Now that I have an Android Wear watch that can keep up with my daily running, I’ve been on the lookout for a solid set of Bluetooth headphones.
I typically run while listening to music and my Sony Smartwatch 3 — as well as all other Android Wear devices — can play locally stored music wirelessly. My last headset is from at least three years ago: It’s an old pair of BackBeat 903+ from [company]Plantronics[/company]. The company has a newer model in the BackBeat Fit that I’ve taken for a spin over the past week with both my [company]Google[/company] Android and my [company]Apple[/company] iOS devices.
The design difference between the old and the new headphones is clearly obvious. Where the 903+ have a very large bulge behind the ear — all about that
bass battery — the newer Fit model is svelte and small. The size is more like traditional wired earbuds, which is impressive. There’s some compromise on battery life as a result; Plantronics says you should get around 8 hours of music listening time on the Fit which I think is a bit generous, but more on that late.
The 24 gram BackBeat Fit headset is rubberized so it’s resistant to sweat and moisture. I haven’t run in the rain with them, but I suspect they’d be fine in most scenarios. Plantronics uses a rubber earpiece that narrows at the tip to channel sounds. You can’t adjust these, which could be a concern for some. I found them to fit well in my ears. Even with the earpiece, you can easily hear outside noise, which is good from a safety perspective.
Because there’s not much to these — the two earpieces are connected by a flexible, thin wire — Plantronics didn’t have a lot of room for controls. The left earbud is a big button for play / pause control, while the right earbud works for taking or ending phone calls. Yes, the BackBeat Fit doubles as a standard Bluetooth headset, working fine for that purpose in my testing, although callers clearly knew I was using a headset.
To raise or lower the volume on these, you have to press an amazingly small button that’s actually hard to see. Luckily, you can feel it: It extends from the main, big button on the left earbud. Tapping it repeatedly raises the volume while tapping it and holding it decreases sound. The power button uses a similar setup on the right earbud. Adding buttons on such a small, light device is a challenge; so too is actually using them since they stick out only two millimeters or so.
Sound quality on these isn’t bad but left my ears wanting more. Music sounded a bit hollow to me with no punch or feel to the bass. I can live with that; after all, these aren’t meant to compete with dynamic, over-the-ear headphones for music. I’m disappointed in the loudness, however. With the volume maximized on the Fit headset and my phone, they seemed to fall a little short. This is very subjective, of course, and if you aren’t looking for a more immersive experience while exercising, it’s likely a non-issue.
The headphones use Bluetooth 3.0 to pair with a mobile device and support A2DP audio for improved sound. These are multi-point capable, meaning you can pair the Fit headphones with up to eight devices. I had no issues pairing them to several phones, a few tablets and my smartwatch.
Back to battery life. When you turn the headset on, you’ll hear a voice telling you how much battery life is left. I could only get about five to six hours on a charge; not the advertised eight. I think that’s because I have the volume set fairly high, if not all the way up. A lower volume setting could work for your ears and get you closer to the eight hours on a charge. By the way, these do charge quickly: In about an hour using a microUSB cable. There’s a small cover on the right earbud you have to open for charging.
One other nice feature: These come with a dual purpose, soft case. You can put a phone, as well as the headphones, inside. Better yet, you can reverse the case attach to your arm use the included armband. This way, you can carry a phone on your arm while keeping your hands free.
Overall, these $129.99 Bluetooth headphones are pretty close to what I’m looking for when listing to music on the run. There’s enough battery life to get me through a marathon and I don’t have to worry about rain. I wish the volume were a little louder and there was a little more punch in the music, but these aren’t for a dedicated music listening room or for audiophiles. They’re meant for enjoyment and voice calls while moving around and for that, they serve the purpose pretty well.