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.