MWC hasn’t even officially started, but Plantronics(s plt) has already taken the wraps off of two new Bluetooth headsets. The BackBeat Fit is a gym-focused stereo headset with an armband that turns into a carrying case, and the Voyager Edge is a trimmer, more stylish take on the company’s popular Voyager Legend earpiece. I was able to spend a little time listening to both and liked what I heard.
A sleek headset for daily wear
If you’re familiar with the Voyager line, the long microphone on the Voyager Edge should come as no surprise to you. Plantronics didn’t want to give that up, because it claims the closer the mic is to your mouth, the better the call quality. Instead, what the company did was significantly pare down the size of its previous Voyager headsets into something that’s a lot more stylish and ready-to-wear (it comes in either black, white or a surprisingly attractive grey).
Whereas the Voyager Legend is designed for professionals that need to wear a headset all day long, the Voyager Edge is a device you’re more likely to slip and on off throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it for extended periods, though – even without looping over your ear, I found the Legend to be extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear. And it has enough battery to last all day. The headset itself offers 6 hours of battery life, and it comes with a portable charging case that tops off the battery, adding up to 10 additional hours of talk time.
Call quality was excellent for both incoming and outgoing calls placed with the headset. That long mic really does make it easier for others to hear you clearly, though on my end I was able to detect a sound akin to cable thump when the mic sometimes scratched against my beard. I only noticed this when I was wearing the headset but wasn’t on a call or listening to music.
Sensors in the headset know whether or not you’re wearing it, and will automatically route calls to either your phone or the headset automatically. When you receive a call, if you’re not wearing the headset, it will automatically answer as soon as you place it on your ear. Plantronics is also working on an iOS(s aapl) app that will help you locate a missing headset by showing you where it was last used on a map and playing a tone through it.
A practical but stylish headset for the gym
I also really like the BackBeat Fit, Plantronics’ first real entry into the sports headphones category (though I suppose you could make the case for earlier BackBeat models). Geared towards a more active user, the BackBeat Fit is protected by a weather and sweat-resistant nano-coating. And the back of the headset is coated in a reflective material, which makes you easier to spot when exercising at night.
The wireless headset loops over your ears, because, according to Plantronics, this is the way to get the most stable fit possible. In addition to this, the earbuds don’t actually enter your ear canals, blocking off outside sound. Plantronics says this is so users will still have a sense of what’s going on around them, at least from an auditory perspective – which is especially important for those that bike or run on the street.
The headset is extremely comfortable to wear, though it does require a little bit of finesse to get those loops over your ears (still, it’s a small price to pay for a stable fit). Sound quality was great over the mid-range and high-end, though I wouldn’t mind slightly more bass response.
The BackBeat Fit lasts for up to eight hours on one charge, which should be good for one week’s worth of workouts (or in my case, two). And like all Plantronics headsets, it has a built-in microphone that allows you to take calls from your phone. Call quality is solid – though not as good as a dedicated device like the Voyager Edge.
Another thing I really like about the BackBeat Fit is that it comes with a convertible armband/carrying case. The headset is totally flexible (as you can see in the image above), so you can just roll it up and throw it in the case when you’re not using it. But when you get to the gym you can flip the case inside out, strap it to your arm, and carry your smartphone inside it. And it’s actually a really nice, stylish armband that matches either the blue or electric green color of the headset.
Both the BackBeat Fit and the Voyager Edge fulfill two completely different needs, but judging by my first impressions, they should make a lot of users happy. Both headsets cost $129.99 each and will be available in April.