A 'Hello-Fi' Bluetooth adapter doesn't assist Plantronics' new headphones
With regards to trendy premium headphones, Plantronics in all probability is not the primary firm that involves thoughts. It is best recognized for its PC headsets and Bluetooth earpieces — not precisely Beats territory. However I can nonetheless keep in mind the primary time I heard the corporate’s first over-ear wi-fi headphones, the BackBeat Professional, again in 2013. At $250, they sounded nearly as good as far costlier cans from Beats and Bose, they usually even packed in noise-canceling, in addition. Now with the $300 BackBeat Professional+, its pseudo comply with-up, Plantronics has added a USB dongle for top-high quality Bluetooth streaming audio from computer systems. However is a tiny accent value a good greater worth? Not fairly.
Plantronics did not undergo any main redesigns for the BackBeat Professional+. It appears precisely like the unique mannequin, besides it is now gray as an alternative of black. That is not precisely a nasty factor, although, as its subdued design is a pleasant various to the plethora of more and more garish headphones available on the market. For those who’re trying to make a method assertion, these in all probability aren’t the headphones for you.
The BackBeat Professional+ is made from plastic, principally, with metallic arms connecting the scarf. You’ll be able to twist the cans to make it lay flat, however you possibly can’t collapse it any additional like extra moveable headsets. Be ready to go away loads of room in your bag, then. The earpads, whereas a tad skinny, are surrounded by a cushty layer of froth. Along with the froth-coated headband, I did not have any hassle sporting the BackBeat Professional+ for hours at a time.
In contrast to many headphones today, Plantronics hasn’t put collectively any particular companion app. However that is completely high quality, since you are able to do every part you want proper on the cans. On the left cup, there’s a big play/pause button, a change for activating noise cancellation, and a dial for leaping backwards and forwards by way of tracks. You may also pair NFC-outfitted Android telephones with the BackBeat Professional+ by holding them as much as the left cup whereas in pairing mode. There’s a regular headphone jack on the underside of the cup (a cable is included within the field), in addition to a micro-USB port for charging.
On the appropriate aspect, there’s a big “Name” button for accepting calls (which you additionally maintain right down to activate Bluetooth pairing mode), a quantity dial, and the facility change. There’s additionally an “OpenMic” button on the underside of the best cup, which pipes in exterior audio from the actual world whereas decreasing the quantity in your music enter. (For when it is just too onerous to take off your headphones.)
However again to that USB dongle: It is simply that, a tiny Bluetooth adapter (the Plantronics BT600) that immediately connects Home windows PCs and Macs to the BackBeat Professional+. It comes pre-paired from the manufacturing unit, so all you could do is plug it in and activate the headphones to make a wi-fi connection. Whereas most laptops and desktops nowadays already embrace Bluetooth help, Plantronics says its dongle ensures a better high quality expertise (it helps to have an exterior Bluetooth antenna, for instance). A software program replace will ultimately permit the dongle to help even higher wi-fi audio utilizing the AptX codec, which is a step above typical Bluetooth streaming.
I observed barely extra element and nuance in songs with the Plantronics dongle on my MacBook Air, after switching forwards and backwards between it and constructed-in Bluetooth. “Like A Canine Chasing Automobiles” from the Darkish Knight soundtrack had extra bass oomph and element instrumental element with the BT600 adapter, whereas the bass appeared boomier and fewer-outlined with constructed-in Bluetooth. I observed the identical factor with “Bim Bam Smash” from the Bourne Supremacy soundtrack, in addition to songs from Bowie, Bjork and Arcade Hearth. It isn’t that the BackBeat Professional+ sounds dangerous with regular Bluetooth — it is among the many greatest wi-fi headphones I’ve heard — however the firm’s dongle simply added a bit extra element.
Past Plantronics’ Bluetooth adapter, the BackBeat Professional+ works precisely just like the earlier mannequin. Flipping on the noise-cancellation mode whereas on the subway successfully decreased outdoors noise a bit, although not as a lot as different headphones that provide the function. The headphones additionally lasted over 22 hours on a cost with wi-fi listening from computer systems, smartphones and the brand new Apple TV. (Plantronics claims 24 hours of battery life.) You’ll be able to stream larger-high quality Bluetooth audio with units that natively help AptX (loads of excessive-finish Android telephones supply it, however not a single Apple system). It is debatable how a lot AptX makes a distinction, although. I can hear a slight enchancment, however the distinction won’t matter a lot to some listeners.
As helpful as Plantronics’ Bluetooth adapter is, the upper $300 worth for the BackBeat Professional+ makes it a harder promote within the headphone market. Samsung’s wi-fi Degree Over headphones, which additionally embrace noise-canceling know-how, at present retail between $200 and $325, relying on the place you look. These are additionally considered one of The Wirecutter’s most popular noise-canceling headphones, and based mostly on my testing, additionally they sound fairly darn nice.
A good stronger competitor is Plantronics’ unique BackBeat Professional headphones, which now retail for round $166 on Amazon. That is a steal, contemplating they initially retailed at $250. You would additionally snap up the BT600 adapter for $60 individually and nonetheless find yourself paying far lower than the BackBeat Professional+. (There are cheaper Bluetooth USB adapters with AptX on the market, however I have never had an opportunity to check them.)
At its present worth, it is arduous to advocate the BackBeat Professional+. Positive, it is a strong performer for wi-fi music listening, and the included adapter makes it simpler to hook up with PCs over Bluetooth. However it merely cannot compete towards an similar set of headphones promoting for almost half the worth.