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Hardware Review Plantronics BackBeat PRO Wireless Active Noise Canceling Headphones Review

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Todd Erwin, Oct 14, 2014.

  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    BackbeatProBox.

    When you mention Plantronics, most immediately think of high-quality hands-free headsets for their office or mobile phone. But Plantronics has been slowly edging their way into the entertainment and fitness space with the introduction of their Backbeat series of headphones. Their latest product, the Backbeat Pro wireless Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones, puts competitor Bose in the crosshairs, providing a feature-rich alternative for travelers, commuters, or those just wishing to shut out the world and immerse themselves in music.

    When my review sample arrived from Plantronics, the first thing I noticed was the premium packaging. The outer purple paperboard sleeve lists the product’s specifications, giving the consumer almost everything they need to know about the headphones. The sleeve boasts 24 hours of battery time, active noise cancelling, pairing of up to two devices, NFC pairing, 40mm dynamic drivers, Bluetooth 4.0, and the ability to stream up to 330 feet when using a class 1 Bluetooth device. Sounds intriguing.

    After removing the outer sleeve, the headphones are packaged in a clear plastic box with cardboard top and bottom lids, seated in a molded plastic insert. Underneath the insert is a black ballistic nylon pouch lined with dark purple velour on the inside. In the pouch are a micro USB charging cable, a 3.5mm inline cable, and a quick start guide. I picked up the headphones and found them to be fairly lightweight and well-padded on both the earcups and headband.
    BackbeatProPouch.

    The left earcup contains a play/pause button on the outer portion, surrounded by a notched dial for skipping forward or back within a playlist. On the back is a switch for Active Noise Cancelling, with micro USB and 3.5mm input on the bottom of the earcup.

    The outer portion of the right earcup has a call button, allowing you to also use the headphone as a hands-free headset and take calls while listening to music, and the outer notched dial controls the listening volume. On the rear is a power button with lights to indicate the battery level at the time the headphones are turned on. On the bottom is an OpenMic button allowing the user to hear their surroundings without having to remove the headphones.
    headphones_small.

    I followed the instructions to pair the Backbeat Pro with my LG G2 smartphone, which was a very simple task. I then placed the headphones on my head, adjusted the fit, and upon powering on the headphones, a pleasant-sounding female announces the battery level (high, medium, or low) and if the phone is connected. I then began listening to various sources of music, including selections from my phone’s library as well as streaming services like Pandora and iHeart Radio. Sound quality was rich and clear, with no noticeable added distortion or noise, even with Active Noise Cancellation turned on. And the noise cancellation worked extremely well, blocking out the meows of a noisy and very high maintenance cat, the neighborhood gardeners, and conversations taking place nearby. Turning Active Noise Cancellation on and off had little noticeable effect on the quality of what I was listening to. Pausing and skipping through tracks using the controls on the left earcup worked flawlessly, provided the application was in the foreground on my phone. Another nice feature is the automatic pausing of music when removing the headphones and automatic playing when placing the headphones back on your head. The pause/play and track skipping features are disabled when listening to music while playing a game or browsing Facebook. The volume dial moved smoothly, with the female voice indicating when volume as at the minimum or maximum settings. Listening range was also impressive, as I left my phone at my desk and walked to every room in my two-story condo without any loss of signal. The OpenMic button was a nice feature, allowing me to listen to my surroundings and hear someone speaking to me without having to remove the headphones. Simply press the button to turn the microphone on, and again to turn it off. You can adjust the volume of the OpenMic using the volume dial as a fader between streaming audio and the microphone.
    headphones-angled_small.

    Battery life was also impressive. Even though the headphones arrived with what appeared to be a full charge, I charged them for several hours with the provided USB cable before using them. I’ve had the headphones for almost three weeks, using them for a few hours each day, and are still at high (with the battery level lights showing four out of five). One of the nice added features of the Backbeat Pro is the 3.5mm input, allowing the headphones to be used wired or wireless, which, according to Lars Ahntholtz of Plantronics, also allows them to be used as traditional headphones should the battery become depleted.

    I really enjoyed the Plantronics Backbeat Pro headphones. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that Plantronics could have included a USB to AC adapter to charge the batteries for those who do not have a USB charging station, but you can pick those up at any electronics or mobile phone store for a few bucks.

    4.5 stars out of 5
     
  2. Mr. Jingles

    Mr. Jingles Agent

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    Hi Todd. Excellent review. I just happened to catch this and ironically, I am in the market for noise-cancelling headphones for when I travel.

    It's odd to see a company like Plantronics entering the noise-cancelling headphone business. But in a way, it also makes sense given the fact that they are so well established in the caller headphone market.

    What I like about these noise-cancelling headphones as opposed to those offered by Bose, is that they allow you to take phone calls while listening to music. Normal heaphones of this sort would drown out the rings of your mobile phone. The ability to answer and speak on your phone while wearing this headset is a major selling point. I liked the fact you could leave your phone in one room and roam your home while speaking with your caller.

    I must say that your review has really made a positive impression on me. I was very close to buying a Bose QuietComfort headset. However, the added features that Plantronics is offering here clearly makes this headset the better choice. I also like the fact that the music automatically pauses when removing the headset from your head and then resumes when you place them back on.

    I am traveling in another month and will most likely pick up a pair of these for the flight.
     
  3. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Very cool Todd, adding these to my "Check out" list. I enjoy my Beyers for office work but I too would like some NC Wireless for travel without breaking the bank...
     
  4. Adam Gregorich

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    Todd-

    Thanks for the detailed review. I have a few follow-up questions:

    So with the ability to pair two devices, I could pair my cell phone (which I don't have any music loaded onto) and my ipod? If that's the case, I'm assuming I could then stream music from my iPod via Bluetooth, and also take a call via hands free?

    When it comes to using it for a call, I'm assuming it auto engages the open mic so that you can talk? Did it pick up a lot of background noise?

    I know you have reviewed several headphones over the last year. Its seems like these are far and away the most featured, how were they in overall sound quality?

    Looking at the photo of the pouch and cables, what's the button on the 3.5mm cable for?
     
  5. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    Adam,
    Essentially, what this means is that the headphones can remember the pairing handshake for up top 2 devices, but only connect to one at a time.
    To answer a call, all you do is depress the call button on the right earcup, and the mic turns on. To mute the call, press the OpenMic button. The caller could hear me quite clearly, with little background music. It's a nice feature, but for safety reasons, I'm more likely to use a hands-free device made more specifically for phone calls when driving.
    Sound quality can be subjective, but I felt these were as good, if not better than, most headphones in the same price range.
    From Plantronics product page:
     
  6. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks Todd. Between the audio quality and the features it seems like it's a good value.
     
  7. larsahntholz

    larsahntholz Auditioning

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    Regarding the question about pairing and using with multiple devices, the headphones include something called "multipoint technology" which allows simultaneous wireless connection to two Bluetooth devices. In this case, it can be paired with an iPod (one that has Bluetooth technology) for music streaming and also with a phone for calls at the same time, or a tablet for movies and also a phone for calls. If you're listening to music on one Bluetooth device you can easily answer a call on a second Bluetooth device.

    A 3.5mm cable is included so you can listen in corded mode. For example, you can plug-in and connect to in-flight entertainment and when Bluetooth isn't available on your audio device. Also, if the headphone battery completely dies, you can plug in and continue to use like regular headphones without all of the powered features -- active noise canceling, OpenMic. The buttons on the cable still enable music and call control, so the headphones continue to be useful even if they have a dead battery.

    Lars Ahntholz
    Product Marketing Manager
    Plantronics, Inc.
     

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