Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 headphones show a device maturing – they fix a few mistakes from the past while still providing sound quality that holds its own with other headphones.

The original Plantronics BackBeat Pro earned a lot of praise: they weren’t perfect, but they were packed with features, sounded great, and provided excellent active noise cancellation (ANC). The BackBeat Pro 2 keeps what’s good and fixes what’s bad (like bulk and weight) – and you can’t ask for more.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2: design

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 review

Due to its somewhat simple design, you’re likely to either love or hate the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. The headphones feature a dark brown color scheme, which may be polarizing.

In addition, there’s the faux wood accent that looks more appropriate inside a Buick than on a pair of noise canceling headphones. It looks cheap and out of place, but at least the accents distinguish the headphones from the otherwise generic Bose QuietComfort 35.

The earcups of the headphones are decorated with glittering silver mesh rings that house noise-canceling microphones. In contrast to the muted browns and blacks, the sparkling silver sticks out like a sore thumb. It would have been better to use a black mesh, but hey – it still works.

There are controls for playback, volume, and active noise cancellation on the left ear cup. There is a power/pairing slider on the right ear cup as well as a big button for answering phone calls.

A textured ring rotates counterclockwise to turn up the volume and clockwise to turn it down. Compared to the first generation, the volume control ring is a little harder to grip, but that’s a minor quibble.

On the left earcup, users can toggle active noise cancellation on or off. In addition to giving you a bit more juice between charges, you can still use the headphones in wired mode if the battery dies. You can also use this toggle to pause your music and hear what’s going on around you without removing your headphones.

Since we could simply take off the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 headphones – which automatically pauses the music – the open microphone feature was pointless, but since this option is on other headphones (like the Sony MDR-1000X), it makes sense to include it here as well.

Leather lines the earcups and headband of the BackBeat Pro 2 headphones, making them extremely comfortable to wear throughout an eight-hour flight.

In comparison to the original Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones, the Pro 2 are smaller and lighter (290 grams vs. 340 grams). Travelers with limited space and a desire not to be fatigued by long listening sessions will appreciate this new technology. Another benefit is their compactness and flatness when folded up for transport.

There is a soft zippered carrying pouch that protects the headphones from scratches, and another compartment that stores your microUSB charging cable and 3.5mm headphone cables (nice touch).

I would have preferred a hard case, but it is not a deal-breaker. The BackBeat Pro 2 Special Edition also includes a hard case, which costs $50 (about £40, AU$67) more and comes in gray.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2: performance

BackBeat Pro headphones were known for their fun, bass-heavy sound signature. In the BackBeat Pro 2, Plantronics carried over this sound signature, which most users will likely find pleasing.

Audiophiles might quibble with the loud bass, but they’ll be glad to know that the BackBeat Pro 2 can be used in wired mode to tone it down quite a bit.

We were pleased to find that ANC still works when playing music in wired mode, so if you don’t mind going wired for a while, you can save some battery. A little bit of bass emphasis helps block out external noise, so we can understand why Plantronics chose a bass-heavy sound signature.

The highs are a bit rolled off, making them sound veiled, but that’s actually beneficial for long listening sessions as the highs won’t exhaust the listener. Similar to mids, bass can muffle mids. The soundstage is average, so don’t expect an out-of-head listening experience.

There was a slight hiss when no music was playing when active noise cancellation was enabled. However, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is a worthy competitor for the Bose QC35 in terms of noise cancellation.

When tested on a flight from San Francisco to New York, the BackBeat Pro 2 helped us sleep in spite of the deafening roar of the 777 engines. The headphones’ sound quality was not affected by active noise cancellation, which is not always the case with ANC headphones.

In regards to the battery life, we found the BackBeat Pro 2 to be extremely long lasting. While the original provided 24 hours of battery life, the second generation uses even less power when idle, offering 6 months of DeepSleep (up from 180 hours).

Despite regular use, we were unable to completely drain the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 headphones during a week-long vacation in New York – they lasted through both flights, several train rides, as well as random listening sessions. Battery life is the BackBeat Pro 2’s killer feature for frequent travelers.

We liked

Plantronics’ BackBeat Pro 2 is hard to fault at $200 (£230, AU$250). In terms of travel headphones, the BackBeat Pro 2 does just about everything right. Its looks aren’t for everyone, and the bass-heavy sound won’t impress audiophiles.

These headphones’ astonishing 24-hour battery life is a killer feature for travelers who aren’t tethered to power outlets, and while active noise cancellation isn’t the best in the industry, it’s still excellent at muffling the noise of the sleep-destroying outside world.

When Plantronics redesigned the BackBeat Pro 2, it clearly listened to user feedback. Every complaint we had about the original has been addressed – and even more amazingly, Plantronics’ latest pair of headphones is cheaper than its predecessor.

We didn’t like

If you feel you need to use them in wired mode, the bass can be tamed if you feel it is necessary. Audiophiles may not like their bass-heavy sound signature.

Similar to the styling of the BackBeat Pro 2, the headphones’ brown color palette, fake zebrawood, and out-of-place silver mesh give them an eclectic design language.

Pros Cons
Amiable sound Styling is not for everyone
Multi-point Bluetooth Bass overwhelming at times
Incredible 24-hour battery life

Final verdict

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 should be at the top of your shopping list if you don’t want to spend $350 (£290, AU$500) on Bose’s QuietComfort 35 or $400 (£330, AU$700) on Sony’s flagship MDR-1000X. Although Bose’s noise cancellation is a bit better than Sony’s, Plantronics does almost everything else well.

The BackBeat Pro 2 are basically a steal in terms of value. BackBeat Pro 2 travel headphones feature a long battery life, supreme comfort, the ability to pair two devices at the same time, and, most importantly, good sound quality for the price.