Adidas RPT-02 SOL review: An almost great pair of gym headphones – BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Adidas has created a pair of solar-charging headphones with a lot going for them. However, they fall short in a few key areas.
Published: 14th September, 2022 at 09:26
Headphones, no matter how good the promised battery life is, always seem to clunk out at the worst time. The obvious solution is to keep up with charging on a nightly basis, but I want a smarter option than that.
Another issue, in my long list of headphone pet-peeves, is the inability to wear over-ear headphones during a workout or intense walk without the cups becoming a sweaty sauna for the ears.
As if they heard my headphone dilemmas, Adidas has announced the RPT-02 SOL: a pair of solar-charging, sweat-proof and washable headphones. But can a company that isn’t exactly known for their audio-proficiency make a worthwhile set of headphones, or do they fall short of the mark?
The big selling point of these headphones is the way they charge. Whether you’re outside, in your home or even in a room with just a hint of light, these Adidas headphones will use solar to continually charge.
It’s a fantastic feature, but Adidas weren’t the first to do it. The brand Urbanista has now released two pairs of solar-charging headphones: one over-ear and one in-ear. They even used the same technology that Adidas is now using, Powerfoyle. 
However, this isn’t to take away from Adidas. The brand has implemented the technology in a seamless way. You wouldn’t be able to tell they’re solar-powered headphones by looking at them, and in my two weeks using them, I didn’t have to charge them once.
Through the use of the Adidas headphone app, you can even see how much your headphones are charging, and what kind of light is being used. If for some strange reason you can’t get any light, there is also a USB-C charging port on the headphones.
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Adidas has created a solid audio performance with the RPT-02 SOL. If you’re looking for a kick of bass to power your gym routine, you’ll be glad to hear these headphones are not lacking in that area.
There is a very clear focus on the lower pitch, giving a good kick in bass-heavy songs. However, this priority on bass can sometimes muddy the rest of the track, over-powering other instruments or sounds.
For the most part, this won’t be an issue unless you’re an audiophile looking to break down each instrumental performance while you’re out on your run. Also, thanks to the Adidas headphone app, you are able to adjust the equalisation, lowering the bass if it feels a bit much.
One very noticeable emission with these headphones is active noise cancellation where microphones and speakers would actively reduce the noise around you. These headphones instead make use of passive noise cancellation – naturally blocking out sound thanks to the design of the headphones.
Sitting directly on your ears, the RPT-02 SOL block some noise but not all. This means if you’re wearing them in the gym, you might still hear deadlift grunts and the never-ending charts music in the background. Once I started playing music or a podcast, these background sounds were mostly covered.
Lacking ambient sound features (the ability to allow outside noise in), runs out in the big wide world can feel somewhat isolated. You are less likely to hear cars and people coming up behind you, but this is an issue many headphones for exercise face.
The Adidas RPT-02 SOL are a lovely looking pair of headphones. A sleek black all-over, they use a mix of plastic and recycled nylon. This not only looks good, but is also good for the environment, with a large amount of the headphones being made up of recycled materials.
However, while they look great, the same can’t be said for their comfort. These are on-ear headphones, not over-ear meaning they will sit on top of your ears. It was hard to wear them for long periods of time, with my ears getting squished down and quickly becoming uncomfortable.
The nylon used is also quite scratchy. This isn’t an issue when they are on your ears, but when I had the headphones around my neck, they would itch and become irritable quickly.
Another tricky quirk of the design is that they don’t fold, or move at all. That means you won’t be able to fold them down to fit in your bag, or store them easily when you’re on the move. While they do feel tough, this does mean they are far from the best headphones for travelling, especially considering they don’t come with a travel case, either.
Adidas isn’t a headphone company, it’s a sports apparel company. With that in mind, it will be no surprise that one of the best uses of these headphones is through a workout or any form of exercise.
I tried the headphones both during runs and gym sessions. In both situations, these headphones worked well. Their tight fit kept them on securely for a whole 5km run, and during a full gym routine.
While the on-ear design allows sound to leak in, it does also allow for a much more breathable headphone experience. Your ears don’t get as hot and sweaty as they would with over-ear headphones and the breathable fabric also helps with this.
The Adidas RPT-02 SOL have the potential to be an amazing pair of headphones. They charge via solar power, they are sweat- and water-resistant, made of mostly recycled materials, and the parts are machine washable.
Those are all unique features, but I found it hard to not focus on their tight and uncomfortable fit. While they do offer good sound, they are no match for a lot of headphones at this price point, or even cheaper alternatives and the lack of noise cancellation is doing them no favours.
If you are drawn to the solar charging feature, you are better off with the cheaper Urbanista Los Angeles. They come with complete with active noise-cancellation, a more comfortable design, and a similar audio performance.
Where Adidas has found a niche is as a pair of gym headphones. You can wash them, you don’t have to worry about sweat, and they are always ready to pick up and go, even if you haven’t used them or charged them for weeks. Throw in the breathable feel when you’ve got a sweat on, and these quickly become an appealing pair of headphones for the gym.
Solar charging headphones remain rare, but if this is the feature that draws you to the RPT-02 SOL the most, the Urbanista Los Angeles will be the obvious alternative.
These over-ear headphones utilise the exact same solar charging technology known as Powerfoyle.
Along with the solar feature, these headphones also offer active noise cancellation, a stylish design, and a cheaper price tag than their Adidas competitor.
Whether you are in the gym or going for a long run outside, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. This is where the Shokz OpenRun Pro thrive. These headphones play music through bone conduction. This is where the vibrations are played through your collar bones instead of your ears. While this will result in a less-immersive experience, it allows you to be fully aware of what is going on around you.
The Beats PowerBeats Pro are often considered one of the best pairs of running headphones. They utilise an ear-hook to keep them in place while running, lifting weights or generally throwing your body around for the sake of exercise.
While fit and comfort are two key factors of these earbuds, they also offer fantastic audio quality, powered by technology from both Apple and Beats.
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Alex is a staff writer at BBC Science Focus. He has worked for a number of brands covering technology and science with an interest in consumer tech, robotics, AI and future technology.
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