Plantronics BackBeat 500 review: Plantronics' BackBeat 500 is the budget Beats alternative

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The Good The Plantronics BackBeat 500 is an attractively designed, affordable on-ear wireless Bluetooth headphone that's fairly comfortable and sounds good for the money. It has good battery life at 18 hours, works decently as a headset, and comes with a carrying pouch.

The Bad Not as comfortable as the step-up BackBeat Sense; finishes on darker colored models are prone to showing scratches over time.

The Bottom Line Small drawbacks notwithstanding, the Plantronics BackBeat 500 Series raises the bar for entry-level on-ear wireless headphones.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

Plantronics' BackBeat 500 Series headphone is 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, gray and a dark gray that looks more like black -- and is relatively 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. Urbanears Plattan ADV Wireless runs $90 to $100.

The BackBeat 500 comes in three color options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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