Parrot updates Zik wireless headphones with artist-designed dynamic sound

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Musicians rarely get an influence on how headphones interpret their music, but a new pair from Parrot could fix that on an album by album basis.

Headphones are changing for the better, with more types of sound devices out there for every pairs of ears. Like bass? Have a pair of bass heavy cans. Prefer detail and mids? You can have a pair like that, too.

But what happens if you like to change the sound of your headphones frequently? Like if you listen to jazz and you want more in the mids and highs, while another day has you listening to dance and you need more punch from the bass.

If this is you, hold on, because the French headphone experts at Parrot are at it again with a second generation Zik headphone designed to take your music into the wireless world with more dynamic sound control than you’ve probably seen before.

Parrot’s new cans won’t come with a particularly special name, merely adding a “2.0” to the “Zik” name Parrot previously relied on, but the tech will be different, as the makers of the AR Drone add some nifty app-based smarts, noise cancellation, and some neato dynamic driver design, making it possible to control a pair of headphones in way few do.

First there’s the look and feel, because while the former is more or less an evolution on the original Zik cans, the feel is much lighter, which has apparently been one of the big points in this new model, as the company looks foe ways to make the Zik more comfortable.

On the ears, it’s a very comfy pair, keeping the headphone style still on-ears for most, though some will feel like these are circumaural depending on ear size.

Obviously, though, audio is the big deal here, and just like the Zik headphones before them (we’re assuming we call these “1.0”), Bluetooth is there for wireless sound, while cords can also be plugged in for wired sound.

Touch controls are integrated into the headphone side, relying in a touch panel for gesture controls, and there’s active noise cancellation here, too, but the real smarts are on the app side of things.

The new Zik headphones will rely on an equally new application that won’t be compatible with the older headphone, with some new programming made just for the 2.0 version.

In this app, you’ll be able to download music profiles made by musicians from around the world and change to them on the fly, essentially making your headphones take on the sound profile created by artists such as DJ Jazzy Jeff (yes, he’s still around) and Richard Dorfmeister.

Alternatively, you can make your own presets and share them with people, potentially finding a new way to make your favourite records and music styles sound better for these headphones, and letting other people listen in.

A “producer” mode will offer you a five band parametric equaliser to let you do this, or there will be a simple tuning mechanism to let you define how much punch or bass or other attributes the music has simply by dragging your headphone to the various sound attribute, effectively dialling more in.

And just like with the old Zik cans, you’ll find emulated environments, allowing you to listen in virtual soundscapes of a living room, jazz club, or a large concert hall.

Unfortunately, Lou Reed’s music profile from the previous Zik headphones won’t be included here, and Parrot didn’t say whether it has any plans to bring the now passed on artist’s music settings to the Zik 2.0 headphones, but it did tell GadgetGuy that it was looking to grow its artist library, with a view to possibly involving local artists in the process.

The profiles will, at least, be able to be applied automatically provided the music is already on your device, meaning the profile for a Miles Davis track and the profile for a Dave Matthews Band track can be automatically triggered when the music file is loaded, though we’re told this won’t yet work with streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora, or Google Play Music.

Beyond this neat dynamic and interactive driver technology, the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones will include Near-Field Communication (NFC) for easy phone pairing if you have an Android or Windows Phone, HD voice compatibility, a battery capable of surviving between 6 and 18 hours depending on the mode, a bone conduction sensor to pick up on the low frequencies of your voice when you talk, a digital noise control technology relying on six microphones, and support for its app across iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, and even Windows Phone.

Pricing for the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones comes in at $499, just like the model before them which will now start to disappear as the Zik 2.0 headphones replace them, with availability from this week at stores across Australia.