In case you haven’t heard of Parrot, it’s a French company that has been around for a while. They have already produced some sleek Bluetooth speakers, but they are certainly best known for their AR.Drone remote control that often steals the show at technology shows. Now Parrot has collaborated with the famous French designer Philippe Starck(which isn’t the first time) to design the Zik, a pair of headphones with a dual focus on technology and design. The headphones have a multitude of features, such as touch controls on the right side of the headphones, active noise cancellation, NFC capability, a removable and replaceable battery, and an application for iOS and Android smartphones that serves as a virtual control panel for the headphones.
The Parrot Zik looks – and feels – like an expensive pair of headphones, with molded metal, swivel armatures and luxuriously padded earcups. While I certainly found it comfortable, it did feel a bit heavy (it weighs 330 grams), especially for mobile use, and will make your ears scalding hot in warmer weather. It does have an eye-catching design and a unique look. A piece of art? I don’t think I would go that far, but they are a nice change from the Beats headphones that have become so popular.
The first thing you need to do after unpacking the headphones is to insert the removable battery into the battery compartment in the right earcup. This was easier than I thought because the cover of this compartment is magnetically attached and you just have to pull it gently to release it.
You can also use the Zik as wired headphones, even if that doesn’t provide a better sound.
At the bottom of the left earpiece you will find
- the on/off button,
- a micro USB port to charge the headphones with the included cable,
- and a headphone jack that allows you to use the headphones as wired headphones (more on that later).
It’s also worth noting that there’s a jawbone sensor in the padded earcup that detects when you’re talking when you’re using the headphones as a headset, then triggers the external mic to focus on your voice. Parrot says the headphones have four microphones: two internal and two external. They work together to optimize noise cancellation and filter out background noise when you’re talking. A built-in motion sensor also registers when you take off the headphones and automatically pauses the music. And yes, it works well.
The power button is the only button on the entire headset. Volume, answer/end calls, pause/play, and next/previous track are all controlled via touch controls on the outside of the right earpiece. You swipe up or down to control the volume, and left or right to skip to the next/previous track. A few times when I repositioned the headphones on my head I forgot that the headphones were sensitive to touch, and accidentally selected a different track or paused my music. It takes some getting used to at first, but it’s actually surprisingly useful.
Although the headphones do very well in terms of design, they do have some minor flaws. The earcups have a matte finish that is soft to the touch. That’s nice, but this finish does absorb the moisture from your hands, leaving you with smudges. I don’t know what these headphones look like after a year of use, but you’ll probably need to be careful to keep them looking good.
It would also have helped if Parrot included a better carrying case. The one that comes with it now is a thin, relatively cheap fabric bag that can’t compare to most hard-walled storage cases that are usually included with headphones in the same price range (Bose, for example, includes a nice storage case with their noise-canceling headphones) . That’s a pity.
As I mentioned, the Zik headphones have a truckload of advanced features, many of which I’ve already used. Some of these features are already complete and well-developed, while others are still under development. For example, Parrot lures customers with NFC ( Near Field Communications ) available on the Zik, a feature that is currently only available on a few smartphones (but will soon be available on many more smartphones). If you have the right model, one that uses Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, you can tap the headphones to pair and double tap to unpair. Unfortunately, the only NFC-enabled smartphone I’ve used was the Samsung Galaxy S3 , and the Zik’s NFC feature didn’t work with it.
You can adjust the volume by simply swiping up/down on the touch-sensitive right earpiece.
The other big plus and important part of the Zik is the Parrot Audio Suite application . You can download it for free for iOS and Android devices and, as I mentioned, it’s basically a control panel for the headphones and vital to your user experience with the Zik. In the application you can turn noise canceling on/off, adjust the EQ, check whether firmware updates are available and see how long the battery will last.
If you’re the type who likes to tweak the sound settings of their music – and assuming many of the people who buy these headphones fall into that group – then this application is fun to work with. If you do not belong to this group, it is rather annoying. It also imposes limits on you if you don’t have an iOS or Android device. Yes, you can probably use this with any Bluetooth compatible device, such as a laptop, but you won’t be able to adjust noise cancellation or other sound settings.
