Will the journey never end? I’m consistently looking for a better audio device around every corner. Every time I see one, I have to try it out, regardless if I’m happy with whatever I am currently using. This goes for both hands free and stereo Bluetooth headsets. I’m surprised my wife hasn’t said “pick one already!!”
The reason is that it may be the audiophile in me. I want crisp, clear, full bodied sound when I listen. I also want to have a conversation, through a headset, without having to compensate for background noises. It’s one thing to have it through a wired headset; it’s another when you talk about stereo Bluetooth. Another factor to take into consideration is comfort. I want something that will stay in my ear without attempting to squeeze my brain out of my skull. As my quest continues, I find myself face to face with another contender – the Altec Lansing / Plantronics BackBeat 903 stereo Bluetooth headset. Possessing a lightweight and sporty design, as well as being equipped with both AudioIQ and OpenMic technologies; I’m hoping that the BackBeat lives up to its promise to be “the evolution of mobile music and calls”. Read on for more.
Altec Lansing had become a subsidiary of Plantronics back in 2005. Both companies have enjoyed a long history of producing high quality audio products (Altec Lansing was founded in 1936 and Plantronics in 1962). In my previous reviews of Plantronics products, I always like to mention that Neil Armstrong first spoke those famous words through a Plantronics headset. Well, Altec Lansing provided the Woodstock Festival with loudspeakers. The best of both worlds were brought together to produce the BackBeat 903.
The front of the packaging featured a fresh, youthful vibe with a shot of the BackBeat 903. You can’t really judge a book by its cover though, right? Like a book, the front cover swung open to reveal the headset nestled inside. Inside the package, I also found:
The BackBeat came with only one set of ear tips, not allowing for a custom fit inside the ears. This was disappointing and surprising when you look at the comfort and flexibility of the headset itself. The design of the ear tips allows for audio to be delivered further into the ear than with standard ear buds. The all black headset consists of a left and right earpiece, with the stereo cable between the two. The cable wraps behind the back of your head, much like the Motorola S9 and S9 HD, only much more lightweight and with more flexibility. They are also more easily packed up and thrown in your pocket than the S9. The weight of the BackBeat is only 34 grams. The BackBeat also has a lot more comfort adjustment options in addition to the twistable cable. The curved arm section of each earpiece bend in multiple directions and the ear bud posts rotate and elongate. With all of these adjustments, you’re guaranteed to achieve the perfect fit. I was able to jog without the ear tips dislodging from my ears and felt no movement/shaking from the unit.
The left earpiece houses the charging jack, call control and power button. The right earpiece is where you will find the Music function button, call mute button and volume/track control button. Wow, that’s a lot of buttons.
The BackBeat 903 supports the following Bluetooth profiles; HSP, HFP, A2DP and AVRCP.
Plantronics definitely made use of the hi-def audio that Altec Lansing is known to provide. The music was extremely clear and it felt as though it had a full bodied sound. To add more oomph to the music, BackBeat comes packed with a bass-boost feature. Now I could bask in BackBeats bass boosting beat banging until my ears bled. I only wished that I had more options when it came to ear tips, as I could still hear outside noises while listening to music. Volume can be easily adjusted by sliding the volume control to the left or right. By sliding and holding the same control for a second or two, you can skip to the next track, or go back to the previous one. The BackBeat also includes the OpenMic feature, which allows you to pause your music and “bring in the outside world”. I had no difficulty navigating through tracks on my BlackBerry.
I am an avid user of Bluetooth headsets, as I mostly use it for calls while on the road. I can’t see very many drivers using stereo headsets for calls, within the car, as it blocks sound from both ears and could potentially hinder your ability to stay alert and focused. Call quality was everything I expected and experienced with Plantronics. The BackBeat packs Dual-Mic Audio IQ technology to cancel noise and boost your audio, based on background noise. The same volume controls that are used for music are used to adjust call volume. Calls are muted by simply pressing in the volume button.
The talk/listen time and standby time for the BackBeat are 7 hours and 168 hours, respectively. Looking at the Shop CrackBerry comparison chart, it’s safe to say the battery life surpasses most of the other stereo Bluetooth headsets in stock. It usually takes 3 hours to fully charge the headset.
In its design class, the Altec Lansing/Plantronics BackBeat 903 was the most comfortable stereo Bluetooth headset I’ve ever worn. The audio quality for both calls and music was superb. I liked how easily I could master the controls, without having to look at them. It is a very well rounded headset, with my only gripe being the lack of ear tip sizing options. The sleek black design helps to minimize its look, so you can wear them, not only with comfort, but with confidence. You can pick up the BackBeat from the CrackBerry store for $89.95.