— -- Bluetooth technology is reshaping the wireless headphone market. That sector grew by 18 percent in 2014, and the premium segment — headphones that cost more than $100 — grew 62 percent, making it one of the fastest-growing technology sectors.
That may be good news for manufacturers but there’s better news for consumers, especially music-loving audiophiles: An array of tech savvy firms are delivering more quality devices to the market.
Plantronics, the company that helped pioneer lightweight, mobile headset technology, has produced a raft of wireless headset products for consumers, including earbuds and headphones that deliver the same sophisticated sound and technical innovations that have made the company a popular provider of business products.
The Backbeat Go 2 wireless earbuds ($79.99) are a small, lightweight device with a crisp, powerful sound. The Bluetooth technology allows you to connect to your smartphone or tablet for music, movies, and calls. When fully charged, the device allows up to 4.5 hours of listening and 5 hours of talk time. A charging case (for an extra $20) allows a fully charged device up to 14.5 hours listening time.
The Backbeat Pro ($249), wireless noise cancelling headphones, feature up to 24 hours of continuous wireless use, an amazing feat given its full-bodied sound quality. The over-ear design also features incredible wireless range (up to 330 ft.) and noise cancelling technology.
“There’s been tremendous strikes in the Bluetooth technology over the past decade and that’s allowed for more premium products to come to the market,” says Jaap Haartsen, a senior expert on wireless systems for Plantronics, who also led that team of engineers that first developed Bluetooth technology in 1993. “For consumers, this translates into better sound quality and more flexibility in the devices they can choose from.”
Another smart feature on the Backbeat Pro is a mute switch on the bottom of the right ear that quickly reduces the audio level while allowing outside sound to creep in. This is a terrific feature when you need to have a conversation without having to remove your headphones. (The outside audio is captured by the headphones’ microphones.) Another interesting feature: voice prompts that cover power status, battery life, Bluetooth pairing status, and maximum volume.
Comfortable and smartly designed, the Backbeat Pro folds flat for easier transportation and comes with a heavy-duty travel pouch with a strong lining that protects the device during travel. At a weight of just 340g, it’s an easy travel companion. BackBeat PRO can also be hooked up directly to an analogue audio source through a 3.5mm jack socket on the left earcup.
Plantronics expanse in Bluetooth comes as the market is expanding. According to research group NPD, which tracks consumer product sales in the U.S., nearly 800,000 Bluetooth-equipped speakers and headphones were sold in the fourth quarter of 2014, a staggering 432 percent increase from the year before.