Plantronics has a reputation for making practical, ergonomic, and good-looking products, and the company’s latest Bluetooth earphones, the BackBeat Go 410, delivers on all those fronts. At $129.99, they offer wireless audio and ANC (active noise cancellation) combined with a host of thoughtful extra features—from a Smart Magnet that powers the earphones down when not in use to a charging cable that doubles as an audio cable for passive listening. The audio performance is bass-forward and quite sculpted, while the ANC is better than average. For the price, the feature-rich BackBeat Go 410 is a winner, but if ANC is your top priority, you may want to consider some alternatives we’ll discuss below.
Available in gray (Graphite) or off-white (Bone), the BackBeat Go 410’s collarband-style design sits at the base of the neck, with cabling connecting extending each earpiece from weighted end-pieces up to the ears. On the right-hand side, there’s an inline remote control and mic, and the earpiece’s inner portion is colored red for easy identification of the right channel. The eartips fit over an angled nozzle section that points toward the ear canal—there’s a part of the tip that enters the canal slightly, and a part that rests outside the canal for stability, with sizes of three eartip pairs in all. The earpieces’ back panels snap together magnetically for easier stowing inside the included, padded drawstring pouch.
Internally, the earphones employ 10mm drivers to deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz.
The inline remote has three buttons—a central multifunction control handles playback, power, and pairing, as well as call management and summoning Siri or Google Assistant, all depending on how long you hold it in for. The Plus/Minus buttons control volume, or, when held for two seconds, track forward or backward. I’m not a fan of combining the volume and track skipping on the same buttons—it’s far too easy to accidentally skip a track when you meant to adjust the volume.
Pressing the multifunction button and the Plus button together for two seconds activates the ANC, and pressing the multifunction button and the Minus button together for two seconds activates the Smart Magnet function—when the earphones are snapped together, the Bluetooth connection is cut, ANC is shut off, and the earphones immediately power down to conserve energy. But if you choose to deactivate this feature, then the magnets will serve only as magnets that snap the earpieces together and will not have any effect on these functions.
A snap-shut cover on the right-side end piece of the collarband protects a micro USB port for the included micro-USB-to-USB charging cable, which is of far more generous length than most charging cables for Bluetooth earphones. The USB end of the cable converts to a 3.5mm plug for wired listening through the earphones.
The mic offers average intelligibility—using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, I could understand every word I recorded, but there were the typical fuzzy artifacts associated with Bluetooth inline mics.
There’s a free Backbeat app that detects your earphone model and unlocks some features you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. In the case of the BackBeat Go 410, this includes a Find My Headset function for locating misplaced earphones, two EQ listening modes (“Bright” or “Bass”), and dual ANC modes (“High” or “Low”—more on those in the next section). It’s not essential to download the app, but it does give you a little more to play with, and it also helpfully displays how much battery life you have left.
Plantronics claims the BackBeat Go 410 can last about 8 hours on a charge, or 10 without ANC, but your results will vary with your volume levels. Utilizing the Smart Magnet feature is bound to save plenty of battery life, so if this is a concern, make sure it’s enabled.
The ANC modes, High and Low, correspond respectively to volume levels, not frequency ranges—and these descriptions refer to the loud noise you deal with on an airplane versus, say, a relatively quiet office with some chatter and keyboard clicks. You can switch between the modes in the app. In High mode, I found the ANC effectively tamped down air conditioning whir and fan noise, as well as loud low-frequency rumble like you might hear on an airplane or train. In Low mode, this rumble and the fan whir are not negated as effectively—my guess is most people will find the High mode to be ideal, even in an office setting, though Low mode still does eliminate some noise.
Both modes, unfortunately, add quite a bit of notable high-frequency hiss. It’s not an unpleasant sound (think tape hiss or white noise at a very low level), but it’s a common masking agent used in less effective noise-cancellation circuitry. If these were extremely expensive earphones, this would be a knock, but for $130, the ANC is actually quite impressive, even with the hiss. I also didn’t notice any major change to the audio performance with the ANC enabled—something I unfortunately don’t always see when ANC and Bluetooth are combined in the same product.
One gripe is the two EQ modes; I would have preferred to have a third (“Off”). Between “Bright” and “Bass,” you have two pretty unnatural-sounding listening modes. The bass depth is undeniably powerful, especially in Bass mode. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the thump is intense and at high volumes, there is no distortion. But in Bass mode, the highs seem to disappear a bit and the audio is less crisp. In Bright mode, the sound is brighter than necessary and the powerful bass depth is dialed back. A combo of these two would be ideal, with a little less sculpting. As is, I imagine most listeners will prefer the better bass depth in Bass mode—but it isn’t terribly crisp.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the BackBeat Go 410’s general sound signature. The drums are almost thunderous in Bass mode, but less so in Bright. Callahan’s baritone vocals get some low-mid richness and enough high-mid treble edge to keep them crisp. The higher register percussive hits and acoustic strums also receive enough high-frequency presence to shine, but this is definitely still a bass-weighted sound signature.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence in Bass mode to retain its punchy presence, but it’s not as crisp as I typically hear on this track. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with gusto—this is a subwoofer-like response for those who want big bass. Since the drivers are so capable, it’s a shame that there’s not a user-adjustable EQ in the app to dial in your preferred sound signature.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound more natural in Bright mode, though some listeners will enjoy the boosted presence given to the lower register instrumentation in Bass mode. Neither of the modes offers a terribly accurate picture of the audio on this track, but they also aren’t unnatural to a fault—this is just a very sculpted sound signature no matter what mode you choose.
If you love big bass response, the BackBeat Go 410 is not going to disappoint. If you’re someone who likes to dial in your own EQ settings in an app, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Still, the BackBeat Go 410 delivers a powerful listening experience and better-than-average ANC for the price. In all, these are quite useful, well-designed earphones with some nifty features, including the Smart Magnet feature. As for in-ear ANC, we’ve also liked the Jabra Elite 65e and the wired Libratone Q Adapt Lightning, which are both Editors’ Choice winners. But the best in-ear ANC remains the more expensive Bose QuietControl 30. For $130, however, there’s plenty to like about the BackBeat Go 410—it’s a solid Bluetooth ANC set for travel or the office.