Plantronics rates the BackBeat Go as having up to 4.5 hours of talk time when used for Bluetooth calling, and 4 hours of play time when used as an A2DP device. That’s not a whole lot of battery life, but that’s the tradeoff that gets made when you’re talking about a Bluetooth device with very little volume that can be dedicated to battery.

Plantronics BackBeat Go Battery Life
  User Manual Cited Tested
Stereo A2DP Playback Time 4.0 Hours 3.4 Hours
Talk Time (HFP/HSP) 4.5 Hours -

Of course, I’m not satisfied with just citing manufacturer specs for battery life, and went ahead and measured the BackBeat Go audio playback time. To do this, I paired the earphones with an HTC One S and played an album on repeat, with the volume on the earphones set to 70%. I then placed the earbuds next to the One S (so there was good Bluetooth signal) with one of the earbuds inside a bag with a microphone.

In this manner it was possible to easily measure how long until the BackBeat Go battery died. I ran the test twice, and wound up with an average run time of 3.4 hours, which is just short of the cited 4 hours for A2DP, but relatively close. It’s possible they’re citing that number based on the earbuds being driven at a lower volume level, though 70% is where I often listened on the BackBeat Gos partially because of the lack of great isolation.

Performance

It’s hard to be overly critical about the audio performance of the BackBeat Gos since they’re so volume constrained. Inside each earbud is a ton of volume dedicated to battery and the Bluetooth controller, and relatively little volume dedicated to the actual 6mm neodymium drivers.

On the whole, sound quality is nothing to be terribly excited about, but is good enough for casual listening. I’ve never been dissatisfied with A2DP at the maximum bitpool on any device, though at the same time there is a perceptible difference between A2DP and a good analog output. I would say that sound quality on the BackBeat Go is more gated by its earphone performance and construction than the use of SBC codec.

Most of my complaints about the BackBeat Go sound quality boil down to the lack of a good seal between the earbud’s small rubber sleeve and the ear canal. With a good seal, I found the listening experience surprisingly enjoyable. Mids and bass are decent, though somewhat lacking compared to either of my usual go-to IEMs (Shure SE115 or SE 535). That said, I’d characterize the experience as more than adequate for casual listening. Given the small size of the drivers, I’d say the BackBeat Go audio quality is actually surprisingly decent.

Without a good seal, I found suppression less than ideal and bass and mids very underdriven. This is really the overarching problem I experienced with the BackBeat Go – the earbuds either slowly slide out of my ear canals, or movement of my head perturbs them, and I lose the seal and soundstage entirely. That obviously makes use while exercising challening. Thankfully there isn’t much sound communication between the cable and the earbud either; there's no noise transmitted through the cable when moving around with the cable rubbing on clothing.

Input latency is the other big concern, and on the two devices I tested, there wasn’t enough to distract from watching Netflix or YouTube videos. Some of this is a function of what the encode implementation is like on the host device, but on iOS and the HTC One X I was able to watch Netflix without perceptible audio lag.

You can also of course use the BackBeat Gos to talk on the phone as there’s a microphone in the controller midsection. I called a few people and asked how I sounded, and audio quality wasn’t super great. I was told that I sound like most car audio Bluetooth solutions, so I suspect some of this is just a reflection of the handsfree protocol quality. The BackBeat Go does include some DSP noise reduction and echo rejection, though this isn’t a two microphone solution. Again, how good at rejecting noise the system ends up being for the other party depends on whether your handset also will do further processing. For example the Audience sound processors have a port for Bluetooth audio in which will get used in conjunction with the other onboard microphones to cancel noise.

Inside the BackBeat Go Conclusion and Final Thoughts
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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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