Bone conducting headphone perfect for swimmers and sports enthusiasts
July 01, 2023
Earphones, earbuds or headphones, there’s no shortage of wired or wireless personal devices you can use to listen to your favourite tunes or podcasts on the go. Typically, these would be worn in or over the ear. But this relatively new kid on the block, the Creative Outlier Free Pro uses bone conduction technology and is comfortably worn around your head resting just outside the ear.
While this gadget is new, the concept of hearing through bone conduction is not. In fact, it’s been said the famous composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, who lived more than 200 years ago, despite being deaf conceptually used this type of technology to help him compose his masterpieces, albeit in a slightly different way. He supposedly attached a rod to his piano and clenched it with his teeth.
Technology has come a long way since then.
The Outlier Free Pro is a one-piece wireless lightweight 1.11-oz. headphone made from a titanium memory alloy and silicone. It’s worn comfortably around the head and loops over your ear. It uses transducers at each end instead of ear buds. They rest outside your ear just above your temporal bones to transmit sound vibrations through the bones of your skull directly to your inner ear. In essence, it bypasses your eardrums allowing you to hear what’s being played without anything being physically present in your ear.
Keeps your ears free
This sounds a little unusual, pardon the pun, but it does work. The beauty of this type of set up is that you can listen to music or podcasts and make to take calls while still being able to totally hear what’s going on around you also making it great for safety. It’s also ideal for sports enthusiasts particularly joggers and cyclists out on the open busy streets or while doing workouts and getting in shape while chatting it up with your friends at the gym.
It has an IPX8 waterproof rating, so it’s sweat proof, rain proof and can even be used underwater making it ideal for swimmers. Since you’re not likely to take your phone with you onto the pool, you can listen to your tunes through Outlier Free Pro’s built-in music player. It also features 8GB of storage good for up to 2,000 songs.
Sound quality trade-off
Outlier Free Pro frees up your ear, but it does come with a little tradeoff. It’s important to note that bone-conducting headphones may not offer the same audio fidelity and noise isolation as traditional headphones. This can be quite noticeable for example when you’re at a noisy mall. The ambient noise going to your ear is competing with the sound vibrations going through your cheekbone.
Nevertheless, Outlier Free Pro can certainly be a suitable option for those who want to enjoy audio while still being aware of their surroundings or for individuals with specific hearing needs.
Some ways around the issue are: Increasing the volume, moving the transducers closer to your ears or wearing earplugs which come included in the package designed to be used and work quite well when underwater.
Creative Outlier Free Pro is compatible with iOS, Android mobile devices, as well as PC and Macintosh computers. It also features the latest Bluetooth 5.3, so you can get a great connection while consuming less power, as well as multipoint connectivity so you can be connected with up to two Bluetooth devices at one time, so you can grab an incoming call while you’re listening to your favourite podcast on another.
There’s also a built-in noise canceling microphone for phone calls and a mini plug inconspicuously attached to the headset to protect your mic when you’re in the water. It has in-line button controls and for added hands-free use, it’s also Siri- and Google Assistant-friendly.
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.
Creative Outlier Free Pro is an impressive unique little set of headphones for the right person and the right environment.
Included in the box is a 0.6m proprietary USB-A magnetic clip-on charging cable, a pair of silicone earplugs, spare mic plugs and a quick-start guide. It comes in one colour – Midnight Blue and retails in Canada for $179. You can get one directly from Creative Labs (currently $149) or wherever Creative products are sold.
If swimming is not in your routine and you don’t need a built-in music player or built-in storage, Creative also makes the Creative Outlier Free. The non-pro version without these extras has an IPX5 rating making it water resistant against rain, sweat and splashes but not truly waterproof. It comes in Dark Slate and retails for $99. (currently $89).
About Greg Gazin
Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger and podcaster, and has been a contributor to Active Life Magazine since 2016. He also contributes to canoe.com and Troy Media. gadgetguy.ca