- Powerful bass-forward audio performance.
- Easy-to-operate toch controls.
- Water-resistant design.
- Secure fit.
- Faint mic signal.
- EQ presets are pretty extreme.
PLANTRONICS BACKBEAT FIT 6100 SPECS
We see far fewer over-ear Bluetooth headphones for exercise than we do in-ear—both true wireless and neckband-style models dominate this category. But some people prefer comfy, secure over-ears at the gym, and Plantronics has this group covered. The $179.99 BackBeat Fit 6100 headphones have a somewhat sporty look and a sweat-resistant build. There are three EQ modes, two of which pack serious bass depth. There’s not a whole lot to complain about here, though the app could use a little more control, like adjustable EQ instead of three pretty extreme presets. For the price, however, the headphones deliver a secure fit and powerful, bass-forward audio that will appeal to those who prefer an over-ear fit for exercise.
Available in black, camo, or gray models, the headphones feature comfortable memory foam earcups that passively block out surrounding noise. The earcup’s outer panels are a matte plastic with touch-sensitive controls, and the headband is lined with a sweatproof leather-like material. An IPX5 rating means they can withstand splashes, but they can’t be submerged or subjected to powerful water pressure, so cleaning them with a moist cloth is a better idea than running them under the faucet.
A touch-sensitive control panel on the outer panel of the right earcup has a central button for play/pause/call management. Swiping up or down adjusts volume, and swiping forward or back handles track navigation. The controls are quite responsive, and we had no issues using them with wet fingertips, so sweaty exercise isn’t a problem.
Also on the right earcup, there’s a power/Bluetooth switch, and a physical button for the ambient mic feature, which allows you to hear your surroundings without removing the headphones. A snapshot cover protects the micro USB port for the included charging cable. An audio cable for passive listening is also included—it connects to the same micro USB port; it can be used with the power on, as well.
The headband features an interesting extra we haven’t seen before—there’s an elastic band that can be pulled to tighten the headband a bit—it fastens onto a latch to maintain tension.
The Plantronics BackBeat app has some useful extra features, like Find My Headset for misplaced headphones, or assigning a specific task to a single or a double tap, like playing a specific playlist, activating your phone’s voice assistant, or starting a timer or stopwatch for exercise. Beyond that, the app also updates the firmware for your headphones, and there are three EQ modes you can switch between—Balanced, Bright, or Bass, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Plantronics estimates battery life to be roughly 24 hours, but your results will vary based on your volume levels.
Internally, the earcups house 40mm drivers delivering a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz. The three EQ modes—Balanced, Bright, and Bass—offer a fairly limited range of adjustment, with no ability to custom tune them at all. For testing, we stuck with Balanced to give you the best idea of what the baseline sound signature is, but obviously you can boost the lows or make things brighter and less bass-heavy by employing either of the other two modes. We found that the Bass mode sounds borderline ridiculous, especially on music that doesn’t have much deep bass in it. Bright mode still delivers some reasonable bass, but you get a little more sculpting and tweaking in the highs, which can make things sounder brighter, yes, but can also add sibilance or hiss in certain scenarios. Neither mode is particularly great.
In Balanced mode, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” there’s still plenty of bass depth. The lows on this track are thunderous, and don’t distort at top volume levels. At more reasonable volume levels, the lows still feel quite strong. In Bass mode, they sound insanely boosted.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the BackBeat Fit 6100’s general sound signature. In Balanced mode, the drums on this track still pack some low-frequency punch, but they aren’t over the top. Callahan’s baritone vocals have some pleasant low-mid richness to them that is balanced by the high-mids, giving the vocals a crisp edge. The guitar strums and higher-register percussive hits also have some brightness to them, but in Balanced mode, things seem more mids-focused than anything else. In Bright mode, the track is robbed of bass for the most part, and far too bright. In Bass mode, the drums become a thunderous mess.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness, but there’s more added thump to the drum loop than usual, even in Balanced mode. There’s also some sculpting in the highs that pushes the hiss and vinyl crackle forward in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat sound truly powerful here, and the vocals are delivered with solid clarity—they never seem to be doing battle with the lows, despite all the boosting and sculpting. This is a bass lover’s sound signature, for sure, but Plantronics manages to keep things relatively clear.
For orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lows sound a bit too booted in Balanced mode, so you can imagine how they sound in Bass mode. However, switching to Bright mode boosts the highs far too much and dials back the lows more than needed. So perhaps these headphones are simply better for modern pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronic music than they are for orchestral and jazz.
The mic offers mediocre intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but there were two issues. First, the typical Bluetooth fuzz distorts the mic a bit. More importantly, the mic signal is about as low as it gets—this may be the faintest signal we’ve heard on Bluetooth headphones.
The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 headphones deliver a very bass-forward experience for those who prefer over-ears to in-ears for exercise. Anyone seeking an accurate sound signature will want to look elsewhere, as the default mode is bass-forward, and the Bass and Bright presets are almost comically extreme. If you’re looking for a wireless exercise-friendly audio solution, but want something in-ear, consider the JBL UA True Wireless Flash or Jabra Elite Active 65t. Both are completey wire-free, priced within $20 of the BackBeat Fit 6100, and offer solid audio performance. But if you prefer an over-eat fit, you’ll likely find the positives of the BackBeat Fit 6100 outweigh the negatives. And if you’re looking to spend far less, consider the $100 Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500.