Plantronics Backbeat GO earbuds
Friday, 03 August 2012
This is a great idea – a pair of earbuds that don’t require to be physically plugged into your iPod/iPhone/iPad or even Mac, for that matter, as long as you have Bluetooth.
There is actually still a ‘wire’ – the two buds are linked together by a ribbon-cable, which means you get a control pad with buttons on it for play/pause, volume up and down, and power. In use, say walking or cycling, it quickly becomes apparent how good this is, not having that dangling cable to thread through to your device, with ensuing tangles, or to struggle with when you want to take off your jacket. Particularly if you run the cable behind your head and not under your chin, the BackBeat GO makes for much freer movement and that’s a very pleasant experience.
They come with a short USB cable with a normal wide-flat end and a smaller mini-USB plug for the phones themselves. You need to charge them up to use, which is a downside – connected via Bluetooth, these things house some electronics. Not just for Bluetooth, either – there’s also Digital Signal Processing and full duplex echo cancellation that kicks in for phone calls.
To charge them up, a little door lifts up on the right earbud for the mini-USB plug, and a light glows red while it’s charging and turns blue on completion.
However, all that cleverness results in some engineering, and in turn that results in some bulk, although the BackBeats are impressively light. The earbuds themselves are bigger than usual so stick out more; with three sizes of silicon sleeves to choose from (main pic) as well as the rather mystifying 'ear stabiliser' loop things. Sound quality and fit does improve with the right size sleeves. It’s not as if you have a huge bulk actually in your ears, but the plug that sticks out is substantial, and you feel a little like Frankenstein complete with head bolts, although it looks nowhere near as bad as that.
Sound-wise, they GO ’buds have impressive clarity, particularly good for spoken word (audiobooks and podcasts). With music, you could well hear things in the treble and upper mid ranges you haven’t noticed in music before, but this comes at the expense of bass. The harder you press these into your lugs, the more bass you’ll get, but there was never enough for me without turning on EQ on my iPhone, and that goes through the iPhone battery faster.
Pushing the volume up can result in more bass, but that’s another problem – at full volume, these simply weren’t very load. Now, I typically have the volume set at about two thirds, but if I want a song load, I really want a fizzing, dramatic musical experience for one to three tracks before I turn them down again. These were simply not efficient enough to achieve that.
Also, I couldn’t find any specs on the website for efficiency and frequency range, but I suspect efficiency isn’t high (which may be a result of signal processing) and to my ears, bottom frequency seems to bottom out well before 20HZ, which doesn’t suit me at all as a one-time bass player who likes to really hear what’s going on down there.
I admit I have been very spoiled by my wonderful, and now very tatty and battered Apple In Ear Speakers which are both super efficient (ie, LOUD) and which go down to a really lovely 12HZ in the bass end, but to be truly happy in a headset, I need something getting towards that.
Also, for both iOS and Android, there are free apps that add a few features like battery check.
Conclusion — Excellent clarity. Once the electronics get even more miniature and the sound efficiency and bass frequencies improve, this is a very good idea
What’s great — No long dangling cable is a very pleasant experience when walking or cycling. Impressive clarity, useful control for music and phone calls.
What’s not — Fairly bulky, not efficient (loud) enough, not enough bass, and having to remember to recharge if you’re a heavy earbud user
Needs — Someone who uses their phone a lot and who listens to a lot of voice, and who likes the idea of the admittedly very attractive cable-free independence.
What — Plantronics BackBeat GO wireless headphones, NZRRP $149
System — Bluetooth wireless range up to 10 meters from device; battery power up to 4.5 hours talk time, 4 hours listening time, and up to 10 days standby time; charged via Micro USB cable (supplied); weight 13 grams, with built-in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) noise cancellation and full duplex echo cancellation
Available from — Telecom and Vodafone dealers, Noel Leeming, Dick Smith and JB HiFi stores