In 2014 when I reviewed the BackBeat PRO, there were 10 features that impress me. Fast forward 18 months later, some of these features are no longer fascinating as other manufacturers have caught up with technology. Nevertheless, the new BackBeat PRO+ remains relevant, which goes to show how forward-thinking Plantronics was back in 2014.
The latest PRO+ comes with grey and silver overall, to distinguish from the previous PRO which comes in black with purple accents. Its over-the-ear pad fitting and the headband pressure sufficient to keep the headphones on my head achieves adequate comfort. I tried wearing it for 3-over hours, and though I can feel the weight, I never felt that I needed to remove the headphones for a breather.
Supports Wired and Wireless
BackBeat PRO+ can be enjoyed either with wireless Bluetooth or with wired 3.5mm cable, which comes with in-line controls of a single button and no volume controls. A slider switch is to mute the mic.
It is easy to pair with Bluetooth devices via NFC, or just press-and-hold the call button to initiate.
Controlling audio and answering calls is easy. The right ear controls answering calls and volume via the wheel, the left ear controls play-pause and changes track.
A killer feature of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro+ (and the previous Pro) is the auto-pause feature. Simply put, music comes to a pause the moment I remove the headphones from the ears. This is a brilliant feature unique to Plantronics. It is so brilliant that I wonder why no other headphone company does that.
OpenMic (Ambient Mode)
Whenever you need to listen to the surrounding sound, press a button at the bottom of the right headphone. You can even adjust the volume of the ambient sound. Now you can be like a super hero with heightened hearing power!
Active Noise Cancellation
Activating the ANC at the left headphone cuts off the low hum that occurs around you – on bus, on plane, while walking along the streets. It is not as powerful as Bose, nor can it eliminate higher frequencies like cutlery or kids screaming, but it alters the audio balance to make it cleaner.
When it comes to audio quality, the BackBeat Pro+ is identical to the BackBeat Pro. Like the first version, the Pro+ is tuned to deliver an exciting sound for the modern genre: clear bright treble balanced with heavy boomy bass. Kick bass sometimes overpower the booms and delivers a little more decay yet does not muddy-up the treble. The large diaphragm ensures there are room for every instrumental sonic details to be delivered to my ears without cramping up.
Turning off the ANC makes the audio less exciting and processed, the vocals and highs are little recessed, while the high bass and mids have improved presence.
Listening to music using cable is possible with or without power. Without power, the audio is heavier at the bass and the highs lack transparency. With power, audio character is similar to wireless. The advantage of listening with power is that I can use ANC and control volume, but oddly, there is noise when listening through the cable with power on.
Like the predecessor, the BackBeat Pro+ lasts 24 hours in a single charge. There are 5 blue LEDs to indicate the remaining battery life, or you can listen to the voice prompts to get an idea of the remaining battery life.
Bluetooth USB Adapter
The BackBeat Pro+ comes with a Class 1 Bluetooth USB adapter, but it’s not just wireless Bluetooth. It is actually a digital audio interface that bypasses your computer’s audio card and sends audio signal exclusively to the PRO+. This ensures Plantronics handles the audio delivery all the way, converting the digital file to audio signal and transmitting wirelessly to the headphones. Honestly, without this dongle, I would be just plugging the audio cable to the laptop and hearing sub-par music because of the inferior audio interface on my laptop. On new ultrabooks with built-in Bluetooth, I would be at the mercy of the Bluetooth audio version that varies.
Throughout my review, the Bluetooth dongle delivers clean wireless transmission to the headphones without distortion or interference. As a Class 1 Bluetooth adapter, it transmits up to 100 metres, which the BackBeat Pro+ supports, though most consumer Bluetooth products transmit at most 10 metres. So that price premium compared to the BackBeat Pro would be worth it if you listen music wirelessly through your computer. In addition, the USB adapter supports microphone transmission, hence you can use the BackBeat Pro+ for audio conferencing.
The BackBeat PRO+ is the top-range headphones by Plantronics, with enjoyable audio quality to excite your aural senses. I love the punchy bass and clear treble without sounding too extreme. I love the numerous options of listening music, with or without wired. The ANC cuts some background noise to further improve the audio details. The smart sensor auto-pauses the music when you remove the headphones from your ears. If you prefer a more lightweight headphones with similar features as the PRO+, check out the Plantronics BackBeat SENSE.
Retail price: S$449, available at all good electronic stores.
Official Product Website: http://www.plantronics.com/us/product/backbeat-pro-plus