• The Ones to Beat? Our review of the Parrot Zik Headphones


    While itís been awhile since Iíve reviewed a pair of Bluetooth headphones but I jumped at a chance to try a pair of Parrot Zikís.




    Theyíre designed by Phillip Starck and are packed with goodies that make the phone nerd inside me drool! Besides Bluetooth, they also have NFC, a removable battery, touch sensitive controls, sensors that can tell when youíre not wearing them and upgradable firmware. Those features are all great but the Zikís PiŤce de rťsistance is that the Zik comes with its own app. Iíll talk more about the app later.

    I havenít even mentioned the design yet. Unlike all the colourful headphones you see these days, the Zik has a slick modern design. The plastic surfaces are all soft to the touch while the metallic pieces are actually metal. They look really cool and donít shout ďMy mom bought me these headphonesĒ like a pair of Beats headphones.
    Still, the irony is that at $400, mom might need to give you hand buying these.



    What do you get for your $400? Besides the headphones, you get a carrying bag, the fanciest looking USB cable I have ever seen and some audio cables (in case you canít use Bluetooth).



    Considering the price, Iím disappointed that the Zik doesnít come with a carrying case. Iím also pretty surprised that the audio cables arenít gold plated.

    Usage:

    Since the Ziks have NFC support, all you have to do is wave your phone close to them and it will automatically pair. Just make sure NFC is turned on!

    I found that this wouldnít work with my Galaxy S III or my Note II, though it did work with the Sony Xperia T.

    Anyways, if NFC doesnít work for you or if you don't have a phone with NFC like every single iPhone owner out there, you can always pairs to them the old fashion way.

    I love how thereís an on-off button on the right side. Just press it to turn it on or off. Itís so refreshing to see this features. Most of my headsets require you to press and hold buttons to turn them on or off.



    The right side also has a 3.5mm jack in case you want to use the Zikís as regular headphones along with a microUSB port. The right side has touch-sensitive controls. Tap it to play/pause, slide your finger up to raise the volume or down to lower it. slide forwards to skip ahead or backwards to go back one. The controls work really well and theyíre very ergonomic. I always hated hunting for buttons on my headphones.

    The extra holes are where the microphones used for noise cancellation are located.



    The left side has a 800mAh battery. The battery cover is held in place by magnets so even doing something as mundane as pulling the cover off is a treat.



    The headband is covered by a soft material - not sure if itís leather but itís comfortable. The headband is adjustable. Check out the detailing on them!

    One cool feature is that the Zikís know when youíre wearing them and when youíre not. When you take them off, they tell the phone to pause your music and resume, when you put them back on. There are pressure sensors that can sense when the earcups are pressing against your head.

    When I first used the Zikís, the app wouldnít work with them. Turns out the headphones needed a firmware upgrade. To update the firmware, you have to put them in upgrade mode which actually just puts them into mass storage mode. You copy a firmware file to them, unplug and then the Zikís update themselves.

    The App:



    The app allows you to disable noise cancellation, change equalizer settings, set Concert Hall effects (spatial settings), check the battery level plus there is a setting menu.

    The concert hall effects option is pretty cool. You can specify the virtual speaker spacing and distance.



    Fit:

    I found that the Zikís have a fairly secure fit without being uncomfortable. That said, theyíre not secure enough for you to wear them while youíre doing sports.

    Sound:

    The Zikís have noise cancellation. It accomplishes this by doing a good job of forming a seal around your ears so that noise doesn't get it. Even when theyíre off I have a hard time hearing whatís going on around me. It also samples the outside noise using microphones and then applies signal processing to create a sound which cancels out the noise. I donít have a lot of experience with noise cancelling headphones but the Ziks seem to do a decent job.

    As far as sound quality goes my first impressions were good. The Zikís are a blast! Theyíre loud if you want them to be plus theyíre full sounding. They work well for games, youTube that sort of thing. However, when I listened to them critically my opinion of them changed.

    I compared them with my Shure SR840 and Grado 325IS headphones. Compared to them the Zikís is extremely processed sounding. Voices get slightly lisp-y, sometimes beats are slightly out of sync, that sort of thing. If you crank the volume up the Zikís will roll off certain parts.

    I tried turning off some of the extra settings in the app including noise cancellation, concert hall and equalizer and it didnít make much of a difference.

    Compared to my reference headphones, the Zikís sounded terrible. I was extremely disappointed. There is a lot of attention to detail in the design, the way the materials feel, yet it seems like no one had actually spent any time dialing in the Zikís sound.

    Still, if you use the Zikís while youíre out and about you probably wonít notice that theyíre very processed sounding. So, if youíre not using them for critical listening you probably wonít mind them. For me personally, I do get used to them after a few minutes. Still, when you spend $400 on headphones you shouldnít be making any compromises.



    Conclusion:

    While the Zikís look like $400 headphones, they definitely donít sound like them.



    Phillip Starck definitely has an eye for the details, Iím just not sure if Iíd trust him when it comes to sound.

    Pros:

    • NFC on headphones!
    • looks like $400 headphones
    • comfortable
    • well made
    • excellent controls
    • Comes with its own app!


    Cons:

    • sound quality
    • no carrying case included
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Ones to Beat? Our review of the Parrot Zik Headphones started by howard View original post