What a funny-looking set of headphones. And made by Parrot no less, the company that gave the world the AR.drone. This is the Parrot Zik, a name that we’re still not wholly sure how to pronounce without something dirty in another language, and the Zik (stop giggling) is a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones that need to be worn in order to truly experience them.
Wear and tear
The reason you need to wear them is because first impressions are probably not accurate. Looking at Parrot’s cans in their box, you get the idea that all that metal and the weird headband configuration is going to result in an uncomfortable experience at best but nothing could be further from the truth. The padded section of the headband and the padding over the cups is the softest we’ve felt in a long time. SteelSeries’ Siberia Elite might have softer ear-cups but you’re basically strapping two pillows to your melon when wearing those fluffy things. Here, you’ve got comfort without the fluff and all that metal? It doesn’t weigh a whole lot at all.
Looking a little closer at the design, there doesn’t seem to be much going on at all. There an input for a charging cable (provided) and a jack for turning the Parrot Zik into a wired set of cans but there’s little else. A couple of vents at the base of the ear cups and the on/off button is about all you get in the way of visible controls and additions.
Swipe like a ninja
There’s a reason for that though. The outer end of one of the cups functions as both your volume control and song selection keys, letting you control your media with a swipe of your finger. Swishing your digits from bottom to top will drown out nearby annoyances, top-to-bottom will give your eardrums some respite. Horizontal movements will switch tracks as you need to and, while the Parrot Zik is made for Apple’s range of iDevices, these features work perfectly fine on Android’s drop of mobile hardware as well. Give the control surface a bonk with a fingertip and you’ll pause the track to boot.
Not that you need to use the last method all that often. The Zik is fairly intelligent in that regard. Removing the headphones will pause your music for a time but put them back in place and you’ll just have the tunes resume where they left off. That alone almost sold us on these headphones. Handy, yes?
As for the sound itself, these headphones are remarkably clear at lower volumes, with bass through to mid-range being extremely clear throughout a track. Bass is distinct without being overwhelming and we got the sense that our music almost liked being at this volume, where we could actually hear all of its individual elements.
We did run into a slight problem at higher volumes (right around the time that we discovered the volume controls). Crank the sound too much and the Zik will distort, with the bass taking over and wiping out everything else in hearing distance. This may be a problem with the review unit itself however, as it seemed localised in the left cup and turning the volume up even further resulted in a bit of speaker pop in that ear. Might only be a loose connection but you’ve been warned.
And all is silence…
You don’t actually need the high-volume playback though, since Parrot’s Zik is packing a whole lot lot of noise cancelling tech. There are actually five microphones present, four of which cancel noise in concert with the fifth being a jawbone mic that know when you’re using the Zik to have a conversation using your phone.
If you’re in a fairly noisy environment, like Stuff Towers on a quiet day, then Parrot’s headphones are a blessing. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anything spoken at a normal conversational level and might even be tempted to go play in traffic to see how the noise of passing cars does against the noise-cancelling. The answer: You’ll hear the car but not until it’s pretty close. Or unless it’s a Harley Davidson going full-bore.
Parrot’s Zik headphones are very nearly the perfect cans. Comfortable, solid without being a brick on your head and they deliver some fantastic sound while cancelling the noise around you. The Bluetooth connection to devices is wonderfully fast, there’s an app if you want to dive deeper into the settings and they’ve got some of the best volume and media controls we’ve ever seen in a set of headphone. They can even be used as a standard set of cans with a wired connection once the power dies, though sound quality suffers somewhat. If not for the high-volume distortion, Parrot’s headphones would be among the very best we’ve tested.