The Creative Outlier Black are getting the review treatment today. Costing £55 are they worth it?
In the box
With the Outlier Black you get
- A felt carry pouch
- The Micro USB charging cable
- A 3.5mm cable with no remote
- The documents
At the price point this level of accessories is acceptable and pretty much standard. The carry pouch does feel a bit on the cheap side but it will do a decent job of preventing the headphones from getting scuffed up.
Design and Build
- Weight: 190g
- Connections: Micro USB, 3.5mm
- In-built mic
Creative have gone with a minimalist approach to the Outlier headphones and it works. The design is all stealthy Black and as nice as that looks it’s a touch plain for my taste. But you may like the clean simplistic style.
The left side features some subtle branding that catches the light really nicely and shimmers a little. The finsish here is a flat Black that looks nice, it does pick up dirt pretty easily but luckily it’s easy to wipe clean. Downside that if you do so happen to scuff them it may not buff out. The section of the headphones is plastic but the grade is good and feels decently premium.
There is also a hinge here to allow the headphones to be made smaller for easier storage and the mechanism works great. Downside it appears to be made from plastic so it could be a point of failure in the future if heavily utilised.
The support arm and adjustment is finished in the same style as the earcup housing and is again made from plastic. Luckily the adjustment slider does get reinforced with metal to improve it’s strength. The headband is finished in a PU style leather and feels very nice, it’s soft and pretty smooth. There is more branding up here too but again it’s done tastefully.
The right side is where you’ll find all the controls and ports. There is a main multifunctional (MFB) button and this acts as
- Play / pause
- Bluetooth pairing
- On / off
- Answer / reject call
- Google now / Siri
Google now or Siri is activated by two presses and then you can use the in-built to perform your command. Play / pause is handled with a single press, On / off is a press and hold, pairing mode is again a press and hold and the answer and reject call feature is handled by a press to answer or press and hold to reject.
This side also allows you to control the volume and to skip track forward and backward or even to fast forward and rewind. So this section does a lot and it does take some getting used to.
On the underside of the right side you have access to the LED notification light, Micro USB port, the input to use these wired and the mic.
The final thing to note is the handy left and right indicator on the inside of the earcups, this just makes getting them the right way round so much easier.
As a whole they are nicely designed if a little bit too plain, the build is pretty good too with its mix of good grade plastics and metal in some of the right places. I wish the folding mech was a little more robust as that could be an early point of failure.
First up is the headband and like previously mentioned it’s covered in a PU style leather that feels good. It doesn’t cause any fatigue on my head at all whilst wearing them. The padding is a bit on the thin side but luckily the Outlier don’t weigh that much. Coming in at 190g they really aren’t heavy at all and the shape of the headband does a great job of spreading that across the top of your head.
The adjustment range is pretty solid too, they extend quite large and small, so if you have a larger (taller) head then you should be fine. The same can be said if you have a smaller (shorter) as they adjust quite small too.
The earcups again are nice, finished in an even softer PU style leather they are soft, smooth and again didn’t cause any fatigue. They do get a bit toasty after a while, so regular break are needed. The padding is plentiful and nicely plush and adds to the comfort of this part of the headphones. There is one problem though and that is the opening. These are marketed as an over ear style but the opening is quite short, this means that if you have larger ears they would sit more like an on ear style. Even for my average sized ears they didn’t fully fit inside the interior of the cups leaving them to pinch the tops and bottoms of my ears.
Another slight issue is the clamping force, they’re a little tight as of now but I’m hoping with even more use they will loosen a bit of become a bit less tight. Looking at this in a positive way and they do stay on your head and could be used for some light exercise. Another plus is the amount of movement the earcups have, they can move pretty freely to help you get them into more comfortable position and this does add to the experience.
So these aren’t the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever tested nor are they the worse. They’re a mixed bag. The headband is great, the earcups again are great in ways and not so much in others. If you have really small ears then these maybe ideal for you but those with above average sized ears may find these a little uncomfortable.
- Bluetooth version: 4.1
- Range: up to 10m
- Google Now and Siri support
Using the Outlier daily was mostly enjoyable minus the comfort issues. The controls on the side are very easy to use even when on the move. The volume and skip track are large enough to press easily without having to fumble around trying to find a tiny button and they worked great. The middle MFB was a little trickier as it sits flush with the surface, this makes locating it a bit trickier than the larger surrounding buttons. It would have be nice if it were slightly raised or recessed to make locating it a bit easier. I will say that after a fair while of use it may become easier as it’ll be like muscle memory, but initially it was a bit of a pain.
Pairing the headphones was very straight forward. You simply press and hold the middle MFB until the LED flashes RED and Blue. You then search on your device for the Outlier Black and pair. It’s very straight forward and was done in under 20 seconds.
