The best thing about wireless headphones is that there are no dangly bits to get in the way, which comes in especially useful while you're out running. The Plantronics BackBeat Go wireless Bluetooth earphones make great use of this - they're little more than a pair of earbuds with a cable joining them up.
The Plantronics BackBeat Go wireless earphones are among the cheaper Bluetooth earphones on the market. And while Plantronics isn't a highly respected, venerable name in headphones, it doesn't half know how to make a good Bluetooth headset. Having the right tech is half the battle.
Plantronics has fitted all the required gubbins into a pretty portable package. Although the earpieces are significantly larger than rival entry-level earphones, the earpieces fit in everything that's needed. Given this includes a battery and Bluetooth transmitter, the BackBeat Go are impressively lightweight.
They use silicone rubber tips to create a vacuum within your ear canal, firmly cementing them in place. How well they fit will depend on your ears, but we found it easy to get a rock-solid fit, strong enough to go running without the things falling out. And if the tips aren't quite the perfect size, Plantronics also includes optional rubber stabilisers that poke out into your ear cartilage - they're too soft to cause discomfort, though.
Three sets of rubber tips are included, in the standard small, medium and large sizes. A fabric carry case is also thrown in. Once you've found the perfect fit, just leave the cable trailing around the back of your neck and you're ready to go. The cable design ensures there's little-to-no microphonic noise - caused when a regular IEM earphone cable rubs against clothing - although we notice a slight whooshing sound when walking that appears to be caused by air passing by the chunky earpieces.
It's not evident from a quick glance, but the right earpiece holds a rubber flap that hides the microUSB slot used to charge the internal battery. Neat as it is, its capacity disappoints. The Plantronics BackBeat Go are only rated for up to 4.5 hours of use off a charge.
This limits their use quite drastically for big music fans - they're better thought of as secondary earphones, for use while exercising perhaps, rather than as an everyday workhorse pair. Bluetooth headphones never supply all-day, all-night listening, but often offer six hours' use.
Remote and handsfree housing
5cm down from the right earpiece sits a remote housing. This holds the Plantronics BackBeat Go power button, as well as a pinhole microphone and a trio of call/music buttons. You can control volume and track playback as well as take calls and - as usual for Plantronics - call quality is very good.
Setup and Bluetooth performance
Using an iPhone or Android phone, the Plantronics BackBeat Go earphones are simple to setup. Just plonk them into pairing mode with the prolonged press of a button, select them from within the device's settings menu and they'll be forever joined in holy wireless matrimony.
Bluetooth streaming reliability is great. We experienced no unexpected drop-outs and their range is excellent, remaining solid for around 20m before even starting to break down.
Technically, the Bluetooth streaming isn't all that impressive, though. The Plantronics BackBeat Go don't use the more advanced Apt-X audio codec, making do with the standard codec of A2DP, SBC. Using bog-standard A2DP, audio is relayed from the device to the earphones at a rate that can make digital compression audible. However, at this price, what's more important is earphone tonality.
The Plantronics BackBeat Go sound quite different from the majority of Bluetooth earphones we've listened to recently. Sets like these are often bass-heavy to the extent that they become indistinct-sounding and boomy, but these are quite the opposite.
Bass is fairly lightweight, ruling these earphones out for those who thrive on low-end thump, but it supplies the BackBeat Go with a better-balanced signature than many at the price.
The top-end commands a lot of presence, but doesn't tend towards harshness, which we might expect in a relatively low-cost wireless set of earphones like this. If they had a little more mid-range warmth, we'd be happy to recommend them alongside non-wireless headphones at the same price. And that's pretty good-going. As-is, though, they can sound a little thin, so stay away if you like your headphones to sound warm and bassy.
These are not audiophile headphones, and they don't have the bassy impact that other sets do, but at £45 they make a solid account of themselves, especially if you like a more delicate sound signature.
At their original selling price, the Plantronics BackBeat Go would be problematic. For £69.99, the sound quality you can get from a wired set is too far beyond what these earphones offer to make the compromises worthwhile. However, at £45 they're a solid choice as a second pair for exercising with, or wearing around the house as you leave the music player in one room - the wireless performance here can hack it.
The Plantronics BackBeat Go wireless Bluetooth earphones maximise the benefits of going wires-free with a compact design that features little more than a pair of earpieces tied together. They're comfortable and stick in the ears effectively enough to use while running, however the limited battery life means they're not all-day headphones. And if you're a basshead you won't be impressed by their non-boomy sound. But we like 'em.