Creative Outlier Free Pro

Verdict

The Creative Outlier Free Pro offers good, but not best in class bone conduction sound on land and in the water for less money than the swim-proof headphone competition.

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear for long periods
  • Easy to switch between Bluetooth and music player modes
  • Good battery performance

Cons

  • Battery drop at louder volumes
  • Sound isn’t super clear
  • Sound in water doesn’t better competition


  • Built-in MP3 player8GB storage to play audio files on

  • IP ratingIPX8 rating allows for submersion in water

  • Bluetooth multipointConnect to two devices at the same time

Introduction

The Creative Outlier Free Pro are bone conduction headphones built to be your all-day headphones with a strong exercise slant, including when you go for a swim.

Along with that swim-proof design, Creative gives you the option of Bluetooth and music player streaming with extras like multipoint connectivity, a low latency mode to improve watching videos and the promise of up to 10 hours battery life.

They’re priced cheaper than other swim-proof bone conduction headphones including the Shokz OpenSwim, so could you save some money by grabbing these more affordable waterproof headphones instead?

Availability

The Creative Outlier Free Pro cost £159.99 / $129.99, but can be found for £89.99 / $99.99, making them a cheaper buy than the Shokz OpenSwim (£139.95 / $149.95), and the Naenka Runner Diver (£135.56 / $169.99), two of the best performing waterproof bone conduction headphones I’ve tested.

Design

  • IPX8 water resistant design
  • Microphone protector for swimming
  • Silicone ear plugs included

The Creative Outlier Free Pro adopt a familiar behind-the-neck and ear hook design associated with bone conduction headphones and has a mix of titanium and silicone in the design to make it comfortable to wear, but feel like they’re well-built as well.

At 31.5g, the Outlier Free Pro is nice and light making them ideal for wearing over longer periods. They come only in a blue look with the entire design suitable to be submerged in freshwater up to 1.5 metres for up to 40 minutes. The same level of protection isn’t on offer in saltwater, so it’s not going to be suitable for all open water swimming spots.

Underneath the right arm are three physical buttons for track skipping, for volume control, with a button that has a big ‘M’ on that lets you switch between Bluetooth and music player modes.

Creative Outlier Free Pro worn by reviewer
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

For swims, Creative has included a set of silicone earplugs to stop water from invading your ears. They also include three small rubber microphone protectors that you’ll need to plug into the microphone port to further protect the headphones from moisture invading the onboard components.

The physical buttons are a little too tightly positioned together for my liking, which makes it easy at times to hit the wrong button, while getting the microphone protector plugged in before a swim is an extremely fiddly process. There’s a reason why three are provided because they’re easy to misplace.

Creative Outlier Free Pro buttons
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Features

  • 8GB music player
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • Multipoint connectivity

Along with the headphones you’re getting a proprietary magnetic charging cable that also doubles as the cable needed to plug into a USB-A port on a laptop or computer to drag and drop audio to make use of the built-in 8GB music player. 

This is pretty commonplace for how most bone conduction headphones with music players work and the Pro is compatible with MP3, FLAC, WAV and APE file formats, although it doesn’t support WMA files. It’s a drag and drop approach that can be a touch slow going at times syncing audio over.

Creative Outlier Free Pro neckband
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

In terms of battery life, Creative says you can enjoy up to 10 hours of battery life from the onboard 180mAh capacity battery, though those numbers are based on listening at moderate volumes.

In reality, if you’re using this close to top volume, and likely most will, getting to the promised 10 hours isn’t always possible, whether that’s using the Bluetooth streaming or from the music player. In general I found battery life closer to 6-7 hours. A 40-minute swim with the music player saw battery drop by 10%. So it’s not a bad showing in general.

Attaching that charging cable for a 5-minute charge does get you two hours of playtime, making it easy to keep them topped up and thinking less about how much battery you have to play with.

Creative Outlier Free Pro design
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Creative offers some other extras here to make them more useful outside of workout time. There’s a multipoint connectivity mode to connect to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, a relatively straightforward, four-step process to set it up if you like the idea of being able to handle calls from one of two connected devices.

There’s also a Low Latency mode, which promises to provide audio and video playback with less lag. This is activated by pressing the multifunction button four times, though I honestly can’t say if it improved or offered a better experience.

Sound Quality

  • Good but not the best bone conduction sound
  • Call quality 
  • Up to 10-hours battery life

Creative isn’t doing anything particularly out of the normal in terms of how it uses bone conduction technology to deliver sound to your ears. 

Creative Outlier Free Pro drivers
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Whether it’s over Bluetooth streaming or via the built-in player, the overall sound profile is the same. It’s fine, but when you’ve tested other bone conduction headphones like I have, it’s not breaking new ground or even matching what the best bone conduction headphones can offer.

The bass is muddy, the midrange sounds boxy and the trebles are harsh sounding. When you go louder, those bone conduction vibrations are a little more noticeable. These aren’t the worst bone conduction headphones I’ve used and there are some fine traits here, but it doesn’t match the experience I’ve come to expect from Shokz, Naenka and Haylou in offering something more balanced.

Creative Outlier Free Pro on couch
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

When switching to music player mode, I piled on a bunch of drum and bass podcasts as well as spoken podcasts and for the former, the bassier sound is the most redeeming quality though it comes at the expense of clarity. Listening to podcasts was fine, but it simply wasn’t as clear as some other bone conduction headphones I’ve tested.

In the water, that lack of clarity and volume makes the experience a less memorable one. They do an okay job of delivering sound for swims, but there’s certainly room for improvement. It’s a similar story using them for calls and if you’re looking for the best bone conduction headphones for extremely clear calls, these are not the ones either.

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Should you buy it?

You want a more affordable pair of swim-proof bone conduction headphones: The Outlier Free Pro can be picked up for less than similar headphones from Shokz, Naenka and offers a good enough performance in and out of the water.

You want the best bone conduction headphones for swimming: While they might be cheaper and offer a good fit for swims for less than the competition, the sound doesn’t match swim-proof headphones you can spend more on for better sound.

Final Thoughts

The Creative Outlier Free Pro get a lot of things right. They’re comfortable to wear, offer two audio streaming options and battery life is there and thereabouts with other waterproof bone conduction headphones. 

Ultimately though, if you care about the best bone conduction sound, there are better options. You’ll have to pay more, but if you’re sold on great-sounding headphones you can use for swims, it’s worth paying a bit more.

How we test

We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Tested with real world use

Battery drain test performed

FAQs

Are bone conduction headphones safe?

If by safe, you mean can they be used in busy environments, then yes. The design allows for awareness of what’s around the wearer, which is especially important if bone conduction headphones are being used for activities such as outdoor exercise.

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Originally posted 2023-10-04 09:00:00.


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