So, you’ve made it past the initial push! Good on ya. You’re still in the gym, or on the trail, or sweating out that workout routine to a DVD, or app. You’re feeling committed and every little bit you can do to keep motivated helps! With that in mind, maybe it’s time to upgrade from the wired earbuds that came with your phone, to something which may help you stay focused during your workouts without becoming a tangled mess. You know, something wireless. To that end this is the second of three different earpieces over three reviews. This time, we're looking at the Plantronics Backbeat FIT.
Check out the video review:
The number one reason to pay the difference in price to go from a pair of wired earbuds to wireless Bluetooth earbuds is convenience. With a wireless headset, you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in the cord of your headphones, or it bouncing around on your while you run outdoors, or on that treadmill. To that end, the Backbeat FIT by Plantronics, fit the bill nicely. The FIT, stays in place with over-the-ear loops and ear gels which have a loop on the back which ‘push’ against your ear. There’s also a wrap-around component which goes behind your head and is quite flexible.
On the left earpiece you’ll find the music controls. One button in the center of the earpiece, which handles play and pause and a notch at the top, outer rim of the earpiece which handles both volume up and down. Most devices have a rocker style, or separate buttons for volume up/down but the FIT’s volume control is handled by tapping the button for volume up, and long pressing the same button to bring the volume down. It’s a curious choice of controls but works well in practice. For track skip forward, you double tap the center button but replaying or skipping back tracks is a little more convoluted. To replay the track, press and hold the center button until you hear the confirmation tone. If you want to skip back more tracks, keep double pressing until you hear the tone. The right side is where the power button, covered charge port, and phone call action is. The power button is a small notch on the upper portion of the rim of the controls, while the phone call button - which also handles voice activation- is in the center. From the phone call button you can send and end calls, as well as activate Siri or Google Now/Assistant.
For those of you who are hardcore with your workouts and will get out in the elements with these, it’s good to know that they’re waterproof in fresh water up to 1 meter (3.28 feet) for 30 minutes (IP57). These aren’t made for swimming, but if you’re caught outside during a downpour, it looks like they should hold up nicely under those conditions.
USER EXPERIENCE FIT FOR A KING
I have to say that, overall this is one of the better experiences on a pair of fitness headphones. Though Plantronics is generally known for producing quality Bluetooth earpieces, as I found out with their Backbeat Pro 2, they also produce solid headphone listening experiences with premium feature sets. The Backbeat FIT will tell you how much battery life you have left so you’re never guessing, or looking at the number of LED lights activated. It tells you how much power you have when you first turn them on, or when you tap the power button. You’ll also receive an audible notification of the connection status with one of the 8 devices that this multipoint Bluetooth headset supports connection to. Not that it’s generally difficult to figure these things out on headsets which don’t have these features but it’s always a nice touch to have them.
At the end of the day, it really is all about the listening experience and the FIT is no slouch there. Because of the build, .flac files sound a bit light on the low end because of how the eartips have a bit of a funnel design which sits over the ear canal. These aren’t they kind of buds which are actually inserted into the ear canal. Audio is crisp on the high end and the mid range has a bit of a kick, but the fall off is going to be on the low end, which may leave some bass heads feeling a bit flat. If it’s earth shattering bass you’re looking for, you’ll need to look elsewhere. That said, the tradeoff for a lighter bass push is situational awareness. Since the FIT doesn’t sit inside your ear canal, you aren’t completely cut off from the outside world, making these ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who are going to want to be aware of their surroundings. And, if your workouts vary from indoors to out, I definitely recommend the Backbeat FIT for you and for your tweens/teens who may be runners. I’d also recommend them for younger users because with the way the eartips are situated, it’s going to be harder for them to blow out their hearing with dangerously high volumes.
As with many items these days, you’ll get a battery which fast charges in case you forgot to charge at the last moment before hitting the gym and your battery is drained. I had the FIT hooked up to the Qualcomm enabled Anker Quick Charge 2.0 in my car and within 30 minutes it was recharged from almost dead, to 7 hours worth of listening time (2.4 amp output). For reference, the Backbeat FIT is rated by Plantronics as capable of 8 hours of listening time, 6 hours talk time, with a 2 hour charge and from completely drained. It also supports a quick charge to get you on your way. Just charge the FIT for 15 minutes and you’ll get an hour of workout time.
For those of you who like to throw the iron around, the FIT is a great fit but you may notice it’s there once you lay on that bench. It’s flexible so it doesn’t hurt, or feel obtrusive in any way. Nothing more than you’ll just become aware that you’re wearing it. It’s just worth noting so that when you feel it you won’t say I didn’t tell you.
When you’re looking for a strong workout headset that can withstand the rigors of everything from hardcore gym life to casual fitness fun, the Backbeat FIT is a solid choice. Its ability to handle water, its comfort, and level of polish make it a great device and at the price ($129.99) you can find it for online, it’s hard not to recommend it. Matter of fact, I'm going to call it. This one sits squarely at the top of my list of premium Bluetooth fitness earbuds. It’s available in a variety of colors and comes with a one-year warranty, though I’m hoping that it lasts much longer than that without needing any warranty service. This may be the next fitness headset I buy for myself. In Stealth Green of course.
Disclosure: Plantronics provided me with a demo unit for the purpose of this review.