Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 :: First Impressions

by Volker Weber

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I love the BlackBeat Pro cans and have recommended them for years. Their only downside is that they are comically large. Now Plantronics has addressed this issue and made the new headset oval shaped instead of round.

I want to write this from a comparison perspective. But before we dive into that, first an introduction to both headsets for those who don't know them. The BackBeat Pro is an over-the-ear headset that provides great isolation when traveling. You can take a phone call, but the headset isn't designed for that. The microphones cannot provide an experience even close to what a Voyager Focus provides. But when you are sitting on a train or in an airport, you will not miss a call. Both headset provide the isolation through their over-the-ear design and an additional active noise cancellation that can be switched off when you are in quiet environments. Both headset connect via Bluetooth or via a 3.5mm cable, for instance to connect to the inflight entertainment when traveling. And both have ridiculous battery life. Plantronics says 24 hours between charges, but I have never been able to run them down, and get a good estimate of the time. I rate them at one week.

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Let's get to the differences. The new model has all audio controls on the left can. The right can has the 3.5mm connector, the microUSB plug for updates and charging, the on/off switch which puts the headset in pairing, when you hold the switch beyond the on position and a mute button. The volume wheel went from the right to the left cup. It no longer turns all the way around, but now rocks back and forth. Volume is coordinated with your phone. You can adjust it either on the headset or the phone. Track control is now inside the volume ring.

Both BackBeat Pro have an open-mic feature that will route your microphones to your speakers. That is useful when the flight attendant asks you something or you want to hear an announcement in the train station. This has become easier to operate. The noise cancellation switch now has three positions: on, off, open-mic. So you go from hearing nothing to hearing everything in two steps. This is an outright creepy feature. You can appear to hear nothing while being able to clearly hear what the person next to you says.

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The cups are clearly marked so you know which one belongs where. That was very subtle on the original and has continued on with the Focus and the Sense headsets. This time it screams. No complaints from me. You want to see what you are doing even in a dark aircraft cabin. The headset also has sensors that know if you are wearing them. Take them off and the audio book or podcast stops. Put them back on, and they continue to play.

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The headset comes with a soft carrying bag, that has improved by having an extra compartment for the two cables and other accessories you might want to carry, like a two prong adapter for odd airline seats. Plantronics also sells a more expensive version in "silver" with a hard case, but I find this bag way more practical. Notice the small loop at the left. I put this over the coat hook on the seat in front of me and organize all the little things I need during a flight in this bag.

So this is again a pretty big recommendation. There is just one thing. I don't like the materials. The old headset was an honest black plastic. The new one has fake wood veneer insets and all sorts of other plastic materials that pretend to be something else. The "silver one" might be worse in that it mimics metal. Plantronics might want to improve on that in future updates.

Plantronics may not have the best industrial design but they know audio. This is again a headset that sounds just great. Music is very transparent and the headset can provide a thumbing bass without being overly bass heavy. Put on The xx 'Fantasy' or James Blake 'Limit to your love' and you will hear it right away.

What does this headset compete with? Clearly the more expensive Bose QC35. The Bose headset has one big advantage: it folds much smaller and needs less space in your bag. Bose has also mastered noise cancellation. They are best bought with air miles.

One mugshot behind the fold.

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The BackBeat Pro 2 is still a huge headset. I have an unusually large head that makes it very difficult to find helmets. (Compare to shoulder width). But this headset still rules over my head.

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Comments

Thank you for this great comparison article! I own the previous version thanks to your recommendation a while ago, and now I am really pondering getting the new version. The old ones are really ridiculously large. Maybe someone from my family could take them from me...

Daniel Haferkorn, 2016-10-31

toll - jetzt will ich auch so eins, aber es gibt zwei laut Plantronics:
http://www.plantronics.com/de/product/backbeat-pro-2
http://www.plantronics.com/de/product/backbeat-pro-2-se

ist das zweite eine SecondEdition oder eine SilverEdition ?

und warum wiegt das eine fast das doppelte?

und: es gibt noch keinen Verkäufer... bald ist Weihnachten ;)

Samuel Orsenne, 2016-11-07

Special Edition. Hat NFC und eine andere Farbe. Ich frage mal, warum das doppelt so schwer sein soll. Kann sein, dass die da Eisen reinmachen, so wie Beats. Wollte ich nicht haben.

Volker Weber, 2016-11-07

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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