The first time I saw Plantronics’ BackBeat 903 headphones was at CES in Las Vegas in January 2009. As the PR Rep showed me the various features and described the functionality I began to violate the 10th commandment (“Thou shalt not covet…”). To see why, keep reading.
Right off the bat, there are some major design elements of the 903 that are distinctive. I would put the design somewhere between Motorola’s S9-HD and S305 stereo headsets. The earpieces are designed to fit down inside your ear, sealing in the sound and reducing outside noise. All of the weight is placed behind the ears, making this a fairly comfortable headset to wear. Between each ear is a shielded wire that is flexible enough to make wear comfortable and to allow for use while lying in bed or leaning your head back against a headrest while not being so flexible that the wire will get tangled during storage.
The BackBeat 903 provides the standard controls that we’ve come to expect from Bluetooth headphones. The right earpiece includes all of the music playback controls, while the left gives you your call button. The play/pause and call buttons are placed on the outside of their respective ears, causing the earpiece to be pressed against/into your ear when these buttons are used. Volume controls and track forward/back controls utilize a single switch on the bottom of the right earpiece; a short press for volume and a long press to change your track. The microphone, power button and charging port are all located on the left earpiece.
Because of the physical design of this headset it is very secure on your ears, to the point where getting it off of your head can take a few seconds. The designers realized that this could be an inconvenience if you are listening to music and have someone start talking to you. Instead of sacrificing the fit of the headphones, they came up with an innovative technological solution that they cal OpenMic. If you pause the track while listening to music, the microphone activates and pipes the sound through the headphones. This allows you to switch between your music and a conversation with minimal effort.
Sound quality with this device is exceptional. The fact that the sound is funneled into your ears greatly improves bass response and allows you to hear the full range of your music. I also noticed that when you take the headphones off while your music is still playing there is almost no sound projected. This tells me that coworkers and spouses won’t be annoyed by your choice in music while they are trying to work or sleep. As a hands-free device, noise cancellation is accomplished using Plantronics’ dual microphone AudioIQ technology, which is found in their Voyager Pro headset (which is what I use on a daily basis).
If you’re looking for a headset to use during exercise, the BackBeat 903’s would be an excellent choice. One complaint that I had about the S305 was the fact that the speakers were covered with fabric that made them comfortable, but absorbed sweat. The 903’s are primarily plastic and rubber, making it fairly easy to simply wipe down.
Plantronics has another winner with the BackBeat 903. The headset is comfortable and flexible, even capable of being used on a single ear if that is desired. Sound quality is more than adequate and Plantronics is one of the best at designing functional, usable headsets. If I had to come up with something to complain about it would be the placement of the volume/track control switch. The switch is placed on the bottom of the right earpiece and is most easily manipulated with the thumb, but finding the switch and then getting the desired effect out of it takes some getting used to. Also, it would be nice to have a couple of different choices in ear gels in order to more effectively customize the headphones for a specific user.
Head on over to the WMExperts store to get a set for you or someone you know. $89.95 will get you one of the most feature-complete Bluetooth Headsets I’ve come across.