Outlier Gold for that price, and I would love that the treble be a little more refined to satisfy my audiophile ears. But that would probably cost more than S$139.
If you are looking for some of the best wireless audio technologies assembled in a pair of true wireless earphones, you will not be disappointed with the sound quality and magnetic price of Creative Outlier Gold. With regular in-store promotions at Creative Online Store, it is only a matter of time that you make your purchase on them.
Declaration: Products are provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. Opinions are from author.