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Plantronics BackBeat Pro – meaty wireless headphones look cool, sound great and run for ever [Review]

plantronicsbackbeatpro

You can’t turn a corner nowadays without stumbling over yet another set of wireless headphones. Thanks to the recent improvements in Bluetooth 4.0, it really does look like the days of the cable tied models are slowly coming to an end. Which will please lots of people, from gamers to runners and beyond. We’ve just tested out one of the newest entrants to market, and found a worthy contender for the ‘Best of…’ title.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones are a quality level set of headphones which boast some delicious features. Even better, the product has clearly been designed with serious ergonomic attention, which really does put it head and shoulders (ahem) above many of its rivals.

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First impressions
The headphones come in a typically lush Plantronics style package, including a sturdy show-off box with all the trimmings. Inside you find the product itself, a USB cable, an Apple compatible Line-in cable and a small but worthwhile Getting Started guide. Oh and a very fancy carrying bag. We’re used to high levels of product and packaging finish with Plantronics, and these headphones definitely don’t disappoint.

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In use
The headphones are not the smallest or lightest on the market by a long way, but then again they’re pretty sophisticated, since they’re also carrying a full active noise cancellation system on-board. The first thing that strikes you, however, is the fact that the build quality is really superb. The ear cups are foam filled soft, the controls are chunky and look robust enough to put up with serious misuse and overall the whole set seems to be designed to last. We like that. Take a look at the video below to see what we mean.

Each cup, left and right, has it’s own share of controls. On the left you find the noise cancellation switch, NFC tag for one tap pairing, the lovely large track advance and start/stop player controls and the microUSB charge socket. Oh and the 2.5mm line in socket.

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It’s great having these large controls because it makes it so much easier to control when you’re doing other things. Instead of having to fumble around for small fiddly hard to locate buttons, you’ve got a pair of stonking great dials and push buttons which you can find in an instant. Perfect for fast control.

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The right ear cup contains the on/off switch, volume control, power gauge, call accept button and a clever little OpenMic button which lets you adjust the amount of ambient noise you hear, so you can talk to people while still wearing the headphones. Yeah a little weird we know, but useful. Again the whole control system is very easy to locate and use, and simple to remember, especially if you’re on the go like a jogger, or listening while working.

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The headset also supports Class 1 Bluetooth, which promises 100 meters of range. In practice we found this really worked well – especially since the aptX implementation helps to maintain audio quality nicely – unless you put some very thick brick walls in the way. But to be fair there’s no Bluetooth product on earth which can work well with this scenario. The sound from the product is excellent, as you would expect, both when listening to music and when taking and making phone calls using the hands free option.

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We also liked the fact that the cups fold flat for carrying around, and while you can’t really call them portable, at least they’re ‘semi’ portable in this mode, taking up a little less bag and pocket space. The final cool features are the fact that the set can support pairing with two devices – great for playing games on a tablet, say, and also being able to switch from the game to a phone call in an instant. And a small but cool function, take the headphones off and the music stops. Put them back on and the music automatically starts up again. Why can’t all headphones do this?

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Conclusion
This headphone set comes with a bunch of features which combine to together to improve the listening and overall user experience in really valuable ways. None of the features feels superfluous or badly thought out, and the result is a product that you feel will last you for a long time, and give a lot of pleasure. Sure they’re not the smallest or lightest on the market, as we’ve said, and you’ll find higher specifications in the top end rivals, but as a versatile, go anywhere, cope with anything type workhorse, the BackBeat Pro is hard to beat. Recommended.

Price: £198.99 / $260.00

Specifications:
Bluetooth: Bluetooth v4.0 + EDR –
A2DP for audio streaming
AVRCP for music controls
Hands-free v1.6 for wideband
Headset v1.2
Range: Up to 100 meters/330 feet from phone or tablet with Class 1 Bluetooth
Multi-Point: Simultaneously connect two Bluetooth devices (2H2S)
Battery: Rechargeable, non-replaceable lithium-ion
Noise-cancellation: Controllable Active Noise Canceling (ANC) plus Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and dual microphones
NFC pairing: Tap and pair with compatible devices
DeepSleep mode: Puts headphones into hibernation device, when away from device, extending battery life up to 6 months
OpenMic: Feature lets you hear your surroundings using variable control
Automatic Play: Music play/pause when headphones are put on/removed
Voice Alerts: Spoken alerts in 14 language options, which vary by region (US and UK English, Cantonese, Danish, EU-French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Russian, EU-Spanish and Swedish)

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


  • Stevie

    These look lovely and you even get a pump bag for some reason.

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