Adidas FWD-02 Sport Review | PCMag

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As you might imagine, the Adidas FWD-02 Sport true wireless earphones ($169.99) are geared toward exercise, and they indeed offer a secure fit and a water-resistant design. We like that you can reign in their bass-forward sound signature via the companion app’s EQ, but they don’t offer any standout features or specs for the relatively high cost, especially compared with similarly priced competitors. For an additional $30, for instance, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro earphones offer a superior waterproof rating, active noise cancellation, and much better on-ear controls, making them a stronger buy and an Editors’ Choice award winner.


Secure Fit, Lackluster Controls

The FWD-02 Sport earphones are available in light or dark (almost black) gray. The large earpieces rely on earfins for stability and fit snugly against your ear; They shouldn’t come loose during even intense exercise. The box includes four pairs of oval silicone eartips in various sizes, and five pairs of earfins that snap onto the earphones.

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Internally, dynamic drivers deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz and an impedance of 16 ohms. The Bluetooth 5.2-compatible earphones support the AAC, AptX, and SBC codecs.

The on-ear controls are sensitive to pressure, so you must push the earphones into your ear to get them to work, which you might find uncomfortable. Oddly, you don’t get any tactile feedback with these controls, only an audio prompt (a beep plays when you pause music, for example).

The controls are the same on both sides: a single press handles playback and call management, a double press skips forward a track, and a triple press navigates backward a track. Press and hold to put the earpieces in an Ambient Aware monitoring mode and pause the music. Press again to leave the Ambient mode and resume playback. Curiously, when we tried to exit the Ambient mode in testing, the earphones started to play a different song. This easily could have been due to user error, but it highlights that the buttons also aren’t very responsive.

An IPX5 water-resistance rating means that the earpieces can withstand water jets of modest pressure from any direction, but you shouldn’t subject them to faucet-like pressure or submerge them. Ideally, an exercise-focused pair of true wireless earphones should sport at least an IPX7 rating, and both the Jabra Elite 7 Active ($179.99) and Jabra Elite 7 Pro ($199.99) deliver on that front with matching IP57 ratings.

The flip-top charging case is relatively large because it needs to accommodate both the earphones and fins. The two cutouts right above where the earpieces sit are a unique design touch—these feature a thin mesh-like cloth material. The cutouts look sporty and cool, but we’re wary of how much a tear in the material could affect the case’s IPX4 rating. That rating applies only to the exterior of the case when the lid is shut, so make sure to dry the earpieces before you dock them for charging.

Adidas estimates that the earphones can last roughly six hours on battery and that the case provides an additional 19 hours of power. Of course, your typical volume levels will affect these estimates.

You can use the adidas Headphones app (available for Android and iOS) to toggle the Ambient Aware mode, as well as customize some controls and actions. For instance, you can configure a shortcut to open a Spotify playlist. You can also use the app to customize the EQ and update the firmware.


Heavily Sculpted Audio

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones deliver powerful bass response that doesn’t distort at top, unwise listening levels. At more moderate levels, the lows still sound powerful.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track reveals with far less deep bass in the mix, further the pair’s bright and bass-forward tendencies. The drums on this track sound thunderous, indicative of heavy boosting. Callahan’s vocals get an extra helping of low-mid richness, but we note the solid presence of high-mids, too.

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On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to remain sharp, but it’s the additional thump we notice more—the loop sounds much heavier than usual. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat sound huge, even at moderate volumes. The vinyl crackle and hiss also get extra emphasis, which implies just as much sculpting in the higher frequencies (though not so much in the high-mids). The vocals on this track sound clear, but a bit more attention to the high-mids would help keep them stay front and center in the mix.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound unnatural—the lower-register instrumentation come across way too heavily here. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals retain detail, but the lower-register notes frequently throw off the balance in the mix. You can adjust the low-frequency response in the EQ, however, so this default profile isn’t really a deal breaker.

The mic sounds fine and keeps Bluetooth audio artifacts to a minimum. We had no trouble understanding every word from a Voice Memos test recording on an iPhone. The signal is a little weak, but call clarity still shouldn’t be an issue.


Pricey for What You Get

The Adidas FWD-02 Sport earphones are capable of powerful, booming sound, and we appreciate their secure fit and water-resistant design, but more compelling options are available for around the same price. Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active, for example, both offer active noise cancellation, better water-resistance ratings, and have much more usable on-ear controls. For far less money, meanwhile, we also like the sub-$50 Tribit Flybuds 3, which have a fully waterproof build and sound quite good for the price.

The Bottom Line

The water-resistant, bass-forward Adidas FWD-02 Sport earphones can’t keep up with similarly priced true wireless competitors that offer more features and stronger performance.

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