The Bluetooth works great too, its quick to pair, reliable and solid. The range of up to 10m is about right and what I experienced. If you have a straight line of sight I would say that it does slightly go beyond 10m before it starts to have connection troubles. Round the house the connection was good and I had no issues leaving my phone behind and moving to a different room. Keep in mind that I live in a prefab house and if your house has thick brick walls this may not be the same thing you experience.
Charging the Ouliter was an less than straight forward experience. The first time I charged these I found that I could not insert the cable. This may sound odd but the outer housing partially obstructs the port meaning that you can’t fit a cable in. You then have to move the earcup to make room for the cable to fit in correctly. This is by no means a deal breaker but you have to have the earcups in a certain position to charge them with is not entirely ideal.
Back to the plus points and the Google Now / Siri support is great. You double press the MFB and you can use the voice assistant without needing to get out your phone. So you can pretty much control your phone via voice assistant without having to take it out of your pocket. I tried it a few times and it was able to make a call no problem at all. Speaking of the call quality its actually not that bad and I could hold a good conversation that was clear on both ends without having to take my phone out of my pocket.
The quoted time given by Creative for these to last is up to 13 hours, which is pretty impressive. However I managed to top that with a time of 15 hours 12 minutes at 65% volume which is even more impressive than that given by Creative. This means that you can use these 7 days a week for around 2 hours plus or you could have them last one full stint between London and Tokyo (approx 12 hours) and still have some charge left over. This is impressive from a £55 set of headphones.
Charge time was not given but I managed to get them from 0 to 100% in 2 hours dead on. This is more than acceptable for how much that you can get from them. Keep in mind these times will vary depending on how you use them and what you are charging them with.
Noise isolation and Leak
Noise isolation is not that in my experience. I tested them on public transport like I do with all my other headphones and earphones and these didn’t do so well. I think it’s because of the earcups not creating a full seal around my ears. If they were a little larger then this experience would have been better. But as they are I could still hear a fair amount of background noise even at 65% volume. I could still hear the buses engine quite clearly as well as other background noise. Turning them up to around 80% did help but that is quite beyond what I usually listen to headphones and to me not acceptable. This experience is likely going to be different for you and your maybe a lot better depending on how they fit you.
As the isolation is not that strong you can guess that leak isn’t that good either and you’d be right. These leak a lot more than they should. I again put it down to the earcups. This means that if you’re in a quiet area then they may leak and other could possible hear what you’re listening to depending on their proximity. On public transport they do fair better as there is more background noise, so they shouldn’t bother anyone unless they are sat right next to you. This again will all depend on how they fit you and the volume you listen to them.
- Drivers: 40mm
- Frequency response: 20 – 20,000Hz
The sound is pretty good as a whole it get nice and loud with very minimal distortion. The sound is overall quite full bodied and not thin at all.
The bass is nicely full and fairly weighty. The drop is good and the low down extension is quite capable. I wouldn’t say that it’s the deepest I’ve ever experienced but the roll off isn’t huge. It’s not lacking power either, now I will say that it’s not the most powerful but it does have a good amount of potency. Downside is that the bass isn’t overly detailed and is a little bit murky sounding. The bass won’t blow you away but it is pretty solid.
The midrange is decent. There is some level of detail if some minor details are overlooked. Soundstage is a bit lacking, it’s a little closed and the mids struggle to breathe for it. In sound instrument separation is okay, they do a decent job of reproducing individual sounds but really complex and heavily layered tracks can be a bit muddled. The tone of the mids are on the cooler side which makes them feel too mellow. But this could be just what you’re looking for as vibrant reproductions aren’t to everyones taste.
Vocal production is solid, the tones are natural if a little lacking in power. They portray vocals with a good amount of detail and clarity, however they just are lacking a bit of vigour and vibrancy. This could suit your taste as they are nicely chill which makes them perfect for slower paced genres. But if you like a more upbeat and faster paced styles of music these just don’t deliver that well. The range is also a bit flat and they don’t extend that naturally to the higher regions nor do they to the lower.
Overall the sound is not bad by any means, the overall quality is I would say average for the price. It’s just that they’re a little too relaxed and laid back for my taste. However like mentioned that could be just what you’re looking for.
Listen to them in the video below.
The plus points of the Outlier Black are the minimalist design, good build, great portability, excellent battery life, solid in use performance and decent sound quality. The not so good points are the comfort (in my case), poor isolation and leak performance as well as some other little quirks.
Are they right for you?
If you have smaller ears and like sound that is really chill, then these could be right up your street. If you have larger ears then be prepared to have them feel more like on ears. If you want a more dynamic sound, then I’d give these a miss as they’re a little too laid back. If you just want a set of affordable wireless headphones and you can live with the drawbacks, then these a solid all rounder.
Purchase some here