A few months ago at the Samsung Galaxy S 3 announcement event, I noticed another mobile editor wearing a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that were unlike any other I had previously seen. For a while now, if you wanted to use Bluetooth A2DP to listen to music, you really needed to do one of two things. Either buy an A2DP adapter that exposes a 3.5mm stereo plug, and then bring your own pair of headsets or in ear monitors, or buy a relatively expensive pair of purpose-built Bluetooth headsets and live with them. The problem has been that the overwhelming majority are bulky, on ears or awkwardly shaped over the ears models that don’t really emulate earbuds or in-ear form factor headphones. Since getting to play with the BackBeat Gos, I’ve become aware of a few other similar Bluetooth wireless earbuds, but this is a relatively new form factor I feel like a lot of people have been waiting for to come to fruition.

So when I saw the Plantronics BackBeat Go model in the wild, I knew I had to give it a shot. Reviewing headsets or earbuds isn’t my normal coverage area, but I couldn’t resist playing with a mobile accessory of some kind, and after all, anything Bluetooth is tangentially related to smartphones.

The form factor is pretty basic – two earbuds at both ends of a short cable, with an in-line controller and microphone. The earbuds are a bit oversized compared to normal ones, but this is where the BackBeat Go places the battery and microUSB charging port. On the right side, the top rubber peels off revealing that microUSB charging port underneath. Charging works either with the supplied AC adapter or any normal microUSB charger. It’s also on the right side earbud that Plantronics has located the charge and status LED, which glows orange while charging and blue when fully charged.

The BackBeat Gos are clearly designed for right-handed users, as the inline controller box is closer to the right side of the cable than the left. There’s volume up, down, an action button, and power. Also on this box is a small notch which serves as the microphone window.

The cable is rubberized and flat, not circular, and not much longer than shoulder length. The idea is to let the earbuds drape over your shoulders, with the cable going around the back of your neck. That said I’ve also worn them going forwards, with the cable hanging down in front of my face.

Inside the package there are three sets of rubber earbud sleeves, and a set of stabilizers which can fit on the side and press against the ear to hold the earbuds in place. In practice, I had a difficult time finding a size that fit and made a good seal in my ear canal. When it comes to earbuds that go into the ear, I’m more of a fan of the in ear monitor approach which involves foam that you squeeze down, insert, then allow to expand, rather than simple rubber seals. Getting a good seal is important because it both is going to impact the attenuation of ambient noise, and defines the resonant cavity inside your ear canal. Without a good seal, things will sound fundamentally different. Unfortunately the silicone tips are the BackBeat Go's biggest shortcoming, as I find myself constantly hunting through the three available sizes to no avail – supplying something foam based which expands would go a long way to fixing this problem.

Each earbud is definitely heavier than an otherwise passive one, but this is because there’s both a Bluetooth receiver SoC, battery, and other components inside the modules. The result is that the two are definitely larger than normal, but not so heavy they fall out of the ear.

The BackBeat Go has an internal lithium ion battery which charges over microUSB, and draws around 170 mA at 5V to do so. Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR is supported, with profiles A2DP 1.2, AVRCP, HFP v1.5, and HSP v1.1. Unfortunately the BackBeat Gos don’t support the apt-X Bluetooth audio codec, instead I saw subband codec (SBC) used on the platform I could get this information on.

