Small size and a big sound, Adidas’ latest true wireless earphones engage with their audio but average noise-cancelling, battery life and some comfort issues have the potential to spoil your workout regime.
- Compact size
- Strong bass performance
- Effective transparency mode
- Not the most comfortable to wear over long periods
- More dynamic options available
- Average noise cancelling
- Below par battery life
- Eco-chargingSave battery over earphones’ entire lifespan
- adidas HeadphonesCustomise feature and controls in app
After launching a raft of fitness headphones in 2019, Adidas and Zound Industries had a little nap and come back reinvigorated with their refreshed sports headphones line-up.
Aiming to plug into your ears as you hit the ground running, the latest models have been developed to offer all-round sports performance and comfort. Made up of the Z.N.E. 01, Z.N.E. 01 ANC and FWD-02 Sport, this review is looking at the middle of that trio, the only one to boast noise cancellation.
There’s choice in this new range and the presence of noise cancellation makes the Z.N.E. 01 ANC an enticing option, but are they the headphones to buy? They have their plusses and minuses, but overall they’re a tidy enough pair with some neat features.
- Some discomfort over longer periods
- Compact size
- Good fit and seal
The Adidas are a compact pair of wireless earphones, with each earbud adopting a stem design that sits on your earlobe while the ear-tip fires audio directly into the ear. The fit is snug at first, which has the effect of insulating the wearer from the outside world, and the small-to-large ear-tip sizes offer more room to adapt the fit to your ears.
The Z.N.E. 01 ANC’s housing is made from what feels like a hard plastic; it’s lightweight but coarse. While Adidas speaks of all-day comfort, this wasn’t my experience over extended periods. Wearing them for about 40 minutes, the headphones caused a dull ache, and using them in cold weather only amplified that discomfort.
It’s unfortunate, since the earphones remained lodged in over the course of a gym session and runs, even without a wing-tip that most would deem necessary for physical activity. I had to take a few minutes break whenever I felt this discomfort, but for others this issue may not crop up at all.
The Z.N.E. 01 ANC’s touch controls are very well implemented. There’s a welcome tactile push – and sound effect – to presses, and the control scheme is very easy to get to grips with. Controls are mirrored on each side for playback (play/pause and track skipping), and it’s with custom actions (holds) where you can switch things up in the Adidas Headphone app.
The charging case is as dainty as the earphones, and its finish has a distressed look that marks it out a something different from the usual packaging. The Z.N.E. 01 ANC earphones are rated at IPX5, meaning they can resist low pressure and a sustained jet of water, so in theory you could give them a wash.
The case is IPX4 – less protection than the buds themselves, but fine against sweat, water and rain. Bear in mind there are true wireless earbuds with stronger IP ratings such as the JBL Reflect Flow Pro and Jabra Elite 7 Active, if you need a pair that are more robust.
The small confines of the case did make it difficult to pull out the earphones with my sizeable digits. Other design touches include a LED battery indicator on the front and USB-C charging port on the bottom. And that Adidas logo isn’t just for branding: press it and it puts the earphones into their Bluetooth pairing state.
- ANC and ambient sound modes
- Below-par battery life
- Customisation through the Adidas Headphones app
Sticking with the case, the battery life with ANC is just OK at four-and-a-half hours per charge and 20 hours in total. Switch off noise-cancelling and this extends to six and 25 hours. Not bad for use in the gym or for running; but if you’re after buds to use day in, day out, you’ll have to charge these Adidas earphones often. Again, both JBL and Jabra offer more in the tank.
There’s no wireless charging, but a 15-minute charge gets you an hour of playtime. There’s also an eco-charging option in the app that increases the lifespan of the earbuds by limiting their full charge to 80%.
The app still looks as it did a few years back when I reviewed the RPT-01 on-ears – the monochromatic aesthetic is one I like. On the homepage you can check battery life and tweak the custom action button and equalizer modes (I’d rate the ‘neutral’ Adidas mode as best).
Press the cog in the right-hand corner and you have a few more options to manage the strength of the ANC and awareness modes, the eco-charging mode, firmware updates and toggling on/off touch controls. Oddly, the equalizer and custom actions are repeated from the main area, except with the equalizer you can see the frequency bands. You can’t modify them, so unless I’m missing something – what’s the point?
