I am in possession of the much anticipated Parrot Zik headphones – they are stylish, trendy and designed by renowned French product designer Philippe Starck. As I place the box onto my desk, I see the amiable headset comfortably sitting in its see-through glass-like boxing, which keenly tempts you to smash-and-grab. Lifting its lid, I unveil the warm leather and adjustable chrome arms, and as I gently take the headset from its packaging, it feels a little heavier than I anticipated. Nevertheless, as I rotate the Zik to survey its grandeur, just like a Mars’ Curiosity discovering a new planet, I begin to methodically explore the enriched landscape of its cutting-edge yet reassuringly retro-inspired design, whilst absorbing its gentle curves and textures.
I become slowly captivated by the sheer brilliance of its build quality, infused with the kind of attention to detail that has made it one of the style statements of the year. The people at Parrot have excelled themselves with the product design, albeit with some, okay maybe a lot, of help from Starck. Even the mandatory cabling, such as the jack lead and USB cable haven’t escaped his award-winning attention, as they too represent a tactile finesse uncommonly witnessed in headset accessories.
My exploration continues, and I want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of the headset at work. I’m certainly interested in the user experience, especially in the context of Bluetooth stereo audio – an area close to my heart. So, I guess it’s time to listen to some music! At the base of the right earpiece, I discover a lone button and two connector openings where jack and USB connector portals are provided. In a testimony to the ‘out-of-the-box’ experience, I discard the enclosed literature with a bounding confidence and depress the clearly indicated on/off button, which instantly illuminates a soft pastel blue. I’m guessing at this point the Zik is discoverable and, using my Apple iPad, I initiate Bluetooth discovery, where the headset is instantly discovered. Not only is the device now paired, but I receive a notification on my iPad that that there’s an ‘app’ available to enhance my Zik experience, which I promptly download.
Once installed, I immediately open the app, whereupon I am offered a smorgasbord of choices for my audio and music experience. I’m just going to jump ahead a little here and mention that the app, whether it’s for the iOS, Android, MacOS or Windows, provides a rich and enhanced audio experience and, as such, is highly recommended. So, here we go: The soft cushioned earpieces cup my ears gently and, like an usher at a theatre, welcome you into the music venue of your choice. The echo cancellation is simply superb, and I had to even lift up one earpiece just to make sure I wasn’t hearing things, so to speak. Let’s have a look through my playlist: Paloma Faith, “Picking up the Pieces” and ‘play’…
I chose this particular piece since the intro is classical(ish) and drifts into a club-style theme, which is perfect, as I really wanted to experience the richness and diversity of the Zik across different sound genres. I was certainly not disappointed. The ‘Parrot Audio Suite’ allows you to select your music venue using its concert hall feature, which enables you to virtually adjust your speaker angle and sound environment to include living room and jazz club. The equalizer also permits you to customize your sound experience, with a number of preset options to enhance your music preferences. The experience with Android was identical, although I wasn’t prompted to download the app as with the Apple scenario, and I manually downloaded it instead. I also used the device on my Windows 8 PC and listened to various movies, TV shows and so on with the audio integrity and clarity intact – just wonderful!
I have only two observations or criticisms – call them what you will. The echo cancellation is superb, as I have already mentioned. However, the only minor issue is that during travel use, for example, any neighboring passenger may find the audio ‘leakage’ a little overbearing and may consequently ask me to turn it down. My other observation/criticism is perhaps more of a ‘nice to have’ feature. So, if you’re listening to a particular genre of music or a movie, for example, it would be wonderful if the app could ascertain the genre of audio being played and then optimize the audio experience automatically. Although, having said this, one man’s ultimate symphony settings may prove to be a little too tinny for another, so maybe I’m being a little too Walter Mitty here!
Without a doubt the Parrot Zik is one of the most exciting headset experiences I have had the pleasure of reviewing. It manages to satisfy on a level far beyond its initial aesthetic beauty, immersing the user in unprecedented sound quality that is fully customizable and all taste-encompassing. In a nutshell, my Parrot Zik headphones have seduced me; rekindling my love affair with both great design and great music.
Image Credits: [Parrot Zik]