- Powerful, bass-heavy sound signature.
- Excellent fit stability.
- Waterproof, dust-resistant build.
- On-ear controls are divided up oddly.
- No user-adjustable EQ, only presets.
When we reviewed the BackBeat Fit 3100 earphones from Plantronics last year, we found one major thing lacking: Bass. That certainly isn’t the case with the BackBeat Fit 3200, an update to last year’s model. For the same $149.99, they again feature a stable fit and a waterproof design ideal for working out, but the bass has been pumped up considerably. The earphones join a crowded field of exercise-focused true wireless options, and are one of the better models in this price range for deep bass lovers who need a waterproof build.
Available in black or teal models, the BackBeat Fit 3200’s earpieces have built-in ear hooks that make them ideal for exercise—they will stay in place even during rigorous workouts. There are three included pairs of eartips in all; two of the pairs have earfin pieces attached to them for extra fit security, and one pair has a protruding section that is smaller and less fin-like, but still adds stability. The earpieces have an IP57 rating, meaning they can be submerged up to a meter and washed off under a faucet without issue. The charging case, however is not waterproof, so you shouldn’t place wet earphones inside of it.
The outer panels of the earpieces are metallic green clickable surfaces, with controls divided between the left and right ears. One click of the right earpiece controls playback, a double click skips forward a track, three clicks moves backward a track, and clicking and holding summons your phone’s voice assistant. The left earpiece only controls volume—one quick tap raises the volume, while tapping and holding lowers it. We haven’t seen controls divided up like this before, and the approach to volume seems a bit counterintuitive.
The earpieces automatically power up when taken out of the charging case, and they can be powered up and down manually by clicking and holding both outer panel buttons for two seconds (to power up) or four seconds (to power down).
The charging case resembles more of a carrying pouch than a case, with its zip-shut lid. What might be the shortest charging cable we’ve ever seen connects to the micro USB port on the back of the case. Inside, there’s a small pocket for the charging cable, and of course, the charging docks for the earpieces. There’s also a Power On button that prevents the case from turning on and wasting battery.
The Plantronics BackBeat app allows you to customize some controls on the BackBeat Fit 3200, assigning a variety of tasks (like enabling a stopwatch or playing a Spotify playlist) to one or two taps, but enabling these functions disables the volume controls on the left ear. The app has three EQ modes to choose between—Balanced, Bass Boost, and Bright—which we’ll discuss in the next section. It’s a bummer there are no user-adjustable EQs, only presets. You can also switch Awareness mode on or off in the app—it allows you to hear your surroundings without removing the earpieces, and dims the music volume levels during playback. The app is also essential for downloading firmware updates.
Plantronics estimates battery life for the BackBeat Fit 3200 to be roughly 8 hours, with 16 additional hours stored in the charging case. Your results will vary with your volume levels.
Internally, each earpiece employs a 13.5mm driver delivering a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz. We tested most of our tracks in Balanced mode—Bass mode provides some serious added depth, and Bright mode brings up the treble a bit, as you’d expect, but all modes provide substantial bass. Even in Balanced mode, the lows are powerful, and on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the drivers deliver seriously intense low-frequency response. At top, unwise listening levels, the bass doesn’t distort, and at more moderate levels, the lows are still notably boosted.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the BackBeat Fit 3200’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get some serious added bass depth, taking them to near-thunderous territory even in Balanced mode. (In Bass mode, the balance of the mix is thrown far off.) Callahan’s vocals receive a pleasant low-mid richness matched with enough high-mid presence to keep things reasonably defined. The acoustic strums and higher percussive hits get enough high-mid and high-frequency presence to sound relatively balanced, but this is not a terribly accurate sound signature.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives less high-mid presence than we typically hear, which dulls the attack somewhat. In place of it, the loop’s sustain gets beefed up in the lows, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with serious depth. The vocals on this track are delivered with reasonable clarity—there’s no added sibilance—but they could benefit from some boosting or sculpting in the high-mids and highs.
The subtle, but exceptionally deep sub-bass on the Panda Bear track “Dolphins,” also showcases the BackBeat Fit 3200’s drivers. This is a sound signature geared toward bass lovers, and those who prefer a flatter response will not find much solace in Bright mode, which still packs some notable low-frequency punch.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get far too much added bass depth to sound natural—there’s no mode that works for accurate lows when it comes to classical or jazz. It doesn’t sound awful, but the lower-register instrumentation steps well beyond its supporting role and becomes one of the more noticeable aspects of the mix.
The mic offers so-so intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but the audio was fuzzy, as is typical with Bluetooth in-ear mics, and the mic signal could be a little stronger, as well.
If you’re looking for accurate audio performance, consider the $170 RHA TrueConnect, true wireless earphones far more focused on a balanced sound signature than a gym-friendly design. If you like the idea of a bass-forward sound signature, however, we can also recommend checking out the $170 JBL UA True Wireless Flash, the $180 Jaybird Vista, and the $190 Jabra Elite Active 65t, all of which have varying degrees of water resistance. And if you love seriously deep bass and don’t mind the lack of user-adjustable EQ, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 3200 earphones bring the thunder in a waterproof design that’s ideal for tough workouts, and are slightly more affordable than any of the options listed above.