04 Creative Outlier Gold bIs Johnny Cash the ideal music for the gym? He puts a pretty compelling case. His music is almost entirely free of nuance, and nuance is generally lost at the gym given that you’re thrashing about noisily and concentrating on other things, like pain, anyway. Johnny also has excellent diction – you can always pick the words in one of his songs. This is important at the gym because words can be hard to discern. And his songs generally have a strong beat to keep you moving.

I was thinking this while listening to a pair of Creative’s Outlier Gold cordless earbuds with my player on shuffle. Shuffle can be most revealing when testing equipment. I was on the treadmill and the first track that came along was the Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian, an energetic, always inspiring piece with lots of thump. But as it was winding down I could hear singing in the background and this was definitely not in Khachaturian’s plan. I knew the Sabre Dance hadn’t ended because its deep, regular thump was continuing. Turned out the voices belonged to the Exsultate Justi from the Empire of the Sun soundtrack and the continuing thump was me on the treadmill.

Everyone knows what you need in earbuds for the gym, but it’s also an idea to think about what you need in musical programming. Inspirational is good, but mostly you need solid music that doesn’t go into a snit when someone drops a barbell or someone in boxing gloves starts punching the pads. Metal music is great, John Adams and Philip Glass work well, country and western is a natural, but Borodin’s In The Steppes of Central Asia, gorgeous as it may be, is a total disaster at the gym.

04 Creative Outlier Gold eThis got me thinking about the Outlier Golds. They have all the stuff you need. For example, you need a resistance to sweat and rain, ideally an IPX5 rating to withstand sustained exposure to moisture from any direction. The Golds have that. You need a secure fit. Tick. Comfort is pretty good too, and the battery life is up to 14 hours with an additional couple of charges in the case. But it wasn’t these things that got me thinking about them, it was the AptX. Bluetooth AptX gives audio quality that’s a substantial cut above regular Bluetooth SBC, almost CD quality in fact. But the great bulk of moisture-proof buds designed around the gym don’t have it. AptX and Bluetooth HD are usually only found in premium buds intended for less noisy environments.

I also liked Creative keeping the hardware simple. These don’t do stuff when you tap them or swipe them or even brush them, the music just keeps on playing. It’s dead easy to stuff up the commands with those tap/swipe models, and frustrating when you enter some sort of command by merely reaching up to scratch your ear. These have in-built microphones for Siri and Google, so all you do is ask.

04 Creative Outlier Gold cThere’s also an app available that adapts the sound to your hearing, and it gives you an equaliser. I would have liked playing with the equaliser because I found the factory pre-set a bit ragged and sharp in the high end, (good strong bass though, even if it also gets a bit fuzzy at times) but the app said it would take pictures of my face (all in the cause of science, you understand) so it didn’t get to first base. Ho hum.

Overall these sound pretty good even without the app, and they’re good value at $140. But do you really need AptX for the gym? The manufacturers seem to think not and I think I’m beginning to agree.

Posted February 2020.


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