Published on November 14th, 2009 | by Greg0
Zagg and Altec Lansing Sound Off
We’ve been over this, and hopefully you’ve listened- you’ve replaced those dull default iPhone earbuds with something more appropriate, more stylish, better-sounding or wireless. If you haven’t listened, though, now’s a good chance to make yourself a New Year’s resolution and pick up some new personal audio equipment.
Zagg isn’t the biggest name around- but their nifty packaging made a good first impression. Their Z buds come either with or without a mic, and offer the really nice tangle-free cords that we’ve grown to love. Like all good iPhone earbuds, they offer the standard music controls, but these also offer the extra advantage of volume controls- a small thing, but handy. Available in a few different colors, including red, pink, black, and yellow, you also get a nice variety of tips including the triple-flange ones that block out sound pretty well. We also were fans of the pretty unique slider system manage your cords, but here it was much more mixed- some users appreciated the innovative cord design which actually falls behind your neck, others lamented the odd microphone position and strangeness of it. All audio equipment must be judged on the sound though, and the Z-buds performed admirably here- they were right where you’d expect considering the price range, meaning that they won’t provide the deep bass or accurate highs that you can find in higher-budget devices, but average listeners will be more than satisfied, and they were slightly better than the stock buds. Overall, they beat out most of the other earbuds that we tested, including some that were quite a bit more expensive- the feature set is great, and the make or break feature will be your views on the odd cord design. At $40-$60 or so on Amazon, they’re a bargain, and the build quality is quite good. We’ll be paying attention to Zagg from now on!
On the other hand, if cords are dragging you down, consider cutting them. Altec Lansing and Plantronics teamed up to create the Backbeat 903s, a set of over-the-ear Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones. Using the now-iPhone-supported A2DP protocol, you can listen to your music in stereo and also easily control your tunes and calls as well. Comfortable and pretty lightweight, they also manage to have decent battery life- about seven hours of talk time according to the manufacturer, we were able to use them for several days of regular occasional use until they needed a recharge via the included USB cable. What was most interesting to us was the remarkably good microphone quality considering both the style of earbuds and the wireless nature. They also offer a quirky feature- OpenMic- that pumps in outside sounds via the mic allowing you to hear your surroundings without taking off your headphones. Nifty! Audio quality was fairly good- not quite as strong as the Z-buds or most wired headphones in normal use, but with surprisingly strong bass if you can achieve a proper fit. Fitting was an issue though- with other sets throwing in multiple sizes and styles of buds, you’d think that they’d have done so hereâ€¦ but it’s sadly not the case, and several of the females on staff commented that the 903s just were not comfortable, both because of the buds but also the relatively unadjustable width of the set itself. Overall, at a bit $50 online, they’re a killer set of Bluetooth wireless headphones and we strongly recommend them- but consider the return policy of your merchant of choice, just in case they don’t quite fit well.