The cord isn’t completely dead yet, and Plantronics’ Backbeat 305 aims to show that you might still want it, especially if you’re keen to keep wireless earphone costs down.
Does Plantronics’ latest do enough to keep you interested in tethered earpieces, or is there room for improvement?
Design and features
Plantronics isn’t new to the wireless audio world, and when it’s not building gear for NASA and the United States Airforce, it spends time perfecting earpieces for regular folks, for you and I.
The company makes quite a few variations, too, whether it’s for standard anytime listening or for noise cancellation, but one area it tends to do well in is fitness. Case in point, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit haven’t seen much of a design change in the past few years, and that’s likely from how simple and ear friendly the design has been, with a loose yet still tight enough not to fall out kind of fit.
But they don’t suit everyone, and so Plantronics has been building something else, applying aspects of the original Backbeat Fit design to a more standard in-earphone approach in the Backbeat Fit 305.
There’s no doubt the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 305 have a slightly different look to them compared to Plantronics’ prior Backbeat Fit earphones.
While those earphones haven’t changed much over the years — or at all — the silicone strap around the back of the neck wrapping around the ears and holding in place isn’t what’s on offer here. Rather, Plantronics have gone for a slightly less expensive and more corded approach.
In fact, the earphones here are connected specifically by a thickened cord, with the battery in the small remote hanging on tight to that connection.
We probably don’t need to tell you that the small remote is how you’ll be connecting the Plantronics Backbeat 305 earphones to your phone, holding down the power button for just a second or two longer than switching them on needs to see them into pairing mode, and then making that wireless connection between devices.
Once that’s been made, you’re ready to use them, and just like the standard way these earphones pair, they operate in a standard way, too.
It’s your typical layout of pause and play, with volume controls as well, and you’ll find it in the block remote attached to the corded cable, different from the typical on-ear controls of the Plantronics Backbeat Fit series.
With the controls worked out, it’s time to throw them on and see if Plantronics’ standard level of balanced acoustics plays into the Backbeat Fit 305.
While our tests weren’t performed as we went for a run, we did go through the Pickr Sound Test wondering if it would have made any difference whatsoever, outside to our heavier-than-we’d-like physique.
A story for later (and a reason to get off our backside), for now we spent time in a chair analysing the sound, which for the most part wasn’t bad. As usual, Plantronics’ attention to balance was on offer, though the quality was a little more booming than we’d like.
Checking out with electronic and pop, we found the bass was a little more noticeable than we’d like, followed by a shared sound stage in the mids and highs. It’s a nice sound, and certainly one that pumps, but we’ve heard better, especially from Plantronics.
It’s not like that on all the tracks, mind you. While rock from the likes of Muse and Deftones pushed the bass well, with found other tracks that lacked a lot of punchy bass became downright shallow, and a lack of bass meant the highs and mids — which are still pushing out around the same area — force the earphones to become rather empty and devoid of personality.
If you’re going running, chances are you’re going to have quite a bit of punchy music, but if you’re one of the few that likes to run with jazz or classical, the Plantronics Backbeat 305 are not for you, and they can sound rather unweighted. Outside of it, there’s a fairly bright yet punchy deliverable that is more than ideal for modern music.
At least the battery manages to be fairly solid, with Plantronics’ expertise in battery development and miniaturisation helping to achieve a good six hours of constant battery life in the Backbeat 305, and if you manage to put them away for a while, they’ll keep going even longer.
Thanks to that expertise we’ve seen in devices like the Backbeat Go and Backbeat Pro 2, you’ll find a “DeepSleep” battery hibernation mode of up to six months. Yikes.
That means you don’t always have to use the earphones and they’ll still retain a semblance of charge, which is fantastic for decent sounding in-earphones.
While a little shallow for our liking, the sound is definitely decent for the $129.95 price, as is the decent battery life, and the whole thing is helped by that hint of ruggedisation.
Ultimately, the whole package isn’t bad if you go running to pop and dance, and it would be easily recommendable to athletes with specific music choices in mind if wasn’t for one thing.
What needs work?
It’s hard to deny the value the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 305 earphones achieve, delivering water-resistant earphones that fit nearly every ear with ease for a cost of around $130, but we’re stuck on one thing that’s hard to look past: the cord.
That cord isn’t so special that it’s a new thing to us. We’re not primadonnas in that we need every pair of earphones to be disconnected, cut-up, and unplugged from each other. We don’t need earphones to be entirely separated from each other like the cordless and wireless variety taking over the world.
It’s fine. We are completely fine with cords.
But, we do like it when the earphone cord doesn’t introduce a heavy-handed sound every time it touches something: your shirt, your hands, your neck as you walk.
Any time the fabric cord of the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 305 touches anything, you’ll hear this rough sound over everything else, almost as if someone was blowing into a microphone over the music. It grinds at you, and the cord genuinely sounds like someone is grinding at you.
The issue here isn’t the cord specifically, either. Rather, it’s the material Plantronics has chosen to encase the cord with, opting for a coarse rough ruggedised material that is good at keeping things solid, but terrible at keeping the sound pure.
It’s a really strange feeling knowing that the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 305 are so good at getting sound, and yet the very opposite for keeping that sound clear, so make sure you’re not wearing anything close to the neck, otherwise you’ll hear that rough sound, grinding with its coarse sound, and you won’t escape.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
For the most part, Plantronics has built a perfectly acceptable booming pair of wireless fitness-friendly earphones, producing decent sound that isn’t hard to go running with, if it weren’t for the noise the cord brings with it.
That means these earphones aren’t great for walks around town when you’re wearing a shirt, or anything else that might inadvertently touch it. A shirt, a scarf, a hat, a loose bit of clothing; really anything that has the potential to touch the cord dents the sound quality on offer here, with a coarse sound not unlike fingers on a chalkboard (ok, it’s not that bad, but it does wear you down over time).
Walk and run without the chance for that — maybe you’re just wearing a tank top or nothing at all — and all will be well, but if you hear that noise, you know what the problem is.
In a way, that kind of makes the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 305 ideal for exercise only, because you know the limited amount of clothing you’ll be wearing and the smaller chance you’ll hear this rather frustrating sound. If that’s something you’re fine with, you’ll find the Backbeat Fit 305 a great and relatively inexpensive fitness-friendly choice.