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By Mike Joubert 7 February 2013

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We love good design and great sound, but hate wires. What else can we do but fall in love with Parrot’s Zik headphones?

There were not many signs coming from Parrot that it would come up with such an audacious product like the Zik headset. Sure the company manufactured good quality earphones, headsets and Bluetooth car kits, but the Zik is in another class. For one, it’s designed by one of the hottest industrial designers of the past two decades – Philippe Starck. The Zik is classy on so many levels, allowing us to forgive its slight weight issue and difficulties in adjusting its fit.
 
Stylish? We would say so.
 
Sound and fury

Now on to the nitty gritty – sound quality is excellent once you adjust it through the free Parrot Audio Suite app available for iOS and Android devices. In this app the equaliser provided a few presets but we found it best to simply manually adjust it to a custom setting. Once done there, visit the ‘Concert Hall’ feature to adjust the speaker angle virtually. The app is a useful touch, one that far too few headset manufacturers utilise.
 
Combine this with the active noise cancellation technology, and you're looking at some top notch sound. 
 
Beating Beats?
 
We’ve been struggling with the Beats Audio headsets to easily adjust the volume and control playback via buttons on the ear cup of the headset. This is not a problem on the Zik, since the right earcup is touch enabled – slide your finger upwards or downwards on it to adjust the volume, and left and right to control track selection. This worked without hassle on Android-powered smartphones and Windows 8 Media Player.
 
No more searching for your control buttons on your earpiece, on the Zik it's done by touch.
 
Adding to the Zik’s usability is a sensor embedded in the left cushion, which can tell if it is in use or not. Take off the headset and it automatically stops your music player. This not only provides savings in terms of battery life, but for use in an office where you can be easily disrupted, it avoids the hassle of having to start your playlist from the beginning if you’ve forgotten to put the headphones back on.
 
We found ourselves charging the unit more than we would have liked, since with all the features activated and playing via Bluetooth the battery was flat before the working day was done. If the unit is dead, a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable is provided to keep on listening, but sound quality takes a drastic knock. 
 
Charging is done via the micro USB slot on the headset, great since if you own any phone except an iPhone, you'll most probably have a charger handy. This is good news, since Parrot only provides a USB to micro USB cable to do the charging, meaning you need to plug it into a USB slot.
 
Some of the functionality of the Parrot Audio Suite app on the iPhone. 
 
To the point
 
Apart from providing a sterling audio experience, you can also receive your cellular calls through the Zik. This is not just an added on feature, since Parrot includes a bone conduction sensor, a double microphone and a noise suppression system for great call quality. The Ziks earpieces can fold inwards, making it easier to carry around, but a better quality case would not have gone unappreciated - the pouch Parrot provides does not quite cut it. 
 
In all, it’s not difficult to recommend Parrot’s Zik headset, especially for those who find Beats Audio too bombastic and heavy on the bass. If you’re up for the price, it’s worth it. R4 000 from www.smac.co.za
 
PROS:
Sound enhancements via app
Great design
Sensor pauses music if taken off
Touch control on the earpiece
 
CONS:
Expensive
Battery life could have been better
Fit adjustment issues
PROS
Sound enhancements via app; Great design; Sensor pauses music if taken off; Touch control on the right earpiece
CONS
Expensive; Battery life could have been better
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