It's no secret that I love wireless headphones. They are the type of gadget that can make you feel like you're living in the very near future, pumping tunes into your ear holes without having to be plugged into anything. There are a ton of wireless headphone options available, ranging from the horrible to the pretty great. This week, Plantronics (you may know them best for the oft-mocked Bluetooth headsets every business bro had jammed in their ear five or 10 years ago) released the BackBeat Sense, a riff on the wireless headphone that adds some useful smarts to an attractive and comfortable design.
The $179.99 BackBeat Sense is on the more expensive end of on-ear headphones, but they have some really nice features such as well-padded memory foam ear cups, actual physical buttons to control playback and volume (as opposed to less reliable touch-based controls), an audio pass-through option to hear the world around you, and the ability to be connected to two different devices at the same time and switch between them. Plantronics says the Bluetooth radio in the Sense is strong enough to stream music up to 100 feet away, and the internal battery lasts up to 18 hours between charges. The headphones are also very lightweight and comfortable, making it easy to wear them for hours at a time.
Automatic play and pause make these headphones smarter than others
The Sense's smarts come into play with their ability to automatically pause or resume music when you put them on or take them off, or the ability to automatically route incoming calls to them when you put them on. Plantronics' Bluetooth headset experience comes into play with dual microphones that support HD Voice and the battery status meter that works on iOS and Android devices.
Of course, none of those features mean much if the Sense headphones sound like crap, but fortunately they sound just as good as the many other Bluetooth headphones in this price range. In the few days I've been testing them out, Bluetooth reliability was on par with the best of the field, with only rare instances of interference. Battery life was as good as advertised, as well. My only complaints with them are they don't fold up as compact as the Bose SoundLink on-ear, nor do they have any sort of active noise cancellation. (Noise cancellation isn't too common in this price range, but it would certainly be a nice thing to have.)
The BackBeat Sense are available in white or black direct from Plantronics and in T-Mobile stores now, with a wider retail rollout coming in the next few weeks.
Verge Video: The best wireless headphones you can buy