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Review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro

by Parm Mann on 9 January 2015, 12:00

Tags: Plantronics (NYSE:PLT)

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Smart Sensors and Noise Cancellation

Every control is well thought out and conveniently positioned, and Plantronics has carried over a number of useful features from its other Bluetooth headsets. Voice prompts help guide you through the controls (there are 14 languages to choose from), and smart sensors inside the headphones recognise when you put them on or take them off.

Using this tech, the BackBeat Pro will pause music when the headphones are removed, or transfer an active call back to your mobile phone. Put them back on and the music picks up where it left off. We found the sensors worked very well in practise, but anyone who prefers to keep manual control can disable the smart system by holding the call button for four seconds.

The feature set is what makes BackBeat Pro a versatile headset, and convincing active noise cancellation makes them well suited to travel. Using a pair of microphones on the outside of the headset, it's very effective at cutting out unwanted background noise, and particularly adept at minimising the drone of an aircraft. Bose owners will tell you there's nothing better than a pair of QuietComforts, but in our estimation BackBeat Pro is just as effective at creating a zen-like environment.

All sounds promising, but wireless with active noise cancellation surely means limited range and poor battery life, right? Nope, not necessarily. Using Bluetooth 4.0, the BackBeat Pro has a range of up to 100 metres when connected to a class one device - note that most current consumer mobile devices are class two, and are therefore limited to shorter distances - while the integrated battery is good for up to 24 hours of wireless streaming. During real-world use, we donned the headphones on a long-haul journey from London to Melbourne and still had four out of five bars of battery life on arrival. This certainly isn't a gadget you'll need to charge daily.

Sound Quality and Final Thoughts

Having all the aforementioned gizmos add to the BackBeat Pro's appeal, yet they don't detract from the fact that these are a great-sounding set of headphones.

Not the best we've heard, mind, but very, very good with a strong punch of bass and energetic treble that delivers good clarity at the high end. Well suited to a variety of content, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to everything from classic rock to modern pop, and the headphones were able to highlight the finer details in instrumentals. The hair-raising Interstellar soundtrack came across as mighty impressive.

What's somewhat unusual is that the headphones do sound subtly different depending on how you use them. Turn on the power and treble is further accentuated, giving the output a more animated feel. Similarly, activating noise cancellation results in another small change in direction, with the sound output taking on a murkier tone. Our media still sounded great in either mode, however the small-but-noticeable variation may be off-putting to the most discerning audiophiles.

Bottom line: Though not the prettiest headphones on the market, Plantronics' BackBeat Pro offer comfort, great sound quality, convincing noise cancellation and an abundance of useful features. Recommend to any frequent flyer.

The Good
 
The Bad
Great sound quality
Good noise cancellation
OpenMic is a nifty tool
Smart sensors work well
Excellent battery life
 
Not the prettiest headphones
Fairly heavy at 340 grams



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Plantronics Backbeat Pro

HEXUS.where2buy

The Plantronics Backbeat Pro wireless noise-cancelling headphones are available to purchase from Amazon UK and Overclockers UK.

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At HEXUS, we invite the companies whose products we test to comment on our articles. If any company representatives for the products reviewed choose to respond, we'll publish their commentary here verbatim.



HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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Ever been on a flight where someone is wearing a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones? If so, you've probably witnessed the look of serenity on their face while you shuffle uncomfortably in your seat, wondering whether or not the airline-provided headset will do anything to drown out the baby crying in the aisle ahead.
Ironically, a loud, high-pitched and non-period noise like a wailing baby are the worst case for active noise-cancellation systems. They work very well with low-pitched periodic sounds like aircraft engines and cabin ventilation fans, but for screaming children basic passive isolation (IEMs/'canalphones') are far more effective.
Hmm. I must say I'm very satisfied with my Plantronics 7.1 gaming headset, though I think if I was going to drop £140 on some headhones I'd go for some wired studio quality phones rather than fancy wireless ones with all the bells and whistles. That said though there's clearly a market for this kind of thing.
Meowdance
Hmm. I must say I'm very satisfied with my Plantronics 7.1 gaming headset, though I think if I was going to drop £140 on some headhones I'd go for some wired studio quality phones rather than fancy wireless ones with all the bells and whistles. That said though there's clearly a market for this kind of thing.

There's even a market for +500€ wireless headphones/headsets, so it's understandable these might sell well. I personally always favor wired headphones for I don't trust proper audio quality to be made available through the air :)
tribaljet
I personally always favor wired headphones for I don't trust proper audio quality to be made available through the air :)

Well my Sonos plays lossless FLAC over wifi. With a digital wireless connection like wifi or Bluetooth there's built-in error correction so if you get a connection at all you'll get a flawless one.
Nelviticus
Well my Sonos plays lossless FLAC over wifi. With a digital wireless connection like wifi or Bluetooth there's built-in error correction so if you get a connection at all you'll get a flawless one.

WiFi might be more resilient to errors but Bluetooth is still a faulty method for streaming, especially with partial error correction being the only available methods for the time being. This, for saying that while there are already certified streaming techs around, I personally have always favored wired connections and will do so in the foreseeable future, but I do respect each and everyone's preference, particularly since wireless connections do avoid physical clutter.