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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  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    $76 seems like an awful lot for a pair of earbuds. Suppose I would have to hear them personally to see if they were worth it.

    This is a type of product I was looking forward to, but with everything considered I think I would have to pass for now.
    Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    $76 for something that I shove into my pocket with my car keys is too much. I treat earbuds like crap! Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I have a pair of skullcandy earbuds that sound great. Even they only cost me $20. But they're not wireless either.

    And yeah, even though I do not try to treat my earbuds like crap. They always take a beating . . .
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    The only earbuds I buy are the ones clearanced at Target. So... $1-4, tops. Wires aren't that bad and, as a feature, I get improved battery life by turning off Bluetooth.

    You're welcome.
    Reply
  • Haugenshero - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Do you think that possibly this isn't the product for you and that maybe your opinion has nothing to do with people that are interested in this product? Reply
  • Rizzy - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Ha, well said! $76 for a set of BT ear buds is extremely reasonable. I spent $100 just for my non-BT earbuds and $80 for my current set of BT headphones. Reply
  • johnpereyra - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Volume on this unit pluged into my iPhone5 is way tooooo lowww.....Do not buy!!! Reply
  • Mitch89 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    $76, really?? Hardly outlandish... Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Reading through the whole review, I was thinking all along in the back of my head that there are worth $60. So $76 isn't too far off. I'm sure they'll come down in price in short time too. Shame they don't support Bluetooth 4.0 or newer codecs. Would improve battery life and sound quality. Reply
  • SimplePhotos - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    I bought a pair of these when I got my iPhone 5 back in March. I use them every day, in all life circumstances, including outdoor work as a photographer (rain & dust). I am able to have phone conversations while I take photos simultaneously on my iPhone using these things. I only paid $50 at RadioShack on discount, but I would recommend them up to $80. It's not often I find a product that is completely seamless and so reliable. At the gym, I leave my phone in a wooden locker and work out up to 50' away and never break signal. I am considering purchasing another pair off eBay for backup when the batteries run out (I generally get about 5 hours out of a charge). I don't write reviews often, but I really feel like some people are underrating this product here, and I want to share my view. For the freedom and reliability, a $70 price point is a bargain in my view. I absolutely hate 'cord snag' where buds get ripped out of my ears due to some movement... I never have to deal with that now. Hope this helps. Brian - Reply

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