Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 Bluetooth Stereo Headset Review


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I just can’t help it. When I put the Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 wireless stereo headset on, I have to dance. (Notice, I didn’t say “I have to dance well.”) The sound from this review unit sent by the Altec Lansing (s PLT) is quite good — better than I expected, actually. I can wirelessly control music playback, volume, and even use these to take phone calls. Yesterday, I used these with my Palm Pre (s PALM) to participate in a 2.5-hour conference call, and they worked out very well. The only issue I had was the tiny mute button, which I think needs a little improvement. Bass isn’t the deepest, but holding the Play/Pause button for two seconds gives a bit of a boost to assist in that area.

For $99, I think these offer an excellent value. The sound won’t be quite as good as a high-end wired headset that costs far more, but unless you’re a true audiophile, these should work out nicely. Plus, you gain the convenience of wireless connectivity. As in all things mobile tech, it’s a trade-off.

Got questions I didn’t cover in the video review or here? Just post ’em in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer ’em.



I purchased the Altec Lansing BackBeat 903 wireless stereo headset today. I synced with my Iphone 3GS with no problem. Then when I was listening to my music on the phone it was fine. I turned the music off and wanted to make a call but no sound thru the headset. I can hear the tone when I dial the number in the headset, but no ringing or hearing the person on the other end thru the headset. So now I am at a loss as to what to do.

Nick Read

My pair does not work with the iPhone 3GS at all! They just aren’t recognised! They worked fine with the 3G, but from the start with the 3GS they were never identified when scanning for devices. I tried a friends 3GS and got the same results.
Other people seem to have them working with the 3GS, so perhaps the headphones are faulty?!


As above previous writer noted, these are also my 2nd set of 906 Backbeats, and this time it worked ONE full battery cycle, and then following a full recharge, the headset simply wouldn’t turn on. I can’t tell if the bluetooth ‘dongle’ works, with that teeny LED. I would love it if someone could tell me why these things are such poor quality…is it b/c most people want to use them with their phones? Anyways, I say stay away from Altec/Plantronics and Logitec on these items…shamelessly poor qual. control. I’m going to check out the Sony bluetooth for ipod next!!


I called tech support, and they solved this problem. Press and Hold the power button as you reconnect to the live charger. That fixed mine.


That worked fine for a while, but now they won’t turn on at all. Very dissapointing!


I just press and hold the power button while pluggin it in, and then what? Should I wait for it to fully charge?


I bought these from newegg, synced fine, sounded fine…for a day. Then I wasn’t able to turn them on or off. Sent them in for a return (because I love them) and promptly got a new pair. Turned new pair on, synced fine, sounded fine….for a day. Yup, once again, will not turn on or off. Can NOT figure out what I’m doing wrong. I follow the directions to a “T”, but nothing.

If they ever work, they are a great device. I love them and don’t want to play ping pong with newegg, I just want a decent pair that works!


I just bought one yesterday and it’s going back to the store. I have been using it with my 8830 blackberry. If the phone is more than 3-4 feet from the headset the sound cuts out. I called the company and there was nothing they could do to help other than to tell me to bring it back for a refund.


I had the exact same issue with the iphone. I have the Motorola S9’s now and they work perfectly and fit better.

Shawn Low

Loved the intro. Funny. Great that you show how it works sitting on your ear. So many reviews just show the headset alone. Thanks!


Thanks Kevin for the nice review.
I love my BackBeat 903s. Great fit for me. The semi in-ear tips feel good and stay put. Sound quality is quite good. I use them with my iPhone 3GS (but tried a 3G too with the same results) but have just one issue and would like to see if anyone else is experiencing this with either the 3G or 3GS.
When in a very quiet setting, I am unable to lower the volume of the BackBeats to a point that fairly low. They are still quite loud at the very lowest setting. When connecting ANY BT headset to an iPhone, the onboard iPhone volume control is disabled (I also tried this with a BlueTrek BT headset & Lubix Bt headset) so I can’t compensate for the loudness of the BackBeats. The other BT headsets I’ve tried can be lowered down to even no sound. Anyone else experience this? I’d like to find out if this is a problem common to iPhones or just my BackBeats before I return them to Altec Lansing. Thanks!
I heard that the next (bigger) iPhone OS update (3.1 not the 3.01 that just came out) is supposed to have AVRCP so looking forward to that!


I just had the backbeat yesterday, tested it this morning, worked fine but as Kevin pointed out, the lowest volume setting is way too loud that I cannot hear anyone around me. I tried lowering the volume on the iphone but looks to be disabled. Not sure if there is a way to make it to a point where the music is just whispering.





Did anybody try Sony bluetooth headsets (bt50 or bt160as) and if so, how would you compare the sound quality to Altec.

