(Pocket-lint) - The world of Bluetooth in-ears has shifted massively over the past couple of years. For a little while companies were focused on highly capable neckband earphones, but now - with the rise in popularity of Apple AirPods - all companies are shifting towards true wireless in-ears.
Still, there's a market for tethered wireless earphones, especially for those who don't want to spend a tonne on a pair they're going to abuse at the gym. Enter the Adidas FWD-01, a sport-focused pair of in-ears primed and ready for your longest runs and sweatiest workouts.
Leaning on audio from the same company that brings you Marshall and Urbanears speakers and headphones, the FWD-01 seek to be the only pair of earphones you need for your sporty escapades.
Sweat it out
- Weight: 25g
- Knitted low-friction cord
- Magnetic earbuds snap together
- Interchangeable ear tips and wings
- Three button remote and action button
- Sweatproof and splashproof (IPX4-rated)
Athleisure is big business in the world of clothing, and Adidas has clearly dipped into such stylings for its FWD-01 earphones. The flat knitted cord covering the internal cabling and components would look just as good in a pair of PrimeKnit sneakers. It's soft, comfortable and looks sporty.
Because of that knitted coating around the cable, it never sticks or feels unnatural on the back of your neck, whether you're mid-run or just wearing them while sitting on a bike. We did find on occasion that its position needs readjusting slightly, but that's perfecly normal for any pair of earphones using a cable around the back of the neck.
Embedded within this canvas you'll also find control buttons: on the right there's the triple button remote for skipping, playing and pausing music; while the left control has a single custom button.
Now, we're not usually fans of in-line remotes hanging from the ear, because they look clunky or upset the balance of the earphones. However, Adidas' design team has minimised that impact by making the controls as slim as posslible. Given the placement of the Type-C charging port within the right earbud's casing, that seems it's been made possible by not having the batteries within the cord or control unit.
We quite like the rugged and chunky look of these earbuds. They have a heptagonal shape and come covered in a grippy, non-slip textured finish. They feel super durable, while the inclusion of IPX4 water-resistance means you don't have to worry about sweat or rain damage.
The ear tips have a pill-shaped opening for the sound, and a gently tapered cone-shape which seems to give a good seal in the ear, while ear wings hold the earphones inside your ears. You get additional tips and wings to customise the fit for your ears too.
For the most part, the fit is good. These buds never fell out during our testing, and we felt the hold was pretty secure. It's not quite perfect though: on runs we found we'd have to adjust the angle and fit a few times to get the proper fit.
Then, during a run, the seal with the tip would gradually loosen and then need to be adjusted again - especially when the North Wales coastal winds started to blow. It's not something we typically have to do with many of the true wireless earphones, such as the Powerbeats.
This shifting is minimal though. We've suffered through a lot worse with many other pairs. And we tested these buds on multiple runs, as well as with HIIT and strength kettlebell exercise, and exercise bike sessions. Once the fit was found, we rarely had to adjust.
When not in use, you don't have to throw these 'buds in their included pouch if you don't want. The earbuds have magnets to snap them together, so they can be worn easily around the neck.
Features, performance and app control
- Customisable action button
- Equaliser tool
Like a lot of modern audio products, there's an associated app. The Adidas headphones app gives you some basic, but user-friendly, controls over some of the FWD-01's essential elements.
You can use it to choose what the custom action button does, but the choices of what it can do are very limited. It can be set to activate your phone's voice assistant or launch Spotify, and you can set it so that a single press launches one of those functions, while a double- or triple-press does the other.
The app also allows you to adjust equalisation, with a few presets available plus a 'Custom' option to create your own sound profile using a few EQ sliders.
Connection was flawless the entire time we used the FWD-01. The battery life is pretty impressive too: Adidas claims up to 16 hours on a single charge. We used these earphones everyday for a number of different workout styles, sometimes connected to our Apple Watch and other times to our phone, and after over three hours of listening, the battery still only showed that 20 per cent had been used.
As for the sound, that's the ideal mix of bass, volume and impact that you want to drive you through a workout session.
Regardless of which preset EQ setting you choose, there's plenty of bass. When you want that hit from a bass drum, or the bass groove of some upbeat tracks to keep you to task, it's ideal.
While the bass is very present, it doesn't drown out the rest. You still get a good amount of treble, with clear vocals and instrumentation. This is true whether you're running outside, or in a quieter environment indoors. Even when the fit wasn't completely snug, the bass didn't completely fall away.
One feature of the Adidas earphones you'll either love or hate is the purposeful passive noise passthrough. These earphones are designed not to completely block out external noise, the thought being that if you're running or cycling outside near roads you can still hear any traffic in your vicinity. It's a safety feature more than anything.
That might mean that if you're using the FWD-01 in a gym that's constantly blasting out music or TV from its own music system, you may need to pump up the volume to drown it out.
On the whole, it's a slightly different sound to what you'd get from the Powerbeats, as we found it a tiny bit bass-heavy, but - unlike the Beats - you do get the ability to adjust EQ somewhat, so it's more likely you'll get a balance you prefer if you're particularly fussy.
There's a lot to like about the Adidas FWD-01. The knitted outer coating on the cabling looks and feels great, the controls are easy to use, the sound pumping through the drivers is loud and bassy, while the battery lasts a long time. Just what you need on a workout.
However, we would like to see a slightly better balance to the earbuds' design. The in-ear wing design, combined with the slightly bulky 'buds, means the feeling of wearing was a little off balance for us. Still, the fit is generally secure - and never had a risk of falling out - so we only had to readjust every so often.
If you're looking for ideal in-ear workout partners, the big sound and not-so-big price is hugely appealing. So long as you can cope without noise cancelling.
A bit more expensive than the Adidas offering, but we found the sound quality better, plus the over-ear hook design means the fit is better balanced.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go
If you want to go down the true wireless route without spending an absolute fortune, but still get great sound and a comfortable and secure fit, consider the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go. It might have a reputation for being a bit hipster and trendy, but these are genuinely good running earphones.