Reviews
Parrot Zik 2.0 Wireless Headphones

By Jorge Figueiredo - January 6th, 2015

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Back at the end of 2013, I reviewed a set of Parrot Zik headphones and was duly blown away by their audio awesomeness. Since then, more than a few different listening devices (both wired and wireless) have come through our doors, with very few being able to top the Ziks in terms of audio quality and functionality. So how much better is the Zik 2.0? What does it bring to the table? Well, Parrot sent us a set to try out so we could answer those questions. In short, I found them to be amazing – most likely better than Parrot’s previous outing into this space. However, there are some caveats that need to be mentioned…

The impeccably-designed box for the Zik 2.0 holds: the headphones, a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, a 1.5m braided audio cable with 3.5mm plugs at each end, a 1m braided USB-to-microUSB cable, a case, and a quickstart guide. Everything is packed very effectively and the whole package ships well thanks to strategic construction.

The Parrot Zik 2.0 definitely looks like a high-end set of cans – and why wouldn’t it? With styling by Philippe Starck and high-quality construction, the Zik 2.0 Bluetooth headphones looks gorgeous in any of the six (currently) available colours. Smooth lines walk hand-in-hand with durable materials to create a lighter, gorgeous set of headphones. While not immediately noticeable, the weight loss will make itself known to owners of the previous version while wearing them for a long time. To the rest who have never tried the first, though, they are definitely light. The thicker headband (adjustable) feels nice, and the faux-leather-covered cushions are slightly different than the previous model, giving the Zik 2.0s a comfort advantage over the old set (though it must be said that these do not completely envelop the ear; however, the seal that is created creates great passive noise isolation). Even the sensor, which is built into the right earcup (and detects when you put on or take off the headphones) is not intrusive at all.

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Box contents.

The right earcup is also a veritable cockpit, allowing you to interface with the Zik 2.0 headset. This earcup houses the power button, a touch panel (located on the outside of the earpiece), a microUSB port (for charging), and a 3.5mm connector for wired use. The left earcup’s outer panel pops off (it’s held in place by magnets), revealing the battery compartment that holds the rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery. The earcups also hold 2 bone-conduction microphones for high-quality voice capture, and 6 active microphones that detect ambient noise, to give you some really great noise cancellation.

Pairing this headset is easy as pie – with either Bluetooth or NFC capability, pairing takes mere seconds. Controlling the Zik 2.0 is a matter of learning a few finger gestures to be utilized on the outside of the right earcup. Want to play or pause your music? Simply tap the center of the outside of the earcup. Volume is controlled using vertical swipes (up for louder, down for softer), and skipping music is a matter of swiping forward or backward (to move to the next or previous song, respectively). Phone calls can also be controlled using this method, giving you the ability to voice dial, reject calls and change the volume, among the other normal call functions. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if it’s because the material covering the touch-pad is faux-leather instead of hard plastic, but I found that the touch controls were not as responsive as I would have liked. In fact, I think that the original Zik may have the edge here, at least right when you first get them. Once you habituate to the sensitivity level, though it’s not such a big issue to use the 2.0’s interface effectively.

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Seekrit battery compartment.

If the ‎right earcup is the cockpit, then the Parrot Zik 2.0 app (for iOS and Android) is Mission Control. It is with this app that all of the various DSP and noise-cancelling settings can be monkeyed around with. After downloading and registering it, the Zik 2.0 app will detect your headphones (if they are on) and then open up the front page, which displays the battery status, as well as a few other quick toggles (noise control, equalizer, concert hall). From here, all of the extended functionality is located to the right of the main page, and navigating through these pages is as easy as swiping left and right. All of the settings are adjusted via touch, for easy tweaking.

