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Creative Zen Hybrid review: Good for travel

Creative Zen Hybrid review: Good for travel

Creative Zen Hybrid

If you're looking for a good pair of wireless headphones for your next road trip, consider the Creative Zen Hybrid. Not only are these hybrid active noise-cancelling (ANC) Bluetooth headphones good at reducing ambient noise, they also fold up to save space, and are comfortable to wear. Battery life is outstanding, too. They are also fairly affordable at S$149, and you can probably find them for less during sales. For example, it recently launched at S$89 (offer valid till Jun 19) on Lazada.

Quick specs

  • 40mm drivers
  • Hybrid ANC and ambient mode
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 27 hours of playtime with ANC, 37 hours without ANC

The Creative Zen Hybrid comes in a smaller-than-expected box. Inside, you'll find the headphones folded and packed in a drawstring pouch. Of course, I would have liked a hard carrying case, but that would be nitpicking. The ear cups, which can swivel 90 degrees, have comfortable protein leather ear pads, while the headband is reinforced with steel. The controls are all on the right ear cup — the left only has the USB-C charging port. You'll get a power button (press and hold it for two seconds to activate your phone's voice assistant), volume rocker and a button to toggle ANC. This ANC button will enable Ambient mode if you press it twice. You can also connect the Zen Hybrid to your device using the included 3.5mm audio cable.

Creative Zen Hybrid
The Zen Hybrid folds up for stowing. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Pairing the Zen Hybrid with your smartphone is as simple as turning on Bluetooth and searching for it. These headphones don't work with the Creative app that I use with Creative's Outlier in-ears. Hence, you cannot adjust the level of the ANC or Ambient mode in the app, like you'd with the Outlier models. Creative, though, says the ANC and Ambient mode levels are already set to the maximum on the Zen Hybrid. However, the Zen Hybrid supports Creative's Super X-Fi Headphone Holography technology, which can be configured using the SFXI app. The problem with that is Super X-Fi works only with local media on your phone or device. So if you're using streaming services such as Spotify (like most listeners nowadays), you won't be able to enjoy the Super X-Fi feature.

Creative Zen Hybrid
I don't see the point of having the headphone features running along the ear cups. Less is more. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

In my testing, the Zen Hybrid's ANC (with music playing at around 50% volume) was sufficient to muffle the sound of typing from someone seated less than a metre next to me. The ANC was also rather effective at reducing the noise while travelling underground on the MRT. But I wasn't a big fan of Creative's Ambient mode on the Outlier Pro and the Zen Hybrid didn't change my impression. While I could hear my surroundings clearly with Ambient mode, everything sounded artificial and overly processed. But it's undoubtedly useful when you need it. Creative claims the Zen Hybrid offers around 27 hours of playtime with ANC enabled — and I can believe that. After using it on and off (mostly with ANC) for almost a week, I still had 50% battery life.

The Creative Zen Hybrid offers very decent sound for its S$149 price. It sounds balanced, with decent bass and clear mids and trebles. The soundstage was fine, too. However, the overall sound seems smaller and more distant than some headphones I have tested. I also feel that the Outlier Pro's bass have more impact. But while its audio won't blow anyone away, I believe the Zen Hybrid's good ANC, compact design, and long battery life will more than satisfy users. Currently available only in white, the Zen Hybrid is available from Lazada and Creative's online store.

See Also
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Note: Review set provided by Creative.

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Good wireless headphones for travellers.

Available at Lazada
Buy it from Creative

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