There is plenty in the electronics world to get a gadget fan’s geek-o-meter hitting the red, but usually a headset isn’t one of them. Looking at the Parrot Zik, though, that all changes. In the high-end headphone market it is difficult to make yourself heard (apologies). The Zik takes on a lot of competition, among them the B&W P3 and the Philips Fidelio L1.
Where the Parrot Zik tries to differentiate itself is through sheer technical brilliance. It has wireless Bluetooth connectivity, touch operation, noise-cancelling technology and sensors that pause music when you take the headphones off. Sounds pretty good, but is it?
The Parrot Zik is designed by French design guru Phillip Starck. He has designed many things (not only electronics) and his aesthetics are usually breath taking. So it is no surprise that these headphones look very good. Every angle oozes luxury and you can immediately feel you are holding a quality product.
The matte steel finish of the metal frame looks great, but is also extremely sturdy. It has a discrete splash of orange, giving away its Starck heritage. The left earpiece houses the removable battery which you access by taking off the magnetic cover. It comes off easily, but the magnetic attraction is strong enough that it will not come off on its own. Furthermore you’ll only find microphone sensors on the bottom.
On the right hand earpiece is where you find the On/Off button, some more sensors, a micro USB port (for charging the battery) and an audio jack – if you would like to use it in the conventional way, without its wireless capabilities. On the side of the right earpiece is where you will find the touch control pad, which is used to input certain demands.
All the leather used feels great and looks good. It certainly does stand out from the crowd, as not many headphones have such a premium feel.
According to Starck himself: “The headphones are perfectly balanced and almost seem fused looking like a mere extension of the human body and all its needs”. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I can add, boy they are comfy!
What is surprising is that even though they feel pretty heavy when holding in your hands, the headphones are extremely comfortable which in turn makes it feel lighter. The supple leather ear cups sit brilliantly around the ears – which helps with noise reduction – but not too snug to make you feel warm.
This is the primary task it has to fulfil, and we can confirm that sound quality is extremely good. Parrot made the sound natural and crisp, rather than just pushing up the bass. On the application that comes with it, it is possible to set the EQ balances, but the preset ones are very nice. Unlike some other designer headsets, you can truly hear the difference between the different audio modes.
When paired up to a phone via Bluetooth, you can also make calls with the headset. It has many microphones at work when listening in, as well as a bone conduction sensor situated on the right ear cup (pictured above – the small black squares), so it gets noise input from many places. The call quality is good, but we did notice some slightly muffled sounds every now and again.
The 800 mAh battery can be charged by connecting it to a laptop or by using a microUSB charger. It comes with its own cables, so no need to use the one used for your phone.
The battery life is decent, but with so much technology crammed into the device, it does struggle sometimes. We would have liked it to last a bit longer, as we would get about 5-6 hours of use from it.
First things first, pairing the headphones to any Bluetooth device is very easy and fuss-free. The connection remained strong with a surprisingly good range. The Zik is also NFC enabled, so if you have a phone with Near Field Communication, connection with this option is flawless. It’s the first headset to include this feature.
But the great feature is the touch control, with input from the touch pad on the right hand side. If you are left-handed, it is a bit of a bummer. All the features work without problem, and are also quick and responsive.
You pause and again play music by tapping the touchpad. Swiping forwards and backwards will skip the tracks in either direction, while swiping on the vertical axis will adjust the volume up or down. Controls are intuitive and the fact that you can control your music this way is simply fantastic.
The application to use in conjunction with your Zik is called the Parrot Audio Suite, and is available on both iOS and Android. While it may seem basic, there is quite a lot to play around and tinker with.
Other than monitoring your battery life and noise cancelling, the app enables you – with the Concert Hall section – to adjust the audio, giving the impression of listening in different environments. Depending on what you are doing (games, videos etc) you can get the best out of the audio by using the different settings, like Silent Room, Living Room, Jazz Club or Concert Hall.
You also have an equalizer with many preset selections. It is fun to play with the equalization where you can manually set the different frequency ranges. All these options work very well.
This might seem like a very long review for a headset, but that is how much it has going for it. It is certainly impressive and actually the best Bluetooth headphones I’ve ever used. The wireless performance is extremely reliable, the touch operation works brilliantly and audio is great.
The only negatives are the battery life and the steep price tag. It comes in at around R4000. If you are in the market for high-end headphones, though, you were going to have to pay for that luxury anyway. So if you are looking for great premium designer headphones, this is the way to go.