Plantronics BackBeat Fit (2015) Review

Plantronics BackBeat Fit headphones offer solid but not spectacular audio, as well as very solid sweatproofing.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit: On The Plus Side

I reviewed the BackBeat Fit in video form last year, where I praised the simple, exercise centric nature of these particular headphones.
What the heck. Kevin, roll the video, would you?

The 2015 iteration of the BackBeat Fit headphones don’t radically alter from that basic premise, except that they’ve had a slight style makeover, with a new “Lava Red” colour intended to make them even more obvious to spot when you’re out running.
Back when I reviewed the first generation of BackBeat Fit headphones, I didn’t do that much running, so my testing there didn’t entirely take that into consideration. That’s changed this year, with my constant struggles to keep myself fit fodder for a few articles.
Here’s one I wrote for Lifehacker, where I note my need for music while I run.
The heightened visibility of the new BackBeat Fit headphones is a marked plus, because I find I’m not always running when it’s fully light outside, and drivers do have a tendency to focus on everything else but what’s in front of them. Being visible is a plus in this situation.

They're like a high visibility jacket... for your ears.
They’re like a high visibility jacket… for your ears.

The BackBeat Fit headphones are both sweat and water resistant; while I’ve not taken them swimming (where their Bluetooth nature would probably fall over anyway) I have sweated on them quite a bit. An unpleasant mental image, and I do apologise for that, but they’ve held up well against a constant sweaty barrage for quite some time now.
Like last year’s variant, the BackBeat Fit headphones carry case flips around to become a phone armband carrying case. It’s not quite as fancy as some of the dedicated sports armband cases I’ve tested, but it gets the job done and aids in increasing your visibility while you’re out jogging.
The control scheme for the BackBeat Fit headphones remains the same as it ever has, with a small power button that, if held in, also acts as a pairing initiator on the right hand earbud, along with the call answering button. The left hand bud handles play/pause functions, as well as very simple volume control. You can always control volume from whatever the BackBeat Fit headphones are paired to, but if you want to do so on the headphones, you do so by either tapping for volume up, or holding to reduce volume. It works, but it’s not terribly granular in its approach.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit: On The Minus Side

It’s easy enough to pair the BackBeat Fit headphones with any given smartphone, and they’re technically capable of working to take calls for you if you’re out running and someone wants to get in touch. In my testing with an iPhone 6 as the paired smartphone, however, I’ve had a few instances where the audio hasn’t passed through the headphones cleanly, leaving me struggling to take the call by grabbing the handset out of the armband instead. That may well be a fault relating to how iOS handles Bluetooth handoff, but it’s an annoying quirk if you get lots of calls while you’re out running.

There aren't many products I can say that I've actively sweated onto. The BackBeat Fit headphones didn't seem to mind.
There aren’t many products I can say that I’ve actively sweated onto. The BackBeat Fit headphones didn’t seem to mind.

You can of course use the BackBeat Fit headphones as regular everyday headphones, where the audio quality is decent but never absolutely stellar. Noise cancelling is notably absent in the Backbeat Fit, but the use of small canals to deliver music within the ear does afford them a certain level of ambient noise blocking, in the same way that some full headsets can block out nearby noise.
They’re designed to allow a certain amount of ambient noise to head into your ears, because you do probably want to know what’s going on with the outside world when you’re out running, but this means that unless you get the fit just so they can end up sounding a little weak and tinny. No worse than any other fitness headphones I’ve tested, but not what you’d call absolute best in class, either.
The other obvious downside to using them as day to day headphones is that they’re very bright, so once again, if you’re introverted, you may just draw more attention to yourself than you’re comfortable with.
The armband case isn't fancy, but it works well enough at not falling off your arm. What more do you need?
The armband case isn’t fancy, but it works well enough at not falling off your arm. What more do you need?

Battery life is rated at around eight hours. That’s not going to suit the ultramarathon types – I’m not one of those – if your fitness ambitions are on the extreme side.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit: Pricing

The RRP for the BackBeat Fit headphones in Australia is $159, although a little shopping around can find them slightly cheaper than that; at the time of writing Rebel Sport appears to be selling them for $149.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit: Fat Duck Verdict

They’re not high-end audio headphones, but the BackBeat Fit still provide a very solid, lightweight option for athletic types who want music while they work out. If they can handle the sweat that pours off my skull every time I go out for a run, they can pretty much handle anything.

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