Parrot has established itself over the past few years in the mobile gadgets space with a host of hands-free car systems and kits. In the entertainment space, Parrot has also captured the attentions with the AR. Drone and Drone 2. The company has recently entered the multimedia market, releasing wireless headphones and speakers. The Parrot Zik was released in South Africa earlier this year, and has already made quite an impression, featuring more technology than simply a set of speakers.
On first impression, the design and build quality are eye catching with its black leather, chrome and black matte finish. The ear pads are comfortable and can easily cushion your ears for a few hours use, with memory foam padding around the outside and inside of each earcup. Where the comfort and design fails is with the headband, which has a harder, firmer finish that won’t sit while with all users, irrespective of the adjustments made. The Zik is fitted with a lot of tech, which may concern users over its overall weight. Surprisingly, the headphones aren’t that much heavier than the average pair, weighing 325g.
Despite the sound and wireless connectivity, most of the attention comes from the Zik’s touch controls. The Zik has a single button on the unit, the power button, as the touch controls allows the user to play, pause, skip forward and back using swipe gestures on the right ear. Drawing inspiration by smartphone swipe gestures, the Zik provides an easy to use means of controlling your music. The touch controls work with most mobile phones, and even integrates well with desktop PCs/laptops. Another useful feature of the Zik is its motion detection, which automatically pauses the music as the user removes the headphones from their ears.
The Parrot Zik can be used in a few different ways: passively, using the audio jack while powered off, and powered on using the audio jack or Bluetooth/NFC connectivity. Although, as stated, you can use the Zik while not powered, it wouldn’t serve much purpose as the sound is noticeably softer with less bass and no noise cancellation or equalisation. It does mean that you can still utilise the headphones after the batteries have lost their charge, which could be a big annoyance if it didn’t. The difference between using the audio cable and Bluetooth/NFC isn’t noticeable at all to the average man on the street, which makes wireless use even that much more inviting. The Zik’s 40mm neodymium drivers provide really good sound, but only once the user has spent some time to setting up the sound via the app (discussed below).
Interestingly, the Parrot Zik can also take calls when using it with your smartphone. To answer, you can simply use the touch controls once again, with a simple tap used to answer. Although you may not notice it off the bat, there are a total of five microphones spread across its design, which not only allows the user to make calls, but also plays a large role in its ANC (Active Noise Cancellation). The two outer most microphones analyse the sound the ear for noise cancellation, while those inside the earcup locate residual noise which may cause interference as well. The last remaining mic is used for voice calls, but it isn’t quite that simple. The Zik’s design also includes a jawbone sensor on the left earpad, which picks up when the users mouth is moving and activates the microphone to focus on your voice, while further noise cancellation of your voice allows better call quality. While this is all good in principal, that actual quality isn’t that much better than any smartphone, although there is a great enhancement of voice clarity when in a room with loud music compared to average phones.
The Zik was released with an iOS and Android app, which is a must, so much so that if you don’t have one of the two mobile OS, there’s really no sense in owning the Zik. On first use, the Zik sounds disappointing, to be honest, with a major difference in quality once customised using the app. The most important feature of the app is its ability to save the default settings on the unit, without needing to use the app again, even when using it again on other devices.
Upon running the app on first use, almost all features are turned off, which is the leading contributor to the lack of sound quality. Once ANC is enabled, you’ll get much deeper, clearer sounds. Further improvements can be achieved by using the Concert Hall effects, which allows the user to define the spacial requirements of the sound. The Zik has plenty of sound variations, from powered off to powered on, and choice of EQ, ANC, Concert Hall effects, and more. There’s no real measure of sound quality, as each individual is able to define their personal preferences. What is clear though is that there aren’t ever any distortions in sound, allowing almost the same performances at higher volumes. At the end of the day, if you don’t tweak the settings, you’re not getting the most out of the Zik.
Since the Zik has a wireless option, there has to be some sort of power source when it’s not plugged in, which can be found beneath the left earcup’s removable cover. The Zik is designed Starck for Parrot, and the quality is found even in something as insignificant as the cover, which has no noticeable difference to the right earcup, as it makes good use of a magnetic clamps. A 3.7V, 800mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery can be located once the cover has been removed, included with the original contents.
Depending on how one uses the Zik, Parrot claims continuous use anywhere from five to 20 hours of battery life, which is more likely around six or seven after performance customisation and Bluetooth connectivity. Six hours of use is more than sufficient during the course of the day, as it can be charged by means of a microUSB cable. One major downfall of the Zik that it doesn’t include any sort of battery optimisation. An easy example would be the use of motion detection. Although this is a nice to have feature, making better use of it would have been more effective, such as to put the unit into standby mode once it has detected that you’ve removed the headphones from your ears. In its current state, irrespective of pausing the state.
There’s plenty to love about the Parrot Zik, with an abundance of tech and design features, which many users wouldn’t have even thought possible, or necessary. The headphones, however, will set you back around R3,599, which places it in the range of Dr. Dre’s Beats, as well as a few others from Logitech, Sennheiser and the likes. Although it offers more functionality than Beats, sound quality doesn’t match up, which at the end of the day is why many people will fork out such a large sum cash to own a good pair of headphones. I cannot fault much about the Zik, even its price, with the amount of features added, and would certainly make waves in the market if it was as easily available as with Beats.