Parrot Zik 2.0parrot.com/ca/products/zik2
Design and materials: Created by famed designer Phillipe Starck, this closed around-the-ear headphone is a thing of beauty. Suspended on a sculpted aluminum frame, the soft leather headband and ear cushions make the Zik 2.0 a very comfortable phone. Available in black, white, orange, blue, yellow and brown.
Supplied accessories: Mirco USB charging cable, signal cable, carrying pouch; free downloadable app for iOS and Android.
Specified battery life: Six hours with Bluetooth, ANC and Concert Hall features engaged. 18 hours in Airplane mode with wired connection and ANC.
Noise cancellation: The most effective of this group, and the most adjustable. Using the free app, you can apply up to 30dB of noise cancellation. There's also a Street Mode that lets you pass ambient noise through to the 'phones so you can have aural contact with your surroundings while you listen to music. With noise cancellation set to maximum, I was able to enjoy "Prelude à la Nuit," the quiet opening movement to Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole for two pianos.
Control features: The soft outer surface of the right earcup houses touch controls for music playback and telephony. You can pause and resume playback by tapping the ear cup, adjust volume by swiping up and down, and skip tracks by swiping forward and back. You can also use fingertip control to accept and end calls, and initiate voice dialing on supported phones. If a call comes in from someone in your contact list, a synthesized voice will tell you who's calling. When you take the 'phones off your ear and put them around your neck, the music automatically pauses, then resumes when you put them back on.
The real power of the Zik 2.0 is unlocked by a rich app for iOS and Android. The app will show you the level of ambient noise and let you control noise cancellation. There's a parametric equalization function that lets you boost or cut output in five user-selectable frequency bands. And the Concert Hall feature lets you add spatial effects. You can set the controls yourself, and save preferences for different songs. Or you can use artist presets provided by Parrot. For my tests, I left everything in the flat position.
Sound: Not the best in this survey, but very good. I really liked the piano tone in the Ravel recording, and on the live performance of "Poinciana" by the Keith Jarrett trio. The bass doesn't go as deep as the other headphones reviewed here, but it's snappy and well defined. Natalie Merchant's voice on "Maggie Said" sounded wonderful, as did the band behind her. Cohen's voice on "Different Sides" had a bit of a rasp I didn't notice on the other headphones; but otherwise this cut sounded very good. The challenging opening to Nielsen's Fourth Symphony, where the whole orchestra is going wild, soundred kind of brash, and the strings sounded a bit thin; but in the gentle second theme, the instruments sounded very convincing, with nice woody tones from the cellos and reedy tones from the woodwinds.
Our verdict: While the Zik 2.0's sound isn't the best in class, its noise cancellation may well be. But the Zik 2.0 app and control features are what really set this headphone apart. Parrot isn't exaggerating when it calls the Zik 2.0 "the world's most advanced headphones." We'd put it a different way: these are the coolest cans on the planet.
Canadian retail price: $450
Canadian distributor: Erikson Consumer