It was already happening but Apple removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 advanced the case for wireless headphones significantly. Plantronics set out to make a pair of affordable wireless? headphones that didn’t make you compromise. The result? The Plantronics Backbeat 500 Series Wireless Headphones. At under $80 they are affordable. But are they any good?
Let’s start by answering that last question. At they any good? In a word, “Yes! Yes they are.” (Okay, that was more than one word but you get the idea.) Plantronics has this to say about their latest headphone offering,
With BackBeat 500 Series wireless headphones, enjoy up to 18 hours of deep, rich sound on a single charge and a lightweight, cushioned design that lets you listen in comfort.
I spoke with some of the key people involved with the design and marketing of the headphones and gain some insight into what they were looking to achieve. They told me that they wanted to focus on the details of the experience – the comfort, the aesthetics ,and the sound – rather than packing as many features as possible. Don’t get me wrong, these headphones aren’t stripped down but they don’t have all of the features that you find on the company’s more expensive headphones. They wanted to make sure that people wouldn’t have a different experience when they moved from wired to wireless headphones. They work hard to ensure that the audio would be as good as possible and they succeeded. They wanted to make sure that the learning curve when first using the headphones wouldn’t be so difficult that people had to stop and closely read the manual. That is, perhaps, why the controls are as large and easy to use as they are. More on that in a bit. They wanted to make sure that people would not only enjoy the on boxing experience but love using the headphones and avoid buyers remorse. I think they succeeded here as well. And, recognizing that people wear headphones not only on their ears but also hanging around their neck, they wanted to make sure that the headphones would have ear cups that have a dual pivot and will stand up to a good bit of force.
There’s no question that they designed these headphones specifically for the 18 to 25-year-old market but I think they ended up with a pair of wireless headphones that will make someone happy regardless of their age.
The BackBeat 500 Series Headphones are wireless.
The headphones are designed to give you excellent battery life. That translates to roughly 18 hours on a single charge. They also feature what the company refers to as deep sleep mode. This helps conserve power when the headphones are being used. It lets the headphones reduce the amount of power lead that occurs when the headphones are used for an extended period of time and means it’s more likely that, when the time comes for you to use them, the have enough charge to keep you going.
The company understood that there are, however, times when you either do run out of juice or you simply can’t use the headphones in wireless mode. For that reason, they included a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable. That way you can plug the headphones into an audio source and use them as you would any pair of wired headphones. Of course that is a problem if you are using an iPhone seven but in that case, you can simply pick up a 3.5 mm to Lightning cable such as the one we’ve reviewed from Belkin.
The BackBeat 500 Series Headphones look good.
The headphones have a nice design that is definitely geared toward the younger crowd. They see this as a first pair of wireless headphones and wanted it to be as aesthetically attractive as it is nicely priced. The color palette used by the company for the headphones, they come in a variety of colors, is intended to be reflective of yoga clothing. Bright colors and clean lines come together to create something that is as aesthetically pleasing as they are good sounding.
The BackBeat 500 Series Headphones are comfortable.
They also wanted to make sure that the headphones would be as comfortable as possible. They took great care to make sure that they are light enough to be comfortable four hours of wear at a time. They made the ear cups and headband from memory foam in order to ensure that they have as high a degree of comfort as possible. It works! The headphones are incredibly comfortable. But the memory foam used on the air cups has an additional advantage. In not only adds to the comfort but it helps offer even better sound by creating an optimal seal that delivers more base than they otherwise might.
And while these aren’t considered expensive wireless headphones – the current crop of wireless headphones run $200 or more – they didn’t skimp on sound. They employed 40 mm drivers and tune the headphones using their ever better and more refined sound technology. The result is a pair of headphones that sound remarkably good at any price and amazing considering they are under $80.
So let’s talk a bit more about the experience of using the headphones.
Bring music to life: Don’t just hear your favorite tracks, feel them. 40 mm drivers and advanced acoustic technology deliver audio balance and deep, rich sound—whether you’re listening to music, watching movies, or taking a call.
I am currently working on a review of a pair of $1000 headphones. (Sadly they were a review loaner, and I only got to enjoy them for a few weeks.) The BackBeat 500 Series Headphones don’t come close to those headphones. Then again, they aren’t supposed to. These headphones are under $80. Thing is, they don’t sound like it. While these aren’t audiophile-grade headphones they aren’t slouches either. The sound is clear and crisp. The bass is decent. And the overall experience is quite nice. This is, in part, accomplished because Plantronics employed, “Advanced acoustic technology delivers the right balance and deep, rich sound.” It worked! I really enjoy listening to the 500 Series headphones and can easily recommend them to someone looking for something wireless for under $100.
And there’s more… One of the ways you know these headphones come from Plantronics is the microphone. The company employed a Wideband mic on the headphones that delivers excellent call quality. That is, of course, something you would expect from Plantronics. After all, they initially made their mark designing and selling some of the best Bluetooth headphones on the market!
EASY ON-EAR CONTROLS: Play/pause, skip tracks, adjust volume, and easily take calls with one touch.
One of the issues with many of the wireless headphones coming to market is how difficult it is to control them. That’s not an issue with the 500 Series headphones. The controls on the ear cup are large and easy to access. This is the case even when the headphones are on your head.
It really makes a difference and, once you use a pair of headphones whose controls are as accessible as this you will hate many of the wireless headphones currently available. Seriously, who wants to have to think about how to adjust the volume or skip a track?
MEMORY FOAM EARCUPS: All-day comfort and sound isolation lets you listen for hours. No matter how long your days are, your headphones won’t weigh you down. Soft memory foam earcups not only isolate sound, they rotate to lay flat so you can wear them comfortably around your neck for hours.
Finally, it is worth noting that Plantronics designed the 500 Series with comfort in mind. The memory foam makes them a pleasure to wear. The dual pivoting ear cups mean they will lay flat on your neck. And the light weight means that these on-ear headphones won’t, like so many I have tried, cause ear fatigue after just a few minutes.