Stuff that works :: Plantronics Backbeat Pro

by Volker Weber

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While at home I mostly use a Platan ADV, an on-the-ear headset from Urban Ears, but when it comes to traveling, I'm always undecided. On one hand I try to minimize my luggage, down to the number of power supplies I carry (just 1), the wires I need, etc. This time I had a record of five kilograms, including the bag, when leaving home.

But I bit the bullet and chose the massive Plantronics Backbeat Pro, which is a noise-canceling over-the-ear headset. And I was so glad I did. Not only does it sound exceptionally, but it also provides a great deal of isolation. Round trip door-to-door was 15 hours to and 16 hours back, more than 30 hours in total for a two night stay, all due to massive delays and traffic. Without this headset I would have been in quite a bad mood.

Recommended.

Comments

I agree. Best over-the-ear headset on the market, imho.

Mathias Ziolo, 2015-07-27

The Bose quiet comfort seems to be a classic when it comes to a noise cancelling travel companion (at least when I look around in the daily commute). It looks like that's nothing for you, though. May I ask why?

Frank Quednau, 2015-07-27

Bose are Beats for suits.

Volker Weber, 2015-07-27

I just bought the Plattan ADV Wireless headset and I think it's got a great sound. But it doesn't have noise cancellation, so now I am really wondering if I should try out the Plantronics Backbeat Pro and maybe send the Plattan ADV Wireless back. I guess I should check the refund policy of Urban Ears... ;)

Daniel Haferkorn, 2015-07-27

They are completely different beasts. The Plattan ADV Wireless is very light and comfortable. It does not isolate you. The BackBeat Pro is bulky, even more than a Beats headset. And it provides splendid isolation. Last but not least, it sounds way better.

Volker Weber, 2015-07-27

I'm no suit and still love my QuietComfort 15. ;) The noise-cancelling is awesome for flights.

Thomas Meyer, 2015-07-27

Frank, long answer:

Bose is very good at executing a strategy that ties price to perceived quality. They have to be good, if they are expensive, right? Most travelers seem to buy their Bose headset with air miles.

To me, those QC15 and QC25 have two advantages: they are relatively small and have decent noise canceling. Build quality and features are no match to the BackBeat Pro though. The QC15 is a corded headset that runs its N/C on AAA batteries. The QC25 adds a detachable cord which will let you leave the cord in your seat.

The Plantronics headset runs on a battery that is recharged over USB and allows software updates over the same port. It comes with a detachable cable and has Bluetooth 4.0 that can connect to two devices simultaneously, up to 100 meters. The range indoors is amazing. I can go to the next room without losing connection. And it has NFC for pairing. It has big mechanical wheels to control volume and playback. It has big touch buttons for start/stop and accepting/rejecting phone calls. It has two microphones for making those calls and it can open these microphones to listen to a flight attendant without taking off the headset. The battery is rated for 24 hours and I never ran out of power before completing my journey.

While the Bose have a Beats-like bass-heavy characteristic, the Backbeat provide a clear and transparent sound which is strong but never bass-heavy. If you compare both headsets directly, the Bose is no match. If you don't have a Backbeat as comparison, you will be fine with the Bose sound quality. Noise cancellation is equally good on both headsets. It will remove low frequency rumble which in return cures the alertness that comes with it.

If you are sitting on the fence which one to buy, the decision is rather easy: Backbeat Pro are about 100 EUR less than the Bose QC25. Unless you are shooting for the logo like Beats customers. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2015-07-27

You like these over sennheiser? I was thinking of getting these to replace my old ones with these: http://en-us.sennheiser.com/noise-canceling-headphones-travel-pxc-450

John Head, 2015-07-27

I don't know the Sennheisers. They seem expensive. Sennheiser is a good brand and stands for excellent sound.

Volker Weber, 2015-07-27

Thanks for the tip. Was looking for a wireless noice-cancelling over-ear for some time.
Ordered it :-)
You can get some good deals on this headset.

Theo Heselmans, 2015-07-27

I seem to like the Backbeat Pro. Can I get it with miles as well? :)

Ingo Seifert, 2015-07-28

Hmmh. Connected it to an iPhone and a Blackberry and in both cases I can't really use it to make phone calls. The voice quality is terrible. I hear for example the ringtone with lots of short interruptions.

Any idea?

Is there a special pairing mode? I used the standard bluetooth discovery of the iPhone after I set the headset with a long press on the right speaker into pairing mode.

Music via bluetooth and cable works fine though. Maybe a little bit too much bass for my liking.

Mariano Kamp, 2015-07-30

Only used it for music so far. I have a Voyager Edge living in my left pocket for all phone calls. Maybe try the headset updater. Plantronics issues regular updates for issues they found. If that does not help, let me know and I add a warning to my recommendation.

Volker Weber, 2015-07-30

Just tried it myself. Voice quality is fine, but not excellent, as I expect it from Plantronics. No interruptions. I find it very weird to speak when my ears are sealed off. Certainly not pleasant. Party at the other end did not notice I was using a headset.

I am on firmware version 22.

Volker Weber, 2015-07-30

Thanks Vowe.

Just downloaded the FW Updater, but I am also on FW 22 ;(

Indeed. It is strange, but I figured I would get used to it. Being on the phone is a big part of my day.

Mariano Kamp, 2015-07-30

Volker, when you run the headset without music on it and switch on the ANC do you also get a quiet but weird sound. I know they can't avoid it completely due to the electronic components. But sometimes it does sound like interference rather than just "electronic noise").

Reiner Knudsen, 2015-08-05

I never do that. But when I try it, I just get some very quiet "white noise".

Volker Weber, 2015-08-05

I have the Bose QC-15. I tried literally every premium pair of headphones in the shop before buying and they just perfect for me. The noise cancelling was far better than the Beats equivalent at the time and noise leakage massively less at high volumes.

They are indeed powered by a single AAA battery. I use my headphones each weekday when community, approximately 3 hours a day, and that battery lasts around 4-6 weeks - the "replace battery" indication comes on about 2 weeks before you actually need to replace it. A small zipped compartment in the case is big enough to carry ~6 batteries so I can go around 9 months without even thinking about a power source. Compared to needing to charge every day, or running the risk of having no power, I much prefer the battery option - without power I get no audio at all, noise cancelling is not an option, it's literally on or off for the whole device. At the time of purchase I reviewed the rechargeable QC-30 model and went with the older QC-15 design as I saw batteries more future proof. Rechargeable battery life reduces over time and my QC-15 headphones have now been used every day for over 3 years and are as quite literally as good as new and the 3.5mm jack plug just as compatible as it ever was. Bluetooth 4.x didn't exist when I bought these and I just didn't want any future compatibility issues.

I'm a suit.

Ben Rose, 2015-08-17

I am glad you like your QC-15. But they don't really compare.

Volker Weber, 2015-08-17

Agreed, I'll still be using mine when you replace yours :)

Ben Rose, 2015-08-17

After my bose qc chose to only provide half stereo from now on, I listened to your recommendation and got me the plantronics. First impressions are very positive. Boy do I like their sound, just as you said, more evenly distributed range, lovely.

The pure noise cancelling is indeed somewhat less strong, but considering the price and all other features (very good ux, sound, wireless, headset feature) it's a great package.

Once more your recommendation didn't disappoint, thank you for that!

Frank Quednau, 2015-11-12

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