Customer Review

98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but in the long run miss out on being truly excellent, 1 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Parrot Zik by Philippe Starck Wireless Headphones - Black/Silver (Electronics)
Adding a few updates as I've now been using these 2+ hours every day for a month. Sad news is the wires that connect to the jaw bone and on/off sensor embedded in the right ear pad have come loose inside the ear cup along with the black mesh that covers the driver. Marks lost for build quality.

If you look at these headphones as a complete package they are just good - I can't say they are excellent. The amount of features on these and importantly the way this combination has been executed is certainly exciting but it is in no way flawless. There are a few flaws/nuances that may frustrate some people and I will touch on these.

Design - It's going to come down to a matter of taste but these headphones do really stand out, not so much headphones and more earmuffs, especially when used wirelessly. There is clearly a use of premium materials here, the earcups have a great smooth rubberised texture and the headband is all metal and leather (faux leather maybe?). They really do look and feel lovely, but if you want a headphone that screams "look at what celeb brand I listen to" (ie Beats, House of Marley, 50 Cent, Ludacris.....) these won't be for you.

Fit - The earcups are beautifully cushioned (best cushioning I've felt on headphones) and just about large enough to encompass the whole ear and form a decent seal. The headband however doesn't hold the ear cups very secure; even if you nod/shake your head gently or bend down slowly to pick something up they will likely slip. Moreover if you're lying down with them on they have a tendency to slip off the back of your head. They certainly aren't designed for running around or any kind of activity but will suffice for day to day walking, commuting and so forth. In addition I have found the headband to dig in to the top of my head a little with extended wear (1.5+ hours). To give a bit more information I'm not bald and have at a good guess averagely thick hair. The headband could definitely do with more tension and more padding, even the biggest of heads will experience some slippage. The size of the headband can be adjusted easily by pulling or pushing on the earcups.

Bluetooth connectivity/range - works really well with my iPhone and MacBook. I have tried the NFC with Samsung Galaxy S3 and couldn't get it to connect without manually selecting it from the Bluetooth menu, bit disappointing. In terms if switching between devices you have to disconnect from one before the other will connect. This would stop anyone being able to connect and play their music through your headphones in public. The range seems reasonable, up to 10m through a wall, further if you're in the open. I'll come on to sound quality/skipping through Bluetooth later.

Touch control - outstanding feature. Really easy to use and works exactly how Parrot say it does. However, the volume control seems to be independent of your device, as in turning the volume up on the headphones does not control the volume slider on the iPhone. This seems a little illogical as if you turn the volume all the way down on the headphones you will still hear music unless you turn the volume right down on the iPhone. Additionally, the touch volume doesn't really allow for fine adjustments of the volume, and of course you will never be able to tell how far off maximum volume you really are. Also, it would have been nice to have a lock function on the touch panel as it can easily be hit by accident and pause the music if you're adjusting the headphones. These are slight issues that just take a little getting used to.

Pause music/proximity sensor - the headphones will auto-pause the music if you remove them or put them round your neck. This actually works really well. It seems to be some form of pressure sensor built next to the jaw bone sensor on the right ear pad. There is maybe a second or two pause between the music stopping/starting and you removing/putting them back on. Really good feature though. After about a month's use however the wire that runs from this sensor in to the right ear cup itself has come loose and seemingly taken the mesh covering the driver with it.

Noise cancelling - works really well to block out low frequencies such as rumbling buses, trains, jet engines. Maybe not as good as Bose, but not far off and better than most other noise cancelling headphones. There is a very very slight "hiss" before music kicks in.

Sound - This is still the most important factor despite all the gadgetry. To give an objective review of how these headphones sound is difficult because of the sheer number of variables (Bluetooth vs wired, Noise cancelling vs non-noise cancelling, active vs passive, and then of course there is the Parrot app that let's you play around with the equaliser and room type and speaker angle). I myself found it difficult to choose my favourite everyday set up and almost wish Parrot had just tuned them up so I didn't have to choose. What I will say is that they don't sound very good until you start tweaking them, but the results you can get are dramatically improved from the factory defaults.

