Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 In Depth Review

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 offer all the bells and whistles you may want from a premium set of headphones, but as an overall package do they deliver?

In the box

The BackBeat Pro 2 are what I would consider premium consumer headphones and with them you get.

  • The documentation and quick start guide
  • A 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
  • Micro USB cable
  • One carry sleeve

in-the-box-2-pro-2

The cables included are not the best or most premium I’ve ever encountered and I was expecting a little bit better considering their price point. Of course, you don’t buy a set of headphones like this for the cables but some more premium ones would have been welcomed.

cables-pro-2

Now the carry sleeve, this does make up for that and it’s easily the nicest one I’ve ever seen. The outer layer is made from a high-quality fabric and the inside is lined with soft felt. This will keep them from getting marked up, but it won’t offer much impact protection. It also has a separate front pocket for the accessories and other small items. This is also lined with felt and comes in real handy.

carry-sleeve-pro-2

Design and Build

First off I’d like to say that there are two variants of the BackBeat Pro 2, there is the regular variant which I have today and a special edition model which is Grey and has a carry case included. As far as I can tell the colour and case are the only additions to the SE model. So if you like the headphones and want the carry case it’ll cost you a premium. Of course, if you want a carry case you could always opt for a third party option. The downside to that is it may not fit properly whereas the included one will.

The Pro 2 are a very nice blend of textures, colours and features that really make them stand out from the crowd without being obnoxious. They’re finished in a very classy Black with Tan accents, this makes them look very mature and grown up. The overall build is as you’d expect with the use of premium plastics, metal trimmings and quality materials. These really do look and feel like the £200 they cost.

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Going into more detail the earcups are used to house a lot of integral components. The left side one has a circular patterned brushed metallic finish which is very different but works well with the rest of the aesthetic. This isn’t purely cosmetic either as here you’ll find the play/pause button as well as the controls to skip tracks. These feel great as the texture isn’t just purely visual and they’re nicely tactile too. Surrounding this section is the volume dial, this is plastic and features a dimpled texture to help easily identify it. Then encompassing that is a Silver metallic accent that is vented and I assume houses the microphones used for the noise cancelling.

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The side of the earcup is made from that premium plastic and is heavily textured with a distinct diamondesque shape. The build here is superb and the housing feels solid. This side also houses the noise cancelling switch which is again plastic but it feels good. When using the switch there is some satisfying tactile and audible feedback given off by it that makes it feel and sound well put together.

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Onto the earcup padding and that is finished in the dark tan. This really compliments the overall design. They’re made from a synthetic leather and they feel great. Inside there is a nice prominent left and right indicator to help you identify which way around the headphones go. I like that it’s hidden away as it helps keep the exterior that bit cleaner from too much text.

earcups-design-pro-2

The right earcup borrows features from the left minus the volume control and buttons. Instead, there is a solitary button used for accepting calls. Again this is nice and tactile like the other side. Surrounding that is a high gloss finish Black that is used to cover the built-in notification LEDs. The right side also houses some buttons and switches. There is the main power/pairing switch along with a mute button. On the underside, you get the micro USB port and 3.5mm jack.

Moving onto the headband and support there is a swivel mechanism that allows the headphones to be folded flat. What I like about this particular one is that it’s so smooth but also doesn’t move too easily or freely. This again is a nice touch that adds to the premium feel of the headphones.

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Above that is the adjustment which is metal and has an interesting series of lines that indicate the level of adjustment that has been made. So you can use these to make sure the sides are equally extended. The adjustment again is very fluid but feels strong. Plus they extend quite large too.

headband-adjust-pro-2

Finally to the headband and this is again the same tan finish as the earcups. The colour consistency is brilliant and they match very well. The inside uses a lighter shade of tan and is very smooth textured finish rather than the synthetic leather used on the top section.

Given the fact that Plantronics have infused so many materials, textures and colours I wasn’t expecting them to look or feel as nice as they do. The overall design aesthetic just works and they give off a very uptown feel that is backed up by the build quality. So these do look and feel great and their price to me is justified.

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Comfort

Being over-ear headphones I was expecting good things and these are almost perfect.

Firstly the headband padding. This may not be the most padded area that have come across but the padding that is there is ample. It’s soft and does provide some good cushioning which is appreciated for longer listening sessions. The curvature is just right and it fits so nicely against your head which helps distribute the weight really evenly. This is great as the Pro 2 aren’t exactly featherweight headphones coming in at 289g. But honestly, the headband makes them feel like much less. There is also some give in it too meaning if you have a broader head they will stretch to accommodate you.

