Parrot Zik Review

Parrot Zik Review

Parrot Zik Review 680 473 Maye

Are aware that Parrot makes more than just the AR.Drone, aren’t you? Our first glimpse of the Parrot Zik by Starck was at CES earlier this year, and later we began to geek out over it. Even the geekiest audio fans will be smitten by these headphones, as they are packed with a wealth of technologies. The headphones cost $400 and feature Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth connectivity, on-board capacitive touch-control, active noise cancellation, jawbone speech recognition, and Parrot’s Audio Enhancement App for iOS and Android – not to mention its striking design by Mr. Starck and Parrot have worked together before, but this is their first venture into the portable audio market (as opposed to speaker systems for the home). The reviewer of this item didn’t just test it on his own he tested it with two other editors. So did they impress you? The more important question is, are they worth the $400 asking price? Come back after the break and find out what we’re up to.

Hardware and embedded tech

Although the Zik is packed with high-tech features, it appears more dapper than geeky from the outside. Its synthetic leather headband sports the Parrot logo embossed into it. As it runs down the sides, the band connections with curved, skeletal-like metal rails that engage with the half-wishbone yokes through swiveling joints. These earphones have an eye-catching design, yet can fold flat for compact storage in the included travel pouch. In addition to being eye-catching, they can swivel just over 90 degrees. If you really look closely, you can see how the inner portions are scooped out to reveal the wiring leading to the cups. The clicky headrails descend from the headband, but retract if you need to adjust the headset to fit a smaller head. The metal’s semigloss finish, however, isn’t the only element distinctive to Starck. Under where the interior edges of the headband meet the rails, there are subtle orange elements. The Zik also features a laser engraved logo on the left and right sides, adjustment points, and a Starck logo on the headband. However, the outside of the Zik is more dapper than geeky. But that’s when the magic begins to happen. It’s easy to overlook the ear cups of the Zik, which are surprisingly dense and plush to begin with – though disproportionately so in comparison to the rest of the headset. Most of the outer edges are finished in soft-touch matte plastic, and we’re very satisfied with that choice. You may ask, “Why?”. It features an embedded NFC sensor embedded in the left ear cup, which can be used for reading and responding to calls. The right ear cup includes a capacitive touch panel to control music playback and take calls. We noticed only very slight traces of oil and fingerprints even after we swiped the headset hundreds of times per day. When you swipe vertically you can control the volume, and when you swipe horizontally you can You can also control playback in addition to starting and ending calls by tapping the panel. As long as you are not changing the volume, your swipes will have a clicking sound in the earpieces, some audio feedback confirming that what you did was recognized. It is generally a very intuitive way of entering commands, except for a hint of lag. It’s disappointing that the current firmware doesn’t support long taps to enable voice control on smartphones — a feature that’s available on inline remotes that work with Apple and Android devices.

In addition to the vents on the outer edges of the earcups, there are two chrome outlines. Additionally, they act as bass vents for the headphones in addition to adding some visual flair. Immediately, it becomes apparent that each earcup has a different shape, with the chrome extending into the bottom edge of the right earpiece. Besides the micro-USB port, there is also a 3.5mm jack for headphones, as well as a microphone and say that the ports coupled extremely tightly with the cables included (the shielding on each of the cables is thick and braided). Basically, we use the wired option just in case the battery dies or if we want to conserve power by avoiding Bluetooth usage. A final note about the audio cable is that it has a thick right-angled tip, which you might appreciate if you have a device We are disappointed in the absence of an inline remote on the included cable, as phone calls and playback controls aren’t possible when the battery is dead. Parrot Zik by Starck is the fanciest, most technological headphones you can buy for $400. There is only a slight wiggle when the power button is pressed, with just enough tension to make it a pleasing touch. In a dark environment, like an overnight flight, the blinking lights of many Bluetooth headsets can be annoying. However, these headphones do not emit any light, so in a dark situation, like an overnight flight, they won’t be a problem. When the headset is on and powered, the button will glow white when it is charging, the button will glow red. However, unlike headphones such as the SYNC by 50, the button cannot be turned off. Back to your left ear cup, you can see that it has two more microphones along its lower Is it reasonable to think that three microphones would’ve sufficed? It’s not just Parrot there are two more inside, one in the cup of each ear. That’s a total of five microphones, if you’ve been counting. Parrot claims that two of the outer microphones analyze the sound in your environment for noise cancellation, while the ones located within each ear cup detect residual noise that may also need to be eliminated. The Zik can still handle voice calls using an external microphone on one of its three external microphones.

