Plantronics focuses on gym users, and runners with its IPX5 rated Backbeat Fit 305 earbuds.
To a large degree, it succeeds – this is what Joe and Jane Average just want. Functional, reliable, good sound and reasonable cost.
GadgetGuy develops paradigms for reviewing different categories. This review reflects earbuds used as an exercise or running companions as against those built for higher fidelity.
Exercise buds are used to partially block out external distractions (sound isolation/occlusion) while listening to music to get in the ‘zone’. They need to be rugged enough to withstand the rigours of exercise and sweat. And they need to be cheap enough to be replaced a little more regularly than most.
One set each small, medium and large combined tips/wings
These are a little unusual in that they have integrated silicon ear tips and wings (the things that hold them in your outer ear).
The all-in-one design, however, allows the buds to be a little lighter although if you have a propensity to wear out normal foam or silicon tips you probably should look for brands that have easier replacements
The coloured side is for the right ear and 55mm under that sits the control pod (battery, mic, basic controls). The cable length in total (ear to ear) is about 55cm and overall weight is 14g.
The P2i coating offers sweat and water resistance to IPX5 – 100 litres of water per minute projected by a 6.3mm nozzle against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects for at least 15 minutes. It is not swim proof – you need IP67/68 for that.
Sound isolation depends on fitting the right tip/wing. Once you do so you can still hear some noise – perhaps 50% of the dB level which is what you need at the gym or out running.
The cable hangs downwards (some brands curve/hang over your ear). Not once in the few days, I tested them did I feel they would fall out.
The braided “sports weave” reflective cable can drape in front or behind your neck. It has a clip to clamp onto your t-shirt or collar.
When exercising you need it firmly clamped to reduce the feeling of a cable on your neck and the weight/bulk of the control module.
Ease of use
Plug into USB, charge for 90 minutes and pair to a Bluetooth device – it is very easy. A small drawstring mesh carry bag protects them in the gym bag.
The control is easy to use but a little bulky.
How they sound
Assuming you have achieved good noise isolation using the right sized tips – very important as you can listen at lower levels – you can get quite acceptable results from the 6mm drivers.
The sound signature has recessed but adequate bass, good mid, and recessed treble. That is a ‘mid’ sound signature that is good for vocal and handsfree but not bass.
This is opposite to the balanced sound signature of the on-ear Backbeat Fit 500 reviewed here.
While it claims 20Hz to 20,000kHz, my feeling (we can’t easily measure this) is that it is more like 100Hz-10,000kHz, but a lot does depend on the music content.
Claimed volume is 106dBSPL – around 80dB in the real world. THD is <3%.and you need to turn it down a notch when you start hearing that.
The overall sound is pleasant enough – great for exercising – but not what you need if music is your priority.
Battery (tested on 5V/2A USB charger – not supplied)
It takes about 90 minutes to charge to 100% and gives six hours (tested), e.g. about 15 minutes per hour.
If not used for 90 minutes, it has auto-power-down.
There are battery voice alerts.
The mic is sensitive, and the sound was clear, a little lacking in crispness.
They appear well made and have one of the higher IP ratings. I cannot see why they would not last well in gym use. 1 year warranty.
Back to basics – they are good for gym use. It is a hugely overcrowded market, so all I can say is that these are fit for purpose (exercise) and from a reputable company.
Light and unobtrusive
Good noise isolation with the right tip
Secure fit – around neck cable
IPX5 rating is better than many
Auto power off when not used
Multi-point Bluetooth to connect two devices and up to eight device memories
Recessed bass – if you want stronger bass look elsewhere
Large remote in an awkward place can be annoying when running
Only one set of S/M/L proprietary tips
A$129.95 from major retailers. The headphone is available in four colour options: black, dark blue, lime green and coral.
It comes with one collar clip and is also sold as an accessory – you will need more.
Don’t confuse the 305 with the mode 300. Check out online – you may find a bargain.
Rated as a lower cost in-the-ear headphone.
Overall: 3.9 out of 5
Features: 4 out of 5 – it does everything it should
Value for money: 4 out of 5 – hint – shop around!
Performance: 4 out of 5 – THD at higher volume was a little noticeable
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – comfortable and no app needed
Design: 3.5 out of 5 – functional but replacement tips/wings could be an issue