Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 headphones review: Waterproof fitness earbuds that won’t fall out

Posted: 4 October 2019 3:04 pm
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Close up of Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 headphones on the edge of a fountain

The BackBeat Fit 3150s are built for outdoor adventurers and runners who don't mind sacrificing sound quality for safety.

Quick verdict:

Plantronics has upgraded its BackBeat FIT line with the new BackBeat FIT 3150, offering a longer-lasting battery life and eartips that don't block out ambient noise for safer training. Though they're marketed as sports earbuds for urban runners, the 3150s would suit any fitness enthusiast willing to trade-off sound quality for waterproof, durable earbuds that stay put.

Price: $249

The good

  • Sweatproof and waterproof
  • Non-slip earloops stay on during just about any activity
  • Always Aware eartips keep you aware of your surroundings
  • 24 hours of total battery life
  • Quick 15 minute charge for 1.5 more hours of life

The bad

  • No noise-cancelling option
  • Better for music than for podcasts and phone calls
  • Recurring app connection issues
  • Zippered charging case is bulky

Plantronics has released its next generation of wireless headphones, with four new pairs each for less than $300. One of the new models is the BackBeat FIT 3150 true wireless sport earbuds, an upgrade of the last year's 3100s.

Similar to their predecessor, the 3150s are fitness earphones made for outdoor enthusiasts. They're designed to let you hear your surroundings and ambient noise while you run, bike or walk.

While they're not ideal for taking lengthy phone calls, if you're safety conscious and looking for a pair of comfortable, non-slip earbuds to take on all your adventures, the 3100s are worth considering.

Design

  • Sweatproof and waterproof
  • Non-slip earloops stay on during just about any activity
  • Always Aware eartips keep you aware of your surroundings
  • Zippered charging case is bulky

Looking very similar to their predecessor, the 3150s are available in all black or black and blue – with one headphone in each colour.

They are lightweight and come with a zippered carrying case that also provides additional charging on-the-go. The case came fully charged, which meant I could use the earbuds as soon as I opened the box. It came with simple instructions to activate the headphones and connect them to my phone. While the set-up was straightforward, I had several challenges connecting the earphones to the BackBeat FIT app.

Close up of Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 headphones

The case has a zipper, which is ideal for fitness headphones because I don't have to worry about the case opening in my gym bag. However, it's larger and bulkier than I would like. This isn't a problem if you'll be chucking it in your gym bag, but if you want to keep your earphones in your pocket or a small purse, it'll be a problem.

The 3150s have soft, flexible ear loops that look similar in style to the Beats Powerbeats Pro. However, unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the 3150s grip the ear so they don't fall off, no matter the workout. I wore them during several dance practices that included rolling around on the floor and doing numerous somersaults and they never came off my ears. I also wore them rock climbing, something I haven't felt secure enough to do with any other earbuds.

The ear loops fit my ears loosely enough to be comfortable and I could easily slide my sunglasses underneath, but if your ears are on the larger side or you wear glasses all the time, they might be more snug.

Like the 3100s, the 3150s feature Plantronics' Always Aware eartips. They don't create a seal in the ear to let in ambient sound so that you can be aware of your surroundings whether you're running down a quiet path or biking busy streets. They blocked out more sound than I thought they would though, enough that it's hard to have a conversation with the earphones in even with no music playing.

Close up of Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 headphones

Both earbuds can be pressed to activate different controls, but only the left earbud is touch-sensitive. It took me a bit of getting used to, but overall, both sides were pretty responsive to touch without much delay. The right earbud automatically operates as the main bud, but you can switch it to the left bud using the BackBeat app. You can also use each earbud separately in mono mode.

The 3150s are IP57-certified sweatproof and waterproof, which means they can be submerged in water up to 1 metre for 30 minutes. If you think this means you can wear them swimming, think again. The Bluetooth connection doesn't work underwater so you won't be able to listen to anything. However, if you drop them in a puddle, get caught in the rain or soak them with sweat during a workout, they'll survive.

Check out our round-up of waterproof phones

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Performance

  • Clean audio with three balance options
  • No noise-cancelling option
  • Better for music than for podcasts and phone calls
  • BackBeat app is easy to use and intuitive
  • Recurring app connection issues

The 3150s have a Bluetooth range of up to 30 metres or 98ft, which means you can leave them in your bag at the gym. The Bluetooth connection never cut out for me, whether I was on busy public transport or in the office with a lot of other people using Bluetooth devices.

The audio is clean, but not particularly immersive and the earphones perform much better in quiet environments. The Always Aware eartips made it impossible to drown out the music playing at my gym completely, but enough sound was blocked that I could get into the zone with my own music.

Podcasts were much harder to listen to. Unless I was in an almost silent environment, I could barely hear any of the podcasts I listened to.

