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Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500
October 24, 2017
1.2m (audio cable)
P2i water-repellent coating
If you pride yourself on visiting Sound Guys often, you may recall our review of the Plantronics BackBeat 500. The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500 is essentially the same pair of headphones—but approaches sound from an athlete’s perspective, rather than that of a lay-person. So what’s new? The BackBeat FIT 500 includes a P2i-rated sweat-repellent nano-coating and… that might be it.
Is the P2i veneer worth foregoing a week’s worth of skinny peppermint mochas at everyone’s favorite “love to hate it” coffee shop? Well, only one way to find out! Push those reading glasses up, and let’s get into the thick of it.
Editor’s note: this Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500 review was updated on Novemeber 29, 2021, to include a contents menu, expand the list of buying optins, and add context to the sound quality section.
Who should get the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500?
- Athletes: The P2i coating and lightweight, plastic housing make these a great on-ear option for working out. Though the clamping force is felt after the 45-minute mark, it’s effective for running and ensures a secure fit while moving about.
- Commuters: If you live in an area with unpredictable weather patterns, the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500 is equipped with a water-repellent coating that wicks away moisture, protecting your headphones from April showers.
What’s it like to use the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500?
If you judge the quality of a product based on how premium it feels: 1) congrats on having standards, and 2) workout headphones may not be for you. Like its twin, anodized aluminum rails that buttress the headband support the BackBeat FIT 500 .
That P2i nano-coating works wonders. I managed to drench the BackBeat FIT 500 in a downpour; yet, even after water seeped into the ear cup interior, it continues to work flawlessly. Aside from being durable, the controls are practical as well. The raised buttons on the rubberized panel are spaced far enough apart that using them is easy—absolutely crucial for running.
Concerned about comfort? Unfortunately, I can’t soothe many anxieties here. Initially, this is comfortable because it’s so lightweight. However, entering the 30-45 minute-territory you’ll be reminded that these are supra aural (on-ear) headphones. Wearing glasses is definitely a little less than ideal with the BackBeat FIT 500 .
What accessories do you get?
It’s hard to make packaging more sparse than that of the BackBeat FIT 500 , but Plantronics includes the essentials: a 3.5mm cable (yes, this is still essential), a microUSB charging cable, and the headphones. It’s odd that Plantronics doesn’t provide an armband like they do with the BackBeat FIT.
How do you connect the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500?
Poor connectivity is the bane of our inexpensive wireless headphones, but this is where Plantronics consistently gets things right. The BackBeat FIT 500 pairs quickly and reconnects immediately. Switching back and forth is simple with the multi-function button on the bottom of the right ear cup.
Connection is hardly ever interrupted, so long as you’re within the 10-meter Bluetooth range. The only other Bluetooth headset that provide a similar experience is the Plantronics BackBeat 500. Not even the $449 Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless can compete with Plantronics when it comes to reliable connectivity. That said, there is an audio-visual lag that makes watching videos aggravating at best. But again, totally normal at this price point if you’re not using a codec like aptX Low Latency or AAC.
How long does the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500 battery last?
Plantronics claims that the BackBeat FIT 500 can play your tunes for 18 hours before requiring a recharge. Like the original BackBeat 500, this holds true. That’s right: assuming that the average person works out five times a week for an hour a day (5 hours a week), the BackBeat FIT 500 can musically support more than a half-month of workouts.
Though these were released prior to the availability of USB-C charging, it would have been nice to see that feature here. However, many users—myself included—will forgive the dated technology given its affordability.
How does the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500 sound?
Crack open the ear cups and you’ll be met with 40mm drivers. Given how cheap the headphones appear, these drivers reproduce sound rather well. Granted, it doesn’t sound like Plantronics altered the sound at all from the BackBeat 500. A shame, since these would benefit from a boost in low end, considering that they’re workout-oriented.
Lows, mids, and highs
Caravan Palace’s Lone Digger doesn’t have the level of oomph you might expect from workout headphones because of the on-ear fit. The ear pads can’t create a proper seal so bass notes leak out and sound quieter than they should. The brain is a quirky thing when it comes to auditory masking. Greater bass emphasis would help with tracking songs and provide a more typical, hyped workout sound.
The mids are a tad under-emphasized. In Rubidoux by Cold War Kids, lead vocalist Nathan Willett is hard to hear over the crowded reproduction of the instrumental din. A third of the way into Rubidoux, 2:47, a brief guitar solo picks up and is followed by Willett’s vocals. As they overlap for a few moments, Willett’s voice is lost to the roar of the guitar.
The highs don’t suffer much in the Punch Brothers’ Sometimes. The mandolin is prominent throughout the song. Regardless of how the five-man band interacts, the treble is always audible. At 3:18, deliberate picking fills a short silence, which is normally difficult to hear. However, you’d need a somewhat higher-end set of headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X to hear a more accurate reproduction of the song.
Should you buy the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500?
The BackBeat FIT 500 isn’t without their flaws. Namely, the discomfort is hard to push past the 45-minute mark. That said, for the athlete looking for a pair of on-ear Bluetooth headphones: you can’t get a better value than the water-repellent Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500. Its ample battery life and easy controls are ideal for working out, and I’m still impressed by its ability to fully function after being subjected to a true Midwest deluge.
The headset is discontinued now, but you can find it refurbished or from third-party sellers. If you don’t want to go that route, you can always look into the best Bluetooth workout headphones like ones from JBL.