Adidas FWD-01 Singapore Review
The Adidas FWD-01 in all its chunky glory. Image: Adidas
It’s now possible to be adorned from top to toe with your favourite brand (the one with three stripes).
In partnership with Zound Industries, the Swedish audio muscle behind brands like Urbanears and Marshall, Adidas has introduced the FWD-01 and RPT-01 – wireless sport headphones.
The office-dwelling chunky monkeys at VR Zone got our hands on the Adidas FWD-01 (SGD 249) for review, and reviewer and reviewee alike got put through our paces for the week.
Adidas FWD-01: Packaging
Many kudos to Adidas and Zound Industries for getting this right. No need for never-ending layers of glossy plastic wrapping to justify the price tag. Instead, simple cardboard packaging opens up to reveal a small package containing the FWD-01 within.
The array of extra ear-tips and wing-tips are neatly stuck on a cardboard tray, while the USB-C cable can be found in the carrying case.
Adidas FWD-01: Build
Like the RPT-01, the FWD-01 is clad in knitted fabrics – a similar texture and quality reminiscent of the laces on Adidas shoes.
After a moment of gawking, the
uncle reviewer in me was then immediately concerned about the fabric absorbing sweat and building up a stench. I can’t say just yet, but it seems like the IPX4 sweat and water resistance would allow you to keep the earphones sufficiently sanitary to prevent stinkage.
Otherwise, the dark colours would hide dirt and (god forbid) mould that might accrue from careless use. Notwithstanding, rugged build with fabric-clad cable and chunky rubberised exterior inspired confidence.
Adidas FWD-01: Ergonomics
Truth be told, I didn’t expect much the moment I saw how chunky the FWD-01 was. I’m a firm believer that fit supersedes audio quality when it comes to earphones and headphones.
That’s all more the case for fitness earphones, where constant movement and high-impact activity can loosen the fi, making for a frustrating, tinny sonic experience when you need bass the most.
Feel my shock, then, when the FWD-01 stuck doggedly in my ear on an ill-advised and very, very sweaty 10km (6.21mi) run. You see, I had not run at all for the entirety of the year, having wiped my fitness slate clean to start on a daily static routine.
I’ve been glued to the AirPods Pro since its launch late last October, and have enjoyed the JBL Endurance Jump for runs and other high-impact training. The FWD-01 easily finds itself amongst the biggest names in fitness audio on its inaugural attempt.
Where other fitness earphones require the occasional coaxing (read: finger-prodding) to stay snug in our ears, the FWD-01 required no such encouragement. Even so, for inserting, removing and adjusting the earphones, the oversized and rubberised exterior of the earbuds make it a breeze to get a hold on them.
Adidas FWD-01: Functionality
Magnets on the earbuds also allow them to be connected securely around your neck instead of dangling freely on both ends ready to be snagged by an errant limb.
For fitness audio, 16 hours of battery life is plenty – unless you run ultra-marathons or sail around the world. Even if you take the FWD-01 beyond the gym or the running track, it should last you for a couple of days of extensive listening before it requires a recharge. Our unit sat at 60% after a week of regular use, for reference.
The advertised auto-pause doesn’t work by removing either or both channels from your ears, but instead requires users to magnetically clasp the earphones together. Unclasping and putting the earphones back on does not resume the audio, but instead requires an additional press of the play button.
Speaking of the play button, the FWD-01 sports its controls underneath the knitted fabric of the connecting cable. On the right, you will find the traditional volume and play/pause controls. Double-clicking the middle pause/play control skips the track forward, while a triple click rewinds or plays the previous tracks. Long-pressing the middle button powers on and off the device.
On the left is a single button that activates Google Assistant or Siri for voice-activated commands.
Adidas FWD-01: Audio
I doubt anyone would wonder how The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five or Dire Straits’ Sultans Of Swing sounds on a 10-kilometre sweat-fest, but on the off-chance you are, I’m glad you asked.
Before we delve into technical jargon, here’s the lowdown: it’s surprisingly good. A notch up from your AirPods and Galaxy Buds, and heads and shoulders above the most popular names in fitness audio.
Take Five showcases a surprising level of soundstage offered on these Adidas-branded buds – the ride cymbal echoes in the distance, while the glassy saxophone croons close by.
On the other hand, Sultans Of Swing demonstrates the impressive tonal performance of the FWD-01, with chords and raspy vocals conveyed with stark accuracy. For what it’s worth, I also enjoyed the warm blasts of brass chords in Count Basie Orchestra’s Chicago.
If you’re a fellow Earthling and enjoy more appropriate Billboard Top 100 material on your work-outs, I can assure you that Billie Eillish’s bad guy sounds astounding on the Adidas FWD-01. The bass ostinato rumbles mercilessly without the need to crank up the volume.
Sing Street’s Drive It Like You Stole It, my all-time favourite running track, however, sounds remarkably bass-heavy with detail in the mids and highs largely withdrawn.
Adidas FWD-01: Value & Round-up
At SGD 249, the Adidas FWD-01 costs a fair bit for its decidedly last decade neckbuds form factor. For reference, Apple’s omnipresent AirPods starts at SGD 239 for its basic configuration without wireless charging.
For all its great design with conversation-starter fabric detailing, the drawbacks of a neckbuds design make it hard to justify such a steep price. However, for those who get along just fine with a shoestring dangling across the nape of their neck would get along just fine with the FWD-01.
An alternative for those who can’t would be the Adidas RPT-01. Launched alongside the FWD-01, these on-ear fitness headphones sport a similar knitted fabric styling at SGD 299.
The Adidas FWD-01 and RPT-01 are available now at the TC Acoustic Showroom, Challenger stores as well as the TV web-store, Lazada and Amazon.sg.