There’s no doubt the personal audio market is massively saturated.  Nearly one-third of the reviews I’ve posted on this site have been on audio products, and the majority of those are some sort of headphone or earbud.  Saturated can be a good thing if you’re a consumer, as companies who are less popular sometimes release stellar products that can give you a great experience while saving you some money…then, the big players will offer discounts to retailers to try to compete, and those retailers pass on the savings to you (if you choose the more mainstream route).

People have become comfortable with less mainstream products, too.  Audiophiles love names like Sennheiser and Audio Technica, even though a few years ago you’d be hard-pressed to find a selection of either brand in any electronics bix box store.  That landscape has changed now, as the headphone space has exploded over the last couple years and more in-person buying options have been made available to the consumer.

Headphones are probably my favorite thing to write about because I absolutely LOVE listening to music.  And, I have all sorts of criteria for determining whether or not a particular set of headgear is “good” or “bad” in some subjective sense, but at the end of the day, if a set of headphones helps enhance your listening experience, it’s safe to call them a winner.

Even still, to help inform the buyer, I’ll use my go-to “Rule of 3” to show how I think these Plantronics BackBeat FIT 505’s fit into my collection of listening gear.  To me, the 3 ideal pairs of headphones/earbuds to have are as follows:

  • Basic earbud with inline mic – for every day use, generally less expensive, comfortable to the point you forget about them, and usable in most places.
  • Studio headphones – for musical or cinematic (or both) adventures; they are your lounging headphones for when you want to zone out in your media.
  • Wireless – for the gym, yard work, house work, etc.

Right off the bat, basic earbuds and studio headphones are out.  They’re not earbuds, and the sound quality for the 505’s is really good, but not quite good enough for “studio” use.

Wireless is interesting because you can now have some decent earbuds that are wireless with built-in microphones and cover two categories at once.  It’s a matter of personal preference, what fits your ears most comfortably (in-ear, on-ear or over-ear).  The 505’s are on-ear style and are extremely lightweight at 155 grams—among the lightest headphones I’ve ever used.

Lightweight headphones can be a double-edged sword, as sometimes the build quality is sub-par; this is not the case with the 505’s.  They are thin but durable, entirely plastic with supple cushions and a soft crown pad; in spite of their weight, they are sturdy and flexible.  The design along the outside of the band is a bit more expressive and noticeable than I prefer, but they are modern looking and comfortable enough to wear for longer listening sessions.  From a physical design perspective, my only complaint is the range of fit is a bit limited, although this is pretty standard for on-ear headphones in my experience (I have a big head).

On the outside of the cups, you’ll find a number of controls for interacting with your music.  The left cup has dedicated forward, back and play/pause buttons, a volume rocker, and both a 3.5mm headphone and micro-USB jacks.  The right cup has nothing on the back, but a combo power/bluetooth pair switch, as well as a dedicated phone answer/hangup button along the side.

Side note, the mesh pouch that they come with is nice, but a hard case would have been nicer. 

Now is a good time to remind you that these are made by Plantronics, who is really well known for phone headsets…you may have a Plantronics headset at work.  I’ve used their headsets for years, and have almost always been pleased with the performance.  The 505’s didn’t disappoint, although I wouldn’t buy them because they also can serve as a headset…a boom mic will almost always outperform a set of headphones that has some built-in microphones on the ear cups.  Call quality on the sending and receiving side was as expected for most headphones I’ve used recently: good, not great.  It gets the job done, but it’s not the reason to buy these headphones.

On to battery life.  Plantronics quotes 18 hours of use, and I’ve been very pleased with the performance thus far, only having to charge them once since I opened them over a week ago.  The 505’s also have a “deep sleep” feature that boasts long-time charge retention of up to 6 months while powered off; you’ll have to check back in with me after 6 months to see if it holds true, provided I can put them down and ignore them for that long.  They also can be fully charged in 90 minutes, which is really great.

And finally, sound quality.  I’ll admit, with a small frame and lightweight construction, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by their sound output, but was presently surprised as soon as I started listening.  With 40mm drivers and a sound profile that leans on the low end of the mids, these can put out enough bass to help drive a workout, or loading the dishwasher, or folding the laundry.  And, these are some of the loudest wireless headphones I’ve ever used, although the mids and highs start to spread a bit at higher volumes.  

Ah, but the price.  I’ve paid (or my employer has) a pretty penny in the past for some of Plantronics’ headsets.  These headphones—a hundred bucks!  They’ll probably go on sale, but I think they’re a steal at only $100 for all that you get—a solid build, lightweight, really good sound quality with emphasis on the lows.  The only downside, MAYBE, is the form factor, but I’ll admit that these made me rethink about my general dislike for on-ear headphones; they are one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones I own of any form factor, and they sound great.  

Yes, they are called the BackBeat Fit headphones, and with a sweat-resistant design you’d expect to use them in the gym, but they make excellent all-around wireless headphones (with a wired option).  I read one review on these that said, “I can’t find a single fault with these headphones,” and at the price point, I’d have to agree.  There were a lot of surprises for me in these headphones, but all pleasant ones. 

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