The bone-conduction magic of the Creative Outlier Free Pro is a revolution in sound
Earphones, earbuds or headphones, there’s no shortage of wired or wireless personal devices for enjoying your favourite music or podcasts on the go. These devices are typically designed to be worn in or over the ear.
Enter the Creative Outlier Free Pro, a newcomer on the scene that employs Bone Conduction Technology and is comfortably worn around the head, nestling just outside the ear.
While this gadget is new, hearing through bone conduction is centuries old. It’s a widely told tale that the illustrious composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, who lived over two centuries ago, utilized this method, in a rudimentary way, to compose his masterpieces despite being deaf. He reportedly achieved this by attaching a rod to his piano and biting down on it.
Technology has come a long way since then.
The Outlier Free Pro is a lightweight, one-piece wireless headphone that weighs only 1.11 oz. Constructed from a titanium memory alloy and silicone, this device comfortably loops around the head and over the ear. It employs transducers instead of earbuds, which rest just above your temporal bones, outside the ear, and transmit sound vibrations through your skull directly to your inner ear. This essentially bypasses your eardrums, letting you hear the audio without having anything inserted in your ear.
Stay aware of your surroundings
This sounds a little unusual, pardon the pun, but it does work. The beauty of this type of setup is that you can listen to music or podcasts and even take calls while remaining fully conscious of your surroundings, making it great for safety. It’s also ideal for sports enthusiasts, particularly joggers and cyclists out on busy streets or for those keen on working out and chatting with their friends at the gym.
Waterproof & Music Player
With an IPX8 waterproof rating, the Outlier Free Pro is resistant to sweat and rain and can even be used underwater. You can listen to music via the built-in player, which features 8GB of storage, sufficient for up to 2,000 songs.
While the Outlier Free Pro offers the freedom of ear-free listening, it does come with a small compromise. Bone-conducting headphones might not provide the same sound quality and noise isolation as traditional headphones. Ambient noise may compete with the sound vibrations passing through your cheekbone, especially in a noisy environment like a shopping mall. Also since there are no adjustments for different head shapes and sizes you may need to play around with placement to get a better fit.
Nevertheless, for those seeking to enjoy audio while staying alert to their surroundings or for individuals with specific hearing needs, the Outlier Free Pro is a worthy consideration. Some solutions to potential sound issues include increasing the volume, moving the transducers closer to your ears, or using the included earplugs, which are particularly effective underwater.
Multipoint Bluetooth Connectivity
The Outlier Free Pro is versatile and compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices as well as PC and Mac computers. It features the latest Bluetooth 5.3 for a reliable connection and less power consumption, and Multipoint Connectivity, allowing simultaneous connection with two Bluetooth devices. It also includes a built-in noise-cancelling microphone for phone calls and a hidden plug to protect your microphone when underwater. It supports Siri and Google Assistant for hands-free use.
It has a respectable battery life, rated at up to 10 hours. It takes about two hours to fully recharge but, in a pinch, you can get up to two more hours with as little as a 10-minute recharge. The package includes a short proprietary USB-A magnetic clip-on charging cable, a pair of silicone earplugs, spare microphone plugs, and a quick-start guide. Available in Midnight Blue, it retails in Canada for $179.99 but is currently on promo direct from Creative Labs or wherever Creative Labs products are sold for $129.99.
For those who don’t require a built-in music player or storage, Creative also offers the Creative Outlier Free, a non-pro version with an IPX5 rating, which makes it water-resistant but not fully waterproof. Available in Dark Slate, it retails for $99.99 (currently $79.99).
Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.