Plantronics backbeat pro 2 review (buyer’s guide) 2023

Plantronics backbeat pro 2 review


The Pro 2s are full-size headphones, similar in stature to Sony’s MDR-100AAP. From a few feet away they look the part, particularly thanks to their big protein leather pads and similarly synthetic leather-topped headband.

Up close, the cups look a little crowded. There’s a disc of fake wood surrounded by a ring of dotted plastic, bordered by a ring that looks like it’s been inlaid with tiny crystals (but is actually a metal grille).

There’s a sea of plastic around this, embossed with contours that look like they could have been made with a woodblock artist’s chisel.

This may make the Backbeat Pro 2s sound a visual mess, which would be a little unfair. However, they don’t look as simple and attractive as the Bose Quietcomfort 35s.

They are comfortable though, owing to large over-ear pads and generous foam on the band.

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Less isn’t more in Plantronics’ world. This philosophy continues in its wealth of features. These are wireless Bluetooth headphones with aptX, active noise cancellation and a couple of extras most rival designs leave out.

Sensors in the pads allow the Backbeat Pro 2s to automatically pause your music when you take them off. There is also a mode that uses the microphone to let you hear your surroundings without taking them off.

Battery life is also very good at 24 hours, and there are comprehensive controls on the cups. There are buttons for playback control, and one of the rings on the left cup can be rotated to alter volume.

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The one missing item is NFC, but Plantronics also makes a more expensive Special Edition version of the Backbeat Pro 2s that adds the feature.

Bluetooth signal quality is good, with no significant interference or drop-outs. Active noise cancellation is reasonable, but those expecting the efficacy of Bose’s best ANC pairs will be disappointed. These Plantronics cut down the low-end din of the city, aircon units and other humming appliances, but they don’t eradicate them.

Alternatives from AKG and Sony, as well as Bose, are more effective. The Plantronics’ main benefit is less of a sense of air pressure in your ears than some other pairs, including Bose’s.

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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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The Backbeat Pro 2s have 40mm dynamic drivers. Their sound has a number of admirable elements, but is let down by bass that drags audio quality down a league below their peers.

Let’s start with the good points. The Backbeat Pro 2s are smooth and have an enjoyable soundfield. Like the best full-size headphones the sound is wide, seeming to come from around your ears rather than between them. It’s an immersive soundscape.

Detail is fairly good, with a decent amount of musical information delivered by the mids and treble without any harshness or abrasiveness making the Backbeat Pro 2s seem they’re trying too hard. The aim seems to be a smooth and easygoing sound, and it’s right on target.

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This is a perfectly fine goal, but the Pro 2s trip over their own bass. The low end panders to the long-standing populist obsession with the stuff, but it goes a little too far.

Bass is soft and slow. There’s plenty of weight, but it’s leaden and manifests as a cloud of mid-bass that hangs over the fairly good detail in the higher registers like a smog haze over a city.

It reduces separation and transparency, ultimately weighing down the Plantronics and sapping their energy and dynamics. These could be very good-sounding headphones, but a couple of tuning choices mean they are only fair.

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