I tried both Sony headsets mentioned above and sound is amazing, unlike jaybird and motorola (both S805 and s9-HD models) which didnt sound anywhere as good as Sony.

Let me know what you think about Altec as compared to Sony DR-BTxxxx.

Thank you,


i just got a pair, and they sound really nice for bluetooth headset. mine came with a problem though the right channel i think is starting to blow, at loud volumes the right side starts to fart and thats with the bass boost off, with it on its worse. other wise with lower volumes they sound excellent…. im looking to get a replacement for them from the manufacturer…i also brought a pair of moto s9 hd for comparisons…will see…ps they are comfortable and very light…


I returned these after a few days because they kept cutting out while I walked or rode my bike by just having my iphone in my pocket. I just got the Motorola S9 and they work perfectly and are cheaper. I might give them to my wife and get the S9HD which just came out.


Has anyone else had any issues with these headphones and the iphone?


I just recieved my headset and am looking forward to using them with my itouch. I did not recieve a manual with them? Is there one available online?


I actually returned mine after 1 week. I paired them with the iPhone 3G (firmware 3.0) and they seemed to work in the house pretty well. The problem is the fit and connection when the iPhone was not in view. They always felt like they were not snug enough even with the multiple adjustments. Also when I would walk or go for a bike ride, the music would cut in and out from the iPhone just being in my pocket. Oh well…Can anyone suggest a better pair?


hey, nice review. im thinkin of gettin some bluetooth headphones and was pleasentl surprised when i saw this review. before i discovered these i had my eye on the motorola S9 headphones…

any feedback on the S9’s and which do you think would be a better purchase (regardless of price)

and by the way i will be using the headphones with my LG arena mobile and ipod touch 2G (with 3.0 software update)

i may not have access to the internet for a while as i will be away for a while on a trip to dubai, so i would appresiate if someone could let me know via email…? (



Excellent review – I’ve just ordered them through Newegg for less than the price you had shown (59.00). I’ll be using them for my iPhone 3G – until I give it to my wife and upgrade to the 3GS ;)



Any news about iPhone 3G compatibilty? I heard that A2DP works, but not AVRCP, which is for remote control. Can you confirm? Thanks for the review, love the site!


Yup, A2DP only. You can pause and resume play but no FF/REW and next/previous track.


If you run … JayBird Bluetooth headphones ….


They actually look really comfortable and functional, especially if you are going to go running, or some other form of exercise.


The band seems nice and wobbly enough to put in a front pocket. Is it possible?

Also, are these lie-in-bed friendly?


You mention the convenience of wireless connectivity, but one thing you neglect to mention is the inconvenience of another device to have to charge at all times.

To me, the two cancel each other out, so I go for the better sound quality of a wired headset, like my Etymotic hf2 headset, which is working perfectly with my Pre.


I am tempted by the Plantronics 855 for the reason rodfather points out and also as Amazon are selling them for $31.

I would love to get by paws on the Sony is800 though.

Very sweet looking, but $135.


…indeed I am looking at the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 as well…




I wonder how it compares with the Plantronics Voyager 855 Stereo Bluetooth Headset. What I like about the Plantronics is that you can switch from mono to stereo by plugging in the other piece.


I had a very similar reaction with my Sony XB700 cans a few weeks ago as you Kevin. No video camera around to document it though…

Way to bust a move!

Kevin C. Tofel

Now you saw me dance at the wedding bud, so no funny comments. You know that even though I can’t breakdance like you can, I can still bust a move! ;)


Hello Kevin,

great dance! Did you try those headphones with the iPhone (3.0 FW)? Just wondering about controlling playback on the phone via the headphones (I have a SE HHBH-DS980 and playback control doesn’t seem to work…


Tariq (@ Paris)

Kevin C. Tofel

Tariq, I still have the first-gen iPhone, so even though it has the 3.0 software, it doesn’t support Bluetooth for anything other than phone calls. Tomorrow I should have my iPhone 3G S and can test. I’ll post the results here for you.


Thanks Kevin.

Two more things…actually three (!)
– Now I am expecting James K to dance as well
– …and I want YOU to post the video online ;)
– Whenever you come to Paris, you HAVE to perform that dance in person!




I’ve tried the Motorola S9 Motorokr stereo bluetooth, and I had a couple of problems: The music playback would frequently cut off for 1-2 seconds. Also, when taking calls, the caller on the other end complained of hearing his own voice echoing back (like feedback). Did you encounter either of these problems with the A.L. 903? (BTW, is this the same device as the Samsung 903 that Sprint offers?)

I’m looking for a decent Bluetooth headset for use under a motorcycle helmet. Noise cancellation is a big factor. If not for the above issues, the S9 would have worked well.

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