I had similar issues while making phone calls. I used them in loud public spaces and my quiet apartment, and in both environments, I ended up disconnecting the earbuds entirely in favour of using my iPhone speakers. They were fine for a quick chat in a quiet location but left a lot to be desired for long conversations or anywhere with ambient noise or wind.

The 3150s have 13.5 mm drivers and three balance options for you to choose from using the BackBeat app:

  • PLT Signature Balanced. Balances lows, mids and highs across multiple genres of music.
  • Bass. Boosts low frequencies for rhythmic music.
  • Bright. Boosts treble frequencies to enhance detail and clarity of music, podcasts and audiobooks.

There was a noticeable difference between the three settings and I switched frequently depending on what I was listening to using the BackBeat app.

Close up of the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 earphones

App connectivity

I connected to the BackBeat app with no problems during the initial set-up, but when I tried to connect to the app later I had a lot of difficulties. At times I wasn't able to connect the earphones to the app at all, while other times I was able to connect by turning them off and on again (repeatedly) or hard rebooting the case. I had no problems connecting the headphones to my phone or other people's phones to listen to audio, just issues with the app.

When the BackBeat app is working, it's straightforward. A "My Tap" feature allows you to customise the tap settings of your left earbud. However, to enable it, you have to disable the volume controls on your left headphone.

Tap options allow you to engage Siri, a timer, a clock, a stopwatch, Spotify playlists, Apple Music playlists, Deezer playlists, EQ balance settings and check the headset battery status.

To play Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer playlists, you have to log in to your music account and choose a playlist to be your default playlist. All of the settings were straightforward and when I changed the settings in the app, the earphones adjusted instantly.

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Battery

  • 24 hours total battery life
  • Came fully charged
  • Quick 15 minute charge gives you 1.5 more hours of life
  • MicroUSB charging cable

The most significant improvement over the BackBeat Fit 3100 is in battery life. While the 3100 only offers 15 hours of battery (5 hours of charge, plus an additional 10 hours of power in the charging case), the 3150 boasts an impressive 24 hours of power.

As I mentioned, the earphones and case both came fully charged. The earphones offer up to 8 hours of listening on a single charge, and the charging case holds an extra 16 hours of power. I used them every day during my commute and workouts and didn't have to recharge for more than a week.

Close up of the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 earphones

It takes around two hours to recharge fully, but if you run out of power and need to recharge quickly, you can get up to 1.5 hours of life from a quick 15-minute charge.

It's easy to keep track of the battery life of the headphones. Every time you turn them on, you're greeted with a readout of your battery life. Also, you can test the battery life of the case by holding down the centre button and watching up to four lights light up.

The case is charged with an included MicroUSB. The cord is extremely short, so it fits in the small case without bending. If you prefer a longer charging cord, you'll need to use one you have from another device or buy one.

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BackBeat FIT 3150 vs BackBeat FIT 3200

The BackBeat FIT 3150 and 3200 models are very similar. Both are built for fitness enthusiasts and both are available for the same price of RRP $249.

The biggest difference between the two models is the ear tips. While the 3150s have Always Aware ear tips that let in outside sound for the safety-conscious user, the 3200s have noise-isolating ear tips for immersive listening. This means the 3200s have improved sound quality, but won't be as comfortable for users who don't like ear tips that fit snugly in the ear. There is an "Awareness" mode option that lets you hear more of your surroundings, but it drains the battery of the earbuds much more quickly.

So which is better? Ultimately, it comes down to two things:

  1. Would you rather be able to:
    • A. Hear your surroundings while you wear your headphones?
    • B. Block out everything except what you're listening to?
  2. Do you prefer:
    • A. One-size fits all earbuds that sit more loosely in your ears?
    • B. Snug, customisable in-ear ear tips?

If you chose "A" for both questions, go with the 3150s. If you chose "B" for both questions, the 3200s are for you.

If you chose a mix of "A" and "B", we recommend trying on both pairs to see how comfortable they are for your ears.

Should you buy them?

  • Excellent grip suits rigorous workouts
  • Decent battery life
  • Not for those who want to drown out all noise

Exceptional comfort, non-slip ear loops, long-lasting battery life and durability make the BackBeat FIT 3150s a competitive option in the sports headphones market. If you're a fitness enthusiast who wants to stay aware of your surroundings while working out, the 3150s are one of the best options out there.

However, if you prefer noise-cancelling headphones or plan to use your headphones regularly to make phone calls, you should look at other options.

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Specifications

Product name
Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0 with 30m wireless range
Listen time on a single charge
Up to 8 hours
Charging case battery
Up to 16 hours
Quick charge
Up to 1.5 hours of listening with a 15-minute quick charge
Price
SRP $249
Waterproofing
IP57-certified waterproof in fresh water up to 1 metre for 30 minutes
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Images: Sarah Brandon

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