Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: The Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC are a nice pair of earbuds that fit well and play well but are otherwise unremarkable when looking at their value relative to other options in the market. You can always go with brand loyalty, but there are a lot of alternatives.
Good sound quality
Good ANC and Awareness modes
Decent app support
Adidas Running and Spotify integration
Mediocre battery life
Not durable enough
No multipoint connections
Finicky touch controls
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There's no question Adidas comes with plenty of cachet, so brand recognition already comes in spades with a pair of earbuds like the Z.N.E. 01 ANC, even if it might not seem like the combination fits. In a fast-growing category, everyone wants a piece of the action, and this is no different.
But to stand out, you need more than just a logo and concept. True to its branding, Adidas considers these sporty earbuds worthy of any active lifestyle. But did it cut too many corners to make that happen, or not go far enough?
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC: Price and availability
Sweden's Zound Industries licensed the Adidas brand and released the Z.N.E. 01 ANC in October 2021 at $189. While they are likely to hover around that price for a while, the Z.N.E. 01 ANC have dropped in price already, suggesting that may happen intermittently over time. They aren't as widely available in retail as competitor pairs are, but you should be able to snag a pair if you want them. They come in both night black and grey color options.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC: What's good
Adidas is one of those brands and logos most around the world recognize. Its heritage in apparel doesn't mean a slam dunk translation over to tech products, but in this case, it's more licensing and style than anything else. Zound Industries ultimately licenses and manufactures products like the Z.N.E. 01 ANC wireless earbuds, no doubt with stylistic and functional elements designed to attract a wider audience.
I'll refrain from sports metaphors, but if I am to use one, it's to say that these aren't game-changing earbuds. Adidas isn't necessarily trying to break the mold here, though it is staking a claim to a very tightly contested product category. Instead, the Z.N.E. 01 ANC are cool earbuds made for people who want to look good while listening to their tunes. With comfort and some customization in mind, the results aren't all that bad.
It would be unfair to just dismiss these as AirPods clones because there is more to them than just a pair of stems. They have both active noise cancelation (ANC) and Awareness ambient mode, putting them in line with many other earbuds currently available. You can even adjust them to some degree using the available sliders under settings in the Adidas Headphones app.
At this point, all of those, including the app support, are features I'd expect from earbuds at this price. What matters more is how well they perform. The good news is that the Z.N.E. 01 ANC are fairly comfortable, providing decent passive noise isolation, which serves to help the otherwise standard ANC do an adequate job of drowning out background noise. It works best with low-frequency sounds, and can muffle higher frequencies when setting the slider to maximum. Awareness works in much the same way when you want to hear the background for safety or conversation. Neither feature is what I would consider outstanding, but they are more than serviceable.
The surprise comes in the sound quality, which was better than expected. It's not just punchy; it's also resonant, with a good level of bass to go with decent mids and highs. That's the default sound. The app offers six equalizer (EQ) presets covering the most popular music genres, yet it provides no way to adjust or customize them to create your own presets. This is a mistake I've seen other brands make, including high-end ones, and it would be good to see Zound and Adidas unlock that through a firmware update.
Despite that, the Z.N.E. 01 ANC still have a surprisingly even soundstage. I played around with the different presets and found each one had a unique sonic delivery through these earbuds — the kind of difference you notice immediately. That bodes well if you have eclectic musical tastes and prefer altering the sound to go with each one, though it only made me want to tweak things even more.
That includes some of the onboard controls. Adidas offers shortcuts to wake your voice assistant or toggle the noise control features, as well as access to the Adidas Running app or Spotify, by just tapping and holding the stem on either bud. You can set each side to handle a different option, except you still have to settle on two choices amongst the four available. The basic controls are pretty standard, with a single tap to play/pause, double-tap to skip a track, and triple-tap to repeat one. The earbuds also auto-pause when you remove one, which is always convenient to have.
The overall sound profile carries some benefit with phone calls, which I found to be pretty good while wearing the Z.N.E. 01 ANC. It was much easier to carry a conversation in the quieter confines of home. In contrast, outdoor situations posed more challenges because these earbuds aren't as good as others at both drowning out noise and amplifying voices simultaneously.
Expect mediocre battery life per charge at up to 4.5 hours per charge with ANC on. I found the actual number to be closer to four hours, especially if you nudge the volume up. It's up to six hours if you don't use any noise control. The compact case does give you an extra three charges, with support for wireless charging, too. The app includes an "eco charging" selection that charges the buds up to 80% to extend their overall lifespan. If you're in a tight spot for time, a quick 15-minute charge should give you up to 60 minutes of playback.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC: What's not good
Given the price and branding involved, the limited water and sweat resistance doesn't make much sense to my eyes and ears. Adidas positions the Z.N.E. 01 ANC as sporty earbuds, which may be true from a style perspective, but isn't necessarily so from a practical one. The IPX5 rating isn't terrible, but it's hardly rugged. Could you run or work out wearing these earbuds? Sure, but you'd have to take very good care of them after every workout, as in wiping and cleaning them to avoid water or salt seeping in.
I already lamented the lack of custom choices with the EQ, but I'm going to add codecs to that list. The Z.N.E. 01 ANC only supports AAC and SBC, not aptX, which is a shame. In fact, the listed specs on the Adidas website don't even mention codecs, making it fairly clear that wasn't a priority for these earbuds.
There's also no way to use one earbud independently, though I did manage to pull it off by just putting the other bud back in the case. Adidas doesn't mention anything about this, so I took it as a workaround. There's also no multipoint connection, meaning you can't pair these earbuds with two devices at once. If you're using them with a computer, you can't just automatically switch over to a phone unless you do it manually.
While the onboard controls aren't bad, they can be a little too sensitive, as I repeatedly discovered anytime I tried to adjust the fit. I know it's a fine line to get this right for any company, but it just felt a little too much in this case.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC: Competition
There are excellent options for similar prices among the best wireless earbuds, but it also depends on what you want to take priority. For something more ruggedized, the Jaybird Vista 2 are far more durable and offer one of the deepest EQs of any pair of earbuds. For something similar and with better ANC, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro also sound great and have better water and sweat resistance.
The Anker Soundcore Life P3 would be worth a look as a budget option that offers more than their price indicates. The same could also be said about the Treblab X3 Pro if you were looking for something sporty with an ear hook design for greater stability.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You like Adidas as a brand
- You want active noise cancelation
- You want a good EQ
- You care about good sound quality
You shouldn't buy this if ...
- You want more customization
- You want better battery life
- You want more durability
- You want multipoint connections
It wouldn't be fair to call the Z.N.E. 01 ANC a case of style over substance, but it is evident that there's not enough here to stand out above so many others. They're solid earbuds, and I could justify getting them if they came at a lower price, but when they cost about the same as the Jabra Elite 7 Active, it's hard to recommend these over those.
3.5 out of 5
It's not like Adidas doesn't check off the right boxes in many ways, given the features available and the comfort they provide. It's just that the sum of those parts are more in line with earbuds in the $150 range. Until they drop closer to that number, they're a hard sell.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC
Bottom line: Adidas is already a global powerhouse, and its Z.N.E. 01 ANC earbuds have plenty to like with a comfortable fit, good sound quality, and active noise cancelation. It's just that mediocre battery life and a lack of customization hurts the overall package.
- $174 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.
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