The other nice thing about the headband is that it’s breathable, the material has some small perforations that help them to remove some of the unwanted heat build up, this is again is great and it works very well.

Clamping force is a little bit tight at first but after a few listening sessions it does loosen and become much more pleasant. This again just adds to the overall experience. If you wear glasses like me they’re also surprisingly comfortable. Again the first few days were not amazing, but after they’d loosened a bit, they are now really good to wear with glasses. They don’t press them into the side of your head like some others I’ve tested do. So this is a great point if you do require glasses.

The earcup padding is very generous, plush and super smooth so there is no fatigue from this part of the headphones. The padding is made from memory foam, it forms really nicely and feels very nice against your head. There is plenty of it too. The outer finish is a synthetic leather that is very soft and again feels fantastic. These have to be some of the best cups I’ve experienced to date.

The opening is fairly large too and my average sized ears fit in with room to spare, so if you have larger ears these should be fine and you should hopefully not get any pinching at the very top of your ear. Another plus point is the internal cup padding, usually, this area is neglected and you can sometimes have the drivers touch part of your ear. Plantronics have noted this and supplied the Pro 2 with a generous layer of padding. This eliminates that issue and I haven’t had that feeling whilst wearing these at all.

Now to the little thing that is preventing these from being perfect and the culprit is heat. The headband like mentioned isn’t at fault here it’s the earcups. Because they’re really thick and non-breathable the heat build up is quite significant. It doesn’t hit you straight away, but after around 2 hours you can really notice them getting warm. It’s not unbearable but it’s just one of the drawbacks of these types of earcups.

In use

Using the Pro 2 daily has been a positive experience (mostly) and one that I have enjoyed. But like with many other headphones there are minor details that make using them not quite faultless. The first little thing is the volume control. Plantronics have implemented a volume control wheel that is a bit awkward to use at first and still poses a few issues. It does work and it works well, just not all the time. Sometimes when I try to turn them up or down it doesn’t quite register and takes a few attempts to carry out this task. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does more frequently than I’d like. I think if they adopted a four way button switch system this little issue wouldn’t exist. They’re already half way there as the skip track buttons are button based, so they could have added a four way system that would have been more reliable. It wouldn’t have been as cool, but it would work.

volume-control-in-use-pro-2

The rest of the buttons and switches work great and I haven’t had any issues with them at all. Their positioning is round the back of the headphones and they are really easy to use. Even though they aren’t the largest of buttons they have some raised elements to help identify them. The main play/pause and skip track buttons works without fault and are nicely tactile. They’re large too making them easy to press on the move. The right side houses a single large button to allow you to take calls as well as end them.

Another feature that is very useful is the open-listening mode. If you often use the train, tram or travel by plane you know that being able to hear announcements is important. This mode on the Pro 2 allows you to hear said announcements without having to remove your headphones. You activate this by moving the toggle on the left side right to the top, you’ll then get voice feedback confirming you’re in this mode. This feature also pauses your music to allow you to hear as clear as possible and it works very well.

open-listening-mode-pro-2

Pairing the headphones is very straight forward. You use the switch with the power and Bluetooth logo on and slide the switch to the very top. Once there you hold for a few seconds until the LED on the side flashes Red and Blue. You’re now in pairing mode and you can find the Pro 2 on your device. Then it’s a simple as making the selection and letting the devices do the rest. The Pro 2 also has NFC pairing if you have a compatible device. The NFC chip is located on the left earcup and provides very seamless and quick pairing.

Bluetooth on the Pro 2 is good, they’re using version 4.0 which is getting a bit old now but it still works great. The connection is very solid and I have had no stability issues at all. The range is massive too. Their max working range is 100m, this is the longest I’ve ever come across during my time reviewing and they do work up to that distance. They do start to have a few issues approaching the 100m but you’re unlikely to ever leave your phone that far behind. It works well through walls and doors too, I live in a prefab style house and the walls are a bit thin and these pose no problems. Thicker stone or brick could potentially impact the signal though.

Lastly, the mechanism to allow them to lay flat also works great when out and about. If you have a shorter neck they could rub against your chin, but with the mechanism, you can fold these down and it creates much more room and prevents this from happening. It’s by no means a revolutionary addition, but it does go a long way to improve use on the daily.

