With one of the few outdoor pastimes you can partake in right now being to go out for a walk or run, there’s been a huge surge of interest in wireless earbuds and headphones. As people trek outside with some music or a podcast in tow, there’s never been a better time to pick up a pair, and now Creative, one of most dependable audio specialists, has updated their already excellent Outlier Air true wireless earbuds with the V2 version. Right from the off, it’s clear that if you’re looking for an exceptional value pair of earbuds, it’s well worth tracking them down.
In the box you’ll find the pair earbuds that, as well as a charging case, cable and a batch of different eartips to help you find the right fit. I’d readily argue that the Outlier Air are one of the most attractive wireless earbuds out there, and the V2 is visually more or less identical. Black, curved units with a circular LED and a central button feature on both left and right-hand side, with the major change from the original being the switch from a physical button to capacitive touch. It’s a very welcome update.
The original Outlier Air actually become my go-to pair of earbuds since I reviewed them back in 2019. The comfort, fit, and excellent battery life put them well ahead of various other earbuds I tried out, including the much more expensive pair of Beats I bought. The one downside as I spent longer with them was the buttons, which were firm enough that you found yourself more or less pressing the earbud into your ear canal when you wanted to skip a track. It wasn’t particularly comfortable.
The new touch controls completely do away with that issue, and now you can gently tap away across each of them in a variety of ways to perform functions like volume control, skipping tracks, pause, play, or answering phone calls. The initial issue I found was memorising the number of taps you needed for the various functions – double taps for pause and play, triple to skip tracks – and how definite with your presses you needed to be, but once you’ve got it worked out you’ve got all of the main controls at your fingertips, and all without endangering your cochlea.
One of the major benefits of the original Outlier Air was their battery life, and that’s been given a hefty bump with the V2, with the buds themselves capable of lasting 12 hours per charge, and the case capable of providing an additional 22 hours of charge for a total of 34 hours. In our testing, they certainly came very close to achieving those figures with an easy 11 and a quarter hours registered before the buds died, and that was likely with a higher number of button presses than you would regularly perform.
Popping the earbuds into place in their magnetic slots in the slide-out metal case is simple enough, even if you’ll regularly pull at the wrong end of the case to open it up. It takes between 2 and 3 hours to fully recharge them depending on how run down they are, with LEDs at one end to show the charging status. The case itself takes a USB-C cable to recharge, and there’s a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box if you don’t already have ten of them lying around your house. The case might be a bit on the large size compared to some other options, but the increased battery life makes it more than worth it, and its metal build feels both premium and sturdy enough to chuck in your bag.
The other new addition to the Outlier Air V2 is Creative’s SXFI technology which we’ve come across in most of their recent headsets, with the SXFI Gamer headset having one of the best implementations to date. That SXFI tech creates a virtual soundstage that is designed to give your audio an enhanced sense of space, much like Dolby Atmos and its ilk. SXFI has consistently proven to be amongst the best options out there, but its implementation in the Outlier Air V2 is somewhat confusing.
You’ll need to nab the SXFI app from the Google Play or Apple App store, and then the first step is to take pictures of your ears while it creates a personalised audio profile for you. Once done you’re all set to experience SXFI virtual surround, except that you soon discover it’s only available natively in the SXFI app to play any audio files you have downloaded on your handset.
It’s a bizarre thing to discover that the function doesn’t work with third-party software like Spotify or Amazon Music, and I found that overall, the playback leaned towards the brighter end of the spectrum, losing much of the bottom end from nearly everything except the included SXFI demo track. I’m not sure quite what the problem is here, as I’ve found SXFI to be a reliable and worthwhile set-up elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ll ever use it again with the Outlier Air V2.
Despite the odd SXFI implementation, I love the Outlier Air V2’s regular audio output. With a £75 price point, you’re not going to find many true wireless earbuds that come close, and the pleasingly balanced audio lends itself well to music, movies and a spot of mobile gaming too. It’s a perfect companion on a run, not only staying in place but continuously pumping well-rounded audio out.
It’s something of a shame that the V2 didn’t inherit the Air Gold’s aptX HD capability, but you still have aptX and AAC alongside basic SBC encoding, so you’ll get high-quality Bluetooth audio from pretty much anything out there. In particular, you’ll get a decent combination of sound quality and low latency if you’ve got an aptX enabled device.