Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100: AirPods for runners

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True wireless, with a BackBeat Fit slant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics is releasing five new headphones ahead of the holiday buying season, including its first true wireless earphones, the BackBeat Fit 3100 ($150).

It has the same drivers, features and “open” design of the new BackBeat Fit 2100, but there’s no cord between the earbuds, and that should get fans of Plantronics’ original BackBeat Fit Wireless excited.

Like that model and the new BackBeat Fit 2100, the Backbeat Fit 3100’s eartips aren’t designed to completely seal out the outside world. Rather, these are designed to let some ambient noise in, so you can hear traffic if you’re running or biking with them outside. Look closely and you’ll see they resemble standard hard buds, with a firm silicon covering that has a little loop on it to help keep them in your ears.

Though they sound decent enough, they don’t have much bass, don’t deliver the clearest sound and aren’t suited to noisy environments, because they let too much sound in (as do Apple’s AirPods ($145 at Amazon.com)). But they should be appealing to runners.

The left earpiece has touch-sensitive controls for volume. You tap on the outside of the left earpiece to raise volume, and touch and hold to lower it, which works well.

On the right earpiece you’ll find a physical button that you press and hold to turn on the earphones (or turn them off). Pressing the button once pauses your music, double tapping advances a track forward and triple tapping skips a track back. It’s definitely an improvement on the original BackBeat Fit Wireless in this regard.

The earphones have the same open eartips as the original BackBat Fit Wireless.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The new My Tap feature allows you to create a custom shortcut through the BackBeat phone app to, say, start a stopwatch or select your favorite playlist directly from the earphones.

While the charging case isn’t as compact as the AirPods‘ or Jabra Elite 65t, it’s well designed and it’s easy to get the earphones into the case. Battery life is rated at “up to 5 hours” and the case delivers two extra charges.

We’re still confirming how reliable the Bluetooth connection is in a variety of environments, so I’m going to spend some more time with the BackBeat Fit 3100 before posting my full review. In the meantime, here are its key specs, from Plantronics:

  • 13.5mm drivers
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • IP57-rated durable (sweatproof and waterproof)
  • Soft, flexible and secure-fit earloops offer comfort and stability
  • Up to 5 hours of wireless listening between charges
  • Soft-shell charging case stores your earbuds and offers up to 10 additional hours of power between charges
  • New customizable My Tap feature
  • Hear your surroundings with Always Aware eartips for safer training in any environment
  • One contact-sensitive button for all your controls
  • Two colors: graphite and bone
  • Price: $150 (we’ll add pricing for other countries when we get it)

The left earpiece has touch controls.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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