Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

Affordable buds with robust ANC, sound, and battery life

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Creative Outlier Pro ANC are bargain noise-cancelling earbuds with strong selling points, but they miss the mark in key areas.

Pros

  • +

    Bold audio with 3D sound capabilities

  • +

    Impressive ANC

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Powerful mics

  • +

    Two companion apps with several sound settings

Cons

  • -

    Uncomfortable, loose fit

  • -

    Shoddy touch controls

  • -

    Frustrating head-mapping process

  • -

    Dull earbud design

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The Outlier Pro ANC are the latest addition to Creative’s inexpensive wireless earbuds lineup. As the moniker implies, these buds are equipped with active noise cancellation (ANC). They also come with some of the longest battery life on a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds and are Super-X-FI-ready to deliver a 3D holographic soundscape. Had it not been for some functional troubles (e.g., controls, ear-scanning setup) and the unfavorable design, they would earn a higher score, granted 4 stars is nothing to scoff at.

CREATIVE OUTLIER PRO ANC SPECS

Price: $89
Colors: Metallic Umber
Battery life (rated): 10 hours (ANC on); 15 hours (ANC off); 40 hours (charging case with ANC on); 60 hours (charging case with ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Water resistance: Yes (IPX5 rated)
Size: 0.98 x 0.79 x 1.04 inches (per bud); 3.23 x 1.81 x 1.21inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.24 ounces (per bud); 2.57 ounces (charging case)

Read our full Creative Outlier Pro ANC for the full breakdown.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Availability and price

Creative sells the Outlier Pro ANC directly on their site for $89 (opens in new tab). There is currently an early bird special that lets you score a pair for 25% off (Coupon Code: EARLYBIRD25), bringing the price down to $65. Only one color is available: Metallic Umber.

In the box is a wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different-sized ear tips, guide start guide, compliance leaflet, and warranty.

These are some of the most affordable noise-cancelling earbuds out there, alongside other sub-$100 standouts like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($79) and Edifier NeoBuds Pro ($99). For elite ANC and sound, we recommend the top-selling AirPods Pro ($249) and category-leading Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279).

Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Design and comfort

These are some bland-looking earbuds. In fact, they carry the same stock design as some of the cheap, no-name models on Amazon. There are no extra color options or details that make them distinctive. A heavy, thick frame doesn’t help their case in the looks department either.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

If there is one positive to the design, that would be build quality. The plastic exterior and IPX5 certification protect the buds from hard spills on concrete, excessive sweat, and water splashes. 

Creative chose to reserve its creative thinking for the aluminum charging case. It’s heavy and long, but incredibly sleek. I’m digging the matte finish with a laser-printed logo on the top. The gold “Super X-Fi Ready” scripture and LEDs for both earbuds and the case are sweet touches. But it’s the slide-out mechanism that steals the show, smoothly extending the case to handsomely display the buds in their charging slots.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The bulky size makes for a loose and unpleasant fit. Readjustments were required every so often to maintain on-ear stability. The cavity also doesn’t rest well on the concha, resulting in fatigue after about an hour of wear, and the sound port felt like it was digging into the canal.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Comply Foam Tips might offer tighter grip control around the ears, but it’s unknown whether the accessory maker will create tips for this model. 

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Controls and digital assistant

You have a full suite of media controls – playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation – that can be assigned in the Creative app. Each of these are enabled through different input methods, including double, triple, and long taps. Only the latter works reliably.

On-ear detection is also MIA, meaning audio won't auto-pause when removing the buds. Not being able to swap out the long-press command for anything other than volume is another missed opportunity for the Outlier Pro ANC.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

It’s somewhat baffling that earbuds with such long touch panels struggle with touch accuracy. I had to perform multi-tap commands 2 or 3 times before their assigned functions executed. Even then, there was noticeable lag when activating certain features like ANC and digital assistance. 

Speaking of which, the Outlier Pro ANC is compatible with Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby. Thankfully, all three AI bots work well. Creative’s six-mic array is one of the more intelligible in the category, capturing every spoken syllable and lengthy verbal requests in quiet and rowdy environments.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Audio quality

Creative has a history of award-winning sound that stretches as far back as the ‘90s with their Sound Blaster sound cards and extends to the current day with their superb computer speakers. The transition to wireless earbuds might be their most impressive achievement in the audio space, as is exemplary with the Outlier Pro ANC, which pumps out dynamic and punchy sound that can be customized in multiple ways. 

Underneath the hood lies a 10mm graphene-coated driver that raises bass levels, but not too high, keeping the low end balanced for steady frequency range. Listening with the Flat EQ (the default) gave me the energetic resonance I desired on classics like Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” The snare drums pack a mean punch and the guitar riff on the bridge soars, while Freddie Mercury’s vocals come in crisp and loud.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bassier tracks like Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” knocked hard, thanks to a bouncy bassline with steady reverberation. With a sound profile that emphasizes lows, I didn’t think there would be much room for highs, but the whistle blowing throughout the chorus sounded sharp. That type of performance enticed me to play Jazz records, which were satisfying listens. The instrumental separation on Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” was fascinating, letting my ears consume the delicate double bass and tinny hi-hats over the vibrant trumpet play.

Treble was the one sonic element that Creative could have fine-tuned better; it sounds subdued on these buds compared to the NeoBuds Pro. You can tweak the sound in the Creative app by creating your own sound profile or selecting from over 40 EQs engineered for different music genres and even video game franchises (e.g., Apex Legends, Doom Eternal, Fortnite). I can confirm the music EQs are on point; Hip-Hop bumped up lows, Jazz enhanced treble, and Vocal elevated mids.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Then there’s the SXFI app that carries the buds’ biggest audio feature: Super X-Fi. Essentially, this is Creative’s version of spatial audio that performs a head-mapping test to adjust stereo or mono sound and upmix it for 3D sound. However, there are caveats: the feature only works in the SXFI app and with music files stored on your mobile device. It isn’t compatible with videos, games, or any hi-fi streaming services (e.g., Tidal, Deezer). 

