Parrot Zik 2.0: So Much Potential, Potentially Wasted

I am not a luddite. I love buttons that make things happen. I love touch screens, I love customization, I love the newest thing. So it would only seem natural that I would love the newest addition to the Parrot family, the Zik 2.0 headphones. They are a tinkerer’s headphone. Touchpad earcups, customizable sound, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth… if there’s a headphone feature available, the Zik 2.0 have it. And yet, despite all of these wonderful features, I can’t recommend them. And it breaks my heart.

Something is going on at Parrot that is preventing them from seeing the forest for the trees. Parrot’s last headphone, the original Zik, lacked functionality without the included app. Literally. Say your friend had a song on their phone, and you wanted to plug in with the Zik’s cord and listen. Your friend doesn’t have the app installed on their phone, but no biggie, you have the cord. Fine right? Nope. A weird reverb would completely distort the music until someone installed the Audio Suite App.

Zik 2.0 do function corded without the app installed on your device, so Parrot has learned from past mistakes. While the output is very low (I had to turn the volume up on my phone to about 90% maximum to get a listenable level) the Zik 2.0 do work as headphones without the app. However to do anything else, you need to install the Parrot Audio Suite. This is fine, I suppose, unless you planned to use the Zik with a device that isn’t able to interface with the Apple App Store or Google Play. In which case, the Zik are not for you. Without the app, you can’t turn on or off the ANC, you can’t alter the EQ, you can’t adjust the “concert hall” settings, you can’t adjust the auto-shutoff function, you can’t access the text-to speech for caller ID, you can’t activate or de-activate the presence sensors.

Okay, so let’s say you do have a device that is enabled to download the Parrot Audio Suite, and you plan to use it as your main device with the Zik. You download the app and immediately, you need to create a username and password to use it. Fine. That’s annoying, but some people could get over that. However, people who are privacy advocates might be a bit miffed. (That said, the privacy-inclined probably wouldn’t have a Google Play or Apple Store account, anyway. And thus, the Zik are not for them.)

Now, I don’t have a problem with an app providing enhanced features to a pair of headphones. However, I take umbrage with the idea that basic functionality (say, turning on and off ANC or EQ) requires fishing out my device, finding an app, signing in, and flipping to the correct feature. If something new takes five steps when predecessors completed that same task in one... (say, with a switch or button) I don’t call that progress. No matter how cool the bonus features are, I buy Bluetooth headphones so that I don’t need to fuss around with my phone when using them. Not possible with the Zik 2.0.

So now you’re signed in. From here, you can choose ANC or “Street Mode” (which adds ambient awareness). You can play with the EQ using presets or create your own specific settings by frequency range. You can even choose to use the presets of several well-known artists (Like Jazzy Jeff) specified by the type of music. It’s pretty neat. The “concert hall” settings are more or less just added reverb, and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. All the rooms sounded as though they were made with metal walls: a result of too much added sibilance in high frequencies. But the EQ is nifty, and it is fun to swap out the different EQ settings to see what they do to the overall sound.

So, you made your perfect EQ and you want to save it. Not so fast! You now have to make yet another username and password.  Why? Honestly, I don’t know. The Audio Suite app gives you the opportunity to share your EQ settings with other users, but why you’re required to make yet another social media account to save your settings is beyond me.

But here’s where I finally threw my hands up in despair. Say you aren’t signed into the app, and you’re in an area where you can’t get wireless service. For example, you powered off your phone, and then powered it on again on a plane, or while traveling abroad, camping, in  the country, mountains, certain valley areas, etc. Without a data connection, you cannot use the app. And without the app, you can’t adjust anything. No ANC on/off, no EQ on/off, nothing. You’re screwed. So without the app, you have $400 headphones that perform about as well as a $90 pair.

Normally, I’d talk more about the frequency response of headphones, their timbre, their build, etc. To be honest, the Parrot Zik excel in these areas. Their active noise canceling is really phenomenal. They are great sounding, beautifully built headphones. When they work. Which requires jumping through so many hoops, you may as well join a circus. Frankly, for $400, I expect my tech to perform for me, not the other way around.

Parrot Zik 2.0

$400

Parrot.com

COMMENTS
bonerp's picture

I'd be really interested in your review of the zik 3.0 to see if Parrot have taken on board these issues you've highlighted - needing a connection and use of cord without the app.
I will definitely buy a set if they have, but the momentum wireless if not.