Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 Bluetooth headphones

We all want to rid ourselves of the wires when it comes to listening to music on the go, but are the Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 Bluetooth headphones the way to do it? We get listening, and talking, to find out.

While these wireless headphones are pitched at the music lover within you, it's worth pointing out that headset and landline phone maker Plantronics owns Altec Lansing. As you can imagine a large chunk of that technology can be found here in the BackBeat 903s.

Out of the box and you get the headphones and a simple USB wall charger (micro not mini). The headphones themselves feature an in-ear canal silicon earpiece and then large earpiece units that hang over both of your ears. Glasses wearers aren't likely to be happy. The two earpieces are then connected by a thick wire that fits around the back of your neck.

The earpieces themselves are fairly nondescript and uninspiring when it comes to the design. On the right-hand side you have a play/pause button and then a multi-functional toggle switch that controls volume, forward and back and skips tracks depending on how you press it. On the left ear there is a call/hang-up button so you can answer a call if you've got the wireless headphone connected to your mobile phone without having to delve into a pocket. All the buttons are easy to use with the toggle surprisingly not difficult to get to grips with.

The final element of design is that you can adjust the height of the ear clearance presumably for people with tall ears (who would have thought it).

Press the "on" button for the first time and you're prompted to pair it with any Bluetooth device that is on and nearby. We opted for a BlackBerry Bold and within seconds we were up and running.

As long as you have an A2DP enabled device (stereo Bluetooth) then you are fine and dandy. Those who don't, can opt for the slightly more expensive BackBeat 906 which comes with a dongle that you can plug into your MP3 player (such as iPod) via the headphone socket and then experience the magic from there.

Once connected you can then listen to your heart's content as long as you don't stray more than 10m (30ft) away from the source device. Of course for the most part your phone is going to be in your pocket or on your desk, but it also means that if you have a Bluetooth Hi-Fi then you could connect and sit back on the sofa knowing you are going to be in range.

If you've got them connected to your phone and the phone rings, the music stops, you get a beeping warning and then you can take the call. When you're finished the music resumes. Those we talked to on the headset came through clear and loud with no one complaining we sounded like we were in a crisp packet (the usual signal the headset is rubbish).

Battery life is promised at 7 hours and so far so good they've managed to live up to that claim.

Drawbacks? Well there are a couple, mainly on the design and style of the headset: it just isn't that sexy. Yes they are comfortable and yes they won't come off on a run, however you will look like an extra from Star Wars Empire Strikes back (the dude in Cloud City, although not as severe) or something from Stargate.

If it's not the styling, it's the design. We found the wrap around cable uncomfortable when wearing a shirt as it hangs low enough just to catch the top of our collar. Maybe we aren't supposed to be using these in a shirt (down with the kids and all that), but it's something to bear in mind if that's the kind of person you are.

Verdict

So what's the verdict? Well they sound good (always a bonus with headphones) producing a well balanced sound although certainly not as good as a dedicated "wired" pair from Shure or Sennheiser.

The key here though is that you get the added bonus of them being a Bluetooth headset for your phone at the same time. They are comfortable (if not wearing a collar) fit, and the fact you've ditched the wires is an added bonus to saving yourself from getting tangled.

The Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 Bluetooth headphones aren't perfect but then they aren't a complete disaster either.


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