Plantronics introduced several audio devices at the show IFA 2019. The list included 3 pairs of True Wireless headphones, as well as a circum-aural headset specially designed for athletes, the BackBeat Fit 6100. A rather original choice because in general, headphones are preferred for sports.
But before getting into the heart of the subject, know that the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 is available in three colors (black, green or gray camo) and that it is marketed 170 €, the same price as the BackBeat Pro 2 currently.
A cheap finish but a good comfort
The first thing you see when you take the BackBeat Fit 6100 out of the box is its sporty design. First, the hoop is covered with a perforated matte fabric reminiscent of sweat-wicking clothing worn by athletes. A relief line is also felt under the fingers while handling the helmet. Our test specimen is black, so it is quite discreet to be used outside the gym, it will probably be less the case with other colors.
What surprised us most with the BackBeat Fit 6100 is without a doubt the white cord running through the arch. Its purpose is to allow the user to tighten or loosen the helmet. Two highly visible attachment points have been implanted for this purpose. However, we did not notice a significant change even if we physically see the helmet stiffen or relax playing with the cord. In addition, one of the attachment points out of the slice of the arch, almost believing a manufacturing error, and the cord gives a side a little "cheap" to the helmet.
The inner part of the arch is in turn imitation leather. It is also perforated to facilitate the evacuation of perspiration and is marked by cells. By twisting the helmet, it feels like playing with a polyester plate, which does not give us confidence for its life. Especially as the helmet squeaks when you adjust it … and when you run! In fact, the finish of this helmet is not the cleanest, the hoop is hard, not padded at all, and the thin metal rods that serve as hinges to the atria do not help, even if they do not fit. do not move an inch when you try to twist them in reality. The finish of this helmet makes us think of racing cars that are stripped of seats and other accessories to lighten them to the maximum.
Surprising as it may seem, the BackBeat Fit 6100 is very comfortable to wear, you feel almost no pressure on the ears and it remains pretty much in place on the head, whatever the physical effort performed. The helmet moves a little, but never slip. Also, it can be enlarged considerably to fit a maximum of morphologies and can be folded to facilitate its transport.
Ergonomics and successful orders
Whatever you say about the finish of the BackBeat Fit 6100, the ergonomics are quite successful on the other hand. Besides, the device resumes the excellent Sony WH-1000XM3 its system of gesture touch controls. The latter is intuitive and effective: a tap allows to put in Play / Pause, a sliding forward or back to pass a piece or return to the previous one and a sliding up or down to increase or decrease volume. Finally, by keeping your finger pressed, you trigger the voice assistant of the phone.
This is for basic commands, because Plantronics allows you to customize up to 2 additional commands through its BackBeat mobile application, commands accessible via a small physical button on the back of the right atrium. It is a bit hard to find at first but you get used to it. You can ask for the battery level of the headphones, the time, trigger the voice assistant (no need for a shot …), start a Deezer / Spotify playlist or even activate a timer or stopwatch (much more useful for sportsmen).
On the right atrium, there is finally the button to turn on and pair the Bluetooth headset and a micro-USB jack, placed under a cache complicated enough to remove. A security no doubt related to the IPX5 certification of the helmet against water and perspiration, mandatory certification in our opinion for sports audio products. We regret, however, the lack of USB-C and port jack to use the wired headset, but the brand still provides a USB to jack adapter to overcome this.
The application also allows you to change your musical profile (balanced, highlighting highs or lows) and activate the Awareness mode. The latter turns on the mics of the headphones to make the outside noises audible, again like at Sony. The system works and can be useful for those who run in the street, but note that the headset is relatively open, even without this mode anyway less effective at high volume listening. Moreover, it will probably not please your office colleagues or people nearby because the insulation is very light.
It will also be necessary to ignore the active noise reduction. A feature that could have been useful for indoor sports (those who run in an urban environment will see no harm on the other hand). Finally, given that the helmet seems very specialized, we would have appreciated that Plantronics incorporates more features specific to physical activities such as a step counter and other statistical tools.
A stable connection
If you put aside its micro-USB port from another time, the BackBeat Fit 6100 is a relatively modern headset. In terms of connection, it takes advantage of Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the AAC audio codec in addition to the SBC, offering a higher throughput. The set is quite stable and the reception distance is very wide, which allows to leave his smartphone away from you in a gym without being bothered by untimely cuts. As for video latency, it is imperceptible. Note also the presence of multipoint, which is significant when you connect your headset to several sound sources such as a smartphone and a PC.
Audio rendering … enough for the sport
As for the audio quality, the BackBeat Fit 6100 is far from great, but it will be enough for athletes just wanting to take care during their exercises. By default, it offers a balanced, relatively flat even. While this will please some, we note a lack of definition and a lack of precision in the high and low frequencies.
The frequency response is also rather limited. Bass starts really at 40 Hz and treble become imperceptible at 16 000 Hz, giving a global rendering that lacks richness and detail. The maximum volume is also quite low which is not practical in some situations due to the low insulation of the helmet. More annoying still, sometimes we perceive a slight breath, even a sizzle in the background that can become annoying on the silences and the compositions more "calm".
The mediums are well put forward, just like the voices. Without being so narrow, the sound scene also seems quite compact, but the separation of the instruments remains correct. Overall rendering is much better however when you listen to music based on synthetic instruments.
The application nevertheless allows to rectify a little shooting by letting the user opt for two musical profiles boosting bass or treble. We advise you to opt for the profile improving the bass, if you are not comfortable with this type of settings. In reality, the best option remains for us to use a finer equalization. Once the bass is high you can also treble for a more colorful sound to gain amplitude and clarity. Once the headset set, we managed to significantly improve the rendering, without miracles either.
The 500 mAh battery takes almost 2 hours to fully charge, which ensures a little over 20 hours of use. It's okay, even if many headsets at this price level (or cheaper) now reach 30h, you can at least recover quickly from the battery since 15 minutes of charge with a smartphone sector block can listen to the music for 6 hours.
From a price point of view, the Fit 6100 Backbeat is already poorly positioned within the Plantronics family. It happens to be more expensive than the Go 810 Backbeat which nevertheless benefits from the active noise reduction and similar comfort. The Backbeat Pro 2, the great reference of Plantronics, is currently 170 €, the recommended retail price for the Backbeat Fit 6100, and the BackBeat Pro first generation is even cheaper. For us, it is better investments at all levels, or almost: it is not made for the sport, which is still the specialty of the Fit 6100, certainly. But in this regard, it is better, in our opinion, turn to headphones, especially True Wireless.
Even though they are less autonomous, they are lighter and some offer better audio quality. We can mention the Jabra Elite Active 65T, our favorite in this price range, or the Liberty Air Anker Soundcore which is also resistant to perspiration and will save you money. On the other hand, one must be able to tolerate the intra-auricular ones. If you're one of those who can not wear it, this is where this headset can be a great option, and one of the only alternatives anyway …
The BackBeat Fit 6100 is a headphone recommendable to an athlete who does not support ear-phones: it is comfortable, fits well on the head and easily adapts to several morphologies. The specifications to create a nice headphone to wear when you play sports is filled (it's not a small deal). However, it has serious shortcomings aside, and is far too expensive for our taste. If you support in-ear, the question does not arise, you should clearly opt for the Jabra Elite Active 65T or Anker SoundCore Liberty Air, and if your sport is only occasional, you can opt for a pair button-type headphones, less intrusive, or even Apple AirPods.