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Review of Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Bluetooth headset

In the box:

  • Headset
  • Charger
  • Cloth pouch
  • User guide

Look back at May 2009 when we reviewed Altec Lansing 903.

Review of Altec Lansing BackBeat 903/906

It was a decent headset and in conclusions I wrote: "There are some complaints to the kit elements. It would have been better to get a bag for carrying the headset. On the other hand, it is not the necessity! We get all we need and the headset is almost entirely devoid of disadvantages. Build and materials are good, the device is convenient to use and offers excellent voice reproduction, outstanding music features and decent operation time. If you like the form factor I advise to give this headset a chance. It will hit the shelves soon at the price of $96 for the model without the transmitter. Both models will be available, but I think that a basic one will be better. You will save a bit and the market is full of players with Bluetooth".

Much water has flown under the bridge since then and now we have Plantronics BackBeat 903+ on our hands. Don't be surprised as Altec Lansing (well-known manufacturer of music gadgets) is a daughter of Plantronics, but 903+ was launched under the main brand name. Though I cannot explain the reason why

Design and construction

I don't want to repeat myself, but will try to summarize key points. First, the package is different and we now receive a headset in a plastic box. It looks nice and the box is green. If you put it into soil after some time it will be broken down (into mold and honey). Second, the box has place for a cloth pouch, which made me immensely happy. This accessory looks very sporty. Third, the decoration of rubber plate on the inside of the headset was changed.

Overall, the song remained the same. Loops are solid, while the thick cable doesn't protrude too much or can even be hidden by long hair. I didn't find the tips in the box, but the standard ones were fine too. The device is well fixed and doesn't fall down in the gym or during jogging. There is no discomfort whatsoever.

On the outside we see glossy elements, which are instantly soiled, but this was predictable. The weight is slightly above 30 g, which is unusual. The build is good, though some seals were not ideal. Consumers will not pay attention to that. The headset can be adjusted in two dimensions – you can draw them down or turn the way you like.


The company made a bit of a mess here. The original model featured inconvenient joystick, which was substituted by an awkward playback controls. These tiny paired buttons are in the left "ear" and allow moving from track to track and change the volume. On the other hand, the right loop has acres of space to stop and start the playback. The pressing is convenient and ends with a click. The tip gets into your ear anyway. The left earpiece also hosts a multifunctional key and a switch on button. It takes time to decide which button to push. Everything is overcomplicated here. Habit alone will help you solve this issue. Another option is to control the playback from the phone.

Operation time

The manufacturer promises 7 hours of music playback and 7 days on the standby. You can use microUSB (with the cap) to charge from a PC. When you connect the device to iPhone the screen of the latter displays the charger level of the headset.

Connection with the phone and sound quality

I connected the headset to iPhone 4 with ease, while the operation range is around 5 meters. I liked various voice tips – on connection, battery and playback. The experience becomes more lively and interesting. At first I would like to mention voice reproduction quality. Despite prominent microphones the contact will hear you well. At least when your room is quiet. If it's noisy around the whole picture will be delivered to you interlocutor as well. This is especially true for music. Despite a 2 microphone system it is impossible to suppress ambient noise completely.

On the other hand, the majority of users purchase such devices for music and disregard communication features. Music is reproduced much better than speech. The sound is fresh and taut. I do not remember how the original 903 fared in this respect, but it seems that the music offered less volume and verve. Here the sound is difficult to forget and this headset is among the best in the "sports" segment.

Interestingly, you have a Bass boost feature, which can be disabled if necessary. In theory it should enhance the bass level. Frankly speaking, the difference is not dramatic or may be my tracks were wrong to test this option. You can surely make your own experiment.


The retail price of the gadget will be around $90, but some shops may ask for more. I liked this headset, which offers the following advantages:

  • It is convenient to carry, but this parameter must be verified individually before the purchase
  • Good sound quality, which allows forgetting all disadvantages of the device
  • Decent speech reproduction
  • Acceptable operation time (for a sports oriented headset) and a standard jack
  • A pouch in the box
  • Connection with iPhone displays the battery level
  • Voice prompts
  • Good materials and exterior design

As to the downside we have the following:

  • The controls are messy, while the cap for microUSB is old-fashioned. I feel like tearing it away and send into a garbage bin. This move is for a reason though as in comparison with the original model 903 + became waterproof, which required ditching a joystick and adding a cap.

I can easily recommend the gadget, especially as the holidays are fast approaching and it can make a good present.

Sergei Kuzmin (skuzmin@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 27 December 2010

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