The headset is charged via its micro-USB port and Plantronics includes a power adaptor in the box. The BackBeat takes around three hours to charge and once it’s full of juice Plantronics says it’s good for about seven hours of music listening or talk time. In our experience, we tended to get between six and seven hours out of it, so this figure seems pretty accurate.
When you hook the headphones up to an iPhone, you’ll see a small indicator at the top of the screen next to the iPhone’s normal battery icon. Alternatively, you can check the battery level by tapping the power button once. The headphones will then announce through the earpieces how much listening time is remaining. The BackBeat will also beep three times once battery life gets down to the ten-minute mark to give you a chance to recharge it before it runs out of juice.
As well as the A2DP profile for stereo audio over Bluetooth, it also supports the AVRCP profile so you can use the controls to navigate through your music tracks. However, earlier iPhones using iOS versions prior to 4.1 don’t fully support AVRCP, so only the play/pause button will work on these models.
No stereo Bluetooth headset is perfect when it comes to audio quality. The A2DP profile that’s used for transmitting audio over Bluetooth only has 768kbit/s of bandwidth to play with, so audio has to be compressed before it is sent down this link. Unfortunately, the compression tends to drop a lot of bass and causes higher frequencies to sound a bit raspy.
As mentioned before, you can partly get around the lack of bass by using the headset’s Bass Boost function, but the raspiness remains on higher frequency sounds like hi-hats and cymbals. Despite this, the BackBeat remains one of the better sounding stereo Bluetooth headsets we’ve had in for review and while it doesn’t exactly deliver high-end hi-fi audio quality, it does its best to make your music sound as good as possible under the circumstances.
Of course, as well as music playback you can also use the headset to make calls. Like most of Plantronics headsets it has dual microphones and uses the company’ AudioIQ2 DSP processing for noise cancellation. Call quality was generally good, although as with most headsets, callers reported that the audio from the mic can sound a little echo-y from time to time.
The design of the BackBeat 903+ means this headset won’t appeal to everyone and we do think the lack of multipoint support is disappointing. However, it is relatively comfortable to wear, produces decent audio quality and works well as a headset for making calls with your mobile phone. Given its relatively low price tag, we think its well worth checking out if you’re looking for a stereo headset to use with your smartphone.