Plantronics Backbeat PRO Video Review

The Plantronics Backbeat PRO noise cancelling headphones just keep going and going and going. They’re not the pinnacle of noise cancelling technology, but they’re unlikely to leave travellers in the noisy lurch.
Plantronics’ latest headphones are aimed at those buyers who need regular noise cancelling a lot. That’s usually travellers, because planes are noisy places even at the quietest times. The Backbeat PRO are a pair of Bluetooth capable noise cancelling headphones.

The design and layout is simple enough to grasp with only a short period of testing, with a power switch, call take/end button and rotating dial for volume on the right side, and play/pause button, noise cancelling switch and track skipping on the left. The actual earpieces are soft and should cover all but the largest ears.
They fold down and out to enable you to wear them around your neck, which is a neat way of ensuring you’ve got a little bit of extra packing space in your carry-on luggage. A very simple soft case is supplied with the headphones for travel purposes if you don’t feel like wearing them.
There’s a very specific place where noise cancelling headphones are at their best, and that’s on long haul plane flights. So in order to test the Plantronics Backbeat PRO headphones, I tested them on a flight from Sydney to New York and back again via Dallas last week.
There’s one very impressive part of the Plantronics Backbeat PRO’s performance, and that’s the battery life. Whenever you switch them on they alert you as to their battery life status. Plantronics rates the Plantronics Backbeat PRO as being capable of up to 24 hours of battery life, and I have no reason post-test to doubt this.

These strange letters -- "L" and "R". What could they possibly mean?
These strange letters — “L” and “R”. What could they possibly mean?

After around 20 hours of on and off usage, they’d only dropped to what the headphones informed me were “medium” power levels. Even if they were to die on you, they’re also 3.5mm audio cable compatible, so they’ll work as regular headphones in a pinch if they did run out of power. Not every pair of noise cancelling headphones is so considerate. Mind you, while a 3.5mm cable is provided, you don’t get a multi-point audio plug converter in the box with the Plantronics Backbeat PRO headphones, so connecting to some inflight entertainment systems may be impossible unless you pack one yourself.
One cute aspect of the Plantronics Backbeat PRO’s feature set, and one that probably saves a little power is that they sense when they’re against your head and pause playback when taken away from your ears. So when you flip them down around your neck, your music or video stops, and you’re able to resume it simply by placing them back around your head. It works well at a basic play and pause level, although there is one catch which I’ll address later.
Plantronics’ noise cancelling ability isn’t the most aggressive I’ve ever used, although that’s not automatically a strike against them. There are instances where it’s useful to be able to hear ambient noise, and I never had a problem with blocking out the basic background plane noise around me.
Big friendly buttons and dials. There's a learning curve here, but it's not a steep one.
Big friendly buttons and dials. There’s a learning curve here, but it’s not a steep one.

There’s one aspect where I always hit an issue with full headphones in an in-plane setting, and that’s long-term comfort. If you’re only wearing them for an hour or so a padded set of headphones like the Plantronics Backbeat PRO are unlikely to be an issue at all, but the same isn’t always true after five, ten or fifteen hours of constant wear.
The Plantronics Backbeat PRO were comfortable to an extent, but after around ten hours I found the constant push against my head a little tiresome. Don’t get me wrong — this is an aspect where I’ve never found a single pair of head gripping headphones to retain comfort — but there’s an added catch with the Plantronics Backbeat PRO headphones. Because they offer automatic on/off simply by taking them away from your ears, if you shift them around to make your ears more comfortable (as I did), then they’ll momentarily pause playback. It’s not a killer problem; more of a minor niggle.
At $349, the Plantronics Backbeat PRO are quite competitively priced in a sector where a few big names and even bigger prices predominate. If you’re worried about headphones dying on you mid-flight — and with the generally woeful quality of airline headphones to consider, that’s a genuine concern for regular travellers — then they’re a very solid choice indeed.

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