Not a fan of wired headsets for your office conference calls? Consider true wireless in-ear-monitors as an alternative. Lightweight and comfortable, they are a more practical choice in tropical weather if you do not run air-conditioning.
Apart from office use, they will be perfect for accompanying you for your exercise sessions, or travelling. This makes them an easy sell to the Minister of Finance at home.
The Outlier Air V3 ("V3") is the third-generation version of the Outlier Air - Creative's true wireless in-ear-monitors.
The charging case remains at about the same size as the original Outlier Air ("V1") which means that it is bulky and clunky to carry around. Sharing the same footprint, the V3 case is slightly taller. You do get 40 hours of playtime though with 10 hours per charge, which is improvement over the 30 hour lifespan of the original model. The case may be charged via a USB-C port, or Qi-compatible wireless charging. Charging time via cable is between 2 to 3 hours.
The V3 uses Bluetooth V 5.2. Supported audio codes are AAC and SBC. Purists will be disappointed to note that aptX support has been dropped. Like the V1, the V3 is IPX5 certified for water resistance.
The driver for the V3 uses a 6 mm bio-cellulose driver, which is a change from the 5.6 mm graphene-coated drivers used in the V1.
The V3 case, fully loaded with earbuds weighed in at 76.6 grams, compared to 61.8 grams for the V1. The earbuds for the V3 are 5.3 grams in weight (per side), while the V1 are 5.1 grams.
By default, the usual volume and play control functions, Siri or Google Assistant, as well as ambient and active noise reduction modes are accessible via touch control. However, you can also customise the controls via the Creative App. This App is also used to flash firmware upgrades and applying EQ settings.
Besides the Creative App, you will need to download the SXFI App to transfer your personal profile over to the Outlier Air. Music also has to be played through this App in order to enjoy SXFI. This is an inconvenience, especially if your music source is from a streaming service since the App supports playback of local music files only.
Use, Fit and Comfort
Taking the earbuds out of the case will put the V3 into pairing mode automatically. You also have the option of just using one side (useful for conference calls). I noticed that the earbuds would also squeal loudly when being returned to their case. I traced this to feedback from the microphones when either ambient mode or active noise reduction is being used. Alternatively, place the earbuds back in the case one at a time to avoid this.
Fit will be subjective. The V1 with its larger shell, fitted my ears better and provided a better seal. The V3 felt less secure, and did not seal as well in my right ear. However, this can be easily remedied by changing out the tips to suit your personal preference. The V3 sat quite securely during exercise sessions, although I would feel less confident to use them for long runs. They were also comfortable enough to be used for long listening sessions.
Battery life was consistent with specifications and the V3 had no issue connecting with my phone placed about 6m away so long as line-of-sight is maintained.
The V3 turned in a competent performance, with a significant improvement over the V1. Bass performance was tighter and more impactful, while midrange was much clearer - the V1 had a tendency to sound muffled and nasal. High frequencies also had a touch more openness and extension. Soundstaging on the V3 was also wider and more spacious, with better placement of voices and instruments.
Tonally, I would say that the V3 had a slightly warm balance, with neutral bass and highs, and a laidback midrange. Some listeners may find the bass balance a bit light, but this can be fixed in the EQ settings.
Putting aside the richer feature set, the V3's sonic performance is reason enough to upgrade from the V1.
The active noise reduction works reasonably well. However, as the name suggests it attenuates outside noise instead of canceling it. Nevertheless, the end result is good enough for the typical home environment, or for traveling.
The microphone pickup is above average and voice pick-up is reasonably clear.
The V3 is a solid performer at a bargain price. The Singapore online shop regularly runs promotions, and you can usually get a pair at a good discount - Best Buy
Creative Outlier Air V3