Price: $129 / £159 / AU$179
Colors: Midnight blue
Battery life (rated): 10 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
Durability: IPX8 waterproof
Weight: 1.11 ounces
The Creative Outlier Free Pro are bone conduction headphones designed for anyone that wants to stay in tune with the world around them, while also listening to their favorite podcast or Spotify playlist.
Unlike the Outlier Free, the Pro offers built-in storage to load on audio files and a design that means you can take them into the pool with you if you need some extra motivation during swims.
It matches the Outlier Free’s promise of up to 10 hours of battery life, Bluetooth 5.3 for stable connectivity with your audio-playing devices and multipoint sharing to make it a pair that doesn’t have to be all about using them when you’re trying to stay in shape.
Creative Outlier Free Pro review: Price and availability
The Creative Outlier Free Pro launched at $129, but has since dropped to $99, putting it much closer in price to the Outlier Free ($79.99). That also makes them a cheaper alternative to waterproof bone conduction headphones like the Shokz OpenSwim and Naenka Runner Diver.
Creative Outlier Free Pro review: Deign and comfort
The Outlier Free Pro looks like most bone conduction headphones you can buy right now, with a neckband-style frame that comes in an attractive midnight blue and is made of silicone and titanium. At 1.11ounces, it’s just a touch heavier than the Outlier Free, but these are light headphones to wear with no uncomfortable pressure during longer use.
There are three physical buttons on the right side of the headphones that are all easily accessed but do sit very closely together, which does mean you can on the odd occasion reach for the wrong button.
There’s a notification light tucked up just above those buttons to let you know when the headphones are successfully paired and can indicate when battery life is low when it flashes red. Those buttons let you adjust volume, skip audio when held down and the multimode button lets you switch between Bluetooth and music player mode and enable the multipoint sharing mode as well.
On the inside of that side of the headphones is the charging point and you are dealing with a proprietary charging cable here. That USB-A magnetic charging cable is also used when you need to transfer music to the headphones, which we imagine for most will be via a computer.
Creative also includes silicone ear plugs you can use during swims to improve sound isolation and a small elasticated microphone hole protector you need to plug in before submerging them in water.
To give it those swimming credentials it has an IPX8 water resistance rating, making it safe to be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters for 40 minutes, though it’s not suitable for use in salt water, so it’s one to stick to the pool with.
Creative Outlier Free Pro review: Sound and call quality
In bone conduction headphone terms, I’d say that the Creative Outlier Free Pro are headphones that attempt to push out well rounded, versatile sound, but they don’t quite achieve it. If you’re hoping for the best in bone conduction sound, you won’t get that here, but for many listening scenarios the sound is good enough.
Whether you’re using it in Bluetooth streaming mode or have gone to the trouble of plugging them into your computer to drag and drop MP3, FLAC, WAV or APE files onto the 8GB onboard memory, the sound profile feels largely the same. It doesn’t match the clarity and the more lively treble performance you can get from some of the more pricier bone conduction headphones, and its attempts to deliver bigger bass just ends up sounding a touch muddy overall.
On the more bass-heavy drum and bass and dance podcasts I synced over for swims, the sound isn’t as clear or as well balanced as the Shokz OpenSwim or the Naenka Runner Diver. There’s power there, but there’s definitely a slightly hollow and murky quality to the sound output overall. Things don’t drastically improve with the accompanied earplugs in either. It’s absolutely not a disaster and it’s good enough for music and podcasts, but if you want the best sounding swimming headphones I'd go for the Shokz OpenSwim.
Back on land and using the Songs To Test Headphones playlist on Spotify (or even the Tom's Guide Headphone Demo playlist), there’s that real feeling that these headphones want to push out better sound than they’re capable of, but can’t quite achieve it.
On Goldfrapp’s "Strict Machine", the bass is muddy, mids sounded a little boxy and the treble is a touch grainy too. Listening at louder volumes does send some more noticeable, but not uncomfortable vibrations here as well. On Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain", there’s some surprising detail in the mids department, so there’s always elements of a good sound profile here, but as a package it doesn’t quite match what a bit more money will get you.
It’s a similar story for handling calls or engaging with Siri or Google Assistant. There’s just the one microphone here and you’re not getting exceptional clear call quality and there’s that customary sound leakage you get with most bone conduction headphones to contend with as well. I made calls indoors at my desk and outside with more noise to contend with and the performance is certainly more agreeable inside.
Connectivity-wise, Creative uses Bluetooth 5.3 and I had no issues on the connectivity side of things or suffered any connection dropouts using them with an iPhone 14, Google Pixel 6a, MacBook Air or pairing it to a Garmin Epix Pro sports watch.
Creative offers a pretty seamless multipoint mode to let you connect to two devices at the same time and requires a process of connecting to the first device then disconnecting and connecting to the other one. You can also access a low latency mode by hitting the multifunction button 4 times that’s designed to enable smoother playback of audio and video, though I can’t say I noticed a massive difference between this low latency and standard listening modes.
Creative Outlier Free Pro review: Battery life
Creative talks good numbers in terms of the kind of battery life you can expect here. It’s up to 10 hours, putting it in line with other top end bone conduction headphones from the likes of Shokz, Haylou, and Naenka.
That battery life is promised when listening at a moderate volume, so if you listen at top volume, it’s going to be less. I’d say I got a couple hours short of that 10-hour mark using them over a week in Bluetooth streaming mode for an hour or two a day because I listened at much louder volumes. If you’re using them with music player streaming, it’s going to be less as well and I found it was just around half of that 10 hours, particularly at louder listening volumes.
While it takes a not so snappy 2 hours to get a full charge, there is a useful quick charge mode that gives 2 hours of playback time from a 10-minute charge. Again though, you’d need to be listening at moderate volumes to get that full 2 hours.
Creative Outlier Free Pro review: Verdict
The Creative Outlier Free Pro headphones are the affordable route into bone-conduction designs. They are comfortable to wear for long periods, and versatile enough to work with Bluetooth streams on dry land as well as storage playback for pool swims. Sacrifices have been made where sound quality is concerned though, and you'll need to spend a bit more if you want best in class sound with a similar level of versatility.