Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 + Charging Case stereo Bluetooth headset review: A stereo Bluetooth headset done right

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The Good The lightweight, reasonably priced Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 wireless stereo headset improves upon the Go 1, with better sound quality and a sweatproof design, The step-up BackBeat Go 2 + Charging Case includes a protective case that has a built-in battery for charging on the go.

The Bad Battery life isn't great (4.5 hours), so the inclusion of the Charging Case is an important extra.

The Bottom Line The inclusion of a charging case as part of this bundle helps the excellent Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 overcome its one serious weakness: short battery life.

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

When I reviewed the original Plantronics BackBeat Go stereo Bluetooth headset back in 2012, I said it was easy to see how the product could be improved and that the next version of the BackBeat Go would be better and easier to recommend for what it cost ($79.99).

Well, I'm happy to report that with the BackBeat Go 2 Plantronics has fixed most -- though not all -- of the small flaws found in the original, and indeed, it is easier to recommend at its $79.99 price point.

Alas, the engineers didn't improve the so-so battery life (4.5 hours), but Plantronics is offering a battery extension solution in the form of a bundle that includes a charging case (BackBeat Go + Charging Case), so you can juice up on the go. If you already have an external battery charger for your phone, the $20 extra you'll spending for the charging case may not be worth it, but for a lot of folks it will be.

Design and features
This model looks very similar to the original BackBeat Go, which remains one of the smallest and lightest stereo Bluetooth headsets out there, featuring two slightly oversize earbuds joined by a flat, fettuccine wire that's designed to cut down on tangles. That said, Plantronics has made a few small changes to the design. For starters, the inline remote/microphone has been tweaked so the buttons are easier to operate by feel.

The headset has a cord between the two earpieces but the connection to your Bluetooth-enabled device is wireless. Sarah Tew/CNET

A closer look at those buttons reveals that the middle button serves as a call/answer end button, redial button, and it pauses your music during playback. The volume buttons do double duty as skip track forward/back buttons (you have to hold the volume up button down for a second to advance a track and hold the volume down button a second to restart a track).

It's also worth noting that after you pair the headset with your Bluetooth-enabled device once, it will remember the device and automatically pair with it. With Bluetooth activated on your device, you just have to hold down the call/answer end button for a second to turn the headphones on and they'll automatically pair after that. However, be sure not to hold the button down too long or the headphones will go into setup mode (for a new device) and won't automatically pair with the device you've already set up.

The inline remote/microphone has been redesigned. Sarah Tew/CNET

That may all sound a little complicated, but it isn't, and voice prompts alert you when the headset is on, when it's connected, and how full the battery is. A small, more accurate battery-life indicator for the headset is also displayed toward the top of the screen on iOS devices, though not Android phones.

One small change a lot of people won't notice is that Plantronics made the little LED on the earpiece brighter, so you can see it better now. It was hard to tell if the headset was charging because the LED was so faint, but now it's clearly visible (it changes from red to blue when the battery is fully charged).

The Go 2 also is available in white. Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the tweaks to the inline remote/microphone and LED, the other notable difference is that the earphones are now covered in a coating of P2i moisture-protection technology that makes them water-resistant, so you can sweat on them while you're working out or take them outside when it's raining. In the 10 days or so I used them, they seem to be pretty durable, but they're certainly not indestructible.

The final new feature addition is "DeepSleep hibernation mode," which allows the headset to hold a charge for up to six months, so you don't have to worry about the battery draining if you don't use them for a few weeks. How long that battery will last in the long run, I can't tell you, but it will eventually wear out and not take a charge, like all lithium batteries.

The USB charging port is hidden in the right earpiece. Sarah Tew/CNET

The other changes are on the inside. Plantronics says this model is equipped with a 6mm third-generation speaker that's an improvement upon the first-gen 6mm speaker in the original BackBeat Go. I could definitely hear the difference. The headphones now play louder and sound better, though it's crucial to get a tight seal or you can end up losing a good deal of bass.

As with all in-ear headphones, some people will be able to get a better -- and more comfortable -- fit than others. I thought the earphones were pretty comfortable and didn't have a problem wearing them during my daily 30-minute commute to work. I was able to get a tight seal with the large ear tips and easily paired the headphone with both an iPhone 4S and a Samsung Galaxy S4, streaming music wirelessly from both devices with only minor hiccups. To be clear, while there's a cord that goes between the earpieces, these earphones don't plug into anything; they're indeed wireless and you can make calls with them.

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