Battery

Specifications

  • Capacity: 680mAh
  • Type: Lithium ion polymer

For headphones such as the BB Pro 2 you’d expect the battery life to be on point and it really is. The quoted time from Plantronics is up to 24 hours. Now it doesn’t state whether that is with the noise cancelling on or off, so of course, I tested both.

With no noise cancelling on the BB Pro 2 lasted a very impressive 28 hours and 58 minutes. This was at 65% which is the level I test all my wireless headphones at. Why 65%, well for me it provides comfortable listening whilst letting the headphones shine. So it gives a best of both worlds where it isn’t too loud and the headphones have enough volume to hear all their characteristics.

battery-lights-pro-2

Turning the noise cancelling does impact the battery life and we see a reduction of 5 hours and 11 minutes. So they lasted 23 hours 47 minutes at the same volume level as previously tested. Keep in mind that these times will vary depending on how loud you listen to them and if you toggle the NC on and off during use.

Charge time is stated to be 3 hours for a full charge. My testing revealed that these charged in 2 hours 30 minutes via the Anker Powerport 5 I use for all my testing. Again this time will vary depending on what you use to charge them and the output from your mains.

The BB Pro 2 also have some other interesting battery features. The first being a series of LEDs that act as battery indicators. There are five in total each signifying a percentage of 20% capacity. This is great for when you’re charging as it gives you a great idea of their current level. During the charging cycle, the first LED flashes Red until it has reached 20% and then the rest of the LEDs will begin to pulse Blue as they are topped up. The LEDs will go out once the cycle is complete.

charging-lights-pro-2

The BackBeat Pro also features a battery level voice prompt, to use this, the headphones must be in an idle state (no music playing). To activate this feature you press the large button located on the right side of the headphones. Once pressed it will let you know the level of capacity that you have left. This is great as you don’t have to worry about them mysteriously going flat on you and you can always stay on top of your capacity remaining.

One final bit of battery saving tech is an array of sensors that can detect when the headphones have been removed from your head. Once you’ve taken them off the music will automatically stop playing to preserve battery. This works great when you’re out and about as you can place them around your neck and the music will stop on its own. This feature can be disabled if you like, but honestly, I find it too useful and I’ve kept it on.

Noise isolation and Leak

As you may be aware noise cancelling effectiveness varies from company to company, so how do the Plantronics do? Well, with the NC off and no music playing the Pro 2 offers a good amount of natural isolation. This is due to the build quality of the earcups and also the effectiveness of the padding as it creates a great seal. This all means that they are pretty capable of naturally blocking out noise. Of course, I could hear some background noise on the bus, but it was a level that was very bearable.

Turning some music on to 65% and of course, that does improve the isolation. I could still hear a small amount of background noise but it was nothing that was really bothersome. So if you wanted or needed to preserve the battery by not having the NC on, you’d still get a solid performance and one that I would be very happy to deal with on a daily basis.

nc-off-pro-2

Switching the NC on and with no music playing they do block out a lot of noise, the NC seems to be better at filtering out lower frequencies and some higher did creep in. But just out of curiosity I removed the headphones and I was very impressed with how effective the NC is. The bus I was on was filled with noise from an open window, loud conversations and also noises produced by the tyres and engine. As soon as I put the headphones back on I was amazed just how much the exterior level reduced and how good the NC is.

Then, of course, I played some music and this drowned out the slight creep from the higher frequencies and the experience was pretty surreal. Usually like previously mentioned you get little hints of background noise, here with the Pro 2 and the NC on, I couldn’t hear anything apart from the music I was listening to. This experience was highly enjoyable and I’m thoroughly impressed with Pro 2 and what they are capable of. I also found that I could keep the volume at around 50 to 55% and still remain in pure isolation. This is not only good for your hearing but also to increase the longevity of the battery life.

nc-on-pro-2

Leak performance is again impressive the leak produced by them is barely audible, even at 65% they barely emit any noise at all. This is great if you often study in a library or other quiet area. If you’re on public transport or simply out and about then you’re not likely to bother anyone. Even sat right next to someone on the train or bus they may hear a slight whisper of what you’re listening to. But as buses and trains are often quite loud, the noise emitted by these will be drowned out and again you shouldn’t be the focus of anyone telling you to turn your music down.

