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Adidas launching sports headphones came as a bit of a surprise to us – it’s one of the few global sportswear brands to have done so – and it’s jumped in with both feet, launching not one, but two sweat- and splash-proof Bluetooth pairs. The FWD-01s are a light pair of “wireless-wired” headphones, with just a wire connecting the buds (as opposed to truly wireless headphones which don’t connect the buds), and are primarily designed for runners; while the RPT-01s are an on-ear pair of cans targeted at gym-goers.
Both use a distinctive black and flecked grey knitted material which make them more attractive than most sports headphones, and it’s a good thing they look the business because you can wear them all day thanks to the knockout battery life – 16 hours on the FWDs. That beats the 14 hours available on the Jaybird Tarah Pro (£139.99), one of the FWDs’ most obvious competitors.
Adidas also claims superfast USB-C charging and this isn’t a joke. As I walked out of the door for a test run, I saw the battery was in the red, but a mere five minutes of charging put another 20% on the meter – more than enough to see me through a 40-minute jog. From dead, 15 minutes of charging took it from 0 to 60%, another 15 minutes to 80% and a final 15 to completely full.
As with other high-end headphone brands like Jabra, Libratone and Jaybird, the EQ settings on the FWDs can be tweaked using an app, helping audiophiles match the sound profile to their tastes. I’m no sound nerd, but I found it wasn’t noticeably different from the other premium headphones I’ve tried, although in certain EQ profiles the bass was a bit muddier than I’d like.
One unique feature is an extra button close to the left bud that can be programmed in the app to perform three actions (press once for the first action, twice for the second and three times for the final action). Those actions are triggering the voice assistant on your phone, or starting to play a playlist, album or artist from your Spotify account.
The innovative features don’t even end there. There are magnetic connectors at the end of each bud which, when connected together, pause what you’re listening to and send the headphones to sleep. The necklace it forms means you can also store your headphones within easy reach without the buds swinging around.
In a final nice touch, the headphones come with a neoprene pouch which also includes a slot for the small charging cable.
It all adds up to an impressive package that’s sadly let down by the fit. The FWDs have four different sizes of buds and wings to help sit in your ears snugly, but I found the wings a bit hard, lacking the pleasant sponginess you’ll find on the Jaybird Tarah range. I wasn’t able to keep these buds in my ears for more than an hour without wanting to switch to something more comfortable, making the massive battery life less of a positive.
I also found the earbuds tended to slowly dislodge themselves while I ran. Part of that is down to the electronics and charging point being housed next to the earbud. They’re light, sure, but I found they tugged ever so slightly on the bud when I was moving. It didn’t make much difference during a slow, easy run, but every minute or so during a tempo session I had to twist the bud back a notch on the left side to keep it securely in place.
The control panels on the left and right of the wire are impressively light, so I don’t think they were tugging at the bud, and the wire sat comfortably on my neck, unlike the heavier wire on the pricier Libratone Track+ pair I’ve worn. Still, I prefer the cinch you get with the Jaybird Tarahs, which makes for a more secure fit.
The other aspect of the headphones that doesn’t land is the passive transparency, essentially a hole in the buds that allows noise from your environment to filter in. It lets some sound in, but listening to your music at a decent volume masks the sound of all but the heaviest traffic. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’d be hard pressed to call it a feature.
Adidas has produced an impressive debut and if you’re after a day-to-day pair that can also handle jogging, they’re worth a look, but if you’re after headphones to cover all types of running the FWDs don’t match up to the Tarahs. Even better, I’d recommend truly wireless buds, which I’ve found a far superior fit to the wired Bluetooth models. You’ll find plenty of options in our round-up of the best running headphones.
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.