I've owned and reviewed plenty of Bluetooth headsets over the years, but the brand I keep coming back to again and again is Plantronics. The company balances quality, sound, and price very well and has produced some of my favorite and most-used earbuds. For years, you couldn't see me anywhere without the red BackBeat Go 2 draped around my neck as I listened to podcasts while walking, doing chores, shopping, and more. But it was the BackBeat Fit that stole my heart. It was the perfect sports headphones and after four years of 2-3 weekly runs and gym sessions, it still looks like I bought it yesterday. If you don't trust me, check out the Wirecutter's comparison write-up: they chose it as their pick for running and said it delivered the best sound for unsealed earbuds.
Plantronics has been expanding its Fit line-up since the original, but today, the company has announced three new models to encompass most use cases. The Fit 3100 are true wireless sports earbuds geared toward outdoor use, the Fit 2100 is a remake of the original Fit with some improvements, and the Fit 350 is an in-ear option for indoor exercising. All three iterate and expand on the Fit's promises: stability, comfort, sound, and value for money. All three also still use Micro-USB for charging. I know how vocal some of our readers are about this, so I thought I'd get it out of the way first. Personally, I would prefer USB-C any day, but it's not a deal-breaker when the rest of the features get it right.
I've spend the past couple of weeks with the three models and I'll walk you through them one by one, sharing my thoughts and opinions on each.
BackBeat Fit 3100 ($149.99)
The Fit 3100 is the most interesting of the three new models. It's Plantronics first foray into true wireless earbuds, but the company chose to do it its own way. This isn't a small almost invisible earbud you slip in your ears, this is a sports model geared for the outdoors, so stability was of the essence and you're getting ear loops galore — one outside and one inside. The design looks like a regular Fit without the neck band, and although it's not the sexiest thing, it works. Boy, does it work!
The BackBeat Fit 3100 is available in two colors: Black/Red (left) and Grey (right)
I spent some runs and gym sessions with the Fit 3100 and after a few minutes each time, I'd forget they were in my ears. They're very comfortable and very stable, a mix that's hard to attain with true wireless earbuds. They take a second longer to wear than my Anker Zolo Liberty+, but don't budge or slip out no matter how much I run, bounce, tilt, or move. They also cause a lot less strain on my small ear. Compared to the Bragi Dash that I reviewed a while ago, the difference is night and day. I haven't tested the Apple Airpods, but based on that shiny plastic and how often I see gym-goers adjusting them in their ears, I'd say the rubber finish on the Fit 3100 will be a huge improvement in comparison.
The Fit 3100 uses Bluetooth 5.0, plus it's sweatproof and IP-57 waterproof. The buds carry five hours of battery life, with the case giving you an additional ten hours. This is an area where the Liberty+ surpass them as sports earbuds — with 48hrs of endurance, I throw mine in my gym bag and only worry about charging the case once every four or five weeks. I had to charge the Fit 3100 after about twelve days. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's worth keeping in mind if you're used to longer battery life. They do turn on and off when you take them out of the case / put them back in, so you won't worry about that at least.
If you look closely at the images below, you'll notice something: every earbud has a large button with reflective coating. Depending on the angle you look at them from and the amount of light, they can go from bright blue/green to deep purple/grey. Plantronics told me this was inspired by sports sunglasses and goggles, and I think the buds do a good job of blending in with that aesthetic.
The buttons control playback, sound, and volume, though you can use the new Plantronics app to personalize the right earbud's 1-tap and 2-tap function to do something other than volume control. Among the options are launching Google Assistant, setting a timer or starting a stopwatch, telling you the time or the headset status, toggling mute, and my personal favorite: starting a Spotify playlist. All functions can be handy for sports and gym sessions, but I just wish both earbuds had the tap option to allow one for volume control and the other for these personalized functions. Instead, you have to choose and disable volume control if you want any of these quick actions.
Like the original Fit, sound quality continues to be great considering the unsealed design. They get loud, but not loud enough to cancel out any car sounds or leave you unaware of your surroundings. I used them once in the gym and could still hear the background music and some grunts and shouts, so keep that in mind if you're planning on wearing them indoors a lot. Sound is balanced and bass is surprisingly present (though not heart-thumping, let's be realistic). I quite enjoyed listening to my podcasts and Spotify music on them. Reception was also good, regardless if I had my phone on the right side or left side. I encountered a few rare instances where I was a little far away from my phone and the sound would briefly cut from one earpiece or the other though, so reception won't be perfect if you leave your phone on a bench and walk away.
