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I got an early review sample of Plantronics' new BackBeat 500 Series headphone, a Bluetooth on-ear model that's attractively designed and priced at a relatively modest $80, £100 or AU$120. It comes in three colors -- white, grey and dark grey that looks more like black -- and is comfortable for an on-ear headphone.
Plantronics isn't doing anything too groundbreaking here, particularly from a design standpoint -- there are other models, such as the Jays u-Jays, that look very similar. But the difference is that the Jays headphone goes for $120 on Amazon while this Plantronics costs $40 less.
Usually Bluetooth headphones in the sub-$100 range suffer from mediocre sound quality. But I was pleasantly surprised that the BackBeat 500 sounds as good as it does for the price. It's not in the league of over-ear models like Plantronics' own BackBeat Pro 2, but it's a pretty well-balanced headphone with decent detail and relatively punchy, meaty bass (there's a touch of bass push). It clearly seems designed to compete with Beats' Solo3 Wireless, which lists for $300 but costs around $220 online.
The Beats offers best-in-class battery life (40 hours), but the Plantronics BackBeat 500 comes in with a solid 18 hours at moderate volume levels.
I've made a few calls with the headphone and while its headset performance isn't as good as the BackBeat Sense or BackBeat Pro 2, it's decent for an entry-level Bluetooth headphone with a single microphone and no noise-cancelling capabilities. In other words, it'll work well in quieter environments but don't expect it to filter out the wind or street noise.
I'll have a full rated review in the coming days. In the meantime, have a look at the BackBeat 500 Series' key features, according to Plantronics: