I'm sitting across the table from two Parrot representatives, who are telling me about the impressive adaptive capabilities of the company's new Zik 2.0 headphones. I'm wearing a blue pair, listening to Lou Reed, holding a connected Android phone in my hand. As they talk, I'm swiping up on the Zik app on the phone, increasing the noise cancellation on the black Ziks I'm wearing. The Parrot reps' voices disappear in a sea of smooth Lou Reed jams. I swipe down a bit and their voices re-appear, the cancellation replaced with audio passthrough. Then I start messing with the equalizer. It all sounds pretty good, but I keep tweaking. There's too much to tweak.
Parrot's last set of Zik headphones were big, bold art pieces, great-sounding headphones that were a little uncomfortable to wear and didn't last quite as long as they should have. So Parrot redesigned them: the new models are much lighter and more comfortable, their aluminum body and faux-leather earcups fit much better on my head. They come in yellow, orange, blue, and other colors, and they're both comfortable and attractive.
The new Ziks can sound like anything — and it can change for every song
The Ziks aren't about being pretty, though. They're about sounding pretty. More specifically, they're about sounding exactly the way you want them to sound. Using the companion Android or iOS app, you can control everything about the Ziks' sound: you can tweak the equalizer, change the output frequencies, even change the sound stage. And you can do it even for a single artist, album, or song. There's an easy way to share your chosen settings, and Parrot is even trying to get artists in on the game: it's already worked with DJ Jazzy Jeff to make sure you hear his music exactly the way he does, and more are coming soon.
A lot about the headphones has changed, but the coolest and most futuristic aspects of the headphones remain. They're wireless, connecting via Bluetooth to your phone, and there's NFC built in to quickly pair your device. They know when you take them off, and automatically pause your music; they'll resume when you put them back on. You can swipe on the outside of the cup to change volume or songs, or tap on it to activate Siri and Google Now. It's much faster and easier than looking for the microphone input on your headphone cables, though swiping on your ear never stops feeling a little crazy.
The new Ziks will be available in November. As with the old model, they're for enthusiasts only: at $399 there's only a small market for what Parrot offers. But from the wildly controllable sound to the clever methods of interaction, these are still some of the most interesting headphones on the market.
Oh, and they sound fantastic.