Plantronics are back with another set of headphones and this time they’re aimed squarely and fairly at the fitness market. The BlackBeat FIT headphones are lightweight, waterproof and have pretty great battery life. After spending a few weeks living with them, here’s the review.
Design and Comfort
The BackBeat FIT is made up of 2 in-ear earbuds that are connected by a plastic neckband meaning you’ll never loose them. When you’re wearing them, the band doesn’t hang on your neck, instead the semi-rigid rubber has enough strength to hold its shape to hover over your neck, achieved with the behind the ear fitting.
When you first put on the FIT, they’re not immediately comfortable and I’ll admit, they were harder to make stick in my life than other headphones I’ve tried. After using them for a few weeks now, the plastic has softened a little and become more pliable and comfortable during longer stints.
Make sure you take the time to twist the earbuds and see which direction fits you best, while it looks like only a slight angle adjustment, it makes a huge impact on wearability.
Something I love about the BackBeat FIT is their waterproof design that meets IP57 rating and thanks to sweatproof nano-technology, you never have to worry about them during a top-level workout. I’ve even worn them in the shower, something I’m not game to do with most headphones. That’s part of the joy of having headphones is the ability to continue to be entertained with music or educated through podcasts and audiobooks and being waterproof opens up more opportunities to use them.
I reviewed the Sport Grey version of the BackBeat FIT, but if you’re after a more personal or simply a colour that matches your workout outfit, then you’ll be happy Plantronics have recently increased the range of colours with 5 bold colours. Whatever colour you choose, Plantronics designers were smart enough to include a reflective strip on the back of the back to ensure you get seen at night. That’s a great for personal safety and a great use of design that leverages the connected band for something ensuring you don’t loose them.
Now its time to talk about battery life. Like other Plantronics headphones, the engineers have done something remarkable with power use to make them good for up to 8 hours of listening time on a single charge. In real world use I got awfully close to this, with an hour or so spent walking most days, it gets you through a week on a single charge. That’s the difference between headphones feeling like they’re always ready for you versus ones that are always flat.
If you ever found yourself needing a quick hit, you can feed the headphones a 15-minute quick charge for a full hour of listening. The BackBeat FIT is also capable of maintain battery charge for up to 6 months, but lets be honest, you’re never going to test that.
Power on. Listen time 8 hours.
One of my favourite features are the voice alerts for remaining play time, this means when you turn on your headphones, its never a question of how long you have remaining. Its such a simple, but seriously useful feature.
The rich, immersive audio and the open ear tip design also keeps you aware of your surroundings. While that approach makes sense, personally I want headphones to at least have the option for active noise cancelling as often the outside world is full of annoying sounds and you’re not always at risk of walking in front of traffic.
As you navigate the world while listening to your favourite audio of choice, you’ll often come up against the challenge of controling your playlist and calls. The BackBeat FIT offers on-ear buttons.
These take some learning, but overall are pretty logical and after a couple of days, you’ll have no worries zipping around. The volume is adjusted by repeatedly pressing the volume button to turn things up, or pressing and holidng to turn it down.
The center button on the left earbud is a simple play/pause or accept/hang up call button. Its easy to access, reliable and gives a confident response.
The center button on the right earbud can launch your phone’s voice assistant with a simple press and hold. This often delivers the information you need while leaving your phone in your pocket.
Price and Availability
The BackBeat FIT is available from Office Works, JB Hi-Fi as well as Rebel Sport and Amart Sports. While the RRP is A$179.99, if you hunt around, especially in the lead up to Christmas, you’ll find for as low as A$148.00.
Additional colours Stealth Green and Core Black will be available early 2017.
I love the fact that these headphones are connected by the regular cable that relentlessly tangles and creates a job before the job of listening to music or podcasts. They’re designers were clearly very focused at delivering a functional set of headphones that don’t move around or get tangled while you go about your business of working out.
Given many of us choose from a wide variety of ways to exercise, these really will work well for any style. If you’re like me and love to enjoy the latest podcasts of the day while walking for an hour, then these will work great. If you’re someone who loves running, climbing, hiking or even skiing (water or snow) these will work great. Its really the diversity of applications that are the biggest strength of the BackBeat FIT.
While the plastic that supports the over the ear fitment relaxed a little over a few weeks, I can’t say it was ever super comfortable. It’d be great to see the designers and engineers work together on improving this in future versions.
The ability to take calls while mid workout and easily call on your phone’s voice assistant is a massive benefit, reflecting an understanding of everyday life.
If you’re a fitness buff, these are priced affordably, so you should definitely consider them.