Plantronics Backbeat Fit 500 is an on-the-ear sports headphone designed for sweaty athletes who love music over grunts.
I say grunts because these on-the-ear memory foam phones provide a reasonable level of noise isolation without clamping too heavily on your ears – as many on-the-ear cans are wont to do. And I say music lovers because its 40mm drivers produce a respectable amount of bass, mids are recessed, and treble is boosted.
The first thing you need to remember is that these are low cost – don’t expect metal bands and bling. They are made from plastic and are strong enough for the purpose. Just take a little care of them.
What they don’t have: NFC pairing, or auto power-off
Don’t confuse this with the lower cost Backbeat 505 that looks similar but does not have IPX2 sweat resistance.
The battery takes about 2 hours to charge and depending on use and volume should give up to 18 hours playback or 16 hours talk/play.
I was only able to test this once. I set them at noon up playing a music loop at normal volume and checked back hourly until they ran out at 8 am.
They will hold a charge for about six months.
How do they sound?
You can use either a wired 3.5mm connection (no amp) or a Bluetooth wireless connection (with amp).
On 3.5mm audio the sound is brighter, but volume was less than Bluetooth.
Bluetooth uses an SBC codec (subband coding) – designed to obtain a reasonably good audio quality at medium bit rates with low CPU overheads. In other words, it is okay for MP3, and it does not claim audiophile quality like aptX/HD or LDAC codecs etc.,
A lot depends on content played. If you play something like the Beach Boys, you want to hear the vocals, and if you play Beethoven, you want to hear the bass drums and crisp cymbals.
Plantronics aims for a balanced sound signature as it allows you to ramp up the bass or ramp down bass and focus on clear, crisp voice depending if your Bluetooth device has Equaliser pre-sets.
Frequency response it 50Hz-20,000kHz. Maximum volume (claimed) is 92dBPL (decibel pressure level) which is roughly equivalent to 70db loudness.
Total Harmonic Distortion at full volume is <3% – it is noticeable, and you need to turn it down a notch when you start to hear distortion from its 40mm drivers.
It uses Bluetooth 4.1 A2DP and supports multi-point connection to two devices and can hold up to eight devices in memory. It also acts as a hands-free speakerphone via its one mic.
You have switches for volume up/down, power/Bluetooth, forward track, back track, pause and call.
I prefer over-the-ear when listening to music but if you are exercising the last thing you want is a heavy set of cans. On-the-ear is the answer as it is lighter and lets more external sound through which is important if you are trying to avoid traffic when running.
I found that on an hour-long walk you almost forget they are on your head – that is a reasonable indication of comfort. Weight is 155g.
They have sweat resistant P2i nano-coating that provides IPX2 – vertically dripping water (rain/sweat) has no harmful effect.
The Backbeat Fit 500 is part of the Plantronics Fit series designed for amateur sports applications.
“The BackBeat FIT Family provides a variety of styles and features designed with sport in mind,” said Greg Miller, director, Portfolio Business Management at Plantronics. “There’s a sweat-protected, stable and comfortable pair of BackBeat FIT headphones that’s right for any level of fitness – whether you’re looking for a dedicated sports headphone with on-demand coaching, or just want something comfortable and stylish to wear throughout the day.”
For the money, they are fit for purpose and among the better ones in this bracket.
Reasonable sound for the price
Comfortable to wear
No auto power-off – can run down the battery
Take care, and it should last
A$149.95 from major retailers but shop around as you will find a bargain!
Rated as a lower cost on-the-ear headphone.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Features: 4 out of 5 – it does everything it should
Value for money: 4 out of 5 – you can pay a lot more and get less
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: 4 out of 5 – reasonably attractive but dated style