There’s more to it, though. The Zik picks up voice input in a number of ways. One of those two square sensors is the jawbone sensor, which is situated near the bottom of the left earpad. According to Parrot, when your mouth moves, the Zik tells its microphone to solely focus on your voice, so that you’ll always be heard over any background noise. Despite their similarities in name, in reality, the two devices couldn’t be more different. We are now at the “motion sensor,” one of the most intriguing features of the Zik device. It simply requires you to take it off and put it back on your head to start and stop the music. The feature is especially helpful when you need to talk with someone on the fly and certainly more intuitive than navigating an inline remote to find the play/pause button. Although, it was actually designed more as When the headphones are turned on and off, it looks at first glance as though it is using some kind of accelerometer. Instead, it is simply one button within the right earpad that is activated. It is a relief to know that despite how much this editor shook his head, the sensors detected that the headphones had not fallen While the music was expanding, there were a few instances when it took a second or two for it to turn off. The Parrot Zik by Starck are the fanciest headphones you can wrap around your ears for $400 The Zik has a less obvious feature, as the left ear cup is actually magnetic. The battery cover does not have an indentation for pulling off, as you would find on a smartphone battery cover, but you can still pull it off easily enough. Since it is magnetized, it won’t move unless you want to take it off, so you won’t need to worry about it falling onto the train tracks while you’re on A slot for a proprietary 3.7V, 800mAh lithium-ion battery can be found when the cover is pulled back. However, it will be sold separately for $30, as well as included. You can expect to get anywhere between five and 20 hours of use from the Zik, depending on how much you use its features. When we enabled Bluetooth and all the audio features, we received between five and six hours of continuous battery life. A spare battery is a must if you want to get the most out of the experience — and if you want to take advantage of the full experience over a whole day. In the case of the Zik, if you enable all the audio features while using Bluetooth, its battery life will be limited to just five to six hours. It does not work this way even though it has a head sensor you cannot use these headphones in any low-power mode by leaving them on and around your shoulders. As a result, there’s no difference in the battery life regardless of whether music is playing. The headphones provide enough passive noise isolation that sometimes we did not need active noise cancellation enabled, which is good news since we will be able to increase run times once active noise cancellation is off. Aside from noise cancellation, the Zik also comes with noise reduction right Right now, the iPad and Android versions of the app to control the device’s audio features are in development, but Parrot expects a proper Android and iPad version within the next few This is one of the things I find Unless the headphones are plugged into a power source, the batteries cannot be charged. While it’s convenient to charge the headset if you happen to be sitting at a desk with a spare USB port, folks who are on the go face a difficulty charging it. According to Parrot, there are no plans for an external charger, so you’ll have to make sure your devices are fully charged before going on a The headphones have an extremely large sticking point that puts them at a severe disadvantage, especially since headphones made by Sony, Bose, and Klipsch can last over 20 hours on AAA batteries. Considering everything inside, the Zik’s battery life is adequate, but we do hope Parrot offers better ways to stay powered up in the future — or a spare battery in the box at the very least.

Setup, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity

The Zik is no exception to the fact that Bluetooth pairing has drastically changed over the years. When we connected an iPhone 3GS, Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III, iPad 2, Nokia Lumia 900, ASUS PadFone, HTC One X, or MacBook, we didn’t have to go into a pairing mode or enter a pairing code. You can connect the headset to any device by selecting “connect to device” from the device. But this convenience comes at a cost you can’t pair the headset with more than one device at a time. If you tend to juggle multiple devices, than this may be problematic for you, as you’ll need to manually disconnect each one before attempting pairing with another. Still, most shoppers are unlikely to experience this problem. A computer is totally out of the question when it comes to Skype calls with the Zik. In addition to its NFC sensor, the Zik has a Bluetooth pairing button on its left earcup. In the US, there aren’t too many NFC-capable devices, however four of the devices listed do have NFC built in. It was through testing these features extensively that we were able to provide you with a detailed analysis of this feature. A second tap of the Nexus’ handset to the left earcup terminated pairing, while simply tapping the handset to the left earcup completed We ran into an error message when trying to carry out the same process with the GS III and One X. There is a good chance this is an OS-based issue, and we’re waiting to hear back from Parrot on this matter. The feature works great, aside from that hiccup, and it’s nice to see something other than Nokia’s Play 360 speakers using this technology. The update is confirmed that the NFC pairing is only available on Android Jelly Bean devices. More specifically, when it comes to that Broadcom Bluetooth chip, the Zik only sports Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP — there is no support for codecs like aptX at this time. If you are looking for more advanced Bluetooth audio, this may be an issue, but as we’ll explain soon, the headphones sound pretty good most of the time. A listener might hear a humming noise near where the radio is located on the right side The issue is only apparent if audio isn’t being played through headphones, but may be the case if you are intending to use the noise cancellation feature as well. Our last point on this topic is that it would be remiss of us not to address a few Bluetooth issues that we encountered on both A laptop proved to be hit-or-miss when it came to the connection. We were able to transfer the audio in both directions using headphones, but as soon as we attempted to enable the mic, our audio signal cease to transfer. After that point, our connection had to be completely shut down and restarted so we could at least get incoming audio. A computer is totally out of the question when it comes to Skype calls with the Zik. In addition to the occasional drop in audio, we have also noticed that planting a phone inside of a pocket will often result in brief loss of signal. Based on our location, we could get a signal from 33 feet to just a few steps away, as promised. There needs to be some fine tuning done to the Bluetooth implementation here.

