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Creative Zen Air

Affordable True Wireless in-ears with Noise Control

In a nutshell

The Creative Zen Air’s weak points are its low battery life and rather short Bluetooth range. On the other hand, the strengths of these weatherproof True Wireless in-Ears are the sound and the wide attenuation of the Active Noise Cancellation. Considering the price range, the speech intelligibility during calls is also exceptionally good.

Pros:
  • lightweight, compact format
  • IPX4 water and sweat resistant
  • earpiece with fast charging function
  • ambient noise control
  • speech intelligibility during phone calls
  • case can be charged via USB-C port or wirelessly via Qi
  • support AAC
Cons:
  • low battery life
  • rather low Bluetooth range
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With the Zen Air, Creative launch a pair of compact, wireless in-ears which are equipped with Active Noise Cancellation and an ambient mode available at an attractive price. A total of four microphones are designed to ensure clear speech intelligibility during phone calls.

Quick Check – what the Creative Zen Air can do:

  • IPX4 certified
  • With 3 hours in ANC mode, the battery life is quite low
  • Quick charging capability, the case supports wireless charging via Qi
  • Touch control covers a high range of functions
  • Bluetooth range inside buildings is limited
  • Intelligibility during phone calls is exceptionally good
  • Noise cancellation with broadband attenuation
  • Audio holography (SXFI) does not support streamed content
  • Full, rich sound designed for listening pleasure

Available in white, the Creative Zen Air are pleasantly lightweight at five grams per side, fit comfortably and can also be used for sporting activities thanks to their IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant finish. The housings are almost completely embedded in the ears and only protrude slightly, which allows them to be worn under a cap and ensures a fairly stable hold. However, these in-ears should not be exposed to stronger vibrations.

Battery life

With the playback volume turned up, the Creative Zen Air can achieve four and a half hours of listening time, and this is reduced to about three hours with noise cancellation turned on. This is not very much and it is unusual for this manufacturer’s True Wireless in-ears, which have often distinguished themselves in the past with a particularly long battery life (Creative Outlier Pro – to our review). These earphones can be fully recharged almost three times in their handy case, giving a total runtime of a good 17 hours in standard mode and just under 12 hours in ANC mode.

It takes one hour and ten minutes to fully charge these in-ears, while a fifteen-minute quick charge provides capacity for up to 75 minutes. It is possible to power the case via the USB-C port or wirelessly via Qi, which is an unusual feature for this price range. If the included USB-C to USB-A charging cable is used, the battery reserve is restored after one hour. Both the case and the earpieces have a charging indicator.

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Operation

Pairing the Creative Zen Air, which supports Bluetooth standard 5.0 and single-sided use in single mode, is done by opening the case. This turns the system on and puts it into pairing mode, while placing the earphones back in the charger turns the system off. These in-ears also automatically switch off after five minutes of inactivity and can then be switched on again by holding the touch-sensitive earpiece surfaces. Once a wireless connection is established, there is a range of up to twelve metres in open spaces. However, inside buildings, the first dropouts can occur after six or seven metres, especially as it proved difficult to provide a stable connection across different rooms.

Despite this, operation via the touch surfaces works well: these allow playback control and handling of phone calls, switching between basic, ambient and ANC modes, skipping to the next track, volume control and calling up Google Assistant or Siri. Skipping back during track selection is not supported, but otherwise, the touch control covers a wide range of functions.

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Speech intelligibility while on the phone

On the positive side, both sides of the conversation were perfectly understandable during phone calls and wind noise was filtered quite effectively. Only stronger gusts of wind had an effect on the voice quality and penetrated in a weakened form. Likewise, louder background noises were transmitted, meaning that one’s own voice was perceived by the other person as being in the foreground, and communication remained possible.

Noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient mode

The Zen Air surprised us with a wide spectrum attenuation of noise sources that were quite constant and silent. In the low and high-frequency ranges, the higher-priced model provided more effective noise cancelling, but when it came to reducing background voices, these headphones performed surprisingly well. Especially as their noise cancelling does not have a noticeable effect on the sound. In ambient mode, the amplification of external noise could have been a bit more intense, but communication was possible without having to remove the headphones when playback was paused. In addition, up to medium volume settings, the rather high passive shielding was counteracted, making the immediate surroundings more audible. Neither was there any background noise, but there was a slight buzzing.

Audio Holography for Headphones (SXFI Technology)

The Creative Zen Air do not provide individual earpiece and sound settings as the earpieces are not supported by the Creative app. However, the manufacturer’s own Super X-FI technology can be tried out via the SXFI app (Android and iOS), which is supposed to enable spatial listening via headphones similar to that achievable with a multiple-speaker system. Here, the virtual stage shifts from your head into the room, which produces very different results. While modern music styles often sounded strange because bass components were lost, more spatial representations worked much better with ambient soundscapes or when watching a film or playing a game. However, with the Zen Air, this function can only be used with local music files via the app player or in combination with other devices that are “SXFI Ready”, such as smart TVs, PCs or mobile devices. Streamed content via Spotify, Tidal, YouTube or Netflix was not supported. There is also the option to generate a personal SXFI listening profile, but this requires registration. However, this sound effect can be tested without “head mapping”.

The sound of the Creative Zen Air

The Zen Air’s modern tuning has a rich bass response that reached far down and seemed full-bodied even in the lower regions without being too powerful. Although the low bass lost some precision when it was pushed, the speakers harmonised well with bass-savvy productions and provided a high fun factor across genres. Compared to the impressive bass foundation, the midrange seemed a bit more reserved, but the full, warm presentation succeeded in bringing out voices with appealing clarity and decent intelligibility. In a quiet listening environment, details such as picking could be detected. In contrast, the treble reproduction was more present, did not drop off, and seemed lively and fresh. At higher volume levels, however, the upper registers could tend towards pronounced sibilants and peaks.

9 months ago by Maike Paeßens
  • Rating: 4.13
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20,000 Hz
  • Weight without cable5g each, case 36 g

What's in the box

  • eartips in three sizes (S, M, L)
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • charging case

Special features

  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC
  • BT version: 5.0
  • BT profiles: HFP, A2DP, AVRCP

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