Gadling gear review – Altec Lansing BackBeat PRO noise isolating headphones

In this product review, you’ll get to read about the newest headphones from audio specialists Altec Lansing. The BackBeat PRO headphones are the top of the line product in their BackBeat lineup, and with that of course comes a responsibility to deliver some really good audio.

The BackBeat PRO headphones are passive noise isolating, which means they reduce noise by isolating it from your ears. They do this simply by creating a good seal between the outside, and your ear canal. Unlike active noise canceling headphones, the BackBeat PRO’s do no require batteries or electronics to reduce outside noise.

The headphones themselves are rather impressive looking – made from black and gold plastic, they are extremely light and clearly show the L and R for a correct fit. The plug is angled and is compatible with the original iPhone and its annoying recessed headphone jack.

The cord is made of “oxygen-free” copper and is treated with a low friction PVC coating which is designed to reduce the kind of tangle that will keep you occupied for the first 10 minutes of your flight. In reality, this actually works quite well. It won’t completely prevent the cord from being tangled, but it does make it much easier to untangle when you dig the headphones from out of the bottom of your bag.

Included with the BackBeat PRO is a soft shell carrying case and a 6 piece “fit kit” consisting of large and small neoprene earpieces and a pair of double flanged earpieces for extra isolation.

When you install the earpiece that fits you best, you may experience what I did – I forgot I was wearing them. Of the three sizes, I found the flanged earpieces fit me best, and provided the best noise isolation. Seriously, this is the kind of noise isolation that means you’ll hear your own heart beat when you pause your music.

Audiophiles will be disappointed to know that I am not a member of your club – I’d love to give you a long description of the high and low tone reproduction from the BackBeat PRO headphones, but I really can’t tell you much more than “they sound absolutely fantastic”.

I tested them with several MP3 files on a portable player, and plugged them into a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook to listen to a Mike Oldfield track (in FLAC). Two things stand out with the headphones – they really do sound great, and they really do isolate an astounding amount of noise. Best of all, since a lot of background noise is isolated, you won’t need to turn the volume up to 11 to enjoy your music.

The noise isolation is actually so good, that I found them to perform better than most active noise isolating headphones I have tested. Anyone who has used active noise isolating headphones also knows the the isolation process adds some “hiss” to the music – which is of course something you won’t suffer from with the BackBeat PRO headphones. Being small also means you can wear them and take a nap on the plane without your big headphones getting in the way.

The BackBeat PRO’s cost just $99.95
, which is about a third of what a good pair of active noise canceling headphones can cost, and a quarter of what some high-end noise isolating headphones run.