05
Oct
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I've reviewed several sets of Bluetooth earbuds. With each one, there are things I would change about the design. On some, the buds are huge. Others forgo the massive bud size in exchange for a remote/receiver that needs to be "worn." Why can't someone just build a set of BT earbuds that look and feel like wired buds? is the question I find myself asking with each new headset.

Then I got my hands (and ears) on the Plantronics BackBeat GO. Without giving too much away up front, this headset is a breath of fresh air in a market filled with "I guess I can make these work" solutions.

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What makes it so good?

First off, the form factor. It's  basically like a set of wired earbuds without the wire leading into your device, and it's amazing. The buds themselves are only a bit bigger than a regular, wired set, but they're still crazy-compact compared to the competition.

In fact, considering how small these buds are, I immediately assumed they would produce equally small sound. I was wrong. The sound is very well balanced - the highs are crisp and noticeable, and lows provide enough depth without becoming muddy. As I've stated before, though, I'm not an audiophile, so take that for what it's worth. Of course, I don't see any self-proclaimed audiophile buying a $99 set of wireless earbuds, either.  I'm happy with the sound and volume produced by these buds, and I'm sure the majority of "normal" users will be, too.

As small as it is, Plantronics still managed to shove a full-size microUSB charging port into the right bud, so no annoying proprietary chargers are necessary, which is a huge benefit.

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Cool. What about functionality, fit, and feel?

Continuing down the cable about two and a half inches (still on the right side) is an inline remote where you'll find the power, volume up/down and call answer/end/pause buttons, as well as the built-in mic. This is probably the only "meh" thing about this headset - the controls are slightly cumbersome, as it's difficult to tell which button you're pressing. Maybe it's volume up, or maybe it's pause. Maybe you'll just turn the thing off altogether. You get used to this after using the headset for a while, so that's really only an issue during the first couple of weeks.

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Left: in-line controls; Right: stabilizers

Where fit and feel are concerned, these babies are quite comfortable. The entire headset is ultra light - only 13 grams - and, like most other buds, ships with multiple tips of various sizes. it also comes with Plantronics "stabilizers" that fit behind the tip to better hold the buds in place during vigorous activities, like running or cycling. The stabilizers didn't actually make as big of a difference as I'd hoped they would, but they do help the buds stay in place. Still, even with them on, I found myself having to push the buds back in place fairly often, especially while working out. That's not a deal breaker for me, but if get annoyed by having to adjust your earbuds, then this set may not work for you.

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Lastly, I want to touch on connectivity. It's becoming more and more common for people to have multiple Bluetooth devices, so it's natural to want to use the same headset between them all. Unfortunately, the BackBeat GO can only be paired with one device at a time, so you'll have to re-pair each time you switch devices. Deal breaker? No. Annoying? You better believe it.

Does it work for calls, too?

Indeed it does, and the call quality is pretty good. While on calls, though, I had to remove the left bud (the right side is where the mic is); otherwise, there was just too much of a seal created and I was left listening to my voice bounce around inside my head. Past that, this is probably the best stereo Bluetooth headset that I've used for making calls, which is exactly what I would expect from a company known for making high-quality, reliable headsets.

OK, how's the battery life?

This is where the BackBeat GO falls short compared to other BT headsets that I've used. Plantronics says the headset is good for about 4 hours of music playback and 4.5 hours of talk time, with a standby time of 10 hours. In my tests, however, the music playback time was closer to about 3-3.5 hours; I didn't take the time to babble on the phone for half my day, but given my use of it, I would say that 4(ish) hours of talk time is probably pretty accurate. Because of its miniscule size, though, I think less battery life is a worthy trade off. If, however, you use a headset for more than four hours a day, you may need to look elsewhere.

Plantronics also has a very, very, very basic companion app. When I say very basic, I mean very basic. As soon as you connect the headset, a notification shows up in the tray with the remaining battery percentage and approximate play time. There's no app tray entry. No options. Nothing. However, when you tap the notification, it takes you to Plantronics website, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Still, I think this is a useful tool, so long as you don't touch it. Ever.

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Should you buy it?

Honestly, this is probably the best stereo Bluetooth headset I've ever used. Sure, it has its quirks - poor battery life and subpar fit, namely - but in my opinion those tradeoffs are worth it for the excellent form factor and light weight. Combine those things with good quality sound, and you've got yourself a winning headset for only $100.

