October 28, 2020

Out Here In The Fields

…of musings and ramblings

Review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

5 min read

First thing first: Plantronics’ decision to use the BackBeat Pro series as their ANC headphone line instead of creating a separate line of product is commendable. By doing that, Plantronics avoided cluttering their offering with overlapping stuff and customers that are considering to upgrade from the original Pro will have an easier time to pick which headphones they want to upgrade to.

It is obvious that the BackBeat Pro 2 is squarely aimed at buyers that are considering to purchase the Bose QuietComfort 35 or Sony MDR-1000x but are reluctant to spend that much of a money. In Indonesia the BackBeat Pro 2 is priced around Rp 2,900,000 or around USD200, making it at least USD100-120 cheaper than the MDR-1000X or QC35.

What’s in the box
The headset, 3.5mm cable, microUSB cable, manuals and the carrying case

Out of the box, you’ll get the BackBeat Pro 2 wrapped inside a carrying pouch layered with a soft, fake fur-like material in the inside. The carrying pouch has a second, external compartment that stores the microUSB cable, a stereo 3.5mm jack cable for wired listening, along with printed manual.

so soft
Build Quality

It’s… great. The headband is covered with breathable mesh material, the padding on the earcup, although less thick than what I would like it to be, is tender and pillowy. The hinges seems to be sturdy and dampened. And aside from the gaudy wood prints on the side of earcups, The Pro 2 sports a very mature color pallet, which I love. What I don’t like is the shiny plastic sported in some part of the earcups. I have a feeling that by the way I’m using it, it will be adorned by multiple tiny scratches in no time.

Plantronics puts the left-right marking inside the earcup. I wish the inverted the color, but let’s hope that bright grey surface is easy to clean up.

DSC07197

Compared to my existing over-ear headphones, the size of the Pro 2 earcup is a bit on the tiny side. If you have large ears, and you really, really want an over-ear headphone, you might want to find something else.

BackBeat Pro 2 and MDR-1A size comparison

The earcup can be angled to follow the contour of your head, but not by much.

Also, a side note: The end of the zipper chain on the carrying pouch broke on the first week and I have to sew it back together.

It snapped
Features

The Pro 2 is not collapsible unlike Bose QC35 but you can at the very least turn the  earcups 90 degree, so you can make it flat for storing. Also, Plantronics opts for a more traditional control arrays of buttons, switch and dial, instead of those futuristic touchpads found in the more expensive options such as the MDR-1000X. The right earcup hosts  3.5mm jack, microUSB charging port, the power slash Bluetooth pairing switch, and microphone mute button. The wood-print covered part is actually a button that when you press, lights up an array of blue LEDs indicating how much power are left on the battery.

Right

The left earcup is home to the media buttons, along with the volume dial, and the prized Active Noise Cancellation switch, which you can set to active, inactive, or Open Listening,  pass-through mode that allows you to hear your surrounding although you’re wearing an over ear headphone.

Left

Once you rip off the clear label sticker, you will need to remember which position has what function, as there’s no visual cue of what the lever is used for, or which function is assigned to each position. Fortunately, the headphone will give you voice cue whenever you’re switching between modes.

It has Apt-X so audio-wise it’s great and you should not be worry about track skipping and delay. A nice feature on the Pro 2 is that when you take it off of your ear, it will pause whatever media player you’re using, including Totem on Ubuntu. Except Kodi, but Kodi  is weird anyway.

Wireless range is great. I was able to keep on listening to music even there are multiple walls between me and the phone.

Plantronics promises us 24 hours of battery life. I usually left it in my bag, inside my office locker when I’m not using it and it stays in standby mode during the day and lost 1 hour of standby time each of passing day so I started developing a habit of recharging the Pro 2 for an hour on Monday morning before I leave for work.

In Use

So I was right. Although the Pro 2 is marketed as an over-ear headphone, it barely covers my ears. Granted I have a larger than average ears compared to my Indonesian peers, but I don’t have this problem with my Sony MDR-1A, AKG K511, or even my Razer Chimaera Stereo.

Comfort wise, while comparing the Pro 2 to my MDR-1A and AKG K551 is not in any way fair, as those are probably the two most comfortable over-ear headphones ever manufactured, I find the Pro 2 bearable. Resizing the headband helps with the tight clamp and I can wear it 1-2 hours straight. We’ll see whether it loosen up over time.

I have tried both  MDR-1000X and QC35, and even through my non-audiophile ears, the MDR-1000X sounds better than the Pro 2, but for me, not by much. If you prefer more low end kick on your cans, then you might even like the Pro 2 more.

The ANC blocks the common office hum fairly well, and I was able to comfortably watch  an episode of Mindhunter in a crowded cafeteria. Is it better than QC35 or MDR-1000x? Probably not, but I don’t mind.

FINAL thought

Both Bose and Sony have a distinguished pedigree when it comes to sound quality. Plantronics does not have that, and it shows. If you really want to have the nicest sound out of USD200, get Sony MDR-1A or even Philips SHP9500 instead. You can even stick a bluetooth receiver on the SHP9500 since it has a generic stereo 3.5m jack. If you don’t like that, there are cheaper bluetooth options such as the Sony MDR-XB950. Noise cancellation? If you accept passive, getting a wireless earbuds with a Comply tip is cheaper and work very well to certain extent.

But if you really  want bluetooth and fancy Active Noise Cancellation, the BackBeat Pro 2 is not a bad choice. Sure the MDR-1000X sounds better, and the QC35 blocks more noise, but those are for USD100-150 more.

Verdict 4/5

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