Parrot Zik Bluetooth Headphones: High End and High Comfort
Choosing headphones can be a difficult decision. There are many options to consider, and there is no right answer. A lot really comes down to personal preference. Do you want an in-ear, on-the-ear, or over-the-ear design? Do you want them wired for better sound quality or do you prefer Bluetooth for more convenience?
The options available for women have grown exponentially in the last year or so. We had no problem rounding up these 14 headphones designed exclusively for women.  Apple has released it's new earpods,  designed to fit and sound better than the old earbuds. But with so many choices, it's difficult to decide what's right for you.
The bottom line is it really comes down to lifestyle - how and where you listen to your music, what kind of music you listen to and whether you want to use them for gym workouts as well as airplane trips.
I spent a week with the Parrot Zik  headphones, which I first saw at CES back in January. They looked a little big and bulky for women's headphones, but the technology blew me away. After a week of commuting and walking with them, I can report they are the most comfortable headphones I have ever placed over my ears. It felt like I was putting on an old pair of bedroom slippers.
The big question is are the Parrot Zik headphones worth the $400 price tag? I can't answer that for you, but I can tell you they lived up to almost all of my expectations.
The headphones were designed by Philippe Starck  and you can see his handiwork. The headband is made of soft, flexible leather-like material and connects to striking metal rails that hold the ear cups in place. The ear cups themselves are quite lovely. They're black on the outside with a hint of silver metal on the underside where the controls are hidden. They also swivel, which is nice when you want to fold them flat and tuck them away in your bag.
What's unique about these particular headphones are the controls themselves. Often times it's confusing to figure out just where the controls are on an earpiece; how many clicks for on, how many clicks for off, what color is pair mode? Sometimes I've had to take headphones off just to see the controls in order to change or pause music.
The Zik headphones have no buttons to push or settings to fiddle with. Instead, it uses contactless NFC technology to connect to your device. The controls are located within the ear cup, accessed by a capacitive touch panel. If you want to increase the volume on a song you're playing, you simply slide your finger up the side of the cup. Change to the next song? Slide your finger forward. Volume controls are up and down. All insanely intuitive.
I must admit I did get a few looks on the New York City subway watching podcasts on my iPhone, letting go of the pole I was holding onto every once in a while to swipe my ear in order to forward to the next podcast. Every swipe forward switched me to the next video and garnered more and more looks over my shoulder. When I got to my station, one short tap paused the video and I was on my way to work.
Like most new products, the Zik headphones come with an accompanying app; the Parrot Audio studio. From your Android or iOS smartphone, you can turn Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on and off, check your battery level, and personalize the sound to your musical tastes or mood. Adjust settings in the Parrot Concert Hall (choose from concert hall, jazz club, silent room and living room options) or manually tinker with the equalizer.
Since these are noise cancellation headphones, they seal off much of the noise from the outside, leaving you only the music to listen to. That's good because the sound quality is strong and firm. Music streamed via Bluetooth is known to have lesser sound quality but I didn't find this to be the case at all. I found I didn't have to turn the volume up quite so high because the noise canceling technology worked so well. If I turned the feature off, I still got good, clear sound but sometimes played around with the concert hall settings to see if I could find the sweet spot. I preferred leaving ANC on.
Pairing with a Bluetooth  device was simple and straightforward. You select “connect to device” and you're good to go. The only downside is you can only pair with one device at a time. When a colleague in our newsroom tried out the headset, he found himself listening to my music, not his. You first have to manually disconnect the paired device before you can pair with another.
One thing Parrot got right was understanding that we do take our headphones off to talk to people from time to time. There's usually that awkward fumble looking for the controls on either the phone or the headset to turn off your music so you don't miss a beat. Parrot built in a sensor that pauses the music when you take them off your head. It works more off pressure than motion, but it works, and I like it.
You can definitely find less expensive headphones on the market, and you'll likely find nice-looking, good-sounding options, like many we've reviewed here at Mashable. But if you want a beautiful, comfortable and intuitive way to listen to music, the Parrot Zik headphones are worth the splurge.
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September 28, 2012