Buy: Plantronics, Amazon

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • CoffeeGeeker

    The battery life is a deal breaker for me. Still searching for the perfect BT headphones.

  • lordmerovingian

    I have this headset. Why? Because i got it as a gift. Would i spend hard earned money on it, heck no. It's not worth $100. Volume is low even at the highest setting, battery life is extremely wimpy at 4 - 4.5 hours, and call quality is not good. Always getting asked to repeat myself or speak louder, so i stopped using it for phone calls, just music/video.

    The only good thing is the extremely lightweight design and the noise-cancelling feeling. Here in NYC the subway system is extremely loud with trains coming and going and sometimes i just insert them (with no music playing) to block out noise (works real well for that purpose).

  • Josh Hoffman

    How do these do with interferance? I have a pair of the backbeat 903+ and they are unusable outside. They work ok in the gym but if I want to walk around the block the audio cuts out due to radio interferance. This is a known issue with the 903+

    • lordmerovingian

      The BackBeat Go does not have this issue at all. I was actually surprised at the strong connection link. One of its few pluses.

      • http://twitter.com/jtinkz Janus Thomas Ebarvia

        i do agree with this! there was a lot of interferences outside with the JayBird and LG Tone models. I was also surprised by this product.

  • mgamerz

    I dream one day you'll review the Nokia bh905i. Excellent sound, reception, battery, wired pass through, noise cancellation... only a few design caveats that can be easily dealt with.

  • Matthew Fry

    Love my LG Tone. I can hide the headset-y part in my collar and it looks like I'm wearing wired headphones. Sometimes I forget that I'm wearing them around my neck.

    • TheRealBeesley

      Same here.. but the sound quality on the Tone is crap. Utter crap. But the battery life is fantastic. Can't have everything I guess..

  • http://www.facebook.com/aylmer.or Aylmer Or

    Hey how does the buds feel for the rockaway?? I was planning to buy the backbeat when the sales person said the rockaway has better sound , battery life and cheaper..

    However when i research many ppl complain of interference and that the ear bud cushions do not really fit the average ear, so they fall out easily. whats your experience? thanks ;)

    • Darko Ronić

      I've been using them for 2 months. At first I couldn't find the right cushion (thought that L was the right one). Then I tried XL and learned a tehnique of pulling my ear upwards when putting the ear bud in. Since then I've had no problems. They stay in my ear all the time with no problems.
      I had one problem. After 2 weeks some plastic fell off due to earphones being in my bag (with some other stuff), I guess it was because of some pressure, something was pushing them hard. Novero wanted to send me a new pair without having to return the old pair. For free. Which was awesome but I didn't want to risk with customs so I exchanged them at our importer (they even mailed the importer so that I get a new pair the same day).
      Sound quality is really great, they last for long time. I usually charge them every 2-3 days. As for interference, I didn't have any. What I do have is occasional disconnects which are easily solved by pressing the main button on them (play/pause). If you mean that, then yes, sometimes it happens, but not too often and never during calls.
      What I can say is, these definitely are not my last Novero earphones. These are really great and worth the cash (payed 95$ for them here in Croatia). And the company's support was really something to desire from some other companies. Maybe Android Police could do a review of them. Just contact Novero. I'm sure they'll send you a pair ASAP.

    • Darko Ronić

      Oh, yea, almost forgot. They are compatible with these: http://shop1.novero.com/catalog/product_info.php/cPath/31/products_id/103
      From what I've read, these are awesome replacements.

  • Dipish

    Interesting, the interactive demo on the website says:

    NOTE: First-generation earbuds cannot store multiple connections so when you switch between two devices, such as a phone and a tablet, you will need to pair each device again.

    So there is a chance that newer series of that model (will) have this fixed...

    // Go to http://www.plantronics.com/us/product/backbeat-go
    then open interactive demo (third thumbnail), go to "Get connected"

  • Angino6495

    My roommate have this and I have a Jabra Sport Bluetooth. He got his first so I initially considered getting the same BT headset. However, I thought when he wears it looks like a pair of bolts jutting out of his ears. And due to the small size the bass is not that great, the sound quality overall is good. The Jabra Sport Bluetooth is better in form and sound in my opinion, it has deeper bass, better sound quality, and louder volume, plus it's only 75 now in Amazon.