Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 - Review

June 15, 2016

Plantronics launched the BackBeat GO 3, their new sweatproof wireless earbuds, last month. We were there for the South East Asian launch and now that we've got our grubby paws on a unit, here's our full review.

Buds - SGD 169 (USD 99.99)
Buds with Charge Case - SGD 219 (USD 129.99)

Pros (+): Agreeable price point; Great fit; Good usage of voice / sound prompts; Practical charge case.
Cons (-): No cable management; Average battery life.

Design
Out of the 3 color variants of Granite Black, Cobalt Black and Copper Grey, Plantronics kindly sent the latter over.
Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 - Granite Black
Granite Black variant. Credit - Plantronics

We always love unboxing products so we start off with a view of the outer box. 

Upon opening the front flap:

Unsheathing the inner box, you can see the buds held in place and the Charge Case slotted right under.

We dumped the packaging contents out to unveil:
- Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 buds
- Charging cable (micro-USB)
- Silicon buds (S / M / L)
- Charge Case
- User Guides

Onto the product proper. The Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 in-ears clock a decent 19g, comparable to the Jaybird X2 Wireless (13g). The bud exterior's design gives the impression of a wooden veneer layered with a glossy sheen, punctuated with 'PLT' smack in the middle. If not for the in-your-face wording, it would look classier IMHO.

The canvas-like material of the Charge Case (97 x 130 mm) gives the impression that it is durable enough to be thrown in your bag without worrying about scratches. There are 2 compartments - the main one holds the micro-USB cable and is allows storage of your buds. The side is sealed with a zip and is likely meant for your keys. The power indicators on the bottom right are really useful - the icon on the left shows a 3-level charge in the case and the right one shows that of the earbuds. We'll talk more under battery performance in a bit. 

Features
The Plantronics buds come with a sweatproof nano coating for protection against light rain and humidity. However, there is little to suggest that Plantronics was targeting sports users. In fact, these are more lifestyle positioned buds given the marketing pix and even the rather subdued color accents of the BackBeat earphones. 

Sports models usually take on bright 'active' hues. As such, we're not fretting much about the lack of a cable management clip, a standard in other sports Bluetooth earphones for reducing microphonics during jogs. We're currently running a series of articles on Wireless Sports Audio and we were sorely tempted to add this in but given the positioning, the Plantronics won't be included. 
Cobalt Black variant. Credit - Plantronics

For the controls, there are lined on the right side. You get the standard multi-function button flanked by volume controls and a microphone. 

The voice commands and sound indicators, are well thought out. They don't come across in an intrusive manner and instead, are succinct and used where necessary. Some examples - changing the volume interval didn't give any beeps though hitting the max prompted 'Maximum'. Checking of listening time left can be actuated by pressing either volume button when music is paused. If there's less than an hour left, 'Battery Low' is announced and the LED flashes red.

The BackBeat GO 3 runs on Bluetooth 3.0. Pairing is a breeze. Just hold the center button until 'Pair Mode' heard and the LED flashes red and blue. Start Bluetooth on your source device, select 'PLT BB GO 3' and you're good to go. Note that only one connection can be maintained at any one time.
Bluetooth connectivity can be configured either with device settings or the BackBeat GO 3 app.

Plantronics actually designed an accompanying app (iOS / Android). While it's good value add, it is not overly crucial once configured. Example - you can learn how to Bluetooth pair the earbuds and check out an online guide, something you'll have full knowledge of within hours.

Manage earbud connection to your multiple devices benefits app users, given there's only a single connection maintained. You can change voice command languages of which 8 are supported. Interestingly, the change is not instant and there is a loading time of each language to the buds.

Performance
Sound quality: While aptX, promising CD-quality delivery, is put aside, a customized SBC codec is used instead. Technicalities aside, we found that the sound is very much agreeable. The thumping bass on Armin Van Buuren's Save My Night is invigoratingly apparent. Vocal clarity on the other hand is average at best but it's clear where the BackBeat GO 3's sound priorities lie. 

Fit: The default buds provided are 'S'. These are incredibly small and sound leakage was massive. This was immediately swapped for the 'L' sizing which provided an immense world of difference where there was a snug fit. The buds come fitted with a single non-replaceable pair of ear loops (or wings) to be slotted within your ear for a better fit. This may make a difference depending on your general ear size but for me, the buds worked nicely.

The noise isolation, otherwise known as passive noise cancelation, of the buds is quite outstanding. I travel on a bus and sit right at the back on many an occasion so it is apparent what ranks well or not. This is definitely above the average.

The 6.5 hours of battery life afforded is quite average where the better ones come with 8h (UA Headphones Wireless and Jaybird X2 Wireless). There's 2.5 hours for a full charge via the micro-USB port, accessible by flipping the right earbud cover open. To make up for this, the Charge Case provides 2 full charges more (an additional 13 hours) giving a total of about 20 hours.

Overall
The pricing makes the Plantronics BackBeat GO 3 an enticing proposition of Bluetooth in-ears if you want the earbuds alone. Sure it doesn't have cable management and battery life is alright but it's easy to overlook this. Loaded with decent sound quality and well thought voice prompts, it's a solid performer for its price point and we'd recommend the nifty charge case if you need the additional juice. 

Where To Buy
If you like the product, you can purchase the BackBeat GO 3 (USD 100) or buds with Charge Case (USD 130) via our Amazon affiliate links.

Credit to Plantronics for a review unit

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