ADVERTISEMENT

Creative Zen Air Plus

Inexpensive TWS earphones with long battery life and good wearing comfort

In a nutshell

The Creative Zen Air Plus is suitable for use during indoor and outdoor sports or gaming with its dynamic 10mm drivers, long battery life and mid-range sound. Operation via the touch-sensitive surfaces might take some getting used to and features like hybrid ANC and alternative ambient mode were up to date, but the noise cancellation was not particularly effective. In terms of technology, the Air Plus are at the cutting edge with Bluetooth 5.3 and LC3, which contributes to a good overall picture.

Pros:
  • Assertive sound
  • Pleasant wearing comfort
  • Lightweight
  • Long battery life (up to 32 hours)
Cons:
  • Fiddly touch operation
  • Limited functionality via the app
ADVERTISEMENT

First impressions count – but the Creative Zen Air Plus initially seemed fairly average to us: this gave us a good reason to take a closer look at these earphones. When we got to know them better over time, our assessment ultimately looked much more positive.

Getting to know each other

Maybe it was bad luck, or maybe it just wasn’t meant to be on the day: after unpacking them, I initially failed to get these earphones out of their charging case. My fingers couldn’t find a grip, the earphones fitted tightly into the tray, and it was only with a combination of shaking, tilting and pulling that I finally managed to free them from the box in order to begin my test.

With that done, it was time to try them out for a listen. The fit with the factory-fitted medium silicone tips was good, and pairing them with my mobile device worked immediately, but the sound was … erm, strange! Maybe it was just me, but a quick comparison with other models confirmed this first impression: the sound of the Zen Air Plus remained centred and “intrusive”. Creative’s app promised first aid; this recognised the earphones immediately and provided a manageable range of functions with an equaliser and ambient control (for ANC and ambient mode).

Like their larger siblings, the Creative Zen Air Pro, these affordable Creative earphones are technically state-of-the-art. Thanks to Bluetooth LE Audio, they also support Auracast, which expands the possibilities of audio transmission via Bluetooth with the ability to send audio content from a single source to an unlimited number of recipients simultaneously. In practice, this can be thought of as a kind of WLAN hotspot. Creative calls this “broadcast mode”. Due to a lack of compatible hardware, we were not able to analyse this feature for this review, but if you want to know more about it, you should take a look at our FAQ.

ADVERTISEMENT

A “unicast mode” is also on board. With the high-resolution LC3 codec, the Creative Zen Air Plus can be wirelessly connected to a compatible Bluetooth LE audio receiver, enabling you to use high-resolution audio streaming over a single connection.

Adjustment options via app

A look at the equaliser showed that the factory setting “Default” was a long way from being linear playback. Therefore, this sound profile must be intentional and it seems to have appeal for a certain clientele, but I am not one of them. No problem, though, because after experimenting with the 60 presets, you will almost automatically end up with the setting that suits you best. You can also create your own presets based on the bass and treble settings, although you will have to familiarise yourself with the parameters before you can produce usable results.

ADVERTISEMENT

Since I was already in the app, I decided to listen to the effects of the Active Noise Cancellation, which can be activated as an alternative to ambient mode and has five levels of settings. However, it is unlikely that you will actually use this gradation in practice, as the increasing attenuation of the bass and mid-range components between minimum and maximum suppression was not very effective, especially as the treble was not filtered very much. It would actually be enough to simply switch the ANC on or off.

The situation was similar with the ambient mode, which replaces the ANC circuit and also mixes the environment into the earphone diaphragms in five stages. On or off may be enough for many users – it is unlikely that you will specifically opt for the centre position.

Sound of the Creative Zen Air Plus

Environmental control is made possible by three omnidirectional microphone units per earbud, and these are also used for telephony. The speech intelligibility during calls was rated as good by the person on the other end of the line, even if, according to the technical data, the frequency response was considerably limited at the top and bottom.

The audio was played back with a maximum bandwidth of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Once you find the right pre-set and have spent some time listening, the sound of the Zen Air Plus becomes much more pleasant and pleasing: although the audio material did not sound as round and rich as with our own comparison models (including the Jabra Elite 8), but this product is in a different price range. For its own segment of the market, the Zen Air Plus offered a consistently good sound, even if the emphasis remained in the mids.

This feature might prove to be an advantage for sports or gaming use, as podcasts and general spoken word content always came through well, no matter what was going on around me. The sound was also very good for listening to music on the go, even if you can’t exactly call it typical “beautiful listening”: everything sounded a bit more earthy, direct and assertive. This was ideal for watching a boxset or films, but for audiophile music enjoyment, more airiness and foundation would be required.

Conclusion

With an IPX4 protection rating, the Creative Zen Air Plus are suitable for listening to music or podcasts during participation in indoor and outdoor sports, on your journey to work or for watching a boxset or film screening at home. Their sound profile gives them advantages when it comes to speech intelligibility and directness – this was ideal for spoken word content and online/console games, but they also offer an interesting alternative to classic hi-fi headphones when listening to music. For maximum music enjoyment, there are better earphones on the market, but they cost significantly more. At their price, the Creative Labs Zen Air Plus scored points with long battery life, low weight and a good fit, which means they are overall good all-rounders.

3 months ago by Christian Preissig
  • Rating: 3.38
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
  • Weight without cable4.3 g each, case 40 g

What's in the box

  • 3 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)
  • Charging cable USB-C to USB-A
  • Charging case

Special features

  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC, LC3
  • BT version: 5.3
  • Spielzeit pro Akkuladung: bis zu 8 Std.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ADVERTISEMENT