BackBeat Fit wireless headphones: Made for exercising to music

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.

BackBeat Fit

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.

BackBeat Fit right

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.

BackBeat Fit button

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.

BackBeat Fit case regular

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.

BackBeat Fit case reversed

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.