Sometimes, you can’t help but judge a product by its appearance. Before you’ve even had the chance to remove the packaging, unfurl the wires, plug in the connections, you’ve already made your mind up that this product is going to be superior. Of course, your eyes aren’t a reliable judge where technology is concerned, but in the case of the Parrot Zik headphones, you’d be forgiven.
Straight out of the box (hell, even still in the box), they look incredible: sleek, matt-black finish complimented by shiny, dark chrome, and a compact design that screams quality. And for the price (the best part of £200 at the time of writing) they damn well should look good. While the technical performance is impressive, it’s not unfair to say that they don’t quite live up to their looks.
For a start, the £200 is paying for the headphones and nothing else. They come with a cloth carry case that seems to have been added as an afterthought, and when you’re talking 200 notes for a set of cans you really want something robust to keep them in. Designed by French hotshot Phillipe Starck, the Parrot Zik look delicate but durable at the same time, even if the white and gold version look far too ostentatious for what they are.
They connect using Bluetooth, and the pairing is fast and completely hassle free. I used them with my Vita up close and with my phone while pottering around the house, and the range is pretty impressive. They boast NFC functionality (which stands for Near Field Communication), which means they will pair with any other NFC-enabled device in a matter of seconds.
The noise cancelling is excellent, meaning you get a crisp, clear sound through both cups at all times – another sign of high quality – but one of the coolest features is that you can conduct calls through them when they’re paired with your phone, and the integrated technology allows them to separate your voice from any background noise.
In fact, for such a small, compact set of headphones, the Parrot Zik are pretty feature-laden. The main draw – and justification for the huge price tag – is the ability to adjust the settings with a touchpad on the outside of the right cup. Swiping left or right will cycle your music, while the volume is controlled with a vertical motion. To pause or play songs, you simply tap once. Something about it feels cool every time you do it, even if it is easy to catch accidentally if you’re moving around alot.
Unfortunately, the battery is less robust, topping out somewhere between four to five hours. For general use that’s fine, but if you’re out and about through the day, walking or commuting for long distances, you may not have enough oomph to make it through an entire journey, which is a bit disappointing. They do combat the relatively short life a little by switching off when you take them off your head, so you will get more or less four to five hours of actual use out of them with little power wastage. Although it’s not as cool, you can always bung the cable in should you have no other choice.
Perfectly weighted and snugly cushioned, the Parrot Zik’s comfort factor is another sure sign of their high quality and adds to the price-tag justification, but it’s still hard to fully recommend them when a large percentage of what you’re paying for is Phillipe Starck’s input. The touch controls are impressive and the pairing is solid, but once you’re using them they aren’t really noticeably better than lower-priced models. But then, sometimes you don’t mind paying that little extra for a product that looks and feels so well-designed.