Adidas ZNE 01 ANC Review

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Adidas is no longer a stranger to the personal audio space, and its latest entry adds noise cancellation to the mix. The ZNE 01 ANC earphones offer active noise cancellation and solid audio performance in a waterproof design for $189.99. But the ANC is just average, battery life is underwhelming, and the on-ear controls are frustrating. If you’re looking for a pair of exercise-focused earphones with ANC, Jabra’s $199.99 Elite 7 Pro in-ears deliver better performance all around, earning our Editors’ Choice award.


A Rugged Look and Build

Available in black or gray, the stem-style earpieces (and case) feature an intricate, randomly crosshatched pattern. The design looks cool, particularly on the case, but you may also find that this pattern makes things look really scuffed up from a distance. In any case, the earpieces fit securely without any additional accessories other than the three included pairs of oval silicone eartips (small, medium, and large).

adidas ZNE 01 ANC lifestyle image

Each earpiece houses a dynamic driver that delivers a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz and an impedance of 16 ohms. The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.2 and support the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but not AptX.

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Both earpieces have a capacitive touch surface above the stem. A single tap on either handles playback and call management, but things fall apart after that. A double tap and triple tap are respectively supposed to move forward or backward a track. The track forward gesture only worked once in testing, and bizarrely, a triple tap caused the sound source to switch from our test iPhone.

The earpieces carry an IPX5 rating, which means they can withstand low-pressure water jets from any direction. They should easily survive moderate rain and sweaty workouts, but don’t run them under a faucet or submerge them for cleaning. If you need fully waterproof earpieces, you have two options in this price range: the aforementioned Jabra Elite 7 Pro and the $179.99 Jabra Elite 7 Active. Both have IP57 ratings, which means you can submerge and wash them off in the sink. Additionally, the first digit in the rating (5) indicates that they are highly resistant to dust.

The included charging case has an IPX4 rating, but don’t be fooled; This rating applies only to the exterior of the case when the lid is closed, so placing wet earpieces inside is a quick way to ruin it. The case features a flip-top lid, a front panel status LED, the Adidas logo, and a USB-C port for charging via the USB-C-to-USB-A cable that comes in the box.

Adidas estimates that the earphones can last roughly 4.5 hours with ANC or 6 hours without it on a single charge. It says that the case holds an additional 15.5 hours (with ANC) or 20 hours (no ANC) of charge. Your use of ANC and volume levels will affect these estimates, but the stated 4.5-hour battery life doesn’t compare favorably with most of the competition, which tends to offer 6 hours or more, even with ANC in the mix.


App Features

The adidas Headphones app (available for Android and iOS) unlocks various features, including on-screen ANC controls, an Awareness Mode that lets you hear your surroundings, and some basic on-ear control customizations. You also get an EQ section, but Adidas fumbled this implementation a bit—you can’t adjust the five bands of EQ manually, and instead must choose between various presets. This omission is particularly notable because most other models at this price offer this feature.

Elsewhere, the settings menu allows you to create custom actions, which are just normal functions you can assign to a long-touch on the outer panels of the earpieces. The app is worth downloading to get the latest firmware updates, but we expected to see some sort of athletic feature given that Adidas is a sports company.


Average ANC

The earphones deliver merely average noise cancellation. They somewhat dial back powerful low-frequency rumble like you hear on an airplane, which is an area that most ANC models excel at. A recording of a busy restaurant with clanging dishes and boisterous conversation proved challenging, however—the earphones noticeably cut back the lows and mids, but the higher frequencies made it past the ANC, along with an audible hiss (a common masking tactic for pairs that struggle to cancel out highs).

Moreover, toggling the ANC modes triggers a loud in-ear prompt, which is another trick manufacturers use to make ANC seem more effective (whatever level you hear noise after switching into the ANC mode is sure to sound quieter by comparison). Thankfully, you can turn off these sounds via the app’s settings menu.

ZNE 01 ANC lifetsyle


Sculpted Audio, Strong Mics

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones deliver powerful low-frequency thump. At top (unwise) volumes they don’t distort, and at more moderate listening levels, the bass still sounds robust.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the sound signature. The drums on this track get a heavy helping of bass, which lends them a thunderous presence in the mix. Callahan’s baritone vocals benefit from plenty of low-mid richness, but could use a bit more high-mid presence. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits are bright and clear.

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 retain its punch. The vinyl crackle and hiss step forward in the mix, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are surprisingly not over the top. This means that the major bass boosting we heard on the other tracks doesn’t extend into the deepest sub-bass frequencies; it’s concentrated more in the lows and, to an extent, the low-mids. The vocals on this track sound clear and are free of additional sibilance.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound crisp. A rich low-mid presence here allows the lower-register instrumentation to stand out a bit more than usual. The higher-register brass strings and vocals, however, retain the spotlight.

The dual-mic array performs fine and minimizes Bluetooth artifacts. We had no trouble understanding every word from a Voice Memos recording on an iPhone. The mic signal is also relatively strong.


adidas Misses the Mark

The ZNE 01 ANC earphones sound decent and we like their water-resistant build, but that’s not enough to justify their cost in light of the competition. Merely average noise cancellation, relatively short battery life, and unreliable controls are weak points here that you can avoid with similarly priced alterantives. We continue to recommend both the Jabra Elite 7 Pro and the Jabra Elite 7 Active if you’re looking for a pair of durable, noise-cancelling earphones you can use while working out. And if you need the absolute top true wireless ANC performance, Sony’s $279.99 WF-1000XM4 earphones remain the best in class, and are worth the additional cost.

The Bottom Line

The Adidas ZNE 01 ANC earphones fit well and produce powerful audio, but otherwise fall short of comparably priced noise-cancelling pairs on a number of fronts.

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