The requirements of a set of Bluetooth wireless headphones for sports are quite simple. They have to stay in your ear, be comfortable, have a decent battery life and sound good. However, I’ve found that most sets don’t hit even half of these targets. The BackBeat FIT delivers on every count, and throws in some extra features for good measure – and all for a very reasonable £86.69 on Amazon at time of writing (RRP £99.99).
Plantronics has also broken new ground with the new Boost edition (£139.99) of the BackBeat FIT, which comes with a travel pouch that doubles as a portable battery. The pouch offers an extra 16 hours of playback, so you can fully charge the headphones twice. What’s more likely to happen, though, is that you’ll plug the headphones in each time you put them in the mesh case, keeping them topped up.
This battery/carry case is a feature common on truly wireless headphones so it’s good to see this standard extend to other types of Bluetooth headsets that also suffer from short battery life. It would have been good to get more than 16 hours from the battery case – some wireless earbud cases offer as much as 40 hours – but topping them up each time you stash the headphones in your bag takes a lot of fuss out of charging. Whether this extra feature is worth £40 to £50 more is debatable. I’d say it’s worth spending £20 more for the convenience of the portable battery.
The fit of the lightweight headset is barely noticeable and, once on, I found it didn’t shift at all during runs over any distances. The earbuds are not designed to be jammed into your ear canal, which I found more comfortable than standard in-ear buds. I’ve used the FIT for races up to marathon length and they are my favourite race headphones because of the comfortable fit and the fact they don’t completely block out the world around you – a definite advantage for those who wish to avoid the ire of race marshalls or hear traffic when running on busy streets.
Battery life is a solid eight hours and a voice notifies you how many hours you have left every time they’re turned on. That’s an extremely useful feature and one that should be on all Bluetooth headphones but isn’t. The BackBeat FIT charges fully in around 2½ hours, with a 15-minute quick charge delivering an hour of playback.
Given the ambient fit and modest price, it’s perhaps not surprising the sound quality doesn’t quite match top-end models like the BEOPLAY H5, especially when it comes to bass. As someone who mostly listens to podcasts and embarrassing pop music when running, I value a comfortable fit far more than thundering bass, but for some it might not suffice.
The headset has controls for play and pause, as well as taking calls, although the latter will reduce the battery life by a couple of hours. The band is flexible and the whole caboodle is waterproof, which bodes well for its durability. A wide variety of colours are available and the headset also has some reflective detailing. It probably won’t be the difference between life and death when running at night, but every little helps.
Whenever I tried to pair the BackBeat FITs with a device I had no problems connecting quickly – in fact, they turned out to be a little too good at this. The headset kept turning on in a rucksack and connecting to my phone, overriding the headphones I was wearing. It took a while to work out why my music had suddenly stopped.
Aside from that minor confusion, the BackBeat FIT was a joy to use, setting standards that I wish were met by far pricier Bluetooth headphones. Unless you’re an absolute bass fiend, or prefer an in-ear fit, it’s a fantastic headset at a very good price.
Plantronics BackBeat FIT, £86.69, buy on amazon.co.uk. Plantronics BackBeat FIT Boost Edition, £139.99, buy on amazon.co.uk