Custom actions extend to Noise Control, integration with the Adidas Running app (which tracks your exercises), Spotify, Default Voice Assistant or you can simply not have an action associated at all. Pick Spotify, for example, and you can further tweak things by choosing a specific playlist, artist or album, which is helpful if you want a blast of your favourite gym tracks without having to search for them.
I wouldn’t say the Adidas’ noise-cancellation is the most suppressive I’ve experienced, which is something of a trend with fitness-based true wireless earbuds. In any case, it’s sufficient to remove light distractions during a workout, although not much of a force field against the incessant clanking of machines.
In an indoor setting, it’s useful enough to keep the focus on music and what you’re doing. Outdoors, though, the lack of heavy-duty suppression means running near a main road the sound of vehicles whooshing past is just slightly less audible.
It would be helpful when switching between modes if there was a notification that indicated the mode chosen. Instead, you rely on whether you can hear more (or less), and while there’s a toggle for interaction sounds in the app, it’s merely concerned with turning the sounds off.
The Awareness mode feels more impactful than the Z.N.E. 01 ANC’s noise-cancellation, offering more situational awareness without sounding too noisy or unnatural so you can tell what’s what, which is helpful when crossing roads. In addition, I haven’t experienced any dropouts either outside or indoors.
- Versatile performance
- Good bass definition
- Doesn’t describe peaks and troughs with as much aplomb
When it comes to sound, there’s a slight difference between the ANC and Awareness modes. The latter sees the soundstage shrink a little; but, overall, the Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC are a fine-sounding pair of true wireless with good bass, a wide and open sound, and broad sense of definition.
Press on the custom button and the Spotify playlist I’ve mapped to it brought up Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now – from the Rocky soundtrack, of course. The sound the Adidas deliver is a wide one, with no sense of those iconic brass trumpets sounding hemmed in, leaving space for the guitar riff to punch its way through.
Detail levels are fine. Definition isn’t the sharpest, but rhythmically there’s an agreeable flow to the track, although I wouldn’t say there’s much dynamism to be found in describing the difference between quiet and loud. The string section of Gonna Fly Now doesn’t leap out from the mix when it joins the action, with all the instruments and vocals pitched at the same level.
Higher volumes do present tracks with more weight and energy, although with busier tracks that definition feels like it loses a degree of a fidelity, as tracks merge as one. Tonally, they’re solid, perhaps with more presence to the bottom than the top end, but cohesive enough all the same.
There’s a decent sense of punchiness to the drums in Their War Here by Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL from the Batman v Superman soundtrack, and there’s depth to the thumping bass in Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, which is delivered cleanly and with impact – although that’s with the volume pushed up. There’s nice sub-bass control in the next track from the When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? album, xanny, and some fine stereo imaging as Eilish’s voice flits across the soundstage.
In Michael Giacchino’s Bundle of Joy, you’ll hear a nice twinkly tone to the piano, a refinement that you might not expect from a pair of gym-ready earphones. In fact, their performance here show the Adidas to be a capable and versatile pair. They strike a measured balance, giving vocal performances enough space to exist, and delivering them with a smoothness and clarity in Faye Webster’s Sometimes, or Chris Cornell’s distinctly gravelly tones in Audioslave’s Cochise – the Adidas’ mid-range and bass performance is pitched to appeal to a wide range of music genres.
Some more dynamism would elevate these earphones further, but I like what Adidas has done here. The Z.N.E. 01 ANC absolutely entertain on the audio front.
Should you buy it?
If you’re an Adidas fan Pair them with the Adidas Running app and you’ve got a companion that can track your fitness activities.
If you want a stronger feature set The Adidas lose ground for noise-cancellation, battery life and IP rating, with more fully featured options available at similar prices.
Like the RPT-01 on-ears, the Z.N.E. 01 ANC are good in some areas and a bit more average in others. They sound much better than I thought, but issues with comfort, average noise-cancelling, and below-par battery life bring them down to earth.
Nevertheless, they’re worth consideration, especially if you have an interest in the Adidas Running app.
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 for several weeks
Tested with real word use
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Z.N.E is an acronym for Zero Negative Energy.
Wireless (qi) charging is not supported by the ZNE 01 ANC
There’s no method of creating custom sound profiles, only the option to choose from a selected list.