Fit and comfort

Those of you following our coverage of the Zik will recall how comfortable the handset was during our early hands-on. Although we sympathize if you worry that all that technology inside may make for an uncomfortable fit, we are happy to report that the Zik truly is extremely comfortable. With a comfortable circumaural design, these headphones make for a pleasant listening experience. In contrast to the Astro A50 gaming headset, though, it won’t leave your ears floating inside of the earcups. The memory foam within the earpads is quite supple, and there’s even more cushioning within the earcups. In fact, if you put your finger against the part of the earcups where the microphones are located, you would be able to feel them, but you won’t notice them when you’re Basically, the shape of the headrail helps keep the helmet affixed to your head, so that it is firmly attached to your head. It is possible that some users would prefer a bit more padding on the headband. In light of the fact that the earpads cannot be replaced, we’re worried about how durable they will be after months of use. While the headphones clamp on your head with ease, the clamping force is just enough to keep them on your head without crushing your ears to the point of causing While synthetic leather pads do not play well with hot weather — sweat definitely comes out, but it did not seem to impact the quality of construction in the least.

Parrot Audio Studio app

We’d like to tell you a little more about its free companion app before diving into our impressions of the audio quality This software is available for free from Parrot. As we’ve already mentioned, the Zik app works across multiple platforms, so let’s take a closer look at how it works on iOS. Here, you’ll find three toggle options along with three utility-style options — none of which can be adjusted from the Zik app You’ll find the System, Battery, and Helpdesk icons, and then we get to the utility options. The “System” section allows you to change the name of your Zik and check for The “Battery” field displays the status of the system’s battery. The Zik doesn’t provide you with an estimate of how much remaining run time there is, which is a shame since it doesn’t notify you if the battery is In addition, the feature doesn’t provide the same convenience as having the meter right in our taskbars, as with Jawbone’s offerings. %Gallery-161176% ‘Tis the season for action films. You can choose whether active noise cancellation is on or off once you have the app open. Users do not have the option to tweak the Zik’s settings unlike some other ANC cans instead, these are handled In short, it does a good job of doing what it’s supposed to. The Zik can handle all your mixing needs, no matter how much bass you like, how much clarity your vocal has in your mix, and even a degree of stereo separation. Three toggles are located on the bottom of the box, the last being A user customizable setting (see gallery for details) is available in the settings for Punchy, Club, Pop, Vocals, Crystal, Deep, and a user configurable setting (see gallery for its specific details). In general, Parrot prefers the club and punchy settings. This is because a v-curve is presented in these settings (generally considered the rock setting). As a side note, any change to a setting will automatically program it to the user’s preferences. There is also an option for turning on and off Concert Hall Effects between those three options. When you click this icon, you are brought into a menu that lets you select from four different room simulations (Concert Hall, Jazz Club, Living Room, and Silent Room) and speaker placements of 30° to 180° from right to left. Using the speaker set-up, you can only adjust each speaker 30 degrees in each quadrant, while the silent room setting only allows 150 degrees of separation. As a result, this feature really enhances your experience when using the Zik heads, because it allows you to customize the soundstage and stereo image. Our favorite settings are the Living Room and Silent settings when the speakers are positioned at a 120-degree angle. Your preferences may differ, but the important point is that this is an option you will have in the Zik, and you can tailor the sound to fit your personal No matter what kind of stereo separation you prefer – gobs of bass, very clear vocals or a bit more vocal clarity – the Zik can provide it for you. It is great that your last settings within the app are automatically saved no matter which device you use. In addition to all of that, we found the Zik highly annoying at times during testing because of its tendency to make a pop noise every time we turned it on, changed the EQ setting, or toggled on and off the ANC. Having said that, the same annoyance occurs every time the headphone’s head detector is engaged (performing the usual pauses or restarting of playback), regardless of whether you are taking the headphones on or We hope that a firmware update will eventually lead to a cleaner-sounding bypass mechanism.