The performance of the Zik is a bit difficult to judge because their performance doesn’t just encompass their sound quality. Nevertheless, you can say that these headphones sound great for a Bluetooth headset; it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. The only problem with such good headphones is that they have a habit of making poorly recorded or poorly compressed music sound even worse. When I listened to perfectly compressed material, it sounded great. With great detail and good tight bass, these headphones are well balanced and have a sound profile that will appeal to many audiophiles. (No, they don’t emphasize the bass, so if you’re a bass lover, it will probably fall short for you).
When I started using Spotify , the listening experience was more like all or nothing. Some tracks sounded really good while others sounded a bit rougher and their flaws got aggravated.
I played around with the EQ settings and turned off the default concert hall effect, then turned it back on. I also turned off noise cancellation, which actually works quite well; these headphones are among the best in terms of noise cancellation in my opinion. None of these tweaks made a big improvement in sound quality, but people have different tastes in music, and these settings allow you to tweak things to your liking.
One thing that was particularly noticeable was that when using the Zik wired, the sound quality didn’t really improve. You’d think it would, but with all the digital processing going on, I think it’s better to just listen wirelessly.
Since the headphones passively exclude a lot of sound, it might be better to turn off noise cancelling. When the music was off or when changing tracks I noticed a faint hiss, which is normal with noise cancelling, and it went away when I turned noise canceling off. I made some phone calls with the headphones and while I think the Zik did a good job as a headset, I expected a little more from it. I could understand the people I was talking to, but they said I sounded a bit gritty and muffled and it seemed like the microphone wasn’t close to my mouth.
Battery life is good, but not great. The battery lasts 6 hours when all functions are switched on. If you turn off the Bluetooth and just leave the noise canceling on, you can use it for 18 hours before you need to recharge it. If the battery dies, you can use the headphones wired, but then you cannot use noise canceling or other Bluetooth functions
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit difficult to judge the Zik’s performance because, unlike other headphones, there’s more than just sound quality that impacts performance – such as the wireless playback. I have to say that I did encounter some rough edges when playing music. Sometimes I was bothered by music dropping out, and a few times after I put the headphones back on after a break he made some buck jumps. The music played on, then stopped and finally started again. I also found that after upgrading the firmware to version 0.10 through the application, I could no longer turn on the headphones. I took the battery out, put it back in and then plugged in the USB charging cable. Eventually the headphones booted back up and everything worked OK.
I’m not sure what the number 0.10 actually means (usually a number less than 1.0 means the firmware is still in beta), but I suppose additional firmware upgrades will make the headphones’ operation more stable.
Conclusion Parrot Zik
Overall, I am really satisfied with the Parrot Zik headphones , but I do have a few comments. As I said, the sound quality is excellent for a Bluetooth headset. I found the sound quality of the Zik to be detailed and balanced, with a sound profile that is sure to appeal to audiophiles. While the headphones are comfortable, they are a bit on the heavy side, and may feel a little less comfortable after extended periods of listening. (I think these headphones are better suited for people with larger heads).
When it comes to something like the Zik headphones, with so many digital enhancements and an accompanying application, you’re actually talking about a “smart” device rather than a simple set of speakers that you wear over your ears.
If you’re looking for a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones that sound great, have an amazing design, and have some really neat features (especially the touch controls) that will make your friends jealous, buying these is an easy decision. I just wish they included a better storage case.
- Pros: The Parrot Zik offers excellent sound for a wireless Bluetooth headphone, and has a sleek, eye-catching design, a relatively comfortable fit, and a multitude of features, such as wireless audio streaming, noise cancellation, and touch controls on the right side of the headphones.
- Downsides: Although the Zik is very expensive, it comes with a cheap fabric carrying case. Sometimes there are also some small errors that disturb the otherwise impressive sound quality.
- Verdict: Despite some issues, Parrot can consider its Zik the Porsche of Bluetooth headphones