Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ Review

October 10, 2016

Plantronics is starting to crank up its consumer oriented product offerings. Released in July 2016, the BackBeat PRO+ (SGD 449 / USD 299) is the follow up to their first over-ears model, the BackBeat PRO. This time round, they include a USB dongle for high quality Bluetooth streaming. Let's dive into the full review.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+

Pros (+): Good sound quality; Flexibility in Bluetooth pairing options; Comfortable.
Cons (-): Design aesthetic could be improved; Decent ANC.

As usual, we take a look at the unboxing process. As compared with its predecessor, the PRO+ comes in gray as opposed to black.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ box

Sliding out the outer cardboard layer gets you access to a solid black box flanked on 4 sides by transparent plastic blister. 
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+

Popping the top lid open reveals the headphones proper. The rest of the accessories lie under the headphones mold.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+

Spilling 'em all out, the packaging contents reveal:

  • Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ headphones
  • High-fidelity BT600 USB dongle
  • Audio cable (3.5mm to 3.5mm)
  • Charging cable (micro-USB)
  • Carrying pouch
  • User guides
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ packaging

These are massive headphones. Not a doubt about that. It has a look you either love or hate - fashionistas may not take to these but on the other hand, they give a badass look. At 340 grams, they are heavier than other wireless noise-canceling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 (309g). 
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+

The circular earpads are comfortably well padded and complement the foam covered headband well to last a few hours listening with little discomfort. The hinges allow a 90 degree earcup rotation for purposes of easy storage.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ headband

The huge ballistic nylon carrying pouch looks sufficiently rugged and can accomodate the headphones with both earcups laid flat out. A small strip of Velcro is used to seal the pouch contents.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ carrying sleeve

These Plantronics over-ears include sensors that function when playing / pausing music when putting on / taking off the headphones. There's no need to press a button for playback. It's a great function similar to the Parrot Zik 3 or the Sennheiser PXC 550. If somehow this is annoying, the sensors can be disabled.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ audio cable

Active noise-canceling (ANC) is powered on through a switch on the left earcup. We'll elaborate on the experience later. Playback switches are spread out on both cups. Left holds a massive play/pause button and a surrounding dial to skip tracks. Right holds a huge call button flanked by a volume jog dial.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ ANC switch

For Bluetooth pairing, there's a flurry of options available: 
  • Plug in the BT600 USB dongle to your PC / Mac and power on the headphones to pair. 
  • Pair by holding the NFC (Near Field Communications) points of the headphones and your music device together
  • Hold the call button to initiate the pairing 
With the dongle, it's really easy to pair. I just plugged it in, switched the headphones on and was connected within seconds. If you lose the dongle, you can pick another at USD 59. 
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ BT600 USB dongle
Glows blue when connected and purple during playback.

You can connect up to 2 Bluetooth devices simultaneously and you can apparently wander up to 100m (330 feet) from your paired device. I did not get this experience as music became intermittent as I wandered around my house (which has quite a few walls I might add).
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ BT600 sound config
With the BT600 dongle, do remember to configure your sound settings on first time usage.

Ambient sound can be heard on an immediate basis with the OpenMic feature where you press the button under the right earcup.

For apps, do note that Plantronics has some apps that more geared toward its headsets ie. they are generic. They include useful features like the ability to toggle between 14 languages for voice prompts and an intuitively-named Find MyHeadset function.

You can play music either wirelessly or using the wired cable provided. With the audio cable, you can have an in-line remote that has a single button for playing or skipping tracks. The cable plugs to the BackBeat PRO+ via a straight 3.5mm jack and to your device through an L-shaped 3.5mm jack.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ audio cable

The BackBeat PRO+ supports the aptX codec promising a high quality sound. And indeed, it was very agreeable when using the BT600 USB dongle. I took a listen to what I would consider as Kenji Kawai's magnum opus - Voyage to Avalon. Elzbieta Towarnicka's vocals were breathtakingly clear amid the intense bass delivered by the accompanying orchestra. Compared with the normal Bluetooth connection, it appeared to me that the music delivered via the dongle gave more detail and a more resounding bass. 
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+
Left Earcup - Micro-USB and 3.5mm jacks on the underside
On wireless ANC, quite a bit of ambient sound is taken away allowing a refuge from your noisy environment though not the most effective headphone out there in this regard. Removing the ANC, the bass spreads out over a wider soundstage. 

One thing to note is the headphones may move around a little when you walk so it's important to get the right fit around your head. 
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ carrying sleeve

Plantronics mentions that a full 3 hour charge promises 24 hours of playback. If it's only on wired mode, then the ANC should last a real decent 60 hours. Battery life is indeed one of the top draws here. Plugging the charging cable in will initiate the movement of 4 blue LED indicators on the right cup. One good thing is you can still listen to music while charging.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ charging

The Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ is an all rounder in the over-ears category of headphones. It ain't the prettiest model out there, but it has a pleasantly balanced sound delivery. Combined with good comfort and useful features such as a sensor that actuates playback when used, it's a decent pair worthy of consideration.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO+

Where To Buy
If you like the product but if you reckon the SGD 449 price is too steep (and we agree with you on that), you can get it from Amazon via our affiliate link. Prices start from USD 214 (approx SGD 294) and as you can surmise, is much lower than retail prices.

Audio Sources
Voyage To Avalon - Avalon OST (256kbps MP3 on MacBook Air)

Credit to Plantronics for a review unit.

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