This article was written by Justin Jelinek and first appeared in TECHAERIS here
If you like music, there are loads of options available from bargain priced headphones all the way up to the ridiculously expensive. The Parrot Zik 3headphones sit somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. In this Parrot Zik 3 review I’ll talk about what makes the third iteration of Zik headphones worth your time and money, and why they are a Techaeris Top Pick.
The Parrot Zik 3 headphones have a pretty high pedigree when it comes to design. Parrot worked with renowned French designer Philippe Starck to create a pair of headphones that look every bit as good as they sound. While there are several different finishes, colors, and designs to choose from, the pair I was sent for review are the over stitched leather design in black.
The headband of the headphones is a soft padded leather with a cross-stitched design. It’s remarkably flexible, stretching pretty significantly if needed before bouncing back into shape. The headband ends at a metal ring with a bit of light orange inside. The metal ring on the right side has “BY S+ARCK” branding, showing off just a bit. That branding is very light though, you almost can’t see it unless you’re really looking.
The metal rings hold the adjustable metal pieces that hold the ear cups. The metal bits slide out, and in a nice bit of design each side is marked in increments from one to five, making it easier to determine how each side should be sized. There are more granular settings between each of the main numbers, but you should be able to tell pretty easily if you need the headphones adjusted to a 2, 3 ½, etc. Since I’ve got a giant head, it’s 5 all the way for me.
These metal pieces curve around to hold the earcups. The earcups are attached on the back side, and the way they attach allows the earcup to swivel to completely flat and also to angle slightly on the horizontal axis.
The earcups themselves mimic the cross-stitched design of the headband. The left earcup has the Parrot branding embossed into the leather. The top of the left earcup also comes off to allow you to remove or replace the 830mAh battery. The top of the right earcup is relatively normal looking, but there are secrets hiding under the surface, which I’ll talk about more in just a bit. Each earcup has several holes, with metal rings surrounding them. The headphones feature several microphones to allow for not only phone conversations, but also for excellent noise cancelling. The right ear cup has a metal strip down the back that includes the power button, the 3.5.mm input, and the microUSB input for charging or for USB audio. The power button doubles as the Bluetooth pairing button, and also turns on the active noise cancelling (ANC).
I mentioned some secrets in that right earcup, and there are definitely secrets. There are no marked controls on the outside of the headphones, but the outside of the right earcup acts as a very responsive and intuitive touchpad for most standard functions. Swiping up or down on the pad will adjust the volume accordingly, Swiping forward or backward will change the track. Other “invisible” features include wireless charging available via the inside of the right earcup, and presence sensors that will stop playing whatever you are listening to whenever you take the headphones off of your head, or move them down around your neck.
The insides of the earcups are very nicely padded. They feature the same soft leather as the headband. The right earcup has a slight abnormality, which is likely just a home for the presence sensors, though I was unable to confirm that suspicion.
These headphones are honestly very comfortable, even for someone with a giant head like me. The earcups perfectly envelop your ears, and the headband sits comfortably on the top of your head. Since I do have a giant head, I would occasionally need to tilt the headband just slightly forward or backward so it wasn’t sitting on the very top of my head. Other than that, I could keep the Zik 3 headphones on for hours without any discomfort.
Pairing devices via Bluetooth should really be pretty straightforward by this point. There aren’t any surprises here either when pairing the Zik 3 headphones to your phone or tablet. Once paired, you’ll want to download the Parrot Zik app, which provides some additional control over the sound coming from your headphones and also allows you to update the headphone software directly via the app.
The first tab in the app allows you to check the battery level of your headphones quickly and easily. It also gives you an overview of a few of the other available tabs, giving you the ability to quickly turn certain settings on or off.
The next tab allows you to adjust the active noise cancelling, with several levels to choose from. Street mode lets quite a lot of ambient noise in so you can hear what’s going on around you. In the middle you’ll simply have the “off” position, where outside noise is neither added or removed, and then finally you’ll have the noise cancelling, which works in two stages. The Max noise cancelling here is honestly very impressive. If someone is in the same room watching TV or something similar, you’ll still be able to hear it faintly if no music is playing, but once the music starts you’re completely immersed.
