A pair of headphones, for a lot of people, is something extremely personal—just like a pair of shoes or glasses. Anything you’re wearing for hours at a time needs to be comfortable and reliable.
The first time I saw the new Zik 2.0—Bluetooth, noise canceling, over-the-ear—headphones from Parrot, I was pretty sure they weren’t for me. Mostly because, like a pair of arctic earmuffs, they looked really big and bulky. I do love wireless headphones though and when the chance came up to test a pair out, I couldn’t resist.
Even though the Zik 2.0’s appearance never appealed to me personally, as soon as I held the Zik 2.0 and saw them in person, I understood why someone might like them. They aren’t as bulky in person as they look in pictures.
The metal frame is nice and solid and the swivel of the ear pads exude luxury. Wearing Zik 2.0, I was definitely impressed with the comfort on my ears. It might seem simple, but getting headphones that feel good isn’t an easy task. These ones are nice in that department.
The problem I experienced after extended use was with the headband. It’s well padded, but it still caused pain on the top of my head after about 30-45 minutes every time I used the headphones. I adjusted the height and moved it around in hopes of fixing the problem, but it happened each time. This is a deal breaker for me, but I’ve heard a lot of people saying they do like the fit and feel so this will likely vary from person to person.
A compelling feature of these specific headphones is the noise cancelation. I’ve spent very little time with noise canceling headphones in the past. I just haven’t really been in situations I thought I needed them. I still don’t think they’re essential, but the Zik 2.0 has nearly changed my mind on the matter.
I will say, for any added size that having noise cancellation adds to the headphones is well worth it. It’s a great feature and worked extremely well. The wireless battery does take a hit because of it, however.
On the wireless front, a lot of headphones try and get clever with their controls. The Zik 2.0 still employs swipe-able controls on the right ear pad, but they actually work well. Most other headphones controls aren’t reliable or are very hard to navigate without sight. Parrot’s controls are very straight forward: up and down are for volume and left and right (or forward and back) is track skip.
The beauty of these touch controls is that even if they aren’t precisely accurate—which they mostly are—they fail gracefully. Meaning, if I drag my finger up on the right ear pad for an increase in volume and my finger reaches the top and I still want it louder, I just drag up again. It works as expected, even within a realm of possible expectations.
It’s debatable, of course, but I consider comfortable slightly more important in a pair of headphones than sound—if you can’t keep them on very long, then the sound quality doesn’t really matter.
On the sound front, however, the Zik 2.0 are good—but not mind-blowing. Even though good overall, the Ziks will likely leave you completely satisfied or completely disappointed, depending on your expectations and past experience with high-end headphones.
The truth is that the Ziks lack any definite low-end punch or high-end sparkle. The headphones aren’t reference ones, but remain fairly flat. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all—just something to be aware of if you’re considering the purchase.
I love testing speakers and headphones with D’Angelo’s latest record Black Messiah because it’s chock full of bass—all kinds. The album makes most playback devices feel competent in the low-end. The Ziks did sound good playing back tracks like “Really Love” or “Sugah Daddy,” but maybe not the ‘smack you in the face’ bass like you might be hoping for from $400 headphones. That would be less of an issue if there was more emphasis on high-end clarity, but I didn’t find that either.
For more the intricate details I like to use Ben Howard’s album I Forget Where We Were for reference. Again, it sounded good, but the higher end details like fingers sliding on his guitar fretboard were faint rather than present. There wasn’t an airy breathe to the recordings like I’d heard in the past, it clear enough, but the music often sunk into the mids. The pair of Grado SR80e I have serve as a great comparison for what I’m looking for with an even and balanced sound stage. Never trebly, the high mid-range ramps up until cymbal hits are clear, strums are plucky, and instruments are full.
But don’t feel discouraged. The Ziks do provide good sound a lot of people will like and most won’t notice or care about the nuances just pointed out. Even if you do notice or care, the Zik mobile app allows you to manually tweak the sound and provides lots of different options—including artist produced presets.
The Zik mobile app is packed full of ways to manipulate your headphones. In some ways it’s great, in other ways it’s a little overwhelming. There’s a noise control section that will measure how loud your environment is currently. There’s a basic equalizer. You can change the room size and direction of sound. There’s also a more advanced EQ and place to download preset tweaks from artists.
There’s also a settings section packed with the ability to turn on and off features like presence sensor, BT auto-connect, auto power off, text-to-speech for caller ID, app color, and place for software update. Considering how many features are inside the app, the left and right scrolling is manageable, once you’re familiar with it. I kept wanting to go up and down through the app at first.
The app is still isn’t updated for iPhone 6 Plus, even after six months which is a little concerning. It is a nice touch though that most of the advanced features are off-loaded to software rather than complicating the actual hardware.
The Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones are great with a few considerations. For me, the headband was uncomfortable after moderate use, but it may not be that way for everyone. They aren’t unwieldy, but they are a little bit bigger than some other wireless headphones. They’re also expensive probably pushing the upper limits of what people are willing to pay.
Still, the sound is full while the heavy duty metal construction remains very light. Audiophiles may want to look elsewhere, but for a versatile pair of go-anywhere noise canceling and wireless headphones with its fair share of cool technological features, they’re definitely a good choice.