Review: Plantronics Backbeat Pro – The Beat in Unbeatable

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The Highs
Nicely tuned for most genres of music
Intuitive controls
Comfortable for hours
The Lows

I’ve always been wary of anything that’s wireless. The freedom of movement usually comes with a price – especially when it involves transferring data. That’s why I tool the pains to wire as much of my home network as possible. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro though, has shown me what I’ve been missing.

Plantronics might not necessarily be the first name that pops into your mind when it comes to consumer headsets. They’re an established name in the commercial sector for industry grade communication devices and headsets, but the consumer market is a totally different scene where design and aesthetics can influence buying decisions more than performance. However, the Backbeat Pro is right up there with the best.

The Backbeat Pro sits very comfortably with its padded band and full ear cups that swivel and come to rest at the just right angle. From then on, you come to realize that the headset was designed by people that have actually asked themselves what consumers want and need.

Touch might be all the rave these days, but for the life of me I can never quite get the swipes right. The Backbeat Pro does away with all the guess work by using discreet switches instead. The effect? Complete control.

Once the headset is on, powering it up takes a slight flick of a switch that sits at the rear of the right earcup. Once you power on, a you’re greeted by a pleasant voice that tells you the battery status immediately. On the left, you’ll find the switch that turns the Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) on and off. I have to say, boy is there a difference… the ANC works very well to isolate and cancel noise leaving you with the unpolluted sounds of whatever music you have on your playlist.

The headsets work very well with most genres of music and movies and delivers good bass and crisp highs and smooth mids. Using Bluetooth v4.0 + EDR – A2DP for audio streaming, there is hardly any delay between the transmitting device (i’m usually on my iPhone and iPad) and the Backbeat Pro. Too many times I’ve experienced wireless sets that are obviously out of sync… especially whet it comes to streaming HD movies. I hardly experienced any lag watching the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series (I’m catching up before Episode VII… don’t judge me).

Connecting is a breeze and once you are paired up you don’t quite need to touch your device again. Control volume via the physical dial along the right ear cup and skip tracks using the dial on the left. The play/pause button takes up the outside cup surface of the right and you can answer calls with the pad on the left. Each control switch and dial are so well placed and distinct that you’ll never hit the wrong button.

As much as we’d like sometimes, it’s hard to be alone and interruptions are inevitable. Say you’re in the middle of watching a movie and someone comes up to you. On reflex you take off the headset and chat for a while… only to realize that the movie’s gone on without you and now you need to find your place. Sound familiar? Not anymore. The Backbeat Pro’s designed to detect when the headset’s been taken off. The moment it does, it automatically pauses whatever you’re listening to. Put the headset back on, and it’ll resume. No need to even press a button.

Another nifty little feature is the ‘Open Mic’ feature to pick up surroundings. Want to hear what’s going on around you without taking off your headset? Simply press the mic button and you’ll pick up close conversations. It might seem a little odd to whoever is talking to you, but you’ll be able to hear every word. Also recommended for those who like to casually ‘overhear’ stuff in the office… you know who you are.

All these features do come at a cost though, and I’m not talking price. The Backbeat Pro can be a little bulky. With all things considered, you can understand why, but it does take up space and while you can swivel the ear cups to fit flat, it’s still considerably sized and definitely does not fit in with the compact category. However, the fact that it’s wireless and the ear cups fold flat, you can quite easily drape it around your neck.

Battery life is simply amazing and you’re likely to run through your playlist before battery. If you do though, just connect the 3.5mm cable that comes with it and go ‘wired’.

The Backbeat Pro comes with a carry case and cables for wired use

The Backbeat Pro is a headset that’s designed for use. The matte black finish is very sober and you get the feel that Plantronics have used their experience making gear for the communications gear for industry use and taken that know how to develop a very intuitive headset that performs well and has fantastic all-round operability to work the way you need it to. Priced at around USD 250, it’s not one for the budget conscious, but a top performer in its class.