For the past week or so, I've been kindling a passionate new relationship with a decidedly old technology: A2DP stereo Bluetooth. Sure, we've flirted with eachother a few times over the years, but the spark was never there. But like many relationships that begin with a booze-fuelled encounter, maybe our relationship needed a catalyst to get us going. The catalyst that seems to be working this time are the new Plantronics BackBeat 903+ earphones.
Sweatproof and designed for rugged use, the BackBeats look like two Bluetooth earpieces connected by a single wire. But far from making users look the part of the double douche, the earpieces are discreet behind the ear, without any form of boom mic or protruding parts. Behind the left ear rest the bulk of the controls: power, volume and track forward/back. On the left ear is the make/receive call button, while the right ear acts as the play/pause button.
What these headphones do exceptionally well is pretty much everything they're meant to. As a Bluetooth device, pairing to a phone is lightning quick and painless, taking only seconds to find your phone and pair when switched on (after that initial pairing, of course).
Audio quality is fantastic - there's really good range in both the low and high ranges, with the mid range performing well too. They may not satisfy the most discerning audiophile, but for someone after the convenience of cordless, they sound extremely good.
Thanks to Apple finally introducing the protocol to allow track control over A2DP Bluetooth, all the controls on the BackBeats work flawlessly when paired with an iPhone. A long press of the call button activates the iPhone's Voice Control function for easy voice dialling or music control. Naturally, the headphones also work with other A2DP capable smartphones too.
Battery life is about seven hours of playback. iPhone users will see a special battery indicator for the headphones on the phone's screen when paired, and Plantronics have said that similar displays will be launched next year for Android and Blackberry. In any case, a quick press of the power button will give you a voice update of how much battery life is left in the BackBeats.
Another feature worth noting is "Open Mic", which uses the dual microphones on board to play through sounds from the outside world through the earphones when you pause playback, so you can engage in conversation without having to take out the ruggedised headphones.
The earpieces offer flexible fitting, adjustable in three different ways to fit your ear. In fact, the only downside I've experienced so far with the BackBeats is that despite fitting well, they can get rather uncomfortable in the ear after extended use. But given just how well they perform, and the $150 price tag, I honestly think that this is a relationship I'll be in for the long term.