As a whole, the NC performance is very good as is the natural isolation. The leak is kept in check and they only radiate a bit of noise.

Sound

Specifications

  • Driver diameter: 40mm
  • Frequency: 20-20,000Hz
  • Sensitivity 93dB
  • Impedance: 32ohm
  • aptX support
  • High-res sound support

The Pro 2 have a really rich and full-bodied sound signature. They get quite loud and the distortion is very minimal, even at 90% volume they stay very composed. They also thrive at higher volumes beyond 60% and this is where they’re at their best. For testing, I used my LG G6 and had the noise cancelling off. I will add a small section to each area of the sound if the noise cancelling impacts that area.

Bass reproduction from the Pro 2 is great. It has plenty of vigour, power and it handles the lower (deep) frequencies very well with no fuss. The bass transition between the low end and mid-bass is effortless and it flows really smoothly. The cleanness of the bass can be commended too as it’s not tarnished nor is it cloudy or murky. Clarity and detail is again strong as the bass reproduction is nicely natural and not artificially inflated or enhanced. It’s essentially natural bass that hasn’t been polluted with artificial trickery to make it sound fuller. The bass is also never too overpowering and it remains very composed even when the bass-line is hitting hard. This means that it won’t overstep its boundaries and impede the rest of the sound spectrum.

Turning the NC on has no effect on the bass at all and it remains exactly the same as with the NC switched off. This is impressive as usually the bass gets adjusted, but here it hasn’t.

The mid-range I have to say is a little underwhelming, it’s a bit subdued and doesn’t have the prominence that I like. Don’t get me wrong the clarity and detail is good, it just doesn’t stand out at the forefront and it remains a bit too subtle. I personally like a more warm, brighter and stronger mid-range but these are just a bit lax. The colouring is on the cooler side which leads to the previously mentioned and some of you may prefer a less aggressive treble. Actually thinking about it, it suits the Pro 2 well. As if you’re on a long train journey or flight you don’t really want to be pumped up and excited, you want to relax and chill. Sound-stage and in-sound separation are solid but they don’t quite have the height and breadth I look for. They’re by no means closed in, they just aren’t as expansive as I like. In-sound separation is good and it’s easy enough to pick out individual elements if you really pay attention.

Again activating the noise cancelling does nothing to spoil the mid-range at all and if anything it helps block out intrusive noises so you can enjoy them more.

Vocals share the same characteristics as the mid-range with a silky delivery, smooth, soothing natural tone. The clarity and detail is strong making them very enjoyable. They don’t have the absolute power that I look for, but they are quite strong in their own right. Again they venture into the cooler space making their profile calmer. This means that they may not suit all artists or genres of music, especially those that warrant the extra vocal potency.

As before, the NC being activated did nothing to effect the quality of the vocal production.

Let me clarify, I may have been a bit critical of the sound but let me emphasize that these do sound very good and their delivery is rich, smooth and composed. It’s just that they are not to my personal taste. What Plantronics have done is made them sound like this to suit their environment and they do convey this really well. So although they may not be the most exciting headphones to listen to, they certainly won’t fatigue you over very extended listening sessions. Something that can’t be said for headphones with a bright, vibrant sound signature.

Also on the plus side, the inclusion of NC hasn’t sullied the sound at all and they sound just as good with it on or off, this is an impressive accomplishment as usually the inclusion of NC does have an impact on the sound.

Summary

So the Pro 2 have pretty much every feature you’d ever need from a set of noise-cancelling headphones, but are they the full package? Well, yes. They are really attractive headphones that are very well made, comfortable, have a very impressive battery life, perform superbly for noise isolation and do great job at keeping noise leak at bay. Plus the icing on the cake is the really smooth and detailed sound they provide.

For their price of around £200, I would say that these are the whole package and they offer everything you could possibly want in a set of headphones for everyday use or if you so happen to travel a lot.

Of course, they are some minor drawbacks with these headphones, but the plus points really overshadow them and they do deliver an almost faultless performance in every category.

In my opinion, these are highly worth their price tag and if you’re looking to invest in a great set of noise-cancelling headphones you can’t go far wrong with these. Plus they’re quite a bit cheaper than their closest rivals and that in my book is a win.

Score 8.5/10

Purchase a pair via Amazon UK

Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 Mobile Headset – Black Tan

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