BackBeat Fit 2100 ($99.99)
The Fit 2100 is a remaster of the original Fit but with the same design and materials as the Fit 3100 (above) and a neckband connecting both earbuds. It still is one of the best sports headsets you can buy today. It's as comfortable and stable in your ears, and also has an unsealed design for outdoor use and awareness of your surrounding.
The BackBeat Fit 2100 colors from left to right: Black, Blue/Black, Grey, and Red/Black.
As with the 3100, the 2100 uses Bluetooth 5.0, is sweatproof and IP-57 waterproof. It features large buttons with that beautiful reflective coating, but there's also one more sports apparel-inspired design choice. Two of the models (the Blue/Black and Red/Black) have a color fade look that's lately found in technical and performance gear. I have the Blue/Black unit, and it fits perfectly (eerily perfectly) with the blue shade of one of my running shirts (third image below).
Compared to the original Fit, there are a few other improvements: the neckband is shorter and won't stand as far behind your neck, the earloops and tips are softer, and the rubber material feels nicer. The teeny buttons are gone, replaced by the same context-sensitive buttons on each ear that we saw on the 3100 above. There's also the personalized 1-tap and 2-tap feature that I described with the new BackBeat app, though this time, it's the left earbud that has it and the right one doesn't.
Battery life is about 7hrs for the Fit 2100 and there's no charging case to fill it up on the go. You'll have to use a regular charger or power bank to top it up, which is the only inconvenience here. As for sound, the quality and volume are practically the same as the Fit 3100.
BackBeat Fit 350 ($79.99)
The Fit 350 deviates from the previous two models. This headset, which is an iteration of Plantronics's existing BackBeat 300, carries a similar form factor to what you've seen from buds like Jaybird with the flexible cable behind the neck. It has an in-ear design with behind-the-ear loops to stay stable and are super lightweight. Given its sealed nature, it's more geared toward indoor use and provides some passive noise isolation, which comes in handy whether you exercise at home or in a gym. Sound quality is, understandably, a cut above the previous two models, with more pronounced bass and clearer mids.
The 350's build materials are very well thought-out. The cable is made of a woven fabric that bends easily, glides over sweat without getting sticky, and there's a clip to attach it to your t-shirt or cinch it so it doesn't dangle too much. The ear hook is flexible, made of rubber, and the entire hook + bud part is light as a feather.
The Fit 350 comes in three colors: Grey/Black, Blue/Grey, and White/Grey.
However, I had two issues with the design. One is that it always took me a couple of seconds to wear the right earbud, for some reason. My hair got in the way and it felt like my right hand was struggling to get the hook behind my ear and the bud and small loop inside it. I didn't have that issue with the left bud, so there must be something strange going on with my body, hah. But once worn, they were super stable and comfortable for long exercise sessions.
The second problem is that the inline remote unit is a little heavy and ends up behind my ear. I'm used to the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 and Bose SoundSport Wireless where the cable is longer and remote falls more toward the front. In this case, I had to reach behind my ear/head to tap any controls. It's not ideal, but I understand that this had to be sacrificed to get the cable shorter and avoid it flapping around when you run or snagging on gym equipment. Thankfully though, the remote isn't heavy enough to pull the earbud out — an issue other brands face, but that's likely remedied here by the stabilizing ear hook.
The Fit 350 uses Bluetooth 4.1 and is sweatproof plus IP-X5 waterproof rated. Battery life is about 6hrs and it doesn't have a charging case either. It comes with a regular carrying pouch and three sizes of eartips to find the most comfortable one for you.
Plantronics' new line-up of sports headsets seems to have done a lot of things right. There's variety in price and form factors; whether you exercise indoors or outdoors, prefer true wireless or don't mind the small cable, you'll find something for you. A few minor niggles here and there don't detract from the experience, and the only major drawback I can personally point to is that these still use Micro-USB for charging. I'm willing to put up with it though — not many Bluetooth headsets have switched to USB-C, and definitely none from a well-known brand at this price range. I would have also liked to see proper Google Assistant integration, but for now, like with most other headsets, you can simply use it by tapping and holding the call button. It's not as fast or as powerful as the Pixel Buds.