Review: Parrot Zik 2.0 Bluetooth headphones
We managed to get our hands on the Zik 2.0 Bluetooth headphones on launch back in November and were impressed with what we heard. But we've now donned them on car trips, international flights and long days in the office and consider ourselves a little more qualified to comment on their strengths and shortcomings. Read on, for our full review of Parrot's latest set of wireless cans.
Parrot champions the noise-cancelling capability as a main attraction of the Zik 2.0's and there won't be any argument from us. They do about as good a job of shutting out noise as you could hope for from a set of headphones, which Parrot puts down to its patented adaptive active noise control. This system relies six built-in microphones that work with an algorithm, generating soundwaves to directly counter the noise coming in from the outside.
But describing the technology only tells us so much. If we were to judge their noise-cancelling ability by the amount of times I've ignored our Editor-in-Chief while he's trying to get my attention, then they'd be getting top marks (though perhaps not from Noel).
The good news here is the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted through the companion Zik 2.0 app. When opening it up, the home screen will show you the battery life of your Zik 2.0s, but a swipe to the right brings up the noise control configuration. Here it can be adjusted to anywhere between the maximum setting, which Parrot puts at 30 decibels, to so-called Street Mode which feeds a little noise through from the outside. Even with Street Mode at a maximum, however, outside noise will be only barely audible with music playing ... so it still pays to look both ways when crossing the road.
Another swipe to the right will bring you to the Zik 2.0 equalizer screen. The simplicity of this will be welcome for listeners who like control over frequencies when switching genres, but find the intricacies of a full-blown equalizer menu too much to handle. An orange dot in the center of a circle can be dragged toward the Pop, Vocal, Cristal, Punchy, Deep and Club buttons until things sound just they way you like them. But those in need of a little more fine tuning can tap a small equalizer button at the bottom right of screen to access a traditional equalizer menu, which also includes the ability to save your own audio presets.
At risk of sounding like a trigger-happy Tindr user, swipe right yet again and you'll arrive at the Concert Hall menu. This is another innovative feature of the Zik 2.0's that mimics a variety of listening environments such as a concert hall, jazz club or silent room.
So with these finer details, Parrot is catering to those who value high-end audio, but doing so without alienating the more casual listener. For me, the advanced features are fun to play around with at first, but wouldn't have me opening up the app with any sort of regularity.
With that said, put this functionality to one side you are still going to be left with a really solid pair of headphones. The sound quality is rich and clear across a range of sounds and has plenty of oomph at the lower end. This endorsement, however, is predicated on the headphones running in Bluetooth mode, powered only by their 830 mAh battery. You can use a wired connection when it runs flat, but to be perfectly honest this provides a listening experience not all that different to my US$10 pair of Sony earbuds.
Parrot says the battery should should last for six hours at a time and this seems about right. In our test, streaming music from Spotify, it came in at approximately five hours and 30 minutes. While decent, this certainly isn't a strong point of the Zik 2.0s, with some wireless headphones claiming as much as 24 hours of playback. On the plus side, the recharge time is fairly swift at one hour and 30 minutes.
I also wasn't too fond of the pressure sensor stitched into the right earpiece, which pauses the music the moment you take the headphones off. I can appreciate the sentiment, as this eliminates the need to pull out your phone to hit pause, but does become a little tiresome if the music cuts out when you're simply adjusting the headphones or scratching an itch. But fear not, this feature can be turned off through the app.
It will also take a little while to get used to the capacitive touch panel on the right earpiece. Swiping forward to skip, swiping back to play the previous song and up or down to adjust volume seems simple enough, but does require a certain amount of pressure from your finger and isn't all that intuitive out of the box.
These minor gripes aside, it's hard to imagine anybody forking out the US$400 for the Zik 2.0s and being disappointed. Sure they ain't cheap, but you'd be getting a pair of headphones that are a solidly built, comfortable to wear, nice to look at and great to listen to. If you're spending your commute on busy subways, weekends on crammed flights or just like that feeling of isolation, then the noise-cancelling ability paired with superb audio quality might be just the escape you need.