Plantronics BackBeat Go Review: Tech Gods Don't Give With Both Hands

The Plantronics BackBeat Go is a design triumph disguised as a tangle-free Bluetooth headset. Sadly, the rule rings true that the tech gods don't give with both hands.

What Is It?

The BackBeat Go is a clever little contraption.

It's a sleek, black Bluetooth headset that sports two in-ear plugs, volume keys and answer/hang-up controls as well as a neatly disguised microUSB charging point, all integrated into a flat, tangle-free cord that rests nicely on the back of your neck. Best of all, it's not going to cost you more than $100 to get your hands on one.

It plays music and streams calls to your ears via standard Bluetooth profiles and has a battery life between 2.5 and 4 hours.

What Did We Like?

As I've mentioned, the design of this neat little headset is wonderful. I get a really excited feeling inside when I see a really slick-looking piece of hardware, and this was no exception. I love the small profile of the BackBeat Go, as well as the tangle-free cord that connects the two buds.

Plantronics haven't gone for any multi-coloured hobnobbery, instead releasing the BackBeat Go in plain black, and it looks great.

I'm personally a fan of in-ear headphones, so the fit was nice too. I'm aware that some find it a bit intrusive, though. In-ear headphones can sometimes feel like a visit to the doctor's office rather than a music experience depending on how sharp the pads are, but the BackBeat doesn't have this problem.

The microUSB charger nestled behind a flap is also very smart and deserves high praise.

These headphones are also fantastic as far as politeness is concerned, meaning that even at high volumes, it won't leak sound out to everyone around you. Unless someone's in your personal space, they'll have no idea you're jamming along to the Spice Girls' back catalogue on the bus.

What Didn't We Like?

Sadly, the design is where the good feelings stop.

Actually using the BackBeat Go is one of the most frustrating headphone experiences I've ever had.

I used the BackBeat Go extensively while reviewing it, trying it out on several different devices including on my iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and the Sony Xperia P I've been reviewing.

For some reason, the headset didn't want to stay connected to any of them, randomly disconnecting at odd intervals. It wouldn't reconnect with the device without re-pairing it entirely. It doesn't take long, but it shouldn't be necessary when other in-ear headphones are much less fussy to use.

The sound quality isn't great either. For a $100 Bluetooth headset, it's not going to be studio-quality audio, but it would be nice not to have to go into your equaliser settings and tweak them every single time you change songs to make it sound good. If you don't tweak your EQ, the sound is often tinny, flat and lets in a lot of external background noise. The call quality isn't flash either. Everyone I spoke to which using the BackBeat Go complained that they couldn't hear me or they heard far too much background noise.

Also, a 2.5 hour battery life is a bit annoying. I commute for four hours a day and it'd be nice to get through to the end of the day without having to charge it. It's just another annoying cable for me to keep at my desk otherwise. It's a tiny headset though, and I'm amazed that Plantronics managed to fit anything at all inside the headphone buds, let alone a battery.

This Is Weird...

Remember I mentioned the concealed microUSB charger? It's certainly nifty, but when I pulled my BackBeat Go out of the box and went to pull the charger flap out to charge it, I pulled the wrong one and ripped the rubber right off the wrong earbud, leaving it to flap about as I use it. Half of the blame for this goes to me for not being more careful, but surely half of it goes to Plantronics for not clearly marking where to pull.

Should You Buy One?

You can end up spending a fortune on headphones looking for decent sound. The Plantronics BackBeat Go delivers average sound when listening to music, but top-notch sound if you're listening to voice — that is, podcasts or the radio. The tinny, ultra-trebly sound suits spoken word nicely. If you're someone who loves listening to a 2.5 hour podcast on their smartphone, it's a must have, but if you're someone who wants to feel the bass coursing through your head, look elsewhere.


Comments

    I bought these about 6 weeks ago and really like them. It connects perfectly to the Galaxy Nexus, iPad and Macbook Air. The call quality on these are great, people on the other end don't complain about background noise or volume being too low. However, the battery life could be better; quality when listening to music is okay and the earbuds are massive!

    I'm quite happy with my purchase but if you don't need bluetooth, there's plenty of better earphones out there.

    4 hour commute. Jezzuz christ. You can't blame the headphones for your lunacy. 2.5 hours is awesome for such small pair of headphones. Other than that thanks for the review because based on this i wont be getting them even though i was thinking about it.

    I have the backbeat 903 and they plain suck due to the terrible ear fitment. If only they had implemented the plugs used on these it might have been the uber product. the 903's also have terrible bluetooth issues with dropping out why a phone in the pocket.

