The Elegant and Complex Parrot Zik Bluetooth Noise Canceling Headset
The Parrot Zik ($399)
I'm an audiophile, but I'm a human first. I like sexy. I like cool. I like to have fun. Human stuff...I'm human. The human in me gets a big kick out of these headphones. The audiophile, not so much. And therein lies the conundrum: whether or not you will like these headphones will depend on whether you can successfully identify with your basic human self, and put your inner-audiophile in the corner for a time out. It's just a matter of focus. In this case, I choose to focus on being human, and my inner-audiophile, it seems, is quite content to sit in the back seat and come along for the ride.
The Parrot Zik, designed in collaboration with renowned designer Philippe Starck, is a beautiful headphone. It looks good, it feels good, it's a pleasure to engage with it. Metal, fabrics, and synthetic materials disappear into a seamless organic whole unlike any headphone I've previously encountered. The B&W P5 comes close, but it's a throw-back into old school sensibilities, vibing like a vintage Vincent motorcycle or Jaguar convertible of the last century. Lovely, to be sure, but not contemporary...not hip.
The Parrot Zik is beyond now. Sleek, sexy, curvaceous, like an apparition of things to come. Swooping bionic metal arms sprout from the headband holding ovoid ear pods connecting you to your music and those you talk to on the phone. Alien, and yet somehow familiar. Ear capsules are synthetic, yet warm and comfortable to the senses. It's not just a headphone, it's part art, part clothing, part post-modern communications. No, we never did get a flying car, but we now have the headset for it.
Whether or not something is appealing is a matter of taste, of course, but I have a hard time believing most wouldn't find these headphones very attractive. Have a look at the pictures, then realize that these cans look as good, if not better, in the flesh.
The build quality of the Parrot Zik is superb. The arms, which extend from the headband to a swivel and then attach to the rear of the capsules, appear to be an injection molded metal alloy with a lovely natural matte finish. Similarly sculpted and finished metal accents adorn and surround ports on both earpieces, and the caps on the end of the headband.
Headband and earpad covers appear to be high quality protein leather; the outer side of the headband at the top center has "Parrot" modestly embossed on it. Two cables are included (USB charging, and plain headphone cable), both are fabric covered and are terminated with stylish and useful connections. Connectors and headband ends have understated and attractive orange accents...a signature Starck touch. The headphone cable is terminated on the headphone side with a straight 1/8" miniplug, and a 90-degree angled plug on the player end. Unfortunately, the cable does not include a remote/mic, making player control and phone calls impossible when the battery runs out of juice.
The carry bag is a simple soft cloth fabric bag. This is one area Parrot should improve significantly. A headphone of this caliber should have a case to match. This one is pretty sad.
Though a tad heavy, I found the Parrot Zik quite comfortable. The earcups are slightly small, and not particularly deep, but the memory foam gives them a plush and cozy feel. I was able to wear them for long periods of time without undue discomfort. The headband would benefit from a bit more cushion, and after a few hours I felt a bit of pressure at the top of my head, but again this was minor. The Ziks would likely be uncomfortably warm in hot, humid climates, but no more so than most cans of this type.
Earpads easily swiveled to a comfortable position on the nicely engineered arm gimbals. The headband adjustment is accomplished by pulling the metal arms in and out of the headband. Numerous closely spaced detents allow fine adjustment. The arms were quite tight in the headband--making adjustment a bit difficult at times--but once in position they were very secure.
It's time to talk about the features...and these cans have plenty of them. Let's turn the page.