Review: Plantronics BackBeat Go
Audio technology vendor Plantronics advertises its ‘BackBeat GO’ headset as offering “no wires, no hassle, no compromise”. Overall we liked the BackBeat go, but none of those three claims are entirely accurate.
Harley Ogier | Tuesday, September 25 2012
Product type: Bluetooth headphones
RRP incl GST: $149
- Brilliant noise-suppression
- Difficult to get the right fit
- Mediocre sound quality
Convenient (if they'll fit) but compromises on sound quality and battery life.
Audio technology vendor Plantronics advertises its ‘BackBeat GO’ headset as offering “no wires, no hassle, no compromise”. Overall I liked the BackBeat go, with its ultra-compact and stylish design, but none of those three claims are entirely accurate.
The two inner-earbuds are joined by a short wire, with an inline microphone/volume control. That wire hangs around the back of your neck. Though the whole system only weighs 13 grams, I found the weight of the cable would often pull one earbud out, then their combined weight would pull the other out. Three sizes of rubber grommet are included, and while I could make the earbuds fit comfortably, none were good at keeping them in my ear.
That problem was solved by the included ‘stabilisers’ – little rubber loops that attach to the earbuds and keep them stuck firmly in your ears. It’s no less comfortable, and kept the earbuds in even if I thrashed my head around trying to dislodge them. Still, took me a while to work that out, making the fitting process a hassle.
Once the earbuds are fitted, they block a huge amount of ambient noise. It’s passive ‘sound isolation’, not active ‘noise cancellation’, and works by simply blocking your ear canal as earplugs do. That means it blocks out those higher frequencies (such as speech) that active noise cancelling headphones can’t. Great for public transport, whether you’re using them as headphones or not.
There are compromises, though. Sound quality when listening to music and videos is mediocre. It’s about the same as I’ve heard from single-ear Bluetooth headsets designed only for calls, a bit scratchy and tinny. I tested it using two smartphones and a PC, with the same sound quality from each. Basic $15 wired earphones produced much better sound quality on all three devices. That doesn't mean that it's unlistenable; it's perfectly acceptable, and I’m being harsh here. It’s not something you’d use if you're a music enthusiast, however. Listening to Spotify or Rdio steaming music on the bus? That’s where it works.
The other compromise is battery life. Plantronics advertises up to 4.5 hours of talk time for calls, and four hours of ‘listening time’ for music and videos. Standby time is ten days. The advertised figures were all achievable with our test unit, but four hours is an awfully short battery life for headphones. An hour of music on the train each day, great. Listening to music on your phone at work all day? Just not possible, unless you have a very short workday.
Altogether, the BackBeat GO is great for ‘zoning out’ for a while – we’d recommend it for smartphone-equipped bus and train commuters, but not for long-haul travellers or deskbound office workers looking for wireless audio.
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