I have been looking for a decent pair of active noise cancelling headphones for a while, the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) is the most obvious choice, but I don’t travel enough to justify the £320+ price tag.
Looking for cheaper options, I found favourable reviews for the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 which costs £174.99 on Amazon for the Black Tan model. This is much cheaper than the Bose and makes them a reasonably affordable option as far as noise cancelling headphones go.
Design and Build
They come packaged well, and you get a decent carry case to keep them protected. Within the case are a USB charge cable and a 3.5mm jack allowing you to use them in wired mode.
I have the grey model, and I think they look great, a touch more flair than the Bose alternative while not being obnoxious.
Build quality feels good too; there is a good range of adjustability making them suitable for all sizes of head. The ear cups fit comfortably over my ears with the foam padding and tightness of fit making them comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time. I do get hot ears wearing these, but that is an issue I have with all full-sized headphones.
Pairing them up is s a simple process, there is even an option for NFC pairing if you wish. Once paired you can control your music directly from the left headphone; there is a sliding disk that controls the volume, as well as the usual stop/pause and skip buttons. On the same headphone, you can enable ANC or use them with it switched off. On the other side, there is the button to activate/disable the microphone allowing you to take calls while wearing them, it isn’t really something I have used much, but it is a nice option to have. There is also an open mic option which is supposed to make talking to someone simple, it is another feature I didn’t use much as it is easier to take them off.
Turning off the ANC will extend the battery life, but it is something I rarely needed to do, they last for a full days’ worth of work, and I charge them overnight. Worst case scenario, if the battery dies, you can use them in wired mode with no power. Plantronics claims a 24-hour battery life, so I can’t see anyone ever having issues with the battery, you would have to forget to charge them after three days of 8 hours use per day.
The active noise cancellation is decent, it has been too long since I have used the Bose model, so I can’t accurately compare, I would say these are not quite as good, but I would still rate them as excellent. I haven’t used them on a plane yet, but with the hot weather I do have my fan on all day, and the ANC blocks off the louder low frequencies admirably, you then are left a slight high hum from the high pitched frequencies. Music or TV then drown out this noise easily and allow me to listen to things while keeping the volume at a moderate level.
Since I have not been on a plane with these yet, I also tried them with an engine noise track on YouTube. Again, they perform well, they block out the louder deep bass notes of the engine leaving a quieter and softer high pitch hum. No active noise cancelling is perfect and they all do better at blocking out low frequencies than high with varying degrees of success between brands.
Sound quality is excellent, but as other reviewers have pointed out, they lean towards being bass heavy. With ANC headphones I prefer this sound profile as it helps drown out any remaining background noises. Highs and mids can be a little overwhelmed at times with a very bass-heavy track, but overall, I found them well represented most of the time, with the overall sound quality being excellent in my opinion.
|Talk/standby time||Up to 24 hours talk and listen time; 6 months standby|
|Bluetooth v4.0||Headset/Hands-Free Profile HSP 1.2 and HFP 1.6 (Wideband HD Voice); Class 1 BT Radio|
|Audio profiles||Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), AVRCP, AAC|
|aptX Codecs||Classic; Low latency|
|Range||Up to 100 m/330 ft with Class 1 BT Transmitter|
|Voice alerts||Enhanced voice alerts announce talk-time, mute, and connection status and more|
|Driver diameter||40 mm|
|Microphone||Boomless dual microphone with DSP|
|Frequency response||20–20,000 Hz|
|Sensitivity (dB SPL/1mW)||93|
|Battery capacity||680 mAh|
|Battery type||Rechargeable, non-replaceable lithium ion polymer|
|Charge time||3 hours for full charge|
|Multipoint technology||Stay connected to two phones and answer from either one (2H2S)|
I was pleasantly surprised with the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2, there is nothing significant for me to criticise about these at all. While the bass dominance won’t be ideal for audiophiles, I personally like the sound profile, the extra bass works well with drowning out background noise. As far as I am aware, these are unrivalled for their battery performance which will be a great selling point for any frequent traveller, plus the option to use them in wired mode with no battery ensures they are always usable.
Pricing is very favourable, the cheapest the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) have ever been is £320 on Amazon. This makes these consistently far cheaper.
The ANC does an outstanding job for the price, and this makes these a perfect option for a regular traveller wanting a well priced active noise cancelling and wireless pair of headphones.