- Great value for money
- Sound on a par with more expensive sets
- Solid battery life
- ANC can be hit-and-miss
- Don't handle bass as well as competitors
- Review Price: £160.00
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Active Noise Cancellation
- 24-hour battery life
- Micro USB charger
What are the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2?
The Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 are one of a growing sea of over-ear wireless headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC), gunning for the same space as the Bose QuietComfort 35.
Costing a piddly £160 and offering on-paper equivalent specs to the QuietComforts, the Plantronics are great value and there’s plenty to like about them. Niggling issues with their audio keep them from fully dethroning Bose, however.
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Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 – Design and Battery
Noise-cancelling headphones are rarely attractive to look at – with the exception of the luxurious B&O Beoplay H9 – but the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2’s set a new low. The grey pair I reviewed look more like the headphones people hand out on flights than a premium item. If you like headphones with plenty of razzmatazz then these aren’t for you.
Luckily, while they look dull, the Plantronics tick all the right boxes when it comes to practicality. The faux-leather cushions are comfortable and, while the PRO 2 don’t feel as classy as the Bose QC35, these headphones at least appear well built.
The BackBeat PRO 2’s 544g weight also ensures they don’t feel too heavy, and in general I didn’t have any issues wearing them while out and about – although I wouldn’t recommend using them in the gym; that faux-leather quickly becomes sticky when wet.
I’m also a big fan of the fact that you can manually turn off the Backbeat PRO 2’s noise cancellation without having to ditch the Bluetooth connection and plugging them in – something that isn’t possible with the Bose QuietComfort.
The placement of the track controls on the side of the left Plantronics is another nice touch that makes it quick and simple to change songs, pause music or take calls without fumbling around the back of the headphones.
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The microphone is also more than good enough for taking calls. Even on busy London streets I was able to take calls using the BackBeat PRO 2 is hassle-free.
Battery life is solid, albeit slightly short of Plantronics’ quoted 24 hours. I usually managed to easily get two to three days of regular use before having to reach for the Micro USB charge cable. Regular use entailed listening to music on the commute to and from work, plus a few hours sporadic listening throughout the day.
Noise cancellation works well enough, but it doesn’t match the benchmark set by the Bose QuietComfort and Sony MDR-1000X. With ANC on, the headphones do a decent job of blocking out people’s voices – but background noise creeps in.
Walking down the street with ANC on – but not crossing the road, of course – I could still hear cars and sirens buzzing past when listening to music at low volumes.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 – Sound Quality
The BackBeat PRO 2 offer good sound considering the price – but again, they don’t match their Bose rivals.
At moderate volumes, the headphone’s 40mm dynamic drivers handle treble and mid-range well. Heavy punk tracks displayed decent attack, and jazz piano tracks were nicely articulate and smooth.
Bass feels slightly underpowered, however. Listening to bass-heavy metal and classic rock, the low-end rumble was present, but it didn’t feel as powerful as that from the QuietComfort headphones. The lower-powered bass isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something to consider if you’re into dance music, or other bassy genres.
Maximum volumes are impressive, but the BackBeat PRO 2 headphones did begin to struggle once I cranked them past 80%.
At the upper reaches of the volume, the headphones that were otherwise capable handling the high-end began to break down. Guitar parts and hi-hats took on a slightly acidic quality, and I definitely noticed sibilance creeping into some vocals.
Fortunately, such instances occurred only when playing music at volumes many people would avoid for fear of fracturing their ear drums – but they’re an annoyance nonetheless.
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Should I buy the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2?
If you’re looking for an affordable set of wireless, over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation, the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 are some of the best available. They may look dull, but they offer fantastic battery life, a comfortable fit and solid sound quality.
However, if you can afford an extra £100 then the Bose QuietComfort 35 are a superior option. They offer radically improved ANC and noticeably better sound quality, albeit with slightly shorter battery life. For just a little more cash, the Sony MDR-1000X are even better – probably the best wireless ANC headphones around.
Solid wireless over-ear headphones that won’t be beaten for value.