Many of you should be familiar with the Plantronics brand. They are afterall one of the more popular brands when it comes to mobile communication accessories like wireless headsets. But two things stand out with the BackBeat 505: its wallet-friendly price point and its on-ear design.
Priced at SGD$139, the Plantronics BackBeat 505 comes in white, grey (with green) and dark grey. The headphones spot a rather simplistic design; besides the controls on the left ear cup, the only other visible elements are the 5 Platronics branding along the headband. “PLT” it seems is the acronym for Platronics. I generally like how understated the design is, though I think the dark grey and grey would be a smarter color choice as white tends to get dirty easily.
Out of the box, you get pretty much everything you need to get started with the headphones. There’s the BackBeat 505 headphones, a 3.5 mm audio cable, micro USB charge cable, quick start and safety information guide and also a thin drawstring pouch for you to transport your headphones around. Plantronics say the headphones can last for 18 hours on a single charge, my own tests put it close to that at 16 hours – meaning you get to enjoy several days of music while commuting without having to re-charge the headphones.
The BackBeat 505 uses memory foam for its headband and earcups. It provides a good level of comfort and support when wearing the headphones. Covering the memory form is a layer of protein leather. While comfortable and more “breathable”, it also tends to turn flaky after long period of neglect or when stored in humid conditions.
Behind the cushions lie two 40mm drivers powering the BackBeat 505. The on-ear design of the BackBeat 505 means both earcups will be pressing onto your ears when in use. I for one would prefer an in-ear or over the ear design as it provides more comfort. The smaller earcups give the BackBeat a smaller footprint and its foldable cups lets you slot it conviniently into your bag.
However, the rather short headband and tight earcups do make it rather fatigue for me to listen to them over a prolong period of time. While this might not be an issue for everyone, it’s good to test out the headset for the fit before purchasing it.
The on-ear controls of the BackBeat let you adjust the volume of your audio, play/pause/skip tracks and take calls with the built-in mic. The rubberizes surface on the ear cup however might potentially gets sticky over time like most headsets which utilizes this material.
One nice touch of the BackBeat 505 is that if your headphones run out of battery, you can simply plug in the supplied 3.5mm aux-in analog cable to utilize it as a analog headset. But if you’re using Bluetooth, the BackBeat supports multipoint Bluetooth which allows you to connect up to two devices simultaneously and remembers up to eight devices. This means that you can connect both your iPhone and iPad to the BackBeat 505 and switch between the both devices without having to disconnect and reconnect again. I used to think that this wasn’t a useful feature till I started communiting with my iPad and found that switch between my phone and tablet can be a hassle.
One of the features that I don’t see often on the BackBeat 505 is the DeepSleep hibernation mode. The company says that in the DeepSleep mode, the BackBeat maintains the battery life for up to 6 months. I didn’t have the chance to test it for 6 months but switching on the BackBeat again after a week of inactivity, the battery level of the headphones is still full.
Audio-wise, the BackBeat 505 exceeds what you would expect from a pair of S$100 wireless headphones. With its 40mm drivers, the earcups are pretty small and sits snuggly onto your ears. Noise leak is minimal when playing at low and mid volume, while the earcups provide a certain level of noise-isolation.
The BackBeat 505 is bass heavy, probably a decision taken to target the younger demographics. Listening to “Lonely Together” by Avicii and “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift on the 505 is particularly enjoyable with its warm, balanced and bass heavy sound. Even for vocal heavy tracks like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”, the highs and mids shine through with no muddying. For S$100, it’s hard to find faults with the audio quality here.
A free iOS / Android Plantronics Hub App is available for use with the BackBeat 505. However, the functionalities are limited. When connected, the app will inform you of any firmware updates available, a database of support articles on your headphones and also a Find MyHeadset feature.
Depending on whether you have given the app permission to use your phone’s location, the Plantronics Hub App allows you to see the last detected location of your headphones and also to have the option to emit a loud beeping noise in order for you to find your headphones in your office or home (provided the headphones are connected to your phone).
At S$139, I find the Plantronics BackBeat 505 to be an affordable and full-featured wireless headphones. With its sleek looks, decent battery life and excellent audio quality, this woukd be a great option for someone who simply needs a Bluetooth headphones for music playback and voice calls.
However, the fit of the headphones might cause fatigue to some after prolong period of usage and the mobile app for the headphones could be improved to provide some form of audio customization.