Especially for those who enjoy listening to music while exercising, working in the yard to getting household chores done, wireless Bluetooth headphones are liberating — no more being tethered to your device, no more adjusting or clipping cords.
Making this upgrade even more timely, it’s widely reported that the next Apple iPhone — due out in September — will get rid of the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack.
There are already grumbles about this move, but remember when Apple left floppy disk drives out of the iMac or DVD drives out of MacBooks? Don’t doubt Apple’s ability to move entire industries away from outmoded standards.
Yes, iPhone buyers will still be able to use a pair of wired Lightning port-connected headphones. That will likely include opposite ends of the user spectrum: those who are fine with the free, included Apple earbuds and, on the other side, hardcore audiophiles who want to spend hundreds of dollars for the very best audio quality.
For those in the middle, Bluetooth will likely be the way to go. And in our opinion, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit are your best bet.
We’ve tested the Backbeat Fit for the past few months and have found little to complain about. They’re perfect for running, biking, working out at the gym; for walking the dog, doing dishes or just sitting around the house. Best of all, they’re durable, practical and sound great.
Here is our full review.
- Great audio quality. It’s not top of the line in terms of audio fidelity, but most won’t be left wanting. Rich, crisp sound for music, podcasts, etc.
- Lightweight and portable. Easy to bring with you, no tangled cords.
- Built for working out. Everybody’s ears are different, but these fit us well and feel secure even during vigorous exercise. We like the thicker band that connects the left and right earbuds over similar offerings that are connected by a less durable wire. Plus, the BackBeat Fit has excellent water resistance and has kept working through long workouts on hot days and runs in the rain.
- Comfort. Unlike other sport headphones, we can wear these for hours at a time without discomfort or ear fatigue. Expect it to take a day or two to get used to the fit.
- Safety. These headphones allow you to hear the world around you, which makes them a safer pick for use on roads and sidewalks. If you’d prefer exercise-oriented headphones that do a better job in noisy environments like on planes, see the JLab Epic2 and check out Wirecutter’s review, but beware of complaints about water resistance and durability during exercise.
- Battery life. Seven to eight hours of real-world battery life was plenty for us.
- Bluetooth connection. This is a complaint that you’ll see in the reviews of many Bluetooth headphones. If your phone is in the wrong pocket, or behind a wall, the audio signal will start breaking up. This is a function, primarily, of the way Bluetooth works — it’s a very low power signal not designed to work from a distance. We found that keeping your phone in your right pocket, as opposed to your left pocket, makes for a much better connection with the BackBeat Fit. If you’re working out, consider putting your phone in an armband and you won’t have any connection issues.
- Button layout. You’ll get used to it in a couple of days, but the built-in play, call, volume and power buttons on the BackBeat Fit aren’t necessarily intuitive at first.
- Micro USB door. The door you have to open to charge the headphones requires a bit of dexterity and is clearly the weak link in terms of build quality. As long as you don’t yank it out too hard it should be fine. It does do a good job of keeping moisture out.
- Microphone. You can take calls indoors while using the BackBeat Fit, but’ll have to give up your dreams of training for a race and taking calls at the same time. Because the microphone is next to your ear, you’ll have to speak up to be heard. We got quite a few complaints about wind noise from people on the other end of the call, making the microphone all but useless if you’re in motion.
If you’d prefer larger, over-the-ear type Bluetooth headphones, see this Wirecutter review.
This is the first in a planned series of articles to help our readers find great products that we’ve personally tested and vouch for. ARLnow.com will financially benefit from sales resulting from users clicking on the Amazon links in this article. This revenue, like all advertising revenue, helps to fund and sustain our local newsgathering operations. ARLnow.com is a self-funded, indepdendent local news outlet based in Arlington, Va.