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.
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 dÃ©jÃ 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.