Parrot Zik 2.0: Australian Hands-On, Pricing And Availability

Parrot's original Philippe Stark-designed Zik headphones were an impressive exercise in design meeting high technology -- powerful noise cancelling and all-out wireless sound quality wrapped in plush full-grain leather. They were a little bulky, though -- and that's just one of the aspects that the new Zik 2.0 wants to improve upon.

The $499 Parrot Zik 2.0 is significantly slimmer and lighter than the original, around 17 per cent by the company's own reckoning. When you consider that the Zik 1.0 was a full 325g -- pretty chunky for a pair of headphones -- the 2.0's 270g weight seems much more reasonable and more conducive to everyday wear. The headband has been redesigned, too, for extra cushioning and flexibility for the larger-brained amongst us.

When you put them on, too, you do notice the reduced weight and bulk -- the Zik 2.0s are actually reasonably slim and svelte on their own, but compared to the previous revision they're a big improvement. Parrot's existing Presence Sensor makes a welcome reappearance, pausing and restarting music when you remove and replace the headphones on your head. You get the standard suite of Bluetooth wireless controls, but only the power button is a physical clicker -- everything else is controlled through a touch panel on the right earcup, which you swipe across to change tracks and swipe upwards or downwards on to change volume.

That sensor is joined by not one or two but six microphones arranged around the earcups' rim, picking up external noise and working with the internal, rechargeable-battery-powered electronics to cancel it out. Those microphones also enable the Zik 2.0 as one of the most up-to-date wireless headphones you can get for making phone calls, with HD Voice support straight out of the box. Want to answer a call? Tap on the touch-sensitive panel on the right Zik earcup, which is like the rest of the headphones wrapped in a super-soft and plush leather finish.

They sound pretty good, too, despite being Bluetooth and despite being utterly fashion-focused. You'll get a solid but not spectacular 8 hours of battery life with all the bells and whistles turned on, but under the best possible conditions you'll get 18 hours of life in the noise-cancelling-but-no-Bluetooth Flight Mode. Recharging the removable 830mAh battery takes around two and a half hours, or you can carry a spare if you're on a really long flight.

Six colour variants of the Zik 2.0 are available, although not all colours will be on sale at all stockists. The original black Ziks still look pretty fashionable, but having the white, beige, yellow, blue and orange colours on offer will help Parrot compete directly with the Beats Studio Wirelesses of the world.

Parrot's accompanying app (for iOS and Android) for the Zik 2.0 is where the real differentiation is from other Bluetooth 'phones. Not only can you control the power of the integrated noise cancelling -- and from the maximum shut-in effect to Street Mode, where external noise is actually amplified, is a huge range -- but you can colour the sound to your liking with a multi-mode equaliser and can assign specific equalisers to certain music genres.

Importantly, you don't have to play your music through the app to get the effects working -- it's all controlled via Bluetooth and operated on the headphones themselves. Similarly, even when the headphones have run out of power, you'll still be able to hear your music sans noise cancellation and equalisation when connecting the bundled 3.5mm audio cable.

The original Zik is being discontinued as the Zik 2.0 makes its way to Apple Stores, Myer and select other retailers in Australia in the next couple of weeks. While you might be able to find the Zik for a slight discount, I reckon it's worth waiting for the Zik 2.0 -- at the same price, they're way better value than the first iteration. I know calling $500 headphones 'value' is an interesting thing to do, but on first impressions these sleek 'phones will serve your needs for a long time, and that makes them a worthwhile long-term investment.

We'll have a full review of the Zik 2.0 in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. [Parrot]