I discovered fairly early in my running career that there was a lot to focus on without the addition of music, wires, headphones etc. And eventually, I quite enjoyed just falling into the rhythm of running, focusing on either my goals / training or whatever else needed a few rolls around the cranium. So when the Plantronics BackBeat FIT arrived on my desk, I was a little hesitant to say goodbye to my meditative time and start carrying a media device again. Fortunately for this Bluetooth headset, it offers just enough bells and whistles to tempt me into taking the old tracklist out for another spin.
With the rise of wireless headphones, active folk have been given long-awaited respite from snagged cables and yanked out earbuds. I have, countless times, cursed at having my favourite song interrupted during my daily commute, and so I hate to think how runners in a race scenario feel when an errant branch robs them of their power song. Thankfully, Bluetooth came along in 1994, saving clumsy people from headphone wires the world over. While contemporary Bluetooth is currently at version 4.2, the Plantronics BackBeat FIT supports only up to version 3.0 (missing out on changes mostly for low energy devices). Range is reported to be 10m and battery life an impressive 8 hours for listening (or 6 hours talking if you’re the social type).
As for fit, it did take me a couple tries of gingerly wiggling the unit around until I figured out how to get them on properly, but their flexibility should be put to good use when fitting them around the neck and into the ear. It should be noted that these do not fit in a fully noise isolating manner and the outside noise will filter through, for your traffic-avoiding-benefit. Once in place, the FIT fits pretty darn well. At only 24g, you forget they’re even there and the band resting behind your head doesn’t bounce much while running. Regardless, if you can’t stand headphones for, say, a full marathon, their small size and flexibility means they can easily fit into your running bag when that moment comes. The P2i coating is an added bonus in regards to the abundance of both sweat and rain during Taiwan’s many seasons. Perhaps just don’t test them during typhoons, although we know some of you runners are incorrigible.
Most important for decent headphones is the sound quality, and we can honestly say that they sound great – with a few caveats. Their reported frequency response range is 50Hz – 20kHz, which is unfortunately not sufficient when your power song needs those fuller lows. But their combination of better mids and highs, along with portability and ample volume, make it a forgivable compromise. Just set your expectation to ‘sports headphones’ and you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. And audiobook fans, you have nothing to worry about (that is, unless you’re fans of James Earl Jones).
Also impressive is the number of controls Plantronics has managed to fit onto this small unit. You can play, stop, fast forward, rewind, volume up and down, as well as voice dial, call answer, and call deny – all from the four buttons connected to the ear pieces. It’s a little tricky to remember at first, but there’s auditory feedback to help. Unfortunately while the built-in microphone allows for making and receiving calls, its positioning (back by the ear piece) makes conversations along noisy Taiwanese streets near-impossible. Perhaps a feature better saved for a more serene environment, or ranting and raving while treadmilling at the gym, if that’s your thing.
Included with the headphones is also a reversible headphone bag / running armband. I’ve stuck to my existing running bag but will appreciate the carry bag for traveling. Also appreciated is the use of a standard micro USB adapter for charging, interchangeable with most of my other electronics. Plantronics even has a Find MyHeadset app, countering the potential of losing this rather small device. They also offer other apps, including one for updating the FIT’s firmware.
Priced between NT$3000 and NT$4390 (depending on where you buy), shoppers are encouraged to browse for the best offer available. Other similar headsets in Taiwan include the Beats Powerbeats2 (NT$7000), Jaybird BlueBuds X (NT$5980), Denon AH-W150 (NT$4190), Jabra Move (NT$3990), JBL Synchros Reflect BT (NT$3980), Blueant Pump (NT$3000), Jabra Sport Wireless+ (NT$2990), Plantronics BackBeat GO 2 (NT$2490), and Avantree Jogger Pro (NT$1580).
While you may have gathered that I think highly of the Plantronics BackBeat FIT, there are three areas I’d like to see improved before the release of version 2. Firstly, improved drivers for better bass (at least down to 20Hz). Next, support for aptX allowing better quality wireless audio, once the drivers are updated. And finally, improvements for the microphone, either in positioning or offering noise cancellation.
So whether you run with music for motivation, to catch up on your reading, or just to focus on your cadence, the Plantronics BackBeat FIT are a good option for those willing to take a small hit in sound quality for greater active comfort.
 Testing found the signal stable at 15m when line of sight with the source device is kept, and 10m with 3 walls between the headset and source device.
 A range of 6 – 8 hours listening time would be more accurate depending on volume and how often you use the controls. To help you keep track of the device’s power, the Fit will tell you at start-up whether the battery level is full, high, medium, or low. Also, if using the headset with your phone, you can also check the Plantronics Hub app for an estimate of the remaining battery life.
 They do feature a one-size-fits–all design, with only a rotating earpiece for personalisation, so mileage may vary.