Writing this Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 review reminds us of just how far headphones have come. In less than 150 years, headphones and other audio listening devices have become a firm fixture of our lives. Their humble beginnings were just a way of telephonists hearing signals. Then through broadcasting, recording studios, and into home use, they have come a long way.
Now we can even specialize with what we use them for; the technology has moved so far. This is the case with the subject of this review, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100. These are designed for Sports and those with an active life. Maybe in the gym, maybe out running these were designed specifically to keep the music rolling.
So, let’s take a closer look. But before we do…
Who Are Plantronics?
Plantronics was founded in 1961 in California and has made its name in audio products for the consumer along with associated software and services. It has since grown into a large corporation with a big reputation. You might say that the introduction could apply to many companies. You would be right.
In the 1960s, airline pilot’s headsets were so big and awkward that many pilots reverted to hand-held systems. Courtney Graham, a United Airlines pilot, got together with his friend Keith Larkin, also a pilot who worked for Japanese company Plane-Aids. They designed a small hearing aid like speaker system attached to a lightweight headband.
It passed Aviation controls, and airlines took it on board, and the company was born. Later in the decade, they were selected to be the sole supplier to all air traffic controllers. You might think that was quite enough to set them apart.
They were also involved in the design of the headphone and communication speakers systems on the NASA space programs. They supplied the headset’s built into the spacesuits for the Mercury and Apollo programs. So the next time you hear Neil Armstrong make his ‘giant leap for mankind’ statement, remember. He is saying it through a Plantronics headset.
There aren’t many audio manufacturers that can say that. Today they have changed their name from Plantronics to Poly, but that is a recent transition. For the moment, most people still recognize them as Plantronics. For the purposes of this review, so shall we.
Headphones designed for the gym are relatively common, and there are quite a few to choose from. However, over-ear headphones for the gym are rather unusual. Especially as the design is quite chunky. They are not the only ones, but they do offer a quality that some others don’t match.
Headphones for the gym are quite an exclusive market, and these create a new style within that market. They have adjustments that you can make to match the level of your workout. And they also have very impressive water-resistant features. But the styling makes these more than just headphones for the gym. These could be used anywhere. Even on the commute and they wouldn’t look out of place.
So let’s have a closer look at the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100…
If you are looking for fancy designs and stunning aesthetics, you’d better look elsewhere. They look quite ordinary and actually quite bulky. However, there is something very reassuring and mature about understated designs. When you get some kind of outrageous design, it usually sends the wrong message.
The ear cups are quite large as they are an over-ear design and are quite solid in their build quality. They are a plain design with only the small PLT logo on view apart from a couple of control buttons. And they don’t look particularly sporty and resemble many other brands. They especially have the top of the range Sony look.
The cups have a high quality plastic build. They have imitation leather padding filled with foam that makes a comfortable fit.
They have a textured finish and are given a hexagonal design in the fabric. This is not just for styling, and it actually provides a better grip when you are working out. The headband is not particularly attractive to look at, but it is very functional. They are working hard while you do and have an IPX5 water-resistant rating to cope with sweat.
They are also made of breathable material, which might help to relieve the sweat production in the first place. There are two ways to adjust the headband. The first is the usual way of sliding the cups up and down on the arms of the headband.
But there is also a small cord you can pull. This tightens the fit and will make sure the phones stay in place during exercise. It tightens the clamping effect, and so adds a lot of security. It, of course, can be released after the workout to return to normal tension.
This adds another extra and makes them very good for running. Over-ear phones do often not perform so well for the runners, but this extra device secures them nicely. The build quality of the headband is exceptionally good. It can be twisted and turned without a problem. Carrying them around in a sports bag is not going to cause them any damage.
Being an over-ear design, you can hardly expect to refer to them as compact. But they do fold up nicely. And they don’t protrude out too far from your head, so you’re not going to knock them off using overhead weights. The ear cups like the headband are made of breathable fabric that is perforated, and they are both wipe clean.
Another area these phones excel in is battery power. The BackBeat Fit 6100 quite rightly boasts of its 24 hour use time on a single charge. If you are only going to use them for the gym or running, a single charge might last nearly a week. If you are in need of some power, it has a quick charge facility. Fifteen minutes will give you about one hour of power.
Charging is operated through a micro-USB port. This USB will connect wit your phone or tablet by using the supplied cable. This has micro-USB on one end and a 3.5mm on the other. Plantronics says these functions were combined as it means one less port to make waterproof. Built into the headset is a MEMS microphone for taking calls. This is equipped with DSP.
If there is one thing that you definitely need from headphones for the gym, it is that they are tough. These are that and more and with the option of changing the clamping tightness a good choice. But it is also a plus if they can be versatile.
These are designed for exercise people. But there is no reason why they could not be used for the commute to work or other leisure activities. They score a lot of points on their build quality and the design included.
They have been given an IPX5 rating, which means they are certainly sweatproof and can handle moisture. They will also be ok in a rain shower unless it is a deluge. We don’t recommend them for the pool.
This water-resistance extends to freshwater as against saltwater. Saltwater has a more corrosive action and needs particular ratings of protection. Going near the sea is fine. Just don’t go in it. They are then well-protected and prepared for the activities for which they were principally designed.
The operating controls are located on the outside of the earcups as per usual. They are quite easy to operate. As an example, to increase or decrease the volume is just a swipe up or down.
