Plantronics BackBeat GO 410 wireless noise cancelling earphones (review)
4.4Overall Score
Name: BackBeat GO 410
Price (RRP): $199.95
Manufacturer: Plantronics

Most noise reducing headgear we’ve seen has either been bulky headphones, or earphones that didn’t do much on the noise reduction front. But here comes Plantronics with the BackBeat GO 410 earphones. They combine effective noise reduction, good performance and very reasonable price.

Features

These are conventional wireless earphones. That is, the BackBeat GO 410 earphones have two buds joined together by a length of cable. I’ve noticed that the industry has taken to calling earphones without the connecting wire “True Wireless”.

The centre part of that length of cable is housed within a curved, flexible band which rests on your neck, and which carries the weight of the two battery pods. The control and microphone pod is a little further along the cable, towards the right ear bud. That made for a comfortable fit, no tugging on my ears, and a sense of security about the buds remaining in place.

BackBeat GO 410

The buds are small and were easy to insert in my ears. They use 10mm drivers. Three silicon tip sizes were provided. The largest size fitted me extremely well and very reliably. I found them a comfortable wear.

The buds are slightly magnetic, so sometimes they can pick up paperclips and other stray objects on one’s desk. The two buds can be placed together when they’re not in use. The BackBeat GO 410 earphones detect this state – Plantronics calls it “smart magnetic hibernation sensors” – and switch themselves off, disconnecting from the phone to save battery power. You can switch this function off if you find it inconvenient.

Battery and noise

Plantronics rates the battery life of the BackBeat GO 410 earphones at up to 8 hours with noise cancellation switched on and 10 hours with it off. It also says that the “Listen time” is up to 50 hours with noise cancellation on “and without streaming media”. I’m not quite sure what that means. It could be that you’ve got them connected to your phone and plugged into your ears, reducing noise around you, without you playing any music. In other words, that would be for handsfree phone use only.

You charge them up via a Micro-B USB socket on one of the battery pods. This is covered by a rubber stop. It takes about two hours to fully charge them.

BackBeat GO 410

The big feature is the active noise cancellation. This works in the usual way. Little microphones on the buds capture the sound in the environment, process it, invert it, and inject it into the music or whatever that you’re listening to. That cancels out much of the noise. Plantronics says that its active noise cancellation can reduce noise by up to 20 decibels.

There are two levels of Active Noise Cancellation on offer. You switch between them using the BackBeat app on the phone to which they’re connected. The app also includes:

  • a two-mode EQ selection,
  • firmware upgrades (it did that the first time I connected it),
  • the ability to rename the earphones,
  • an online manual.

Unfortunately, you can only access the manual if the earphones are connected. If you have connection problems, well

Air Travel

These days when you’re flying in a plane noise cancelling headphones are almost a “must”. They protect your ears, and not just from the noise of the airplane itself. To hear your music, or the in-plane entertainment, you generally have to turn the volume up much higher to compete with the noise, and that hurts your ears.

BackBeat GO 410
BackBeat GO 410 Dual-use Cable

These earphones come with a charge cable – USB Type-A plug on one end, Micro-B USB on the other – much longer than usual. It’s a touch over a metre in length. The reason for the generous length is that it’s dual use. You can pull the Type-A plug off the end, revealing a 3.5mm analogue stereo plug. So, you can hard wire the earphones to a device for listening instead of relying on Bluetooth. This is a very rare feature.

So, I of course jumped to a conclusion. I figured that it was so you could use the noise cancellation when you’re using the in-flight entertainment on an airplane. After all, at several points, including on the box, Plantronics refers to the “in flight cable”. How useful would that be? But it turns out that I was wrong. The only way to use the analogue connection is with the earphones powered off. Power them up again and they connect (or try to connect) to your phone. You can’t have noise cancellation switched on while listening with an analogue connection.

BackBeat GO 410

Which seems like a real lost opportunity. However, at least you can use the BackBeat GO 410 earphones even if their batteries are exhausted.

Also provided with the earphones is a soft carry pouch.