The noise-cancellation is located on page 2, and is adjusted with a circular dial. The equalizer looks like a heatmap with settings that are meant to be intuitive. Rather than numbers, there are sound descriptions like “Punchy” and “Pop”, and the “blob” can be adjusted with your finger on this scale. Pulling the sound cloud towards one type of setting will cut down aspects of the others, since the map is dynamic. Worry not, though, as you can use the traditional equalizer chart to perform the same adjustments. The Concert Hall setting has been improved from the previous Zik, giving the user a sense of space (especially when the eyes are closed). One of the neat aspects of the Zik app is that presets have been programmed in by artists to be used with their own music. The final page of the settings displays featured artists, so you can skooch over to that page and find your favourite musician so you can listen to their music with the settings that they intended. Finally, firmware updates can be performed using the Zik app, so you can keep your 2.0s up to date.‎

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The first two pages of the app.

The 40mm drivers are effective at dishing out some very compelling sound. The usual battery of tests was run (instrumental blues, rock, rap, electronica), and overall I found that the sound quality wows just like the previous Ziks do. There is a high level of clarity with the Zik 2.0, with great separation ‎between instruments (most obviously demonstrated by acoustic pieces), powerful low tones (quite powerful, actually), and no compromise on mid tones. This is the same story, whether using the headset wirelessly or with a wired connection (which does sound a little less powerful than when the headphones are “active”). That being said, I found that on default settings the high tones are muted relative to the bass. In fact, in wired mode, audio sounds a little hollow – once you activate the DSP, the hollowness gives way to a fairly full sound that is low on treble (for the most part). This can be adjusted somewhat using the iOS/Android app; but try as I might, I could not duplicate the sweet sound of Master & Dynamic’s flagship headset, the MH40 (which is the new bar) – there was always a compromise. That’s not to say that the headphones don’t sound good – on the contrary, they sound really great. It’s just that the bar is exceptionally high.

Of course, the Zik 2.0 is a really amazing wireless headset. The Bluetooth connection is very strong and never once dropped during any of my tests. It also has distur‎bingly effective noise-cancellation. Much like the original Zik, the Zik 2.0 does an absolutely fantastic job of reducing ambient noise by utilizing an active microphone array. What is disturbing about the effectiveness of the functionality in this new version is that it doesn’t bother me like most noise-cancelling headphones do (I don’t normally even like noise-cancelling functionality) thanks to adaptive cancellation (versus analog cancellation, which is what the original Zik used). It is a nice change from the status quo. While there is a mode that blocks out everything, there is also a Comfort Mode (which seems to focus on reducing only the most disturbing noises) and a Street Mode (which allows you to hear your environment by nullifying the passive effect of the earphones).

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Comfy!

Call quality on the Zik 2.0 is pretty good – but not as good as I feel it should be. Incoming call quality is nice, but the microphone hasn’t really improved since last time. This current headset supports “HD Voice”, but since my provider doesn’t support it, I couldn’t test it. I am assuming that HD Voice sounds a lot like the microphone sounds when used indoors to record audio on my computer.

Battery life is improved over the old model. Whereas the Zik could push out about 5 hours of playback, the Zik 2.0 tops out at around seven in Bluetooth mode with noise-cancellation and concert hall setting enabled. Where the new model really shines is in “autonomy mode”, which is really airplane mode: no Bluetooth, no effects – just a wired connection with noise cancellation. Amazingly, you can use the Zik 2.0 for around 18 hours in this mode. Not too shabby. The only sad part about all of this is that the battery takes about 2.5 hours to charge – and you have to do it while it is in the headset. Parrot has not yet made a dedicated charger for their batteries, so if you want to charge a spare battery on the side while you’re using a freshly-charged one, you’re out of luck. Once you run out of juice, you’re back to the less-powerful passive mode.

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Don’t play with your food! Play with your sound!

At $400 these headphones may be a dear purchase, but Parrot does not skimp on quality or features. Thanks to the Zik 2.0 app, these headphones have more functionality than any other headset – wired or wireless. Impressive battery life, excellent sound quality and useful features all make this set of headphones a worthwhile buy if you have the money. The only improvements that I can see would be to balance the sound just a touch to give the high end a little more kick, and to include a dedicated charger if you wish to purchase extra batteries.

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    One response so far:
  2. By paul
    Posted on Aug 11, 2015

    Nice article. I am a proud owner of Parrot Zik 2.0 Bluetooth Headphone. I ordered mine from bay bloor radio . It is one of the most advanced headphone in market. The best features are the touch control and head detection sensor.

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