Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 SE Review

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 SE

Two years ago I tested a couple of Bluetooth headphones and settled on the BackBeat Pro headphones by Plantronics. I have been very happy with them for the time being and it’s successor model, the BackBeat Pro 2, got good initial reviews I wanted to give them a try as well. This is my personal review after almost two weeks using them at work and at home. For the lack of any other comparisons I will mostly go into what’s different to the old pair.

Once unpacked the first impression that they are lighter and look way less bulky. And this impression also solidifies when putting them on: They feel lighter on the head and sit a bit more comfortable on the head. Thanks to the overhauled design I’m not looking like an alien as I did with the version one.

Comfort and Controls

The most distinct improvement first: For me the increased comfort while wearing the headphones justified the expense right away. As I would also call the old version comfortable, the new version fits my head better. Previously I had to take them off after an hour or so of usage because they would put a bit too much pressure on my ears. This has gotten definitely better and now I find myself wearing the headphones all through the morning for example. Yet the earcups could be just a tad thicker for even more comfort.

They sticked with the physical controls for all control elements on the headphones themselves. So without having to grab my device I can control the music player, adjust the volume, and take calls. In comparison to the old model the volume is now also adjusted on the left earcup and behaves more like buttons than the dial. And the OpenMic feature is now an additional option on the ANC switch. I like both changes as this behavior seems more intuitive than the context-depending actions on the previous model.

They also have the “smart” sensors for stopping the music when you take the headphones off, but I disabled this also for the new headphones after a few days as I find it rather confusing and sometimes even annoying.

Sound Quality

Albeit the sound is similar to the first version, the bass sounds a bit “fuller” for the lack of a better term. Yet they are still far from the bass heavy headphones from Beats and alike. As I listen mostly to Rock music I prefer the new sound signature.

The quality for calls is a bit of a mixed bag: In a mostly silent environment it’s okay and the person on the other end can understand me fairly good. But in a situation with more background noise, e.g. while walking down a crowded road, the quality deteriorates quite a bit and it’s harder to be understood. But the quality on my end has improved over the first version: It’s easy to understand the person you’re talking to without the small distortions the old headphones showed every couple of seconds.

A nice surprise was the improved quality when listening over the (old) SBC codec which is the only one supported by my old MacBook Pro. For all other input devices it supports the better aptX and AAC codecs.

Noise Canceling

The active noise canceling (ANC) hasn’t changed much as far as I can tell, regardless of what the Plantronics PR material says. I never listened to the Bose QX35 or the Sony MDR-1000X, so I can’t compare them with what’s proclaimed as the references for noise canceling on Bluetooth headphones (but also costs twice as much).

In everyday situations it blocks out some of the background noise like the cars and the generic sound baseline while commuting to work. Yet you can hear and understand announcements without much hassle. I like this actually quite a lot.

While working the headphones and the enabled ANC actually help me to concentrate by blocking large parts of the background noise, especially since there is a large construction site next to my office.

Other Observations

  • They removed the microphone from jack cable. Yet the cable (with mic) from the old headphones can be used without a problem.
  • The printed wood-imitation seems rather out of place. Not sure how well this ages when you use the controls often.
  • The multipoint Bluetooth connection (you can connect these headphones to two sources at the same time) is still a feature I love about these headphones.
  • Thanks to the new design I now also use the headphones also when leaving the house where I only used them stationary at my desk beforehand.
  • The “Special Edition” is probably not worth the higher price, if you don’t need NFC and don’t mind the different colors