Parrot Zik: Some kind of wonderful

By Shem Pennant,

The nature of my job means I see an awful lot of headphones. It’s become a very crowded marketplace of late so when I was invited to take a look at yet another pair of “revolutionary headphones” you’ll understand my eye-rolling cynicism.

However this was no ordinary pair of “revolutionary headphones” and the Parrot Zik brought a lot more to the table than a celebrity endorsement and a flashy launch party.

Parrot-Zik

Crammed to the gills with more technology than you can shake a USB stick at, the Parrot Zik wireless bluetooth headphones are the latest from the French company famed for their skill in wireless communications.

The Parrot Zik are designed by legendary designer Phillipe Stark and look incredible. There’s a leather band over the top as you’d expect but the arms on either side look like metallic bone and really help the headphones stand out.

“Despite its simple and humble design, Zik is certainly today one of our most successful products in terms of intuitive ergonomics,” says Philippe Starck. “The headphones are perfectly balanced and almost seem fused looking like a mere extension of the human body and all its needs. Sound and consequently music are just a search of one’s own world. The more the sound is close to you, the more you’ll like the music and feel comfortable. An object like this is a universe.”

Fortunately these aren’t just good looking but are carefully designed to work with modern smartphones. A sensor, located in the cushion of the left earpiece, detects and analyses jaw bone vibrations and compares them to the all the surrounding noise. By matching the users’ movements with their speech, Parrot Zik is able to extract and separate the speech from the surrounding noise. Two microphones record sound and determine its direction, in real time. The digital signal processor of the Zik can then determine the origin of the unwanted noise and eliminate it.

The engineers have also incorporated active noise cancelling technology to filter out external sound. I was stood in a crowded room filled with whinging tech journalists (is there any other kind) but was able to disappear into a bubble of sound when I put the Zik on. Sadly I had to take them off, but that was an opportunity to sample another of the Zik’s features – sensors detect when you remove the headphones and automatically pause the music. I tried this a number of times and was unable to catch the headphones out. Clever stuff.

There’s also a touch panel on the right side of the headphones that allows you to pause, skip tracks, adjust volume and answer (or reject) phone calls, all in a button-less natural manner.

The Parrot Zik will be avaliable from July 2012. The price will be annouced at a later date but you’d probably want to start saving now.