You probably know that the next generation of devices will be cordless, but if Parrot has its way, it will also be noiseless, wireless, and capable of putting you into an audio-loving coma.
That’s the general feeling we’re getting out of Parrot this week, with the French smart device company improving on its Philippe Starck designed headphones for a third generation that promises to be better in almost every way.
We were pretty big fans of the previous generation, with the headphones providing some of the most playfully customisable sound you could find in a pair of cans, while coupling some excellent comfort and control in the one package.
They weren’t remarkably cheap and could look a little unusual, but without a doubt, Parrot’s Zik 2.0 were a very impressive pair of wireless headphones.
So how do you improve on something so good? For Parrot and its lead designer Starck, this is about evolution, plain and simple.
“Zik is the revolution. Zak 3 is the evolution,” said Starck. “Evolution is a permanent revolution.”
As ambiguous as that quote may be, the evolution being played in the third generation Zik headphones is about improving the performance and evolving the cordless aspect past the Bluetooth handsfree technology used in the past.
Take the built-in wireless charging, which is now reliant on the industry standard of QI, though can still be charged using the microUSB wired standard if need be. If you have a QI charger like Samsung’s Fast Charger, you’ll see compatibility there, with a little over two hour needed to charge the up to 18 hours of life expected from these headphones.
Bluetooth is still there, providing wireless connectivity to smartphones and tablets, but if you want to stay wired and listen to your headphones, you can do so with either a 3.5mm headphone cable or a USB cable for computers, which Parrot says will provide virtual 5.1 audio while charging the headphones.
Out in the real world, the noise cancellation technology has apparently been improved, with adaptive noise cancellation and a new algorithm that occasionally patches in the outside noise to make you feel more connected with what is going on instead of accidentally walking into traffic, something that can happen, as this reviewer has experienced.
Meanwhile, the active rise cancellation technology can reduce noise up to 30 decibels, and while this can be handled automatically by the headphones, it can also be managed manually using the app and your finger.
And over on that app side of things, there is still a concert hall set of presets for simulating audio environments, while an equaliser and a “tuned by” system can let you experience sound the way you want it heard or the way artists intend it. A producer mode will expand on these letting you change the spatialisation and EQ so that the audio sounds better to your ears.
But perhaps most interesting is the support for smart devices, with Apple’s Watch and the Android Wear devices supporting the Parrot app to let you change settings from the wrist.
The only part of this evolution that we’re a little confused by is the design, because while the Zik 2.0 boasted colours, Parrot is now not only going with more colours, but also textures, and we’ll admit that we’re more than a little confused by this.
Just like how you can find leather textured smartphones, you’ll find leather textured headphones from Parrot, with the Zik 3.0 adopting grain in its plastic body, while the texture of crocodile skin and fabric stitching can also be found, resulting in a headphone that in theory plays to be more fashionable with what you wear.
That’ll all depend on you, dear reader, but we’d probably take the flat style if it were us.
Perhaps the best news for owners of the existing Zik headphones is that the company has addressed problems in the design of the cups, with ear cups that won’t wear down as significantly as they once did.
We’ll have to take the company’s word for that for now, but we’re definitely eager to put these through the paces. You can too, mind you, with a release date of later this month where Aussies will find it for a recommended retail price of $599.