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Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset review: Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset

Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
3 min read

Even though stereo Bluetooth headsets have been around for a while, they haven't always been of the highest caliber. Thankfully, a few companies stepped up to change that, as Altec Lansing did in 2009 with the BackBeat 903. It was one of the best stereo Bluetooth headsets we'd ever tested, thanks to the music-grade stereo sound. We were a little disappointed by the overall fit of the headset, however.


Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset

The Good

The Plantronics BackBeat 903+ offers decent music playback quality and a design that is best suited for workouts. Improved features include voice alerts and a battery meter on the iPhone.

The Bad

The Plantronics BackBeat 903+ has a behind-the-neck design that may not suit everyone. We also experienced subpar call quality.

The Bottom Line

The Plantronics BackBeat 903+ certainly has more features than its predecessor, but the rest of the design suffers from the same problems.

Since then, Plantronics has sold Altec Lansing and released the product as the BackBeat 903+. The company also upgraded the 903+ to Bluetooth version 2.1, with new features that include voice alerts, a visual battery indicator when paired with an iPhone, and slightly redesigned earbuds. Overall sound quality continues to be top-notch, but we wouldn't say the same for the call quality. The BackBeat 903+ retails for $99.99.

The BackBeat 903+ is really not that much different from the BackBeat 903 in terms of design, so forgive us if a lot of this sounds like déjà vu. The headset consists of two earpieces connected by an 8-inch soft rubber cable that runs behind the neck. Each of the earpieces wraps up and over the back of the ear. The ear tips on the BackBeat 903+ are the same as on the BackBeat 903. The silicone ear tips are asymmetrically shaped with a bit of a spout that is meant to be fitted at the opening of the ear canal.

Ideally, it should fit snugly and tightly to prevent the headset from falling off in the middle of a run. The earpieces can even rotate and extend up and down for a better fit. Unfortunately, this didn't quite work out for us--perhaps due to our small ears, the earpiece just felt loose no matter what we tried. However, our colleagues had a different experience, so your mileage may vary here. The ear tips are also deliberately designed to allow ambient sound, so that the headset is safer to use outdoors while you're running around.

With the BackBeat 903+, Plantronics redesigned the earbuds slightly. The plastics that hold the earbud in place are now melded on the outer piece of the headset, while the older 903 mesh seams were flush against the head. According to Plantronics, the older model allowed more sweat to seep into the seams, which isn't good. The newer 903+ model should be more durable as a result.

The controls of the BackBeat 903+ are identical to those of its predecessor, so we'll point you to our review of the Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 for more details. Like the BackBeat 903, the 903+ supports the AVRCP Bluetooth profile that lets the headset act as a remote control when paired with an AVRCP-compatible device. Thankfully, the iPhone and iPod Touch have since received a firmware update that permits these functions, so you can now easily use these devices with the BackBeat 903+.

Aside from the basic player functions, the BackBeat 903+ can of course also answer, end, and reject calls. It performs other Bluetooth headset features like last-number redial and voice command support. Additional features of the BackBeat 903+ include voice alerts that will inform you of the time, volume level, connection status, and more. It also has an OpenMic button that lets you hear the outside world. Like the Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus, it will display a visual headset battery meter when paired with an iPhone.

We paired the Plantronics BackBeat 903+ with the Apple iPhone 4. Music quality was pretty decent--sound was clean and clear, and the bass effect did add some oomph to most songs. It's not quite as good as more sound-isolating earphones, but it's good enough for everyday use.

We didn't experience great call quality. While incoming sound was loud and clear, outgoing sound did not fare so well. Callers said we sounded much softer than usual, and static seemed more pronounced. When we stopped using the headset and switched back to the phone, callers said quality improved quite dramatically. The call quality wasn't terrible per se, but it was definitely not as good as we expected.

The Plantronics BackBeat 903+ has up to 7 hours of continuous music playback or talk time, and 7 days of standby time. It comes with an AC adapter plus a mesh storage pouch.


Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7