Reviews
Parrot Zik Wireless Headphones
Design by Starck

By Jorge Figueiredo - November 4th, 2013

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Yes, it’s another headphone review. This time, though, I am going to post the spoiler in the first paragreaph: Parrot’s Zik headset (by Philippe Starck1) are probably the best-sounding pair of headphones with a mic that I have reviewed thusfar. A bold statement? Perhaps; but I have reviewed a fair number of headphones, and pound-for-pound, the Zik is the most amazing headset. Is it perfect? No – but the audio quality is other-worldly, as are some of the neat features that have been designed into this elegant-looking piece of tech. Be warned, it is worth its weight in gold.

The first time that I saw the Zik headset was at a demo event last year. I saw a pair sitting on display, and was encouraged to pick it up the $400 headset and try it out. The box contains the headset, two cables (one for charging and one for plugging into an audio device for wired listening), a carrying pouch, the battery and the instruction book. At first glance, the headset is fairly simple-looking; although a second glance allows one to appreciate the elegant -almost organic- design2. Compared to a lot of other brightly-coloured headphones and headsets out there, the Zik is almost nondescript, choosing a more subtle approach to logo placement (with chrome and very nondescript orange accents). However, taking a closer look reveals a few interesting things about this listening device.

First of all, the decisions about design did not end with the visual appeal. Everything about the Zik seems to have a purpose – rather than just be for show. For instance, the half-wishbone arms that hold the earcups in place are strong, and can swivel to around 90 degrees to allow you to store the headset. The flexible headband is wrapped in synthetic leather, and the whole piece is adjustable, allowing them to fit on most people’s noggins. And they really do fit quite nicely thanks to the nicely-shaped, faux-leather-padded earcups. Both earcups are finished in black matted plastic with chrome accents.

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Everything in this photo is included when you buy the Zik.

The right earcup features a power button, a microUSB port for charging, a 3.5mm audio jack, half of the microphone array for use in noise cancellation as well as the bone-conduction sensor, which works in tandem with the microphones to capture your voice. The outside of the right earcup is also a touch panel that allows you to control your music and your calls with gestures. Swiping up, for instance, increases the volume while tapping the panel controls your calls as well as playback. All swipes outside of volume adjustment have audio feedback to let you know that you have done something. The right earcup is also instrumental in the detection of your head; that is, there is what feels to be a small pressure-plate in there that detects when the Zik is on or off of your head (pausing whatever you were listening to when you take them off and restarting when you place them back on again). The left earcup contains the Zik’s internal battery (which can be replaced as the cover can be removed), the other half of the microphone array, an extra mic for voice pickup, and the NFC unit, which allows you to tap your smartphone or other NFC-enabled device to the outside of the left earcup for instant pairing.

There are many flavours of connectivity with the Zik, and they all worked very well. Bluetooth pairing with my iPod Touch 5, the LG G2, and the Playstation 3 worked extremely well (the PS3 Bluetooth functionality only worked for chat – not game audio). NFC pairing worked with the Blackberry Bold 9900 and the LG G2. Wired connection worked with everything. Obviously the cord works with everything that supports a cord. I did not experience any drops or stutters while wirelessly connected to any of my hand-held devices (and the PS3) – but I was never more than 15 feet away from any of those (and I don’t see the need to be that far away from my hand-held devices). Sadly, the Zik can only pair with one device at a time, and must be manually “unplugged” before pairing it with something else.

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So many microphones.

Sound quality is absolutely fantastic. First of all, you can tailor the sound to your liking using the Parrot Audio Suite (for iOS or Android). This application gives you the ability to manipulate your audio with an equalizer, turn on a virtual surround audio effect (Concert Hall), and toggle the Active Noise Cancellation. It also allows you to monitor your battery level and upgrade the firmware. Once you have your sound the way you like it, you will be thoroughly impressed. I have never experienced a headset with sound as balanced as these. The highs are like crystal and the mids are full; bass is unreal – clean and clear without any messy sound. Turning up the volume does not result in the typical distortion that you might hear in other headsets in the same price range. Good clean sound is the name of the game. I’m sure that one of the reasons that this headset sounds so amazing is due in part to the fantastic seal created by the earcups, resulting in some great passive noise isolation. Of course, the Active Noise Cancellation makes listening to your music an even more amazing experience.

I kid you not: at one point I was moving about my house, doing chores while listening to music from my iPod through the Zik headphones. Eventually, I moved onto tidying up the kitchen and found myself washing some of the pots and pans that I used to make dinner. It was only halfway through my task that I realized that I could barely hear myself washing the dishes – and my volume wasn’t blasting! Whatever algorithm that Parrot uses for their noise cancellation must come from some other-worldly place of magic – because, again, I could barely hear what was going on in front of me!

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It is a pretty nice looking set of headphones.

If the Zik has a shortcoming, it is battery life – but this is a relative thing. I found that when I had this paired to my iPod Touch 5, and had all of the features turned on, the battery lasted for about five hours. Once you turn off active noise cancellation, you gain yourself at least twice that (I did, at least). You can also turn off Bluetooth and use the cord to listen to your music. If your batteries run out while you’re doing this, you will still be able to listen to your tunes – however, since the headset’s volume control is tied to the touch panel on the right earcup, you will lose the ability to control the volume of the music from your headset. Ideally, you would keep a spare battery handy – but this is an extra cost. Also, you would only be able to charge it within the Zik itself (at least, at this time), as there is no external charger.

Parrot continues to produce cool stuff. From the AR Drone 2.0 to the MiniKit Neo, their ability to keep consumers happy is pretty obvious. The term “you get what you pay for” seems to not quite cover the value that is inherent in a good number of Parrot products, and the Zik is no exception. Other than battery life, these headphones are the closest thing to audio listening perfection that I have ever experienced. Definitely worth the $4003.

1 – No relation to Tony Stark – but there should be, dammit!
2 – Starck is the king of merging form and function. This headset looks like it was designed by Elves from Lord of the Rings.
3 – I have never before thought about dropping this much money on headphones – but after I sent these back to Parrot, I have started saving my pennies.

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