    I have been waiting for these headphones for at least around 6months to get released. I think this device can go further than just for the average commuter that takes the bus or train to work daily. I see these headphones being just right to all the fitness geeks out there. No longer will you accidentally knock your phone or mp3 player to the ground because your arm swiped through the chords. I am sure there are other instances out there that this product will benefit for despite Luke's dislikes about the buds. I guess in his case, they don't meet his needs and that's okay because we are all entitled to an opinion

      I'm not denying that they're good headphones. They've got their application and there are plenty of positives here, one of them being the great price. As far as fitness headphones are concerned though, Plantronics themselves told us that these aren't designed for fitness use, and I'm inclined to agree. Repetitive motion like running sees the headphones fall out of your ears which sucks. But that's ok. Something like the Plantronics 903+ might suit you if you want something that hangs on a little better? http://www.plantronics.com/au/product/backbeat-903-plus

        I got these a few months ago (just as they came to Vodafone) I will agree that although I only use them for working out they are not too great for that, although having to push them back in every now and then isn't such a bad thing. The other issue with it is that when you are running you have to put the cord under your shirt as if its jumping around theres no hope of using it plus the vibrations of it hitting your chest/neck makes it too hard to listen to music. Battery life is pretty Bad but also great depending on how you look at it (bad as it dies quickly but for the size its amazing) I didnt pay full retail price for them (actually no where near) and if I did, I probably would be regretting it.

    Ok, I bought these after seeing them on this site. Been using them for about 3 weeks now. LOVE THEM.
    I commute for quite a while every day to and from Brisbane City. Mine last 4 hours (as said on the plantronics US site). I was shocked when they lasted that long. I cycle as well (yes one of those people) and they are great on the bike. I have a friend who has the 903+ who loves them but I wanted something a bit smaller.

    I will admit not the most comfortable at first and you do have to sit them right otherwise people do have trouble hearing you. But for the sub $100 price tag and the size of the units I am quite surprised on the quality. Yes its not blatantly obvious where the charger goes, but some common sense does prevail, if you have to apply force your doing it wrong.

    Great headphones but maybe just not for you.

    I bought these a couple of days ago and I think they're great. I have a pair of wired headphones and I will admit that these aren't as bassy as they are. But for their small form factor they do the job well. I'm not sure if the reviewer got a bad set, but I had no problem pairing straight out of the box. It was so simple and it has not cut out on me once. As for breaking the charger flap - a bit of common sense will avoid that happening. The instructions label it clearly and there is a little slit where you can get your fingernail in to pop it open. Like another reviewer said, if you're applying too much force you're doing it wrong.

    I'm quite happy with my headphones - only thing that I wish was better was the bass. Otherwise great set.

    Luke, how come your review said only 2.5 hrs battery life. That's only about 1/2 of their spec. Where's the Platronics website stated: "Enjoy your favorite music or movie with up to 4.5 hours of listening and talk time".

    Also Tech said his last 4 hours so which one is correct. Does it last for 4.5hrs as the spec!

      @iK, on a full charge you can get 4 hours. But I've noticed that after I unplug the micro usb charger, it stays on so I always check to see that its off. On days I forget to check I would get about 2.5 hours, when I dont, I have no issues going pass 3.5

    " It’s certainly nifty, but when I pulled my BackBeat Go out of the box and went to pull the charger flap out to charge it, I pulled the wrong one and ripped the rubber right off the wrong earbud, leaving it to flap about as I use it. Half of the blame for this goes to me for not being more careful, but surely half of it goes to Plantronics for not clearly marking where to pull."

    the flap has an obvious, cant miss groove on it, unless you're blind or completely retarded. so which one is it?

    I had the Jays 4 iPhone (wired) headphones ($79) and loved the look and the sound (I'm a designer and an audio nerd) but they were TERRIBLY uncomfortable and their tangle-proof cable was so resonant, I couldn't use the things while waking - defeating the bloody purpose of them completely! Thankfully they failed, (the mike gave out) so I was able to swap them for the Backeat Gos. (Also $79).
    And boy am I glad I did. I used them all day, speak on them for about an hour, listen to another hour of podcasts and usually use them for an hour or so of TV on my iPhone in bed. How's THAT for battery life? I've had them for six weeks and they've never dropped the connection to my iPhone and the signal only weakens when I'm about 10m away.

    - UNTIL TODAY!
    Dum, dum, DUMMMMMMM!
    For some odd reason, they dropped the connection three times and unless I'm right on top of my iPhone, they tend to crackle and lose the signal intermittently. I hope they're not failing, as I love the things.

    Sure the volume is pissweak (they're housing a receiver, an amplifier, a mike and two drivers after all!) but the sound quality is great for what they are. This reviewer must have had a dodgy pair, as I find them warm (great for podcasts) and their call quality is the best I've ever had. Peoe on the other end of my calls have been astounded that I'm speaking to them via Bluetooth as it sounds so good. Must be a quality control issue as I'm. Almost tempted to suggest the reviewer either didn't review them, reviewed the wrong thing, was paid by the opposition to can them or just had a shite pair. :-P

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