They are set up as a default in the factory for some basic functions. These include Volume as we have just mentioned, play, pause or change tracks. You can also activate the voice assistant on your phone. It is also possible to set some custom controls. More on this later.
It is fitted with Bluetooth 5-0 capability, which helps to deliver a quality connection and response. There is though no aptX support, and it only supports AAC. If we have to find something wrong with these phones, that could be one area they could improve. You can pair up with iOS and Android devices.
Having said that, the quality of calls is very good. Should we be surprised about this? Plantronics is essentially a company that designs headsets. They know a thing or two about it, as Neil Armstrong would have confirmed.
Calls can be managed easily via the controls on the right ear cup. Just a simple tap and you are connected. The sound at both ends is very good.
They have an interesting extra built-in they call ‘Awareness mode’. These are over-ear headphones and also have a very snug fit. They will, therefore, exclude nearly all ambient noise. They are not, do they try to pretend to be, Noise Canceling, it is just a natural extension of their design.
This, of course, is a good thing in many situations, but it can also be a negative if you need to be aware of what is going on around you. You might want a little chat on your run or in the gym. Awareness allows you to decide how much external noise to allow in.
As we have already mentioned, there is a micro-USB to 3.5mm socket cable to allow you to connect up devices in wired mode.
Comfort is important with any set of headphones. But for phones for the gym and exercise, it does fall behind security in use and strength of build. Therefore these will not be as comfortable as those that are designed purely for comfort. Having said that, they are very comfortable indeed.
The ear cups have pillow-soft memory padding and good materials that encircles the ear. In normal mode, they do not clamp too tight and are very easy to wear, the headband is flexible and moves with you even though it is a rugged build. If you were wearing them for hours on end, you might begin to feel some overheat and general fatigue.
But not for the workout, the run, or even for the commute to work. For those activities, they are comfortable and easy to wear. At 0.53 of a pound, they are also quite lightweight, which is very surprising considering that they are a large set of phones.
No matter what we use, our headphones for the sound they give us is important. And some phones are set up to suit the environment they are designed for. These deliver on a number of fronts but rather surprisingly in one particular area, as we will go into soon.
The sound is delivered by 40mm angled drivers with a frequency range of 20Hz-20,000 Hz. It is a warm, well-rounded sound that is helped by the over-ear design. This creates an effect similar to an acoustic chamber where the sound is all kept inside. As we mentioned before, they are not noise canceling, but you could describe them as noise-isolating.
Well, the usual format for headphones for the gym is that they shatter your ear canal with overloaded bass. But not with these. The sound is what you could call robust, and you might say, leaning towards the lower frequencies. However, the low frequencies do not dominate and certainly do not crowd out the mids. This, in turn, allows the mids and the high frequencies to have clarity.
The sound is very good, but it goes up a level when you apply the extra tight-fitting option. The sound then reaches its high point whist also improving the passive noise isolation even more. There is an App that comes with the phones where the sound and Awareness mode can be adjusted to tailor it exactly to what you want.
The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 score some serious points with their sound quality
Plantronics provides an app as many companies do these days. Some offer just very basic control adjustments, but this app goes a little further.
You can adjust the overall EQ settings, but you also get the options to change the functions of the touch controls. They are set to a default mode, which we have already discussed. However, you can change them to include a battery life indicator or even starting a new playlist. There are some options, specially designed for your personal fitness program. These include a timer and a stopwatch.
With the headphones, you get a cable with micro-USB to 3.5mm jack socket connectors. This allows you to use the headphones in wired mode if you choose.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 Pros & Cons
- Bluetooth 5.0.
- Lightweight and comfortable with a breathable headband.
- IPX5 water resistance.
- Long Battery life.
- Awareness Mode.
- Superb sound quality with adjustable EQ presets.
- Customizable tap action.
- Touch controls can be a little imprecise.
- MicroUSB input
- Not very loud.
- No active noise cancellation.
As you can tell, we really liked these headphones, but if there is something about them that you don’t like, then check out our reviews of the Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Waterproof Headphones, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping, the Best Headphones for Rock Metal Music, the Best Headphones under 100 dollars, and the Best Headphones with Microphone on the market.
What We Think
If you are one of these people who prefer over-ear headphones, you are in luck. If you need them for your fitness sessions, on the road or in the gym, your luck just went through the roof.
They have just about everything you will ever need except noise-canceling. But to be honest, that isn’t a big issue with over-ear phones. The natural position acts as noise-isolating, and that may well be enough. The passive cancellation is impressive. Add to this the Awareness mode, and you have a near-perfect setup.
The build and the design are excellent with an understated look and good materials used. They look bulky and being over-ear phones they are. But they don’t feel like it. They have a strong build, and the IPX5 rating makes them secure and stable for what you can throw at them.
They are a flexible set of headphones as well. They are designed for the workout, but they are not going to let you down or look out of place on the daily commute. The sound is very good and nicely balanced, and the whole package is well presented.
We do need to find things that we don’t like. Just for the sake of balance. But that is not easy.
No aptX is something they could improve on, and also there is no case with them. They do fold away to a reasonably small size and, as we said, aren’t going to come to harm in your gym bag.
Well, you’d better sit down. The price point is very surprising. They perform at a level that far exceeds their cost. The price point is at a level that most will be able to afford.
What more can we say? The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 is a very good set of phones and an excellent buy.