Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones
FOLLOWING on from the RIG, the firm’s dedicated gaming headset, the BackBeat Pro sees Plantronics continue to branch out from its core product line of Bluetooth earphones into more substantial over-ear headsets aimed at discerning consumers. It is a welcome addition to the high-end corner of the market which holds its own against some stiff competition thanks to some sleek design and functionality.
The headset itself is robustly designed and has a smart yet conservative appearance, with a black matte finish to the plastic and a few colourful accents of purple fabric and flashes of metal. At 340 grams, it feels light and is comfortable over long periods thanks to well-padded synthetic material around the cups.
The mid range can lose a little clarity but the sonic delivery has depth and precision
Tested across a range of music, the performance is balanced and well rounded. The bass feels biting if never heavy, while the high ends are crisp. On occasion, the mid-range loses a little of its clarity and definition in busy rock tracks, but the BackBeat Pro offers up a fine sonic delivery, with depth and precision. Paired with a PS Vita, it also reveals itself as a suitable gaming headset, though some may like a little more punch to the low end.
Another flagship feature, the active noise cancelling technology worked well when tested on a busy train, keeping the external din to a minimum. In other scenarios, however, the option felt superfluous and to the detriment of playback; switching on the noise cancelling brings about a noticeable scaling back in bass performance. It is a handy feature, for sure, but the isolation provided by the cushioned earphones alone feels sufficient for everyday use.
The power sensors show a thought and invention at play
The ambition on show is better realised in other practical features, not the least the way battery power is conserved when the headphones are taken off; the audio pauses automatically and in time, the set will go into hibernation mode. Put them back on and the audio resumes. The use of sensors in this way is a small but welcome addition, indicative of the thought and invention at play.
On the unit itself, Plantronics have shoehorned in a welter of control options that are strategically spaced apart so as to avoid clutter and the potential for pressing the wrong button while on the move. The faces of the left and right cup, for instance, allow you to play and pause and answer a telephone call respectively, while dials around the circumference of each phone control track shuffling and volume.
The headset may look spartan but it has a surprising amount of features
Three further switches on the main body allow you to toggle active noise cancellation, power and the open mic. Cumulatively, the arrangement is a masterstroke of economic design, just as Plantronics demonstrated previously with the mixer on the RIG. This is a headset with a surprising amount of options packed into its relatively spartan main body.
What it lacks in aesthetic flourishes, the carry pouch makes up for in resilience. Stored away at the bottom of a rucksack, it kept its shape and protected the headphones well. The earcups can be turned inwards to rest on a flat surface, but the fact the BackBeat Pro cannot be folded in two means that transporting it around in anything smaller than a backpack is impractical.