Back Bay FirstClass 70 review: budget buds that beat the big…

Back bay FirstClass 70 in front of the charging case.

Back Bay FirstClass 70

MSRP $55.00

“The Back Bay FirstClass 70 sounds as good as wireless earbuds that cost almost twice as much.”

Pros

  • very affordable

  • comfortable fit

  • big, bold sound

  • very effective noise cancellation

  • good transparency mode

Shortcoming

  • medium battery life

  • Many facilities missing

  • no companion app

We’re well into the second era of wireless earbuds, where new features are constantly added, including spatial audio, head tracking, fitness tracking, and more. But what if you want a set of wireless earbuds that offer great sound and noise cancellation without any extra frills and at a reasonable price?

If you check out our list of the best headphones and earbuds under $100, you’ll find plenty of headphones that fit the bill. But even among this collection of products, Back Bay’s new FirstClass 70 Wireless Earbuds stand out. I have spent the last three weeks with him. And while they lack a lot of bells and whistles – in fact they lack almost all the bells and whistles – I keep catching them as soon as I walk out the door. here’s why.

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Design

In the Back Bay FirstClass 70 case, open the lid.
Simon Cohen/

Henry Ford would be proud: You can order the FirstClass 70 in any color, as long as it’s black. And, like the first Ford car that changed transportation forever, the FirstClass 70 is a statement in utility. They’re IPX5-rated for water resistance – enough to keep them safe from everything from swimming in the toilet to bathing. Their simple, stem-based shape makes them look like a million other wireless earbuds (they remind me of JLab’s Epic Air series), and their charging case is similarly free of decoration.

It has a clamshell design that gives you easy access to the earbuds. The magnets in the charging socket are strong enough to keep the earbuds in place and they align easily when you pop them back in.

Charging is done via the included USB-C cable – there’s no wireless charging.

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Comfort, control and connection

Simon Cohen is wearing a Back Bay FirstClass 70.
Simon Cohen/

The biggest advantage of the stem-shaped design is that it is more comfortable for more people. (It’s no coincidence that all of Apple’s AirPods are shaped similarly.) If you’ve found the stem design to be comfortable in the past, you’ll probably find that the FirstClass 70 are comfortable too. I am able to wear them for hours without any complaints.

The back bays include four sizes of silicone eartips to help get a good fit. Generally, I would recommend going with whatever feels comfortable. But I’ve found that with Back Bay earbuds, the sound quality can be significantly affected by the eartips you choose. Be willing to try another size, even if the default medium seems fine.

Back Bay FirstClass 70 with accessories.
Simon Cohen/

The touch controls on the FirstClass 70 work well. The touch surface (the circle at the top of the earbud) is easy to locate and each gesture is accompanied by a confirmation tone or message.

They cannot be modified using a companion app, as there is no companion app. Still, they cover all the most commonly used commands: play/pause, skip forward, volume up/down, call answer/end, ANC/transparency, voice assistant access and EQ mode. The only thing that’s missing is the skip back command. You also don’t get wear sensors for music auto-pause.

Wireless range and reliability have been great – within 20 to 30 feet indoors, which is what I expect from most earbuds. Sadly, Bluetooth multipoint isn’t available, so if you want to switch devices, you’ll have to manually disconnect and reconnect.

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Sound quality

Back bay FirstClass 70 in front of the charging case.
Simon Cohen/

If there was ever a time when “cheap” earbuds could get a pass by merely providing passable sound quality, the Back Bay has closed that window. The FirstClass 70 not only sound good for the price – they sound just as good as many wireless earbuds that cost almost twice their price.

Bass response is particularly strong (again, eartip size is important), and I was impressed by the width and resolution of the soundstage. Highs are clear, there’s a good amount of detail in the midrange, and distortion is almost zero.

The sound signature works with a variety of musical styles. During my time with these buds, I kept hitting up Apple Music’s My Station, which does a really good job of throwing together tracks from a random assortment of genres I’ve heard before — lots of old favorites that aren’t anything to go by. I have never heard of one – and the FirstClass 70 has never disappointed.

With no companion app, there are no EQ presets or manual equalizer controls, but the FirstClass 70 do have a bass-boost mode that can be enabled with a triple tap on the right earbud. It certainly offers more low end, but I found it completely unnecessary – the default tuning has more than enough punch for my liking.

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Noise Cancellation and Transparency

In Back Bay FirstClass 70 case, open lid, handheld.
Simon Cohen/

The biggest surprise considering the price of the FirstClass 70 is their noise canceling capabilities. A lot of budget earbuds promise to cancel out noise and then completely fail to deliver. Back Bay’s claim of 98% noise cancellation may be an exaggeration, but these earbuds do a great job of filtering out sounds. To get significantly better results, you’ll have to spend the money ($249 to $299) for AirPods Pro or Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds.

Their transparency mode is also very good – more than enough to be able to hear the world around you clearly. It’s less good at keeping your sound sound natural, but only the best wireless earbuds excel in this area.

My only criticism is that long pressing on the left earbud to switch ANC modes makes you cycle through ANC on, transparency and ANC off, without the option to toggle between ANC on and transparency modes. .

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Call quality

In the Back Bay FirstClass 70 case, open the lid.
Simon Cohen/

Calling the FirstClass 70 is a mixed experience. On one hand, they do a great job of suppressing the sounds around you making it difficult for callers to hear you. But on the other hand, the combination of the microphone gain (which feels like it’s set a little too high) and the environmental noise-canceling algorithms create some distortion, making your voice not sound perfectly clear.

In quieter locations, these things are much improved, but having the mic turned off can create some unwanted noise.

Back Bay FirstClass 70: Battery life

Back Bay says you’ll get 5.5 hours of playtime with ANC off (22 hours total with the charging case) or 4.5 hours with it on (18 hours total). Either way, playing music at more than 50% volume will further reduce these numbers.

It has a quick-charge feature that gives you an hour of standby time after 10 minutes of charging, but the FirstClass 70 won’t win any awards for stamina.

In the sub-$100 wireless earbuds category, the more you save, the more features you have to give up. The question is, which features matter most? I’d argue that the Back Bay FirstClass 70 is one of the things most people will put at the top of their list: comfort, sound quality, and noise cancellation. And for a set of wireless earbuds that will cost you the same as a night out for two people watching a movie, that’s a pretty good deal.






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