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BackBeat boys: Altec Lansing unveils new Bluetooth stereo headphones

Altec Lansing has introduced a new set of stereo Bluetooth headphones with a built-in mic for making voice calls. One model comes with an adapter for the iPhone, iPods, and other MP3 players, while the other doesn't.

The BackBeat headphones come in two flavors: with a Bluetooth adapter or without one. Altec Lansing

Altec Lansing has introduced "its first wearable stereo Bluetooth products," the BackBeat 906 and 903 Stereo Bluetooth headphones. The higher-end model, the 906 ($129.95), comes with a stereo Bluetooth 2.0 adapter for iPhones, iPods, and other MP3 devices, while the BackBeat 903 ($99.95) is just the headphones. Both offer wireless stereo-music listening and a built-in mic for making and receiving calls on your Bluetooth-equipped cell phone. They're due to hit the market in late February.

Altec, which is owned by Plantronics, is counting on the expertise of the two companies to bring together a package that combines both good audio for music and strong voice technologies for untethered phone conversations. So far, a lot of Bluetooth stereo headphones have fallen short on the stereo-audio end of things, as well as in the comfort/design department. These models look a little more promising, but we'll have to try a pair to let you know how secure they fit (they're a behind-the-neck design)--and how they sound.

Altec Lansing says the headphones are designed with a soft neckband to "fold easily for quick storage in pockets or bags." They also feature "pivoting, telescoping earpieces for a customized, secure fit," and their in-ear design includes contoured, soft silicone tips that "rest gently within the curve of the ear." The company says, "All materials are sweat-resistant and highly durable," which may mean they'll be suitable for wearing during a workout.

It's worth nothing that the headphones integrate Bluetooth v2.1 with EDR and support profiles including Hands-Free, Headset, A2DP, and AVRC for wireless-call and music-control capability. Altec rates the Talk/music playback time at up to 7 hours and standby time at up to 8 days.

For those of you who own the iPhone, you'll need the adapter that comes with the BackBeat 906 to listen to music, because the iPhone--even the newer 3G iPhone--doesn't currently offer stereo Bluetooth. However, owners of cell phones that support stereo Bluetooth can opt for the BackBeat 903.