Comparing them with other headphones they are better than the Bose QC 15s and clearly better than what I've heard from Dr Dre's Beats range (Studio and Pro). I don't think they can stand up to the Sony MDR-1RNCs though which I believe are up there with the best sounding sets in this price bracket. The sound is full, responsive and definitely on the side of bass heavy but by no means distorted, but not the tightest bass I've heard. There does seem to be a lot of sound processing going on in these headphones in Active mode, which will not appeal to those looking for a pure audio experience.

Using them in Bluetooth mode you can notice a slight dip in quality compared to wired, especially when you go out of the room where the device is, and you do notice the quality return when you move back to within a couple of meters of your device. However, vs the wired mode there is very little difference and these headphones are certainly better when compared to most other Bluetooth headphones such as the slightly cheaper Harmon Kardon BT set and Beats offerings. The Sennheiser 550s might win out over the Parrots in terms of quality but the Parrots go significantly louder. I don't think the Parrots are as good as the Sony MDR-1RBT set but those don't have the noise cancelling of the Parrots which is very well executed.

Turning on the noise cancelling you notice the bass drop away slightly. I've heard people talk about an echo effect these have but I haven't noticed it with NC mode on or off. Using them in passive mode (without battery) is pointless, very poor sound but that's to be expected. If you're buying these you are buying for the wireless active mode.

Bluetooth reliability - there have been instances where the music has begun to skip, and I can't remediate this unless I go out of the album/playlist and restart the music app on the iPhone. I initially wasn't sure if it was the iPhone or the headphones but after a fair few hours playing around with different sources (Galaxy S3 and MacBook Pro) I am now sure the issue lies at the source and the headphones are perfectly capable as long as they are in range. What seems to happen with the iPhone 4S is that certain songs skip in certain places, I am not entirely sure why, as I have tried re-downloading but the skipping still occurs at certain moments. I have somewhat narrowed it down to quiet/rhythmic parts of songs where there is silence for a fraction of a second, this I think then causes the Bluetooth to drop out. The Parrot Ziks then certainly have a lot riding on the evolution/reliability of Bluetooth transmission. This could be a real spoiler for some people.

Battery life - not great, you will get about 5 hours as advertised with everything (Noise cancellation, Bluetooth and Concert Hall effects) turned on, more life with noise cancelling off, and more so up to about 15 or 20 hours with everything off, but still using Bluetooth. This could seriously be improved on and is a bit of an insult when other headphones (Sony MDR-1RBT) will get you 30 hours, but then again they don't have Noise Cancellation which is a real battery sucker. The Parrots come with a micro USB charging cable, would be nice to have its own plug or even dock, and at an RRP of 350 I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

Case - just a cloth pouch is provided, which is pretty lousy at this price point and for a set of headphones many consumers will use for travel. The box is quite nice though but that's a bit beside the point.......

Summary - will appeal to gadget lovers and those looking for something a bit different. Would I pay, or should anybody pay 350 for these - no, but I didn't. I got them for 252 which was ultimately the deciding factor for me, but even at that price point (still up there with Bose and so forth) I would expect a decent carrying case and maybe its own plug for charging. Interestingly 252 is close to what a set of Bowers and Wilkins P5s cost, and vs these the gadgetry of the Parrots win out vs any loss in audio quality. But to compare these two headphones is madness as they are two very different beasts.

If I were to break them down in terms of value attributed to their merits I would do so as follows. They sound like an 80-100 pair of headphones (once you get them tuned up with the app), add 50 for the Bluetooth, another 50 for the touch panel and on/off trick and another 50-75 for the design/use of premium materials. That comes in at a total of 230-275. Certainly less than 350 RRP.

If anyone is in a real dilemma go for the Parrots if you lean towards gadgets, can live without a case, aren't too fussed about a plug and can live with occasional issues Bluetooth may throw up - these are the major gripes, and as with anything don't pay full price for them.

I've given them 4 stars as I don't think there's anything out there quite like them and crammed full of tech that for the most part works well. In my ideal world I'd give them 3.8.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Jun 2013 18:15:13 BDT
A. Kemp says:
hi gr8 review :) pls can you tell me can tell me !! would they block out the sound of snoring at night and the sound of foxes / magpies making a racket in the early hrs ??? without having music on !! so i can get a good nights sleep for once . or are the bose better thank you . regards tony
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