Creative has been in the sound business for an exceptionally long time, and they’re not slowing down any time soon. Now we’ve seen a lot of the newer headphones here at TechNuovo and they’ve always managed to impress us. However, this time around, I can’t help but feel Creative has missed a few minor details here with the Creative Zen Hybrid headphones with its software and app. They’re a stylish set of cans now doubt and definitely take on that modern look.
The Creative Zen Hybrid headphones are primarily made from a plastic material which keeps them very lightweight when wearing them on the head, weighing only around 270 grams. There is a metal rod running through the headband to give it some sturdiness, though it was a little awkward and stiff when it came to adjusting them on my head. This should loosen though through use, so I found no real issue here. There’s a nice amount of flex too, though chances are you’re not going to be stretching out the headphones too much if you own them yourselves, it does indicate a soft clamping force on the side of your head, which is a very small amount. There’s a small amount of memory foam for the crown section of the strap, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more. Not that the headphones hurt my crown, but it’s always nice to have a bit more cushion. The earcups fold down too which is a nice touch for storage, and you get an included felt carrying case in the box to protect them from scratches.
On the left earcup, you can find the USB Type-C input for charging the headphones and that’s about it. On the right, you’ve got your controls. If we go from front to back you’ve got your ANC button which toggles between ANC and ambient mode with a double-tap, a power button in the middle that doubles as a pause button. Three taps on this put the headphones into pairing mode. And finally, the volume rocker, which is for volume and skipping tracks. Quick presses change the volume while long presses skip tracks. There’s also a 3.5mm aux input for those old skool users or should I say lucky users who actually have a 3.5mm aux input on their phones.
Battery life on the Zen Hybrids isn’t that bad either. You can get a maximum of just under 40 hours with all of the features switched off, but this will lower to around 25-30 if you’ve got things like ANC or ambient mode switched on. This is most impressive for a wireless set of cans, and I found with my listening times, I only really needed to charge once a week. If you find yourself in a bit of a pinch, there is a few-minute quick charge feature which will give you around five hours of listening time, though it takes three hours to get to full battery. The Hybrids use Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to your phone or device, and I never had any issue with the connection while out and about while my phone was in my pocket, and even walking around my house. Though it’s not the biggest house so I couldn’t get too far away from my phone, only a few meters.
Before we talk about the audio quality, let’s move on to the active noise cancelling and ambient sound features. Both work well. In fact, the ANC will do a great job of blocking out things like the hum of a car or train and even my PC fan next to me. However, sharp noises didn’t fare so well. I couldn’t put these on par with something like the Bose Quiet Comfort range, but they certainly aren’t disappointing. The ambient noise mode is great and does a great job of picking up audio around you like a busy road, or someone trying to get your attention in an office. This does depend on the volume levels though of course. The seal the memory foam earpads create though is also very nice, and I found myself at times, especially in quick situations not even needing to activate ANC.
Now or audio quality, I found this a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Creative Zem Hybrid offers a very nice, clean sound. But, there is a distinct lack of bass produced overall with the Zen Hybrids. You can turn the ANC feature on which helps produce a bit more warmth, but there are certainly better headphones out there if you’re a bit of a bass head. However, saying this I was still pleased with the tones these headphones could produce. I listen to a lot of rock music, that’s my bag for sure. So the bass isn’t as important I would say to some electronic music genres out there. I could still hear bass drum hits and breakdowns still felt somewhat meaty. You do need to listen to louder volumes though to really feel it.
What was frustrating about this set of headphones is the fact that on the box it says they’re compatible with the SXFI technology that Creative provide. SXFI for those who don’t know essentially turns your music into a ‘live concert feeling, by simulating a 7.1 surround sound environment out of two speakers. However, the Creative Zen Hybrids only allow this effect to work inside of the SXFI app so you’ll have to physically have MP3 or other music on your phone to take advantage of this feature. It does not work with streaming services like Spotify like on other headphones. God knows why Creative decided to leave the full SXFI experience off these headphones. But if you’re into your simulated ‘concert hall’ effect, there are other over-ear SXFI headphones out there.
But saying that, the Creative Zen Hybrids are still an alright set of headphones. Sure, there’s a lot to be desired with the bass levels, but if you listen to the right genre of music, being rock, ballads or typically ‘thinner’ music, then you’re going to be happy. Bass heads though, look elsewhere I think. The battery life is superb and physically they look pretty decent and can really fall in line with the likes of Bose and Sony with their premium overears. Online you can find them floating around the £99.99 mark, which I think is very fair for these, and for any other information, you can head to the Creative website.