Inside the BackBeat Go
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  • ScottSoapbox - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Sony made these a few years ago (HBH-IS800). They were great until recently when their play time dropped to ~2 hrs from usage. Replaced them with the JF3 Freedom which I love even more for 3 reasons. 1) The JF3's are surprisingly light and comfortable. 2) Twice the play time. 3) Physical buttons on the earpiece are so much easier to use than ones dangling on the cord. Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I enjoy these kinds of off beat reviews at AT, even if it isn't their core subject matter, AT editors like Brian still put more effort intro this kinda short review than most tech sites could ever dream of. Reply
  • cc2096 - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I own these as well as a pair of Sennheiser MM400's. The Senn's have a much better audio quality, better battery life and are Multi-point compatible. But they are over the ear style phones and as such are big and bulky. I like the BackBeat Go's for just bumming around the house or working out. They are the perfect size and weight for that type of activity. If I really want good BT audio then it's the Senn's, but the BB GO are extremely good at what they do, even if it is a one pony show. Pro tip: Change out the stock tps for some Comply T/TS/TX-200's and you'll hear these in a whole new way. Reply
  • vexingv - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I have a pair of these BackBeat go earbuds and their formfactor is perfect. I bought both these and Jaybird Freedom earbuds to try out mainly for using at the gym while I exercise. The Jaybird Freedom buds are bulkier and they also use a proprietary charging port/cable while the BackBeat Go uses a regular microusb charger and are sleek. The BackBeat Go also fit me quite well. I promptly returned the Jaybird buds. However, as I am writing this post, I'm also getting ready to pack the BackBeat GO and return them as they have stopped working. The buds no longer power on and I suspect that the sweat from gym use may have effected the wiring/circuitry. I may go back to a bluetooth 3.5mm adapter (my previous one also stopped working) or look at the Novero model. Reply
  • TechnoButt - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Has anyone tried replacing the foam to something that might seal better? I got a pair of Shure SL4C on the $80 deal a few years back, and have since ordered replacement 'large' memory foam ear pieces after one of mine 'broke' (ie, the foam separated from the harder cylinder in the center).

    Since I got 10 of them in the package, I've gone to putting these on compatible headphones and it's amazing what a simple change of the ear pieces has accomplished for various cheaper headsets, especially for sound clarity and low end response.

    My Shure set lives on my PC with a quality USB/DAC for gaming, since they are the best I have. But daily I use a set of Klipsch Promedia In-Ear (with the foam pieces purchased for my Shure set), and it takes a really good source to tell the difference (for me):
    http://www.klipsch.com/promedia-in-ear

    I'd love to know how these sound with similar pieces for a great seal (and also if they'd stay in place better with such a good tight seal).
    Reply
  • CrAkD - Saturday, September 08, 2012 - link

    How loud do these get? I like my music loud I got a pair of Novero Rockaways and like them other then the fact they just arent loud enough so now they are collecting dust. Ive been looking at the gos but I need to make sure they get loud enough before I drop more $. Reply
  • devildoc10 - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    I am very disappointed in the earbuds. Iv only had these buds for only three months and they have already crapped out on me. I can't seem to recharge the battery even thiugh the light indicator is on. The on/off tone sound to simular so when I want to use the earbuds the battery has already been drained. I want to point out that the volume is not very loud for the the price I paid. I highly reccomend not to waste your mney on this brand of earbuds. This brand is not worth the money you will pay.

    Sign
    Verry dissapointed
    Reply
  • Glerm - Monday, June 10, 2013 - link

    I know theese can only pair with one device at a time. Problem for me is when i did a factory reset on my phone i can no longer pair with the headset and i havent found anyway to reset the pairing so i can reconnect them to another device! Ive been reading the manual and looked around here on the internet for hours with no luck! Anyone here that have figured out hot to a pairing reset on them? Reply
  • abhishekpurbey - Monday, August 05, 2013 - link

    Hi ,
    I just bought plantronics backbeat go . I am not able to add my headset with my laptop. I tried unpair
    the headset with mobile but still my laptop bluetooth is not able to find it but at the same time I am able to add this device to other mobile and other headset to my laptop.

    Please help in how to add the headset in windows 7 .

    Thanks in advance!!
    Reply
  • jeevak - Tuesday, June 03, 2014 - link

    Fantastic review!! Been using the headset since Feb 2014. Having problems with the charging case. Plantrinics have agreed to replace the whole unit. Just wanted to what usb charger, other than my desktop, can i use to charge the headphones? i.e. wattage, Output. Thanks Reply

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