Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 – Updated

This is not a formal, spec filled, review. For that there are a ton of options on the net. This is just my opinion of the headset I chose.

One of biggest complaints about the iPhone, from day one, was the lack of A2DP. It just seemed insane to have this great phone, have a great Bluetooth device, and then need a corded set of headphones to listen to a podcast. Well, finally we have wireless Bluetooth!

I figured I would jump in and try it but then the search turned ugly and took a long time. No headset seemed to get the reviews I was looking for. I had tried the Motorola S9-HD but the large piece behind my neck was not comfortable to me. Plus,after years in radio, I am used to good sounding headphones (I am wearing AKG K240 headphones while I write this). I have been underwhelmed by all the buds I have tried. The Apple in-ear buds are ok and it was my go-to until I bought the Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 headset. Since then, no cords – that is unless I need them.

The price of the 903’s was $99.95 at the Apple Store but at the time of this post Amazon has them for about $65. In looking around you may see the 906 listed for about $30 more. The 903 and 906 are the same headset. The difference for the money is the Bluetooth adaptor that lets you stream from any audio device. With the iPhone 3G or 3GS it wasn’t needed.

The first thing I noticed about these was the fit. I had seen mention in reviews about the ear inserts being one-size-fits-all but, having tried them in a store at the Orlando airport, felt it would be OK. I was right, and wrong. These are not noise-canceling in the canal ear buds. They sit over the ear canal with a small part projecting into the ear. The fit takes getting used to. The earpieces go over the ear and are connected by a thin wire behind the neck. There is a telescoping and rotating tube that adjusts the insert to the correct position for the ear. This works, but does take some playing with to get it right. Once adjusted the fit is comfortable but, at least on me, the rubber is big enough to rub and after prolonged use can be an issue. Not as bad as the Apple set though which were bothering me within an hour. These have been on my ears for up to four hours so far with little issue.

The sound of these for music is fine. Are they the AKG 240s? Not a chance, but they sound better than most the others I tried. Sound on talk, such as podcast, is also OK but depends on the vocal tone of the hosts. There is not really any standout frequencies, although, as expected, the low end is lacking.

Call quality is as good as any Bluetooth headset I have ever used. It does not have the noise-canceling quality of the Jawbone but it works well enough for me.

Now, for the downside. Did i mention they are not noise-canceling? They do not seal the ear canal and therefore do not isolate anything. My main reason behind wanting stereo Bluetooth was for yard work. I hate the wires while doing yard work and this was my answer. They are unusable with a gas hedge trimmer, weed eater, or blower. During mowing they are OK if you go full volume, which I am guessing is not good for me. Distance is average. I have made it 25 feet or so when outside by putting the phone on a table while I clean the pool. On the other hand I get some drops in the signal when the phone is clipped to my pocket. But, and this is the odd thing, I like them. Mowing or not I am keeping them. I can actually almost forget I have them on, I can lay down with them on, and I enjoy them overall.

One important note on the iPhone 3.0 software and stereo Bluetooth is that the Bluetooth’s Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) is not supported. Play and pause work fine, but no forward backward or other advanced controls from the headset. No voice dialing either. You can dial by voice but the phone needs to be near you because that is the mic being used. The wait for full Bluetooth support continues.


With iPhone OS 3.1 Bluetooth now works with Voice Dialing. Very nice to use that while working with the iPhone 20 feet away. Simply say “Play Led Zeppelin” and it happens. “Call Mr Jones – Mobile” and it would happen. Very nice. But, the Next/Previous still do not function.

2 Responses to “Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 – Updated”

  1. Music Man says:

    Now you know I am going to have alot to say about this. Look for it in future days.

  2. Razz says:

    I look forward to it. Always great to have your thoughts my friend.