Creative Zen Hybrid


A solid pair of over-ear noise-cancelling headphones from the Creative, the Zen Hybrid features a clear, detailed audio performance and effective noise-cancellation at an affordable price, though those who enjoy bassy music should steer clear.


  • Affordable price
  • Clear, detailed audio
  • Effective noise-cancellation
  • Solid wireless performance


  • Plastic build quality
  • Weak bass response
  • Below average call quality

  • Hybrid ANCClaims to cancel up to 95% of ambient noise

  • Foldable designLay the headphones flat or collapse them for stowing away

  • SXFI technologySupports the Super X-Fi tech to upmix stereo tracks into ‘3D’


There’s been a boom in inexpensive ANC true wireless buds, and the same upward swing is beginning to apply noise-cancelling over-ears.

The number of ANC over-ears isn’t exactly massive, but the Creative Zen Hybrid is one of a growing number I’ve seen that carry noise-cancelling for less than £100/$100.

Noise-cancelling on-the-go at an affordable price is becoming a reality, but how good is the Zen Hybrid at performing its task? After extensive testing, here are my thoughts.


  • Compact size
  • Collapsible design
  • Predominantly plastic construction

Available in black or white options (with some fetching gold lettering on the earcups), the construction of Zen Hybrid is more humble than premium – they’re predominantly made from plastic. Give the surface a tap and you’ll hear how hard it is.

There is a creaky feel to the build quality when wearing them, and the use of plastic, perhaps along with its reinforced steel core, gives them a weight of 273g. That’s 23g heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Creative Zen Hybrid earcups
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That’s a surprise as the Zen Hybrid is a fairly compact unit, small enough that the space in-between the earcups isn’t big enough to completely envelop my ears.

The Creative caresses my earlobes, but other than a bit of pinching after 20 twenty minutes (which eventually passes), I haven’t had any other comfort issues as the pliable synthetic leather earpads are comfortable, as is the padding on the underside of the headband.

Creative Zen Hybrid collapsed design
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All of the physical buttons are located on the right earcup, and I don’t love their placement. The volume buttons (which double up as track skipping with a hold), and power (doubles up as playback) are easy enough to find; but I’m always fumbling for the ANC button on the front.

A USB-C port (for charging) and 3.5mm jack (for wired listening) are provided, and in terms of transport, the Zen Hybrid can be laid flat or collapsed to be stowed away in the provided pouch.

Creative Zen Hybrid pouch
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  • Effective noise-cancellation
  • Ambient Mode not as described
  • Less than average call quality

There is active noise-cancellation but no transparency mode. And while the ANC performance is not as good as you can get if you spend more, it is effective for the money.

Activating the Hybrid ANC is like reaching for the volume button – it dials down the noise of the surrounding environment though it doesn’t completely mute it.

The Zen Hybrid can’t suppress as many noises as, say, the Bose QuietComfort 45. But the performance is quietly impressive, getting rid of ambient sounds, muffling voices, thinning out vehicle engine noises and the sound of the wind flowing past on the Underground.

Creative Zen Hybrid buttons
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A little volume assistance is needed with louder sounds but otherwise, I found the Zen Hybrid a satisfying noise-canceller. It combats wind noise well – better than the more expensive Sony WH-CH720N. Despite what the Creative website says, there is no ‘Ambient Mode’, there is simply turning ANC off. If you want to hear what’s around you, you’ll need to do it the old-fashioned way and take the headphones off.

The wireless performance has been solid, too. Whether it’s walking around central London, or through Waterloo and Victoria train stations, I’ve only experienced a few stutters and nothing prolonged enough to cause the connection to fall apart. Bluetooth streaming is only up to AAC, so Android and iOS users should get a similar performance.

Creative Zen Hybrid hanging about
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Less great is the Zen Hybrid’s call quality, worse than similarly priced Back Bay ClearCall 70 (which doesn’t come with ANC). The person on the other end of the line complained they could hear everything around me, especially in noisy areas, and wind can disrupt the performance too. As soon as the Zen Hybrid’s microphones tried to cancel out more noise, the sound of my voice became lower, making it even more of a struggle to hear what I was saying.

