Adidas FWD-02 Sport Review
Sport earphones for those who love to run
Another set of Adidas true wireless earphones that entertain with their audio. The FWD-02 Sport are the best value option of them all; they’re comfortable to wear, easy to operate and with a solid awareness mode. Like the rest of the Adidas true wireless series, however, they’re lighter on overall features compared to rivals.
- Plenty of options for getting the right fit
- Comfy fit
- Rich, punchy and weighty bass
- Natural-sounding awareness mode
- Not particularly dynamic or subtle sounding
- Earbud can move about with energetic exercise
- IP resistance could be stronger
- USARRP: $169.99
- EuropeRRP: €169
- CanadaRRP: CA$249.99
- AustraliaRRP: AU$270
- SpotifyAccess Spotify playlists through touch controls
- Interchangeable wing- and ear-tipsComes with five wing-tips and four ear-tips
- Breathable caseCase allows for water to evaporate through mesh
The FWD-02 Sport are the third in a trio of true wireless buds from the Adidas and Zound Industries collaboration, with this model specifically aimed at runners.
They sit in-between the Z.N.E. 01 and Z.N.E. 01 ANC, both in terms of price and features, omitting active noise cancellation and relying on a noise-isolating design to block sounds. An awareness mode lets the surrounding environment in for those occasions you need to hear it.
We’ve given this range of true wireless a mixed reception so far, so what can the FWD-02 Sport do to put the series back on (the running) track?
- Excellent fit
- Lots of wing-tip and ear-tip sizes
- Simple operation
- Unique charging case design
The FWD-02 ditch the stem-based design of the Z.N.E 01 models for a circular shape and attachable wings. You get a five-strong wing-tip selection (including one wing-less design) and four different ear-tips, so there should be a size to suit any person’s ear. I’d say it’s worth experimenting with the accessories before your first run; it would have saved me an ill-fitting set of earbuds had I done so.
The fit feels plush and comfortable, more so than the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, and the FWD-02 Sport maintain those cushy comfort levels over extended periods of time.
The issue I’ve encountered is that they tend to move around in the ears. The up and down motion of running shifts the position of the earbuds a little, leading to an impact on the seal and music suffering from some leakage. I’ve attached the biggest wing-tips, and it’s only been an issue when vigorously moving about – in the gym, it was fine. Note that attaching the wing-tips can take a little while – it’s a fiddly process of positioning the rubbery elastic in the right place.
Like the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, the FWD-02 Sport’s touch controls offer a nice tactile feel (and sound effect), and a control scheme that’s easy to learn. Controls are mirrored on both sides for playback and track skipping, while long presses can be customised in the Adidas headphone app.
Water- and sweat-resistance come in at IPX5, matching the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, which makes them resistant to low pressure and sustained jets of water, while the case is splash-proof at IPX4. The case is an interesting piece of design, with a “breathable” mesh top; if the earphones become wet, it allows the water to evaporate through it (and it works).
The lid is detachable to avoid breakages. This hasn’t been an issue for me with other earbuds, but perhaps it’s a concern for those who are a bit rougher with their earbuds and fling them into their gym bag.
What’s surprising is that the IP rating isn’t higher. Given the FWD-02 Sport have been designed in consultation with Adidas Runners, a community of international runners, the IP rating is rather bog-standard.
- Customisation through Headphones app
- Battery life improves over Z.N.E 01 ANC
- Transparency mode
There’s no active noise cancellation – only a Transparency mode – but, arguably, the design makes noise cancellation a feature that isn’t required. If the FWD-02 Sport stay put, I’ve found them good enough to block out people’s voices from across a room, although the clanking of machines still manages to pierce through.
The Transparency mode sounds natural enough, opening up the area around the user for more situational awareness of the goings-on at your sides and behind you.
Since there’s no ANC, battery life matches the Z.N.E. 01 ANC with 6 and 25 hours. This is an area where the Adidas give up a little time to the likes of the Jabra Elite 7 Pro and JBL Reflect Flow Pro. Like the Z.N.E, the figures bandied about are fine for gym use, but they’re just about okay if we’re talking about using them more often.
The rest of the feature set is a repeat of the Z.N.E. 01 ANC. There’s quick charging (15-minutes delivers 1 hour), with an eco-charging switch in the app that limits full charge to 80%, increasing the life-span of the earbuds.
Anyone who’s had a wireless set of Adidas headphones will be used to the monochromatically styled app, where you can check on battery status, and customise equalizer settings and touch-control operation. Custom actions include Noise Control, Adidas Running app integration, Spotify, Default Voice Assistant or you can have nothing assigned at all.
- Versatile performance
- Good bass definition
- Doesn’t describe peaks and troughs with much aplomb
When it comes to the audio performance, I feel Adidas and Zound have made some decent-sounding headphones. While I can’t speak for the Z.N.E. 01 model, I was a fan of the ANC version, and the performance of the FWD-02 Sport displays similar characteristics: big bass, lots of energy and smooth delivery.
Listening to Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now from the Rocky soundtrack (again), and it’s another wide-sounding stage for the Adidas to perform on. Detail levels are similarly broad, and although the FWD-02 Sport sound bigger in terms of scale, I can put that down to a different size of ear-tip.
Again, their sense of definition isn’t particularly sharp – although the Adidas sound richer and energetic than the likes of the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro. For all the good parts, the lack of nuance gives way to a diminished sense of the difference between quiet and loud, as well as the separation of the instruments in the orchestra. It’s all one broad sound pitched at a similar “loudness” throughout.
Bass is banging, punchily described in Jamiroquai’s Canned Heat. It gets my head bopping and feet tapping, the funkadelic rhythms delivered with aplomb. There’s pleasing weight, drive and power to the low frequencies in Tom Morello’s cover of Voodoo Child, but it isn’t overdone (like the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, the equalizer here is set to the flat “Adidas”). The way in which the bass is integrated here is certain to get people pumped up during workouts.
A change in tone and pace to Jon Batiste/Stay Human’s Naima’s Love Song, there exists a nice crispness and vivid detail to what I’m assuming is a tambourine that’s repeatedly shaken. High frequencies are clearly relayed, perhaps lacking the sharpness of the Beats Studio Buds; but the Adidas’ overall inflection allows for more fun to be had.
Like the ANC model, voices exist in a small area right at the centre of the soundstage, just enough to have a presence among the instrumentation around them. There’s smoothness and clarity in Tune-Yards’ Hold Yourself and St. Vincent’s Pay Your Way in Pain, although I think vocals could be isolated better.
Should you buy it?
If you like to run Made with runners in mind, the range of wing- and ear-tips should ensure some “stickability” when used for workouts. The sound is also quite compelling.
If you want a stronger feature set That IP resistance isn’t as durable as other fitness-ready options, and unless you use the Adidas runner app, there’s little reason to go for these over any other.
The FWD-02 Sport lack the noise cancelling of the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, but in my estimation they’re the better overall pair. Once the right fit has been achieved, the lack of noise cancellation is less of an issue, and the range of interchangeable ear- and wing-tips means runners and gym-goers will be able to find something that suits.
The app is the same and the music performance is, for all intents and purposes, the same too. Cheaper than the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, the FWD-02 Sport are the better value – and more comfortable – option of the two.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested with real world use
Tested over several weeks
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