Apple’s version is the superior 3D-listening solution. I appreciated how Super X-Fi expanded the soundscape to have music sound more natural, but it didn’t separate elements in songs as well as other spatial audio technologies. Its limitations are another huge issue.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The SXFI app also comes with a custom EQ, but only five preprogrammed EQs: Cinema, Classical, Flat, Game, and Pop. None of these made a significant difference to sound versus the Creative app EQs.

Listening with ANC on won’t compromise sound and it slightly raises the bass levels. There is a Latency Mode to improve audio synchronization for videos and games, but the buds perform just fine with the feature turned off. 

Creative’s decision to limit codec support to AAC and SBC impacts streaming quality (more on this later). Qualcomm’s aptX technology would have fixed bitrate transmission.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Active noise cancellation

Creative’s hybrid Active Noise Cancellation lives up to its billing. The technology adapts to environments and uses feedforward and feedback microphones to cancel out incidental sounds, at least most of them. Users gain full control over how much noise they want to block out via the five-level Noise Control setting in the Creative app. The slider makes it simple to adjust ANC and selecting Max level earns you the best noise neutralization. It also drains power quickly.

As someone who constantly changes his work environment, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the number of external sounds these buds silenced. Indoors, ANC rid the soundscape of any low and mid-frequency noises, specifically loud chatter and any fracas coming out of the laundry room, which is located next to the living room. My toddler’s joyful screams and electronic boombox were also subdued well enough not to disturb me during office hours.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Using the Outlier Pro ANC outside was just as rewarding. Any planes that flew over the house went unnoticed, along with the landscaping work that took place on both ends of the house. Shooting hoops in the backyard felt peaceful, with the technology putting a muzzle on dribbling sounds and the thud effect of airballs hitting the garage door. 

Those who want to increase their environmental awareness can turn on Ambient Mode to hear what’s happening around them. Like ANC, it has five settings to adjust how much noise the mics pick up. Keep it at Max level if you’re trying to hear or communicate clearly with people; bringing it down muffled vocals. Besides that, the feature was useful for keeping tabs on oncoming traffic (bicyclists, runners, cars) during strolls with my baby boy.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: App and special features

As previously stated, there are two apps compatible with the Outlier Pro ANC – each serviceable in different ways. The standard Creative app is where most of the action takes place. Aforementioned features like ANC/Ambient adjustment, control customization, Latency Mode, and that humongous EQ list have already been discussed. Rounding out the app are automatic firmware updates, battery levels for each bud, and a volume slider.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The SXFI app (Android, iOS (opens in new tab)) comes with its own EQ settings and is the only way to get 3D audio. You must go through the strenuous head-mapping test, something Creative swears is easy to complete, but it isn’t. This requires using the front or rear camera on your smartphone to snap photos of your head and both ears. Trying to line up your ears with the outline on the screen is extremely difficult and impractical to execute by yourself. My mother-in-law had to assist and used the rear camera to complete all scans.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Aside from those two features, SXFI is bare on extras. All that’s left is access to your mobile device’s music library and a video tutorial of how Super X-Fi works.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Battery life and charging case

Creative doesn’t short you on battery life. A full charge equals 10 hours with ANC on and up to 15 hours with ANC off. High volume and special features will decrease playtimes by 1 to 2 hours. That’s still far more than what you’ll get from the AirPods Pro (4.5 to 5 hours) and right about the same as the WF-1000XM4 (8 to 10 hours). I was delighted with the 5 days of moderate use (2 hours daily) these buds provided.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case holds even more portable power: 40 to 60 hours, depending how you use the buds. We’re talking nearly triple what the AirPods Pro case holds (24 hours). A 10-minute quick charge will net you 2 hours of listening time. 

You can wirelessly charge the case by placing it atop any Qi-enabled charging pad, but bear in mind that it overheats if kept on longer than 30 minutes, causing the buds to overheat as well.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Call quality and connectivity

This is a decent calling headset. Any calls taken indoors were satisfactory, though some people complained about mild muffling. The mics picked up lots of background noise, so it was tough for anyone to hear me outside, especially in high traffic areas. I’m still in shock that my wife could hear cars passing by the front of the house when taking her call from the backyard. Consider that a testament to Creative’s powerful mic array.

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Bluetooth 5.2 was lackluster for the most part. While it was nice receiving up to 40 feet (12 meters) of wireless range, there was occasional stutter when streaming Spotify, and the buds wouldn’t auto-connect to recognized devices. The Outlier Pro ANC could have also benefitted from features like one-tap Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology (pair to two devices simultaneously).

Creative Outlier Pro ANC review: Verdict

The Outlier Pro ANC have some compelling hallmarks, highlighted by the warm and vibrant sound profile that can be customized through a variety of well-engineered EQs. Noise cancellation is some of the finest in the category. Then comes the incredibly long battery life (40-60 hours is awesome).

However, it’s evident that Creative got overzealous with the spec sheet and stuffed as much as they could into these buds without refining certain features.

There aren’t many companies out there attempting 3D audio at such a low price point. As much as I applaud Creative for the effort, the limitations and underwhelming performance of Super X-Fi will push audiophiles towards other spatial audio platforms. Other flaws like the finicky controls and unflattering design also keep the Outlier Pro ANC from solidifying a place among the true wireless upper echelon.

If you’re the type to care less about these mishaps, then the Outlier Pro ANC are worth the purchase.