The third tab allows you to tweak the equalizer settings. The app eschews the traditional equalizer bar for something a bit simpler, at least in appearance. By default, the equalizer is set in the center of a circle. You can nudge things towards one of six equalizer settings: Pop, Vocal, Cristal, Club, Punchy, or Deep. Each of these settings will tweak the output of the headphones slightly, and you can and should mess with them to find the sound that you prefer. There are other options available for these settings which I’ll get to shortly.
Next up is the Parrot Concert Hall tab, which allows you to adjust the balance, and simulated room size to further adjust your sound. The balance can be moved from 30° (directly in front of you) to 180° (directly to the sides) and anywhere in between. The various room settings go from Silent Room, to Living Room, to Jazz Club, to Concert Hall. Each of these options will affect the sound as well, I found most of my listening tended to stay on either Silent Room, or Living Room just to keep me completely engulfed in whatever I was listening to.
Finally, the app has a tab for presets. These are settings specifically tuned for certain artists/albums. There are several featured presets on the front tab of the app, and you can dig down to find even more if you’d like. If you have any of the applicable albums and want to hear them in a potentially new and different way, give some of the presets a shot.
These options are nice, but you’ll be pleased to note that you can just as easily put your headphones on and enjoy your music without tweaking a single one of them. I would at the bare minimum suggest turning on the noise cancelling though, it really is very impressive.
In a word: incredible. It certainly wouldn’t make a ton of sense for Parrot to spend the entire budget on design and skimp on sound, and they definitely have not skimped on sound even in the slightest. While there are more expensive headphones out there that could potentially sound better (I’ve never used them so I can’t say for sure), the Zik 3 headphones really do sound amazing. Crystal clear highs and mids, strong — but not overpowering — bass, everything I listened to on these headphones sounded fantastic. Coupled with the Active Noise Cancelling you are truly immersed in whatever you are listening to.
The output was honestly just very crisp sounding, that’s about the best way I can describe it. Everything just seems to pop a little bit more than usual. Changing the equalization using the settings in the app or by turning on various presets will obviously affect the sound based on the settings you choose, but even the default setting is tuned quite well for most all music. One other nice touch, when you hit play, your music will start a bit quieter and ramp up to your selected volume. This is nice for preventing surprises if the volume of the headphones was left too loud.
If you’re listening to some amazing tunes, the last thing you want is to be interrupted by a phone call. Thankfully these headphones make it easy to get back to your music quickly and easily. When your phone rings you’ll get a notification over the top of whatever you are listening to, allowing you to answer or ignore as you see fit. If you want to answer, you can simply tap once on the right earcup, which will pause your music and switch over to the call. When the call is done, simply tap again and you’ll be returned to your music.
Calls on these headphones sound good, just like everything else that goes through them. Callers voices are clear, and callers were able to hear me without issue. I did have one caller say that my voice had a bit of an echo, though that could have easily come from the room that I was in.
If you’re going to listen to music at low volume, or just take advantage of the noise cancelling features, Parrot lists the battery life at 18 hours. If you’re using the various spatialization effects, battery life will drop pretty significantly down to around 7 hours. The app will, of course, keep you apprised of where your battery level is at, and even better, the Zik 3’s 830mAh battery is removeable, so if you’re too worried you can always carry a spare battery.
I definitely didn’t keep the volume down too low, and took advantage of spatialization settings via the Zik app, so I didn’t quite hit the 18 hours for the lower usage settings. I did seem to find a bit of happy medium though, averaging around 10-12 hours per charge. Your mileage will definitely vary based on usage.
Coming in at $399, the Parrot Zik 3 headphones definitely aren’t cheap. Between the amazing sound, the incredibly comfortable design, and the many features though, the Zik 3 headphones do provide a very good value for the price.
The Parrot Zik 3 headphones have a lot going for them. If you’re in the market for a pair of good headphones in the $300-$400 neighborhood, the Zik 3’s are a pair of headphones you should really check out. These headphones have definitely earned their place on our list of Top Picks for 2016.
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