Creative claims 27 hours off a single charge but this is at “moderate” listening levels. Performing a battery drain at about 50% volume led to a 10% drop across two hours. That’s about 20 hours with ANC on, which will likely fall as volume goes up.

The headphones support the Creative SXFi app, but features are few. There’s an equaliser but its effect is minimal (if not completely non-existent), and there’s the SXFi holographic technology that upscales stereo into 3D audio, but as I mentioned with the Sound Blaster X1, it doesn’t sound as natural as stereo. Personally, I’d avoid the app altogether.

Creative Zen Hybrid SXFI app

Sound Quality

  • Solid clarity and detail
  • Lacks much bass emphasis
  • Quiet at default volumes

At default listening levels the Creative Zen Hybrid is undoubtedly quiet. It needs a volume boost to hear at its best – at least to about 80% or so – but even at that level there’s one area the Zen Hybrid struggles with, and that is bass.

Featuring 40mm full-range Neodymium drivers (so the drive unit covers high, mid, and low frequencies), the low frequencies are under-fed. Whether it’s DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts (feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller), Raye’s Escapism or Childish Gambino’s Boogieman, there isn’t much depth, power, or extension channelled to the low frequencies.

Creative would argue (reasonably so) that the headphones have been tuned to convey accuracy, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of greater bass presence. If you’re a bass nut and into Trance or EDM etc, there’s flatness that won’t endear.

Creative Zen Hybrid earpads
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Lukewarm bass aside, the rest of the frequency range is treated to good levels of clarity and detail. The vocal part of the midrange is prioritised and clearly relayed, instruments are solidly defined and awarded plenty of detail in tracks like Ebi Soda and Yazz Ahmed’s Chandler. The Zen Hybrid boast more of a neutral listening profile than the Sony CH720N which are more bass heavy.

The highs aren’t too crisp in nature, with a smoothness across the entire frequency range that puts a limit on how much detail the Zen Hybrid can retrieve. Treble notes can sound bright but more often come across as relaxed, such as in Gerald Clayton’s Rejuvenation Agenda (Live).

Creative Zen Hybrid side view
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The dynamic range – the difference between highs and lows – isn’t hugely pronounced, and its sense of dynamism (the difference between loud and quiet notes) is mostly flat too, but considered in view of its asking price and the sound is solid.

The soundstage gets bigger with the volume pumped up, and the stereo image described is a fine one in terms of its organisation. One other note is that noise-cancellation can make the headphones sound a smidge different: a little thinner, a tiny bit more definition, and slightly bigger. It’s not a big difference but some may lean to having noise-cancellation always on.

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Should you buy it?

For an effective ANC at a low cost: The ANC won’t get rid of every sound, but they’ll clear out enough to make them good value for the price.

If you like your bass big: There’s not much depth, weight, or power delivered to the low frequencies, which robs them of some excitement.

Final Thoughts

I haven’t heard many over-ear noise-cancelling headphones at this price but they are becoming commonplace, and of the ones I have tested, the Creative Zen Hybrid are a mostly agreeable pair.

Unlike the Monoprice Sync-ANC, there isn’t a significant contrast between the ANC on and off modes. The sound is entertaining with good clarity and detail, though bass underwhelms. There are better-sounding models in the Sony WH-CH720N and Soundcore Space One, but they are closer to the £100/$100 mark.

The noise-cancellation won’t get rid of every noise it encounters but it masks. There are a few drawbacks: creaky, plastic build and below average call quality but in light of its low price, this will get the job done for most. Check out our Best Headphones guide for more options.

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 over several weeks

Tested with real world use


What is the battery life of the Creative Zen Hybrid?

Creative claims that the battery life for the Zen Hybrid is up to 27 hours at moderate listening levels. In our tests, we found it’s closer to 20 hours if you listen at 50% volume.







IP rating

Battery Hours



Release Date

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Driver (s)

Noise Cancellation?



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Headphone Type

Originally posted 2023-09-13 14:29:01.