Before we talk about any DSP or EQing, let’s take a look at the natural audio quality of the 40mm neodymium drivers in the Zik. As for sound quality, with the headphones powered up, we would find it hard to discern any major differences using the headphones wirelessly with Bluetooth versus using them wired with the included audio cable. Firstly, you should take note that the Bluetooth signal does have the tendency to cut out every now and then, whereas with the audio cable that won’t happen. The headphones can be used As a result, even when not powered on (as it is with the audio cable), the sound is thin and brittle, similar to many other headphones we have tested. In our view, the Zik works best with the power on — and while passive functionality is a nice option when the battery runs out, we recommend purchasing some extra batteries so that you don’t have to use If ANC is on, the sound gets significantly fuller. I think the clarification is very good. It’s not perfect, but more than satisfactory. It’s now time to discuss how the DSP provided by the application is used. It is true that active noise cancellation does add meat to the extra-lows in a mixture, but some might find it noisy. It is the Concert Hall effects that provide the most impact in the overall sound of the movie. In any case, the effect is not the most natural, but it does unsurprisingly space out the various sounds in a recording in a pleasing fashion. Still, those who prefer an instrument timbre that is more clinical might not find the fact that each setting changes the tone of each instrument so terribly appealing. As a result, headphones such as the $350 M40, $200 MDR-NC200D and $300 P5 provide a bit more clarity and a bit tighter overall response across a greater range of genres. In light of the fact that these units are mostly focused on sound as opposed to technical features, we weren’t surprised. Still, for the money, we had hoped for better sound quality from the Zik. As far as we were concerned, the sound didn’t tir our ears after hours of listening, nor did we notice any clipping or serious distortion at louder volumes — the Zik clearly handles any amount of EQ you need. In general, we were extremely pleased with the sound, but we expected a little bit more considering the $400 price tag. On to outgoing audio – we’ve already talked about how the jawbone sensor works, so let’s discuss how that affects the quality of the microphone Our vocals occasionally cut out or were a bit staticky, according to some callers. You can easily be heard in louder environments with a voice that matches that of a Jawbone Icon, but the overall quality of the audio isn’t quite up to par, as for example with a Jawbone Icon. A microphone monitoring function would’ve been useful because of the way the Zik handles external noise on the user’s end so well. We did an A/B comparison of Zik with our Galaxy Nexus’ built-in mic and a PlayStation Bluetooth headset in a simulated bar environment and you can hear the difference.

Noise suppression

Wouldn’t it be nice to know just how effective the Zik is at killing noise? I love it. I love it. Our rooftops at Engadget HQ are screamed with protests. Can you hear us? Since you’re not using one right now, it’s probably not an option for you. Approximately 98 percent of the lower frequencies can be eliminated by Parrot’s active noise cancellation, which can provide up to 25dB of protection. The translation is I’m completely astonished by the quantity of noise slaughter that’s going on. The ANC headphones here don’t make a lot of annoying hiss, as is the case with many other ANC headphones. While riding the subway in NYC’s extremely loud cars, Zik provided us with a sort of aural sanctuary. Also impressive is that the Zik has a substantial amount of passive noise isolation (at least for circumaural headphones), and in some cases we found it sufficient to keep ANC off in certain situations.


The Zik sets a new standard for the latest headphone design from Parrot and Philippe Starck. However, there are a few kinks that need to be worked out — most of which Parrot will hopefully be able to eliminate with Even though the Zik has a number of shortcomings, we have very much enjoyed using it so far. With touch controls and head sensors on board, music and calls can be operated on the go in a fun, intuitive way, although an inline remote would still be more practical in a number of ways. It’s also incredibly comfortable, making it ideal for long periods of time. However, only carrying one battery in it doesn’t give you too much runtime, not to mention connecting to a charger can be a challenge. you want to drown out the rest of the world around you, the 25dB active noise cancellation works wonders in harsh environments, and the passive noise isolation is just as effective If you need a set for flights, you’ve come to the right place. This headset has very good audio quality, and will not tire you out even when you listen for hours. However, even with all the sound shaping options, the headphones fall a long way short of offering the same level of audio quality as cheaper wired headphones and possibly other Bluetooth headphones. In my opinion, the Zik’s biggest fault is its limited Bluetooth functionality, which can be extremely frustrating for certain scenarios — a sad state of affairs considering Parrot’s expertise in this field. At the end of the day, these have been a pleasure to use every second of the time — so much so, that two of our staffers have already picked up a pair. In any case, if the Zik fits well with your priorities, despite its present shortcomings, it may prove to be a worthwhile purchase