The Creative Zen Air Plus sounds good for its price (S$99), and has decent noise cancellation, too. But one of its key selling points — LE Audio — doesn't play nice with its app. It also lacks some features that are increasingly common even in more affordable earbuds, such as Bluetooth multipoint, or in-ear detection. But if you don't mind missing out on these features, the Zen Air Plus will not disappoint with its audio quality.
- 10mm dynamic driver
- Hybrid active noise cancellation and ambient mode
- Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio
- 8 hours of playtime without ANC, 32 hours total playtime with case
You'd think that Creative's Zen Air earbuds would all share a similar design. But the Zen Air Plus looks nothing like the Zen Air Pro that I tested earlier this year. The former has a longer stem, and comes in a cream colour compared with the latter's pristine white. The wireless charging cases for these earbuds also look completely different from each other. But more importantly, both earbuds feel comfy enough to wear for hours. The fit is good, and the Zen Air Plus doesn't press too firmly against my ear. Specs-wise, both Zen Air earbuds use a 10mm dynamic driver, support Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, and offer hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC). But there are some minor differences. The Zen Air Plus is IPX4 rated for water resistance, while the Pro is IPX5.
Both earbuds support LE Audio, but the Air only has the standard LC3 codec. Meanwhile, the Pro has both LC3 and LC3+ codec, which is Hi-Res Audio Wireless certified. But I don't recommend using LE Audio yet, at least not till Creative fixes the bug involving the Creative mobile app. Basically, if you connect to the Zen Air Plus (or the Zen Air Pro) via LE Audio, the earbuds aren't recognised by the Creative app, which lets you customise the touch controls, adjust the noise cancellation level, or play around with the equaliser. Of course, you can use the Zen Air Plus without the app, but I didn't like the default audio profile at all. The only way to access the equaliser, and adjust the sound is via the app. You'll also need the app for firmware updates, and hopefully a future firmware update will fix this issue.
As mentioned, I wasn't a fan of the Zen Air Plus' default sound profile. For most folks, I suggest using the Music profile in the equaliser, which ups the trebles and bass. But there are plenty of presets in the equaliser, even ones for specific games such as League of Legends, and Fortnite. Whenever possible, I used these earbuds without ANC because they sound more open, and balanced. With ANC enabled, the soundstage shrinks, and the bass becomes overly strong at times. Generally, I like the audio separation, and clarity of these earbuds. They sound good for the price (S$99). However, the noise cancellation performance is merely decent. It works well for lower frequencies, but you can expect to hear what your colleagues are discussing at the next desk.
Creative seems to be hyping up Bluetooth LE Audio in its marketing for the Zen Air earbuds. But there's work to be done, such as getting its app to work with LE Audio properly. I did most of my testing in Bluetooth Classic because it simply worked, unlike LE Audio. Overall, the Zen Air Plus sounds good for true wireless earbuds under S$100. But it lacks some of the features found in similarly-priced earbuds. For example, the Xiaomi Redmi Buds 5 Pro (around S$80) offered in-ear detection, multi-device connectivity, and a longer battery life. I did prefer the sound from the Zen Air Plus, though. Meanwhile, it's a close thing between the Zen Air Plus, and the Zen Air Pro. Both sound very similar, though if you're bullish about LE Audio, I'll say get the Pro (S$119). The Zen Air Plus is available at Shopee, and Lazada.
Note: Review set provided by Creative.
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