Plantronics surprised me, and in a very good way. Overshadowed by more prominent firms in this highly competitive industry, Plantronics has been around in the market for quite a long time as a manufacturer of professional audio appliances. Around in the public consciousness? Barely. You see, other legacy brands have eked out a niche for their marketing teams. Bose has its legendary noise cancelling technology, Sennheiser has its industry-breaking HD800, and AKG has its quirky headband and studio pedigree. Plantronics? I’m not so sure, but I think I’ve got a better idea after I got to indulge in their sports lineup.
At SGD109, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305 presents good value at a price point many reputable brands are unable to compete at. The folks at Plantronics were kind enough to send in the BackBeat Fit 305 and the BackBeat Fit 505 wireless on-ear sports headphones for review purposes.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305: Unboxing and First Impressions
The package and presentation is more than sufficient as a gift for the birthday of that someone in your group of friends who has been getting wider every time you see them. Unboxing the slim package, we find the earphones themselves, three pairs of replacement eartip-cum-earhook, a shirt clip, a charging wire and a neat drawstring bag. The model I received came in a combination of white and black. This was pretty handy while figuring out the channels – white for the right channel. On either channel, we find Plantronics’ decidedly modernist logo, an italicised “PLT” on either side. This colour scheme is known as Black Grey, but you could also get them in Grey Lime, Grey Coral, and Dark Blue.
TThis model used a micro-USB connector, a tiny hassle considering that most appliances are beginning to adopt the USB-C standard.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305: Fit and Finish
For casual use, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305 blew me away. The earfin-cum-earpiece combination was very comfortable, and the wire connecting either channel remained out the way around the nape of my neck. Perhaps some way to adjust the amount of slack around the back would be good, but otherwise, it was alright. The included shirt clip also meant that the wire did not swing too much.
It fit well during gym sessions, as I struggled with weights or did high-intensity intervals on the treadmill. It largely kept out of the way, though I found myself wishing the wire could be shortened somehow.
If you had to fiddle with replacement ear tips, you wouldn’t have to worry about alignment: a nifty notch was included to ensure that replacement ear tips are adjusted perfectly.
I love to take long jogs to evaluate the sports tech I receive. It usually is an hour-long long run across really uneven terrain, designed to make me sweat my brains out. This time, at around halfway through the run, the right channel began to constantly fall out of my ear. I stopped to dry the sweat in my ears and on the earpiece, but it incessantly fell out. It might have something to do with the swinging of the rather large control box on the right channel, which could generate enough angular momentum to escape my ear canal. Thankfully I had brought along the shirt clip – attaching the loose cable to my shirt close to the control box made it a lot more manageable.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305: Connectivity and Other Features
Usage in controlled environments was good. I took it for hour-long gym sessions in the rather large gym I use. Placing my phone in the corner, I was able to use it effectively around 10 meters away. As with almost all other Bluetooth devices, placing my phone in my back pocket caused intermittent stuttering, though it performed much better than most of its peers.
Battery indication isn’t very helpful, only providing verbal prompts at startup letting me know if the battery is “high” or “low”. An audio prompt beeps every couple of minutes to let you know it’s on its final legs, but apart from that, nada. With a more-than-decent battery life of 7 hours, that’s a small issue, but most other devices display a visual prompt on my Android phones that convey charge levels with a battery bar. The device lasts me about a week of intermittent use (three one-hour runs and then some light commuting) between recharges.
Upon connection, the Fit 305 helpfully announces “Phone one connected” – helping me identify which one of my many gadgets is responsible for audio output. If you pay attention, this could be pretty useful if you want to avoid embarassing episodes like blasting Katy Perry at full volume on the metro ride home.
The physical buttons on the control panel are rubberised, but work as expected. A high beep for increasing the volume, and a low one for lowering it. A single press of the middle button pauses or plays the music, and a double press engages the redial function. To skip the track, it is a long press on the upper button, and the opposite to go play the previous one.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305: Sound Quality
The Plantronics shone in terms of sound quality. At SGD109, the earphones sounded exceptionally robust for its price point. Its form factor guaranteed an excellent seal and noise isolation. While definitely not perfect in terms of sound, I was very comfortable donning these while commuting on gym days, saving some effort in lugging a second pair of headphones.
I do have a dedicated Spotify playlist for gym sessions and my runs, filled out mostly with EDM hits and other upbeat tracks. The Fit 305s shone in terms of clarity, especially in the mids and highs. The bass was passable, and I found the mids to be slightly lacking in terms of depth. My all-time home stretch favourite Just Dance by Honne thumped relentlessly with a strong showing in the bass: bass riffs and thumping drums did help out quite a bit to outdo my PB. The incessant thumping kick drums on Lorde’s Perfect Places shone through, but the track showed a slight bit of sibilance in some consonants in the higher register, but I hadn’t noticed that fact while actually working out. The incredibly spacious introduction in Move by Saint Motel, together with its beefy bass, very aptly showed the Fit 305’s ability to perform, although it got ever so slightly muddled as sounds got more layered toward the middle.
Our regularly updated (but very un-technical) test playlist can be found here.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305: Pricing and Availability
The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 305 can be found at all major audio retailers at an MSRP of SGD109, and is available in four two-toned designs: Black Grey, Grey Lime, Grey Coral, and Dark Blue.