4lWhenever I see people in the gym wearing over the ear headphones I have always wondered how they can handle that. You see, I am a hot head, in more ways than one. I find I cannot even wear a hat while training so the though of encasing my sweaty ears in a soft padding designed as headphones has never entered my mind.
There is one thing for over the ear headphones, they have the potential to sound so much better than the smaller in-ear headphones and it was for this reason, even in the middle of the hottest November on record in Melbourne, I decided to just see what the big deal about big headphones was all about.
Enter the Plantronics Backbeat FIT 505.
Do these headphones really make your head extra sweaty and uncomfortable while working out? Would they be too hot to use in the heat of summer? Do they get in the way while training? Does the improvement in sound make up for these possible shortfalls?
What are they?
The BackBeat FIT 505 are an over-the-ear headphone designed for high quality sound before, during and after a workout. When Plantronics say they are designed for a workout you would expect some form of water resistance, and you would be right. The BackBeat FIT 505 are coated in a P2i military-grade nano-coating to protect from sweat, rain and spills.
Sounds great doesn’t it and although there is no official IP rating Plantronics’ confidence in them is such that on their website they state that they can be used not just for sweaty workouts but also for “rainy commutes”.
As part of the review I did wear these outside in the rain — yes, this is Melbourne so following the hottest November on record we had the wettest few December days on record — and they still seem to be functioning at full capacity without missing a beat. I am happy they are working still as it is a bit awkward sending back a review unit that no longer works.
Inside the box you get the headphones of course, a 3.5mm cable for wired use if Bluetooth use runs the battery out on them, a microUSB charging cable and a soft carry case for headphones.
The headphones themselves are not as big as I thought they’d be but inside each ear cup is a 40mm driver pumping out the sound. There is no noise cancelling on these headphones and you know what? I don’t care. Even with the gym playing its usual mix of worst trance pop songs ever I could not hear a single thing except the Backbeat FIT’s — and I didn’t even have them up to full volume.
The advantage of over-the-ear headphones is that there is plenty of surface area for the placement of functional buttons and Plantronics have added buttons for just about everything you could wish. On the side of the left ear cup is forward, back, play and pause buttons and on the body of it a volume rocker and the headphone jack and the microUSB charging port.
The right ear cup is not bereft of buttons either housing the on/off switch — yes, an old fashioned switch and I loved it — and a button that long press activates the phone’s digital voice assistant.
Another advantage of the larger headphones is the ability to include a larger battery and instead of the usual 4 hour battery life of in-ear gym headphones I was about to get over the full 18 hours that Plantronics suggest is possible. It was tough getting them to run out and in the end I had to leave them running to detect the time it took as 18 hours of use in the gym is around 18 workouts for me.
How do they fit?
Surprisingly these actually fit really well. While they were not as comfortable to wear during a workout as the Jaybird RUN headphones, for over-the-ear headphones they were great. They are easily adjusted to fit your size so even with my over-sized melon they were able to be added to fit, and fit well. While I was conscious they were there and still adjusted the fit of them before performing any lying down exercises such as a bench press I did not have a single time when they inadvertently fell off during a set.
They did get knocked off a couple of times during giant sets involved during a TRX workout when swinging the straps from one exercise to another just because I was not used ot wearing this sort of headphone in the gym (although this was my home garage).
Sometimes you can get headphones that fit well on the ear and then the over the head piece that connects the two ear cups is harsh and painful. The Plantronics were definitely not one of these. They were so lightweight and the arm so well padded that you can barely feel it resting on top of your noggin.
For a weights workout they were great but during cardio such as running they weren’t as good. they did move a bit and had to be adjusted a few times. In saying that I do my cardio at the limit — HIIT training — so I do move and bounce a LOT during this workout. They did not fall off but weren’t as comfortable as in-ear headphones. Casual jogging they were fine but balls to the wall full on running/cross trainer they struggled.
How do they sound?
Sometimes you find that you think headphones are great until you heard something else side by side. I thought he Jaybird RUN’s had amazing sound, and don’t get me wrong they do have great sound, for the size of them, but the sound the Plantronics produced was so much better — as you would expect from bigger over-the-ear headphones with 40mm drivers from a company known for producing high quality headphones.
The Plantronics not only had a lot more bass/lower end sound but the mids and upper levels sounded more accurate and crisp, to my ears. Headphones are often a personal choice because everyone likes their music differently. I like heavy bang your head, blow your eyeballs out of their sockets metal, and some old school gangster rap with a heavy angry beat. For me these headphones sounded great, with their bass being heavy, just the way I like it.
My only criticism would be that they could have included an app with an equaliser such as the one with the Jaybird RUN headphones. With this you could adjust the headphones to precisely the sound that you prefer. Some phone manufacturers include equalisers but I am yet to find one that works well. The one in Google Play Music is junk.
It seems that in general with headphones and quality sound, size counts.
The connectivity was perfect. Easy to pair, stayed connected within 10 metres as the specs suggest with no skipping of the music at all. Size apparently counts here too. The Bluetooth connection was perfect.
It was able to handle phone calls easily too. Answering calls and making calls using Google Assistant was easily done with the microphone producing clear and easily understandable voice to the person on the other end.
Should you buy some?
I thought, after using in-ear buds previously that I would never use anything else, but after using the Plantronics Backbeat FIT 505 I am not so sure. It seems that these headphones were so good that they have muddied the waters again.
I suspect that in 2017, if you stick to known brands you should be able to get a good quality headphone no matter the type of headphone you prefer. In saying that, if you are looking for a relatively cheap pair of headphones that are over the ear headphones that also sound great then I can highly recommend the Plantronics Backbeat FIT 505. Great fit, even better sound and amazing battery life.
At the start of this review I asked the following questions which I feel I can now answer:
Do these headphones really make your head extra sweaty and uncomfortable while working out?
Would they be too hot to use in the heat of summer?
On a 35 degree day, training in a garage without AC they were fine.
Do they get in the way while training?
Very occasionally and only for a specific exercise.
Does the improvement in sound make up for these possible shortfalls?
Most definitely yes.
The BackBeat FIT 505 are available in two colours –- teal and black at JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Rebel Sport and Officeworks — for $149.95 AUD.