I love music. And, as anyone that knows me can tell you, I can’t live without it – especially while training.
I’m also a self-confessed gadget geek. I love technology and the latest “toys”.
A couple of years ago, in 2009, when bluetooth stereo headphones started appearing onto the market, instead of waiting for them to be fine tuned and better developed, I bought my first pair, the Motorola MotoROKR S9-HD.
As soon as I got them I immediately began searching for a better pair. My head apparently isn’t symmetrical, which was pointed out by the MotoROKR. Instead of the wire between the earpieces being soft and flexible, it’s made of hard, unforgiving plastic which pushed the heavy earpieces into my ears. They were uncomfortable and awkward. And, forget trying to barbell squat with them! That’s the real litmus test of any wireless headset: do they get in the way of barbells?
The Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 was my next purchase.
I read all the reviews and did the comparisons, then forked out around $180 for a set. These had a soft flexible cable that connected the earpieces, which instantly meant they passed “the test”. The sound quality was better than the ROKR, but the earpieces were so heavy, I had to shove them into my ears to prevent them from falling out. I used them maybe 2 or 3 times, all the while continuing my search for the “ultimate headphones”.
That’s when I came across the Altec Lansing Backbeat 903, made by Plantronics.
They were half the price of the Sony Ericsson headphones, which attracted me. Also, the tech guru reviewers had good things to say about them. They became my primary training headset. That is, until the 903+ were released and I bought them. Both looked exactly the same, with a rubber cable that runs behind the neck, attached to an earpiece that wraps up and around the ear holding them in place. The bulk of the earpiece also pushed my ears forward, causing me to resemble Dumbo the elephant – no joke.
They were comfortable, but I found myself pushing them into my ears to make them louder. Their design is such that ambient noise can still be filtered in, which they say is safer when outdoors. I disagree. I like to hear my music, not the meathead grunting next to me in the gym.
The search continued…
My next purchase was the Jaybird Freedom bluetooth headset.
Which quickly became my go-to headphones. The sound quality is crystal clear, but not loud enough for my liking – I could still hear the meatheads unnecessarily grunting through each rep. They fit nicely into my ears, but felt a little bulky and heavy and would fall out of my ears when sprinting.
The cable was a little long between the earpieces and got in the way when I had a barbell across my shoulders, but that was easily taken care of by simply hooking the cable up over my pony tail.
My gripe was with bluetooth range and battery life. If I did walking lunges, I would have to carry my iPhone with me so that I didn’t go out of range. The advertised range is 10m or 33ft. Also, it would sometimes cut out if I was outside, despite my phone being right beside me. As for battery life: on one charge I would get about two 1-hour workouts and two 40-minute cardio sessions.
Recently I was contacted by Plantronics, who offered to send me their latest bluetooth headphone release, the Backbeat Fit.
A few days later I received them and it was off to the gym.
My first impression was they were the lightest bluetooth headphones I’ve owned to date. I was a little concerned that the formed rubber wire would be awkward to wear and that the earpieces wouldn’t fit. Boy, was I wrong. The earbuds are designed to sit in your ear, rather than be shoved into your ear canal. They fit perfectly. The cable was just the right length and didn’t get in the way of the barbell.
But, it was when I actually paired it to my iPhone and hit play that I was literally blown away. To be honest, I didn’t expect much difference in sound quality from my previous bluetooth headphones, but the Backbeat Fit were LOUD and crystal clear. For the first time ever, I actually had to turn the volume down. I immediately fell in love.
Because the Fit is made from one solid rubber piece, they are perfect for heavy sweat cardio sessions, and are easy to clean. The neoprene carrying case doubles as an armband for your headphone. It is bright yellow, and I assume reflective for runners, but I just use it to store the headphones. I was also impressed with the battery life. I’ve had the headphones for two weeks now and have only charged them twice. I train 5 days a week.
The only issue I had with the Backbeat Fit was having to re-learning the headset controls. They were placed differently than my previous bluetooth headset purchases, but the learning curve is shallow and all I really care about is how to turn them on or off. I control my music straight from my iPhone. However, if you do keep your phone in a case, there are controls on the earpieces which allow you to adjust the volume, pause, play, answer phone calls, and shuffle songs.
In short, I think I’ve found my holy grail headphones… for now anyway. And, while I still carry my Jaybirds and older Backbeat models in my gym bag as back up in case the battery dies, I have yet to swap them out during a workout.
I love the freedom of bluetooth headphones over wired ones – the ability to stream whatever music I want, rather than having to frequently download and arrange playlists, and not having a wire get in the way while weight lifting. If you’re a music afficianado like me, and are in the search of a decent affordable bluetooth headset, I recommend picking up a pair of Plantronics Backbeat Fit.
Yes, I was given a pair free for review. However, the review is my own opinion.