Parrot Zik 2.0 review: Striking looks, lots of smarts & stunning sound

If there was ever a pair of headphones that could be used for everything, it would have to be the second generation Zik 2.0 from Parrot.

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Parrot Zik 2.0
  • Parrot Zik 2.0
  • Parrot Zik 2.0
  • Parrot Zik 2.0
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Noise cancelling
  • Automatically stop-starts tracks when taken off
  • Tactile controls for volume and tracks
  • Hands-free voice calls in high definition
  • Striking design

Cons

  • Carry Case is a satchel
  • Pricey at $499.95

Would you buy this?

Parrot’s Zik 2.0 headphones pack enough intelligent hardware that they could qualify as a wearable computer. Sophisticated active noise cancellation is joined by tech previously foreign to headphones making the Zik 2.0 more intuitive, to the extent that often there’s no need to handle your phone.

The Zik range is founded on good looks. Designer Philippe Starck has made subtle revisions to these second-generation headphones. They are less cumbersome and clever design has helped conceal a lot of the technology, so that the cups appear the by-product of Starck’s vision and not a necessity of function.

Leather is generously used for cushioning. The shape and fit ensures they are comfortable to wear, and although they are heavier than Bose's QuietComfort 25 at 270 grams, wearing them for hours on end isn’t much of a chore.

Sculpted aluminium arms are the most striking visual cue, and their graceful inwards fold makes it easier to transport the Zik 2.0. The included satchell will have to do as it is the only part of the kit that doesn’t match the headphones on charisma. The included 3.5mm audio cable, however, with its aluminium clad tips and eloquent curves, complements the headphones just fine.

Most of the time the audio cable won’t be needed as the Zik 2.0 works wirelessly over Bluetooth. Tucked into the left cup is a near field communications (NFC) chip. Its inclusion makes it possible to pair compatible smartphones with a tap.

Changing the track or adjusting the volume is similarly easy. The right cup houses an inconspicuous tactile pad. Swiping it horizontally skips the track, while a vertical swipe will tweak the volume. Holding the pad down will launch your smartphone’s personal assistant, and tapping it will answer an incoming call.

Integrating controls into a set of wireless headphones is one obstacle few companies have successfully overcome. Parrot’s rendition is simple and completely invisible. Controls can be clutter and hiding them this way ensures the Zik 2.0’s stunning looks aren’t defiled.

Combating noise leakage is the over-ear design of the Zik 2.0’s cups. They envelop the lobes of your ears in an effort to keep outside noises out and your music inside. Then there’s the accelerometer and pressure sensor.

Drop the Zik 2.0s down to your neck and the music will automatically stop. Put them back on and the music resumes, all on its own, without instruction. The headphones can dangle around your neck without people overhearing whatever song is playing. There’s no need to scamper for the pause or play button to pull this trick off. The use of technology here is not a gimmick. This comes in handy when you step into a crowded lift and you take the headphones off as to not seem rude, or when a colleague taps you on the shoulder to ask you a quick question.

Inside the Zik 2.0 is a total of eight microphones. Two of these are used to manage high definition hands-free phone calls, while the remaining six focus on actively cancelling extraneous noise so that your music can be played back without interruption.

These headphones are advanced enough to warrant control from an app. Parrot’s Zik 2.0 application — available on iOS and Android smartphones — makes it possible to choose how much noise should be attenuated during playback. The simple slide of a finger makes it possible to eliminate more noise out, or to let some street noise in, so that, as a pedestrian, you can hear enough to safely navigate the streets.

Drowned into the ether are ringing phones and passing trains when these headphones are worn. On occasion these headphones will be worn — not to play music — but for the quiet afforded by the Zik’s noise cancelling.

The application is an integral part of the Zik 2.0 experience, and it is just as striking as the headphones themselves.
The application is an integral part of the Zik 2.0 experience, and it is just as striking as the headphones themselves.

The app displays how much noise is being attenuated in real time. Thirty decibels (dB) appears to be discounted in our office environment as the noise drops from 47dB to 17dB when it is set to max. The louder the noise, the more of it is cancelled.

Read more: AudioQuest NightHawk headphones

Underneath all of this technology is a serious pair of headphones. The noise cancelling clears the soundstage, and it’s a wide, spacious soundstage thanks to the over-ear cups. Then 40mm drivers play music at volume and with tact.

Audiophiles will like that the sound can be fine tuned to their specific tastes. Tuning the sound image or the equaliser is as simple as sliding a finger up and down a stylised graphical interface.

Our personal setting was one with a stereo image 120 degrees wide and the acoustics of a concert hall. We tried settings predefined by Parrot’s community of musical connoisseurs, though we often alternated back to this bodied configuration.

Bon Iver’s Holocene was atmospheric with discernible musical layers and a wide sound image. The guitar chords are crisp and backed by a bass line that adds depth.

Bass was far more prominent in Above and Beyond’s Making Plans. Crisp vocals make a striking contrast against the low-end and the Zik’s overall performance is good enough that we subconsciously started singing along — perhaps that’s the best of compliments.

Ludovico Einaudi’s Experience was hauntingly beautiful. The slow introduction is populated by piano notes and the gaps between them, and with the Zik 2.0, the intended silence is just that. Notes are clear and precise, even when the tempo ramps up to a resulting tapestry of classical instruments, each weaving into and out of the foreground with precision.

How long music can be played depends on how much noise is being cancelled. Good Gear Guide found the Zik 2.0 will last 6 hours continuously set to ‘Street’ mode and 5 hours continuously when set to ‘Max’. The 830 milliamps-hour battery can be recharged from flat to full in speedy 45 minutes. Music can still be played using the 3.5mm audio cable when the battery dies, although this will be without the Zik’s noise cancelling.

Parrot has been ambitious as it set out to create “the world’s most advanced headphones”. The resulting Zik 2.0 sit at the forefront of the industry with style, smarts and performance in spades. Technology plays a prominent role, but it never stops being about the music. The tech here is a means to one sonically ripe end.

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