The author of the review is Kamil Ściana
As recently as in May this year, I had the opportunity to test one of the flagship headphones from Plantronics, which quickly stole my heart and filled a gap that accompanied me in sports activities. Over time, it turned out that not only because the Backbeat Fit 3100 have become a companion of everyday wanderings among Mokotów office buildings. In the meantime, the company has introduced several new products – including subsequent generations for the 3100 and a sports over-ear model – 6100. However, among the new portfolio, Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 is the most eye-catching.
Let's start classically, from what we get out of the box. The company has already got used to the quite ascetic form in which they sell their products, so in a black box we will find nothing more than a neatly arranged charging case with headphones inside, a cable, 2 pairs of additional inserts and instructions. The headphones themselves seem really solid – there is no place for plastic-fantastik – the shiny coating on the outside, the metallic finish of the microphones and the intrathecal part of the headphones look simply great. In addition, the headphones themselves are incredibly light, because the pair weighs only 11.6 grams and during the tests I did not feel any discomfort, which in this type of models is not obvious. We get factory-made medium size earbuds that fit perfectly into my ear – so the small and large sizes didn't even need to be removed from the foil. The small charging case (which according to the manufacturer's specifications adds 13h of working time) also gives the impression of being very solid.
It would seem that the first step is successful, but I must pay attention to 2 elements that spoil the perfect picture. The first element, although for me to forgive, is the lack of USB-C in the case, which at such a price level (about $ 170) should already be standard. This is more understandable to me in close competition with the Jabra Elite 65t, whose price is around PLN 500. The second is the specific design of the in-ear devices, which makes it practically impossible to exchange them for inserts from other manufacturers
Okay, first look behind us – so we can proceed to pairing. The process of connecting headphones with even an iPhone XS is simple, painless and after a while you can start playing with the music. You can find songs on which I test headphones a link to Spotify.
In terms of comfort of use, the plus is the lack of characteristic pressure, which sometimes can be felt when using in-ear noses. Even a few hours session with 5100 did not cause unnecessary discomfort. It is also worth adding that the intrathecal design isolates the sounds of the surroundings quite well, although I would lie like I would say that the sounds of cars and conversations on the way to work are inaudible to me. It seems that getting used to the ANC with 1000MX has already slightly skewed me.
Turning to the sound qualities, my main surprise was that the 5100 is quieter than 3100, although the intrathecal design would indicate that they will be louder. At least, that you won't need to turn up the volume on your phone by about 85%, which in turn in the sports model is for me sufficient value in calm conditions (read: I do not have to jam the music in the gym). Bass is deeper in 5100, but I have the impression that the songs lose detail, especially in the treble. In turn, I can't fault the low tones. While the sound is generally at the correct level (although in my opinion 5100 sound worse than 3100), Plantronics is a big minus for the lack of any possibility of modifying audio profiles from the application level – even in the form of an equalizer. We have many functions strongly related to control (about which later), and there was no really basic equalizer that could affect the verdict.
We also have a question of conversations – during the tests of the headphones, I made a few calls in various environmental conditions – from a quiet home, through walks around Mordor on Domaniewska, to a crowded metro station – in all situations I heard my interlocutors loudly, clearly and on the other hand such an opinion. The WindSmart system and 4 microphones that filter the background noise are responsible for the quality of conversations, although in more difficult conditions (like the metro station mentioned) its effectiveness leaves a little more to be desired. Still, if we focus on everyday situations, I admit that the system works great – for me sufficient proof is the moment when the interlocutor is not able to determine whether I am using headphones or if I have a phone to my ear.
Of course, it wasn't without battery life tests. According to data from the BackBeat application, headphones should last about 6.5 hours. I checked it during a short trip to Paris, during which I started listening about 45 minutes before the start and ended after 2.5 hours of flight very often changing my favorite songs in the playlist. The battery status showed me still a 37% charge. It is therefore safe to concede that the manufacturer did not miss the actual performance of 5100.
Headphone control is a classic, which is known even from the Fit 3100 model – for switching songs or changing the volume level are responsible tactile glossy panels. I still maintain the opinion that this is not the most intuitive solution (although the most aesthetic), because even so far I could not change the volume correctly. The buttons react very gently to touch, and when traveling the streets I rather need some control. In case, however, if we would not want to use the volume change from the headphones anyway, you can use the Plantronics application to assign other functions to the buttons – eg to check the battery status with one "tap" or information at two hours. For a big plus, I also rate the function of pausing songs when removing any earpiece from the ear. Often I just need to say hello or hear something for a while – cool that you can forget about the extra click.
And that's how the BackBeat Pro 5100 looks. Headphones that I have to admit I have a big problem because I'm not able to fully assess their purpose. Rather, it is not a product that will be bought by people who aim at ANC and the sound coming out of their shoes (they will go in 1000MX or maybe even AirPodsy Pro), sports people will not be interested (here Plantronics already supplies) and ultimately they are a more expensive product than similar solutions competition (whether it is about the mentioned Jabra or even Samsung Galaxy Buds). 5100 I would compare to elegant shoes, which we put on for special occasions, and at which we turn a blind eye to certain shortcomings. However, the customer aware of the purchase will appreciate the economical and elegant design that really stands out from the background of various headphone monsters.
Dimensions that make the headphones very little visible, great conversation system and good battery life. Thus, I am patiently waiting for … the next generation. The addition of USB-C (although wireless charging) or equalizer and ANC will make the next in-ear headphones from the Pro family have the potential to become a market killer. For now, the first step has been made and I hope Plantronics will draw the right conclusions from it.
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