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Monday, 28 November 2016 12:09

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Bluetooth, ANC headphones (review)

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“Just let me hear some of that rock'n'roll music, any old way you choose it, it's got a backbeat you can't lose it, any old time you use it..." That pretty well describes Plantronics new Pro 2 Active Noise Cancellation headsets.

iTWire has a launch article here that will provide you with the back story to the BackBeat. In summary, it said, “At $299, these are highly competitive and offer solid value for the money, so if you’re looking for good ANC headphones on a tighter budget, you will not regret what you get for the money.”

My job is to see if the headphones live up to the claims and over the past 10 days I have become very fond of these well priced “cans".

Let’s start with the conclusion: excellent “bright vocal” sound signature, comfortable to wear, good noise cancellation, well made, good handsfree phone capabilities, great battery life, and a value price. Nothing major on the downside – a little heavier, uses push buttons instead of capacitance touch, and the brand is not as well known in the consumer space. Overall if it was the choice of the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 at $499 or the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 at A$299 I think that for Joe Average, value would win out.

Out of the Box – Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

PLT BackBeat Pro 2You get the headset in black, brown and wood tones, a micro-USB to USB-A charge cable (no charger), a 3.5mm audio cable, and a fabric travel sleeve. It is pretty basic and lacks some of the niceties of other like dual airline adaptors, fabric woven cables or travel cases but its fine for the price.

The fit and finish are good quality reflecting the Plantronics commercial offerings that require good usability and reliability.

Sound and ANC

ITWire uses the “sound signature” tests that identify six major types and any number of combinations.

These cans are best classified as “Bright Vocal” — bass recessed, mids/treble boosted — and that is good for a broader audience who don’t want head thumping bass, preferring crisper, clearer sounds. Of course, you can use equalisers and other settings on your playback device but overall this is for easy listening.

ANC is good but in comparison to the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 (the so-called industry benchmark) you can tell the difference. The latter will tame a Jumbo on take-off!

If you want to keep the BackBeat Pro 2 on your head during airplane announcements just slide the active noise-cancelling switch up to activate an external microphone and pause your audio. It allows you to talk to the airline attendant without taking the cans off.

Comfort

These are 35% smaller and 15% lighter than the original BackBeat that I found too heavy for long use. Earcups are now oblong and there is plenty of soft cushioning with a two-way pivoting adjustment. I felt entirely comfortable after three hours us continuous use – there was no “cloistered” feeling at all despite the over the head, sound isolating design.

These are 290g compared to the 236g Bose Quiet Comfort 35.

Usability

Play/Pause, Forward/Back buttons and volume control ring are big enough to use without trouble both for audio and a handsfree phone. These are push buttons, not the capacitive ones found on higher price headsets. There are smart sensors to pause music when taken off or placed behind your head.

The ear cups fold flat for easy storage in the bag, which also has a pocket for the included cables.

Battery

The 680mAh battery is rated for 24 hours at 50% volume (listening levels). I used them for about 20 hours and there was still a single LED light indicating there was still battery life left.

Plantronics say that you will get 40 hours with ANC and using the 3.5mm audio cable and 60 hours without ANC.

Recharge from zero is about three hours at 500mA and around two at 2.1A.

It has a six months’ deep sleep mode if you accidently leave them on in storage.

Connectivity

It has Class 1 Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR, HSP 1.2, HFP 1.6 (Wideband), AptX, that means a range of around 100 metres if you have a class 1 transmitting device – otherwise its about 10 metres.

It does not have NFC pairing. There is a version coming at extra cost with that.

It also has multilink pairing so you can swap between paired devices.

Unlike more expensive headsets the USB port is for charging only – some use it for hi-res audio as well. The latter can be handy for long trips.

The app

There is a Plantronics Hub app for Windows 10, iOS and Android. This was not tested.

Conclusion

Put the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 on your short list and compare them with headsets twice the price. Audiophiles may prefer to spend more but for you and me they are damned good quality for the price.

Remember that these are at the value end – you won’t find USB hi-res sound, capacitive controls, real leather, wireless charging (love that on the Parrot Zik 3), or the street cred that paying for Sennheiser, Sony, Bose or Parrot will bring.

I think the combination of good, clear music reproduction and phone call quality coupled with active noise cancelling at a price at least $200 to $400 cheaper than the competition makes them a compelling choice.

PLT BackBeat Pro 2 case

 

 

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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