With Apple dumping the good old headphone jack on its iPhones, and rumours of Samsung doing the same, now may be as good a time to invest in a pair of Bluetooth headphones as ever. Plus, it’s the holiday season to spoil yourself a little.
Now Plantronics wants in on the game. With its Backbeat Pro 2 headphones launched in Singapore last week, it hopes to get in on the lucrative market as well.
If you’ve not heard of Plantronics, that’s because it’s more well-known for its Bluetooth headsets and professional ear pieces used in offices.
Trying out the Backbeat Pro 2, I had largely positive first impressions. The headphones are not as big as some high-end hi-fi options we are seeing today but large enough to feel substantial in your hands.
The good news is that the ergonomic design of the headset is excellent and you don’t really ‘feel’ the size as you wear it on your head. That’s thanks largely to the headband that sits closer to the forehead than most headsets.
There are actually two version of the Backbeat Pro 2. The regular one goes for S$317 and comes in black or tan plastic. A more luxurious Special Edition that is protected by metallic paint, faux wood grain for buttons, plus a travelling case, will cost you S$379.
Neither is cheap, but they both pack some impressive features to justify the price.
First off, Plantronics claims the Backbeat Pro 2 is able to play 24 hours non-stop on a single charge and stay connected to a Class 1 Bluetooth device.
My quick test involved walking around my five-room flat while listening to audio tracks my phone that was sitting pretty inside my study room.
I was pretty surprised that the treble is clear, there is good support in the mids and the bass is tight. Plus, the connection was not cut off that easily. What’s more, I had a phone call too during the test and the conversation went on without a hitch.
Of course, how far the headset and the phone stay connected largely depends on the layout of the place you are in. However, what I experienced during my tests is certainly impressive, especially when there is no line of sight to my mobile phone.
I also streamed some music from Spotify, audio tracks and videos from YouTube and Netflix and the Backbeat Pro 2 passed with flying colours.
I fired up Say Something by A Great Big World and Christian Aguilera on YouTube, not exactly the best test material but everyday stuff we hear on the go. Clear vocals by the singers with good separation were what impressed me.
The sound stage from the accompanying instruments easily presented itself, pulling you into a virtual performance. If so much can be done with a YouTube music video, a premium streaming service with high bit rate tracks would certainly make the headset shine.
During the test, one thing that stood out was the active noise cancelling on the Backbeat Pro 2. It does the job pretty well without muffling human voice too much.
Once you are listening to a track, most noises are cancelled out. If you do need to talk to someone, just switch off the feature and you can hear your surroundings pretty clearly without pulling down the headset.
There are other nice touches too. Whenever the headphones are placed on the table, the track is automatically paused, before continuing to play when I put them on again.
There’s also a Plantronics Hub app that shows you the battery level of the headphones via the notification bar on the phone. You can also hunt down the headphones by pinging it through the app.
Another good thing about the Backbeat Pro 2 is the ability to connect via a regular headphone cable if you run out of juice for the Bluetooth link.
This was how connected the headphones to the excellent NAD D3020 amplifier. They performed very well together. On the go, I can definitely use the Backbeat Pro 2 by connecting to a plane’s in-flight entertainment system during my overseas trips.
How well the headphones perform certainly depends on your tastes and expectation. The sound stage may not be as wide as preferred for a headphone at this price and the separation can be better too, if you want to nitpick.
But I have to remind myself I am listening to a pair of Bluetooth headphones that are not usually the first choice of many audiophiles. For the convenience of wireless when travelling, the Backbeat Pro offers yet another option in the market.