Nearly every person today in the United States is walking around with a smartphone in their pocket. The upper-end devices are increasingly being produced without a 3.5mm jack. This has been in an effort to continue the march towards smaller and smaller devices. It also means that if you want to listen to some tunes on said device, you will need to either use a dongle or invest in a set of wireless headphones or speakers.
Today we take a look at the Plantronics Backbeat Sense, a pair of on-ear headphones from the maker of all-things office audio. The Backbeats are currently priced at $79 on Amazon. This places them right at the upper edge of he budget segment. It is a fairly reasonable price and we will explore if the headphones warrant their price.
The headphones are made entirely of plastic, which is not unusual for headphones in this price range. This pair is white in color, but there is also a black color available. The earpieces are covered in memory foam wrapped in soft dark caramel-colored leather. The headband is also padded with the same material. Speaking of the headband, it has just the right degree of flexibility for long-term use and at under four ounces, the headphones are comfortable for long-term use. I have been using these for the past couple of weeks and unless my ears are covered, I can easily forget that I am wearing them. They also ship with a nice canvas carrying bag to tote the units around while on the go. One small downfall is that the headphones don’t fold, you can only rotate the earphones to allow the units to lay flat. This shortcoming does make the units more difficult to fit into a bag on the go. It’s something to consider if you are always on the go.
The Bluetooth performance of these headphones is very good. With a direct line-of-sight, the headphones work from about eighty feet away. If you start adding in walls and obstructions, the range markedly decreases. The connection has been rock solid so far with no random drops in connection. A nice bonus is the ability of the headphones to connect two source devices simultaneously, which allows you to easily switch between a tablet and smartphone without having to re-pair.
The audio profile of the headphones is quite balanced. The low-end is not over emphasized like some of their competitors. This may be a good or bad thing depending on your preference in music. Mid frequency sounds are well represented and distinct from the lower-end range of sounds. The highs are similarly distinct, but never harsh even at higher volume levels. The overall volume is good, although without active noise cancellation, some sound is allowed into your ears from outside the headphones.
The headphones are able to be used in either active or passive mode. What this means is that you can use them wirelessly on their own power, or you can use the included 3.5mm cable to use them as traditional headphones. It is a useful feature if you want to conserve battery power while on a plane or if you think you are going to be away from power for a while. The audio quality is very similar in both modes.
In terms of battery life, you can expect to get about fifteen hours of continuous usage, which is fantastic. It will last you an entire week of commuting with more battery to spare for the weekend. Charging times can creep close to three hours, but with such great battery life that is a minor complaint.
These set of Plantronics headphones may not have the cache of the more well-known brands in the consumer headphone space, but they deliver on quality, style, performance, and value. If you are in the